Potential of flatbed scanners in re: to print size.

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by raymondc, Jan 28, 2017.

  1. I just had this thought. In the film days many professionals didn't use high end scanning. Some were also using medium format instead. So with a 6x6 or 6x7 medium format film camera using a Epson scanner or just the usual lab's Photo CD how does A3 prints (12x16) compare to say what we have now with digital SLRs or mirrorless ie the 16-25MP range.
    In regards to 35mm how does it stack up by comparison? I know that when I got my graduation photos done 15yrs ago my photographer who also does weddings, he was still using a 6x7 but now he has gone to dSLR.
  2. In the film days photographers don't scan their film at all. The project their film onto photosensitive paper to make print.
  3. I haven't printed any of my files in A3 yet and just fed the calculator:
    • At 300ppi we need some 17.3MP
    • Short side is 3600 pixels -> will an Epson produce 1800ppi?
    • Long side would demand some 2400ppi from 6x6 - Sounds "borderline" to me after what I read about Epsons. - Either shoot bigger MF or be better safe than sorry and give your 4x5" a go. That is what I'd grab, if I had pushed HP5 in mind.
    Conclusion: In terms of household-digital / pre-press the old Monochrom should beat Mamiya C330 but film isn't dead yet; there are Linhofs to shine on it!
    35mm? A quarter of a 6x7 neg's size should probably provide a quarter of the print size, as long as film grain and absence of scanner resolution are the limiting factor? Assuming an Epson barely permitting A3 prints from 6x7, you could print A5 from 35mm scanned on it. I would expect close to nothing from a "Photo CD". If your lab hasn't promised to pack high res scans (64 Base in Kodak lingo) onto it, you'll get a few pixels good enough for a post card.
  4. Ray,
    There are several questions embedded in your post.
    The actual resolution for a flatbed scanner depends on the technology. I have an older (expensive) Epson scanner which has a single, focusing lens and a tri-linear array which delivers an honest 1600 ppi. Consumer level scanners often have an array of micro lenses and an array which spans the width of the carriage. The actual resolution of these scanners is about half the physical resolution based on the number of cells, due to overlapping fields of view for the micro lenses. I see that some of the better consumer level flatbed "photo" scanners now use a single lens, which should improve the performance. 1800 ppi doesn't seem far out of line.
    At 1800 ppi, you should be able to get a good A3 print (even 12x18") form 35 mm film. Even better from medium format film.
    How does that compare to direct digital capture? Not all that well. In an experiment I conducted a couple of years ago, I took a Leica M3 and digital Leica M9 to the Chicago Botanic Gardens, and shot many scenes with each camera. I used Ektar 100 film, a fine-grained emulsion, in the M3, and the M9 has an 18 MP sensor without an anti-aliasing filter. Subjectively, the film produced about half the resolution of the digital M9. This places the 18 MP sensor squarely in competition with 6x9 MF film.
    That was the last time I ventured forth with film. At about $20/roll for film and processing, it was an easy economic choice too. The ease and consistency at which color balance can be achieved with digital capture, compared to scanning and balancing color negative film clinches it, for me anyway. In this example, I took the scan and digital image as-is without significant adjustments. The foam was not green, nor the colors of the lily pad that exaggerated as with Ektar. Compared to my Sony A7Rii, the Leica M9 is closer to Velvia, and the Sony to Provia in rendition.
    Leica M3 + Summicron 90/2 + Ektar 100 (Nikon LS-8000 scan)
    Leica M9P + Summicron 90/2
  5. http://www.photo.net/film-and-processing-forum/00Zdeb?start=0
    There are better scanners for 35mm, even today.
  6. The weak link with regard to getting good color detail with flat bed scanners is the light source they use to reflect back to the sensor array which is not full spectrum, most likely LED or fluorescent tube. Alan's linked discussion has a demonstration of this lack of color detail I tried to put across using shot from my 6MP Pentax. So a DSLR will capture much more detail than doing it through film and scanner due to the light source and the variables introduced with chemical processing and substrate of film.
    It's not a deal breaker. Convenience and ease of use capturing any film or print should be the main focus especially for large volumes of media.
    The best scanner results with transparencies or prints I've ever seen was off an expensive Howtek drum scanner which used a high quality halogen light source. Kodachromes never looked so good.
  7. The only reason I talked about an Epson scanner is that I found it to be somewhat similar to a local lab's Photo CD. What I was really wanting to compare was ok, in the 1990s my kind of year the people I know didn't have a enlarger they just took their film to the local mall and got a set of 6x4 prints and if you wanted an A4 or A3 enlargements they did them too. Many of these everyday people and myself at the time had no idea what was a pro lab. I was wanting to compare A4 and A3 prints made at the local lab versus today what we have with consumer mirrorless and dSLRs - photo edited on the family computer and again printed at the local place.
  8. Many of these everyday people and myself at the time had no idea what was a pro lab. I was wanting to compare A4 and A3 prints made at the local lab versus today what we have with consumer mirrorless and dSLRs - photo edited on the family computer and again printed at the local place.​
    From my experience in the last ten years having 8x10 in. prints made from my 6MP DSLR at Walgreens one hour lab it was hit or miss because at first they printed from an optical silver halide Fuji Frontier printer, then several years later they switched to Fuji Frontier DL (drylab inkjet) and now dye sublimation (the worst in color reproduction just from what I've seen of customer prints. Haven't tried it out myself).
    I always did 4x6 color tests prints with each printer before I committed to 8x10's, but the color was never perfectly accurate to screen or consistent between the different printers but the sharpness and contrast was always just as good as the '90's film scanned/optically printed silver halide prints only the DSLR sourced prints were much more detailed and sharper.
  9. I did some careful tests with a very good medium format rig (Mamiya Press with the superb 100 f/2.8 lens, with tripod), scanning with the Epson V500.
    My conclusion: I can make a very good 12x18" print from a V500 scan of 6x9 medium format film, shot with a good rig. I like a sharp print, one I can bring right up close to my eyes.
    Samples and discussion in this thread -- look for my posts there.
    Here's the sample image:

    And, this link to my scanned file, ready for printing at 12x18.
  10. So, how does this compare to digital? I can make a much larger sharp print from 24mpx digital. The tonality is slightly different, but it's a good print.
    I think you'll need more than an Epson flatbed to compete with today's good digital captures. The V600 is about the same, the V750 somewhat better.
  11. I haven't scanned film on a flatbed in many years, but the biggest problems I faced haven't been addressed in this
    thread: film flatness and Newton rings. If you taped down the film to get it as flat as possible, Newton rings spoiled the
    scan. If you used a film holder that kep the film off the glass, only part of the image would be in sharp focus.
  12. the biggest problems I faced haven't been addressed in this thread: film flatness and Newton rings. If you taped down the film to get it as flat as possible, Newton rings spoiled the scan. If you used a film holder that kep the film off the glass, only part of the image would be in sharp focus.​
    Better Scanning holder. Piece of "anti-glare" glass (actually lightly frosted) from arts/framing store, cut to width of film (60mm). Film strip ends taped with back against glass. Deposit film down (emulsion down) in channel of B.S. holder; channel edges plus residual curvature take care of the long sides of the film strip, results in film flat against glass surface. Need to activate mirror option in scanning software.
    Once-for-all focus adjust of B.S. holder. USM restores spatial frequencies where FTM of scanner is dropping; of course, totally absent information canot be resurrected, but the improvement is significant. I can display side-by-side a hybrid workflow print and an enlarger print (Componon lens) from same MF format: no obvious difference in quality either way.
    Not disputing that a digital MF image (or even FF 24x36) would be sharper and generally "better".
  13. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I must admit here that I'm picking out the question I'd like to answer rather than being convinced that I get what the OP is after.
    Mr Moran, above indicates he can get a sharp 18" x 12" from a 9cm x 6cm original on a consumer flatbed printer. I think that's about dead on from my experience, which tells me that I can get a good 12" sq print from 6x6, using the Betterscan holder and AN glass. I'd also comment as below.
    • I could get a little bigger than 12" sq. from my V700, But above that point the difference between the flatbed scan and a film scan - in terms of detail and dmax, becomes increasingly obvious and if I want a quality print larger than 12" sq. I'll tend to think of a better scanner rather than how far I can push the flatbed.
    • I have no experience of this myself, but various people have said on here that they bigger and better prints from wet mounting on certain flatbeds.
    • I don't think you can compare the standard lab scan ( from a dev and scan package for example) of MF film with even a flatbed scan you've made yourself, carefully. The latter will tend to be a lot better. That said, that same lab might well make superior scanning offers on different machines entirely. There's really no conclusion you can draw about a lab scan unless you say what it is and what its been made on.
    • I can get a bigger, better print from a FF Dslr (5Diii) than I can get from Medium format on a flatbed. But some of that size advantage is down to format rather than file quality, and if I wanted a square print, there's not a great deal in it. I also feel that the process of file prep is far, far easier from a digital original. If I have a problem squeezing out the last bit of sharpness when enlarging a file a little, getting colours as I want them, or getting detail in shadows nicely, Its likely to be when I'm working on a scan from a colour transparency.
    • That said, the best large prints ( and the largest prints) I've ever seen from my work came from drum scans of medium format transparencies. They were far better, sharper, and more repeatable than anything I ever got from traditional means of getting prints from slides. I never felt comfortable with bigger than 18" sq from x 6x6 transparency using enlargers and quality labs, but I was happy with 36" sq from a drum scan. There is no doubt in my mind that there is more information in MF film than there is in a photograph from my Dslrs at least (of course I can't speak for Dslrs I haven't got, or MF digital where I have no experience).
    • When trying to draw conclusions on the print potential of film vs digital, scanned or not, I think you really need to specify what sort of film. My entire meaningful experience in this area involves colour transparencies. I might conclude differently had I been getting large prints made from a colour negs or b&w.
  14. The discussion of flatbed scanners in the past has created heated arguments. Personally I like the files I get from my trusty old Epson V700. This was taken last week on 35mm Tmax 100.
  15. and this is the 100% crop of above shot.
  16. @David and others.
    Yes this is turning into a scanner query. If we step away from that. Family household Joe and Jane have a shot in 35mm or a 6x6 medium format, if they just went to the local lab that is still open and pay a few bucks for an 8x12 or 16x12 print. Is that alright? Would it need a more pro printer like a lambda or ...... Still, can we ignore scanning or it still required for a good result. Some people may not require a high resolution scan but just that occasional print.
  17. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    Probably the biggest reason that scanning is still required is that's the way the lab makes the print today. For the most part anyway. And if you're starting from a slide its pretty much the only way since the main analogue routes to making prints from slides were discontinued years ago. Making an analogue print is the exception rather than the rule, but some of us can still buy C type printing or b&w hand prints if we look hard enough and are happy to pay.
    My experience in getting "standard" ( ie cheap as possible) prints bigger than proof size from labs is very variable. Sometimes OK, sometimes awful. They're most often made on mini-labs, involve a scan and you have to hope that the machine is set up and managed well and that there is some degree of manual scrutiny in the process. There will be a size limit beyond which you can't use the cheap/minilab route. I think most could handle 12" x 8"; but only some could manage 16" x 12"
    Once you step into the realms of quality printers like Lambda, LightJet, ----
    • It will require a scan, period. The quality of that scan will drive the quality of the print to a very large extent. The scan can be made by that lab, by a scanning service or another lab, or by you at home.
    • Turning the scan into a print file is another part of the process that's critical to print quality
    • You get a number of decisions to make. Like RA4 or Inkjet printing; this drives the type of machine used. Like what paper.
    • IMO the average consumer would not generally be able to make these decisions optimally or play a useful part in the print process- they just don't have the experience to deal with these things and would end up just passing the neg/transparency over the counter and leaving it to the lab.
    Are we getting any closer to what you want?
  18. In theory calculate the print size in inches by dividing the TRUE scanner resolution given on Scandig and dividing by the dpi of the C41 lab printer (254dpi in my case). and multiplying by the negative dimension.
    Sorry, I don't have a TRUE scanner resolution for any lab scanner.
  19. If the question is, "Do you need a scan?"
    As David said, just above, most likely the local lab will scan in order to feed their machine. In your own darkroom, you might use an enlarger and make a wet print, but most labs won't.
    My additional answer is that scanning gives you a digital representation that's easier to adjust. Software, IMHO, gives more control more easily than dodging, burning, and darkroom contrast adjustments.

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