Scanning Film is a Chore

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by dave_dejoy, Aug 28, 2009.

  1. I now agree that scanning negatives and/or slides with a film scanner is a chore. I use a Nikon Coolscan V. How do commerical labs compare in terms of their scans of slides or negatives. Any particular recommendations? Thanks.
  2. Agreed, though I don't have as nice a scanner as your Nikon. I use North Coast Photographic Services for my film processing and scanning at time of processing. They have two levels of scans. Be sure and get the ENHANCED scans. These are large, clean, and beautiful. I have always been more than satisfied with the results. It sure is NICE having a CD of large, hi resolution scans sent back to me all ready to go rather than dealing with all the time and work of self scanning negatives. I feel pricing is very reasonable also considering what you receive.
  3. Sure,it can be a real pain but it beats having a CF card or hard drive die with all your original files.Try a current Nikon scanner it will speed things up a lot plus you still have the original if things go wrong.
  4. Well yes it is a chore but a chore I enjoy just as much as using a wet darkroom. You would be surprised how much easier it gets with a little chore like work. Let me know if you are tempted to sell that Nikon V.
  5. I've been thinking about whether to abandon film scanning entirely and just go it old school. Get film developed to a 4x6 set and go back for enlargements from film if needed. Cheaper than getting a high res CD. If I need scans for the web, they'll be low res and I can use the Epson flatbed, and I can still do scans for the B&W film where I don't need to think about color.
  6. scanning your own film is a labor of love.......and well worth it.
  7. Yes, it takes time. But I like it because it allows me to:
    Use my film cameras and lenses which are in great shape. I'm not a throw away guy.
    Relive the enjoyable time I spent in the darkroom. However, compared to darkroom work, scanning is much easier.
    Spend more time and care when I initially compose the shot to minimize the post processing I do after scanning. Usually, when scanning E6, aside from some minor cropping, I pull a little more detail from the shadows and I'm finished.
    However, as much as I enjoy scanning, I'd rather project my medium format slides.
  8. If you really hate it, you can just shoot slides. And scan the ones that you really like to make prints. I prefer color negative film over positives, so I just bite the bullet and scan. You can batch scan if you use SilverFast. I think you can also batch scan with Vuescan and get raw scans, then use Vuescan to work on the raw scans to get prints.
  9. I always hear this arguement that centers around people not being able to judge a negative's worth. That you either need a contact sheet made, or you should use slides and only scan the best. I can judge quite easily the worth of a negative just by looking at it. After doing it in scanning for 8 years now, and in the wet darkroom for 28 yrs before's kinda second nature these days. You just gotta train your eye to see in negative.
  10. And this is why there are famous photographers through history. Because they all did it the way they found right for them. Find what is right for you and then do it. Don't be someone you are not. Don't try to be Ansel Adams if that is not you. Find what makes you and your style look the best.
  11. Don't get me wrong, scanning (though it can be a lot of work) can certainly be worthwhile - especially if you want full frame 35mm quality in digital but don't have the combination of money and volume that justifies the expense of full frame digital camera. A 35mm film SLR and lenses can be had for much less money these days (a couple weeks ago I got an XG-M with a 50/1.7 in excellent shape for $15 and I have an excellent 28-90/2.8 zoom for it that was $25, whereas Sony just made news by announcing the first under-$2000 24x36mm DSLR and their 28-85/2.8 is $800) and if you shoot good film and have it scanned by a good lab, but at a volume of a few rolls a month, you come out way ahead.
    Still, scanning film can be a pretty big pain. I had enough trouble getting a particular shot right last week that I ended up just giving the film to the lab and paying a couple dollars extra for a few 8x10's, then gave away my remaining Fuji consumer grade print film. The stuff I had was so vivid that trying to get more natural color out of it was near impossible. From now on I'm going with E6 and Kodak print film.
  12. But with Digital I can't get the Tri-X look nor can I find the switch on a digital camera that allows for me to change film types just film speeds. :) Sure I can almost fake it with Post processing but it is just not the same... No I am not turning this into another Digital vs Film thing it is just that I like my Cameras to use film and that is for me.. I am not saying it is for anyone else... WWAAD What would Ansel Adams Do ... LOL please don't turn this into a hate thread. it is going well.
  13. I find scanning to be a chore, but the post processing is sheer artistic joy. So the chore of the scanning itself bring excitement for the next step in the process.
  14. david_henderson


    I agree that film scanning is a chore and personally I take no pleasure in it whatsoever. The point here is not whether one should enjoy having one's work in scanned form , but rather whether its necessary or worthwhile doing it yourself. Personally I outsource scanning to organisations who do it more efficiently -and probably better -than I do. I do not believe that having others perform parts of the chain devalues what I do or that it necessarily reduces its quality. I think scanning is pretty mechanical once you know how to do it, and I'd frankly prefer to fine tune the file in PS or Lightroom anyway rather than try to make print-ready scans, so it's close to the top of things to outsource.
    To an extent its a numbers game with scan quality overtones. Do you ( the OP) actually want or need a scan sufficient to support a print from every shot you make? If so then you'll find it difficult to support any other route but doing it yourself without taking a quality risk or a high cost. If , at the other end of the spectrum you want to print only a small minority of your output then selling your film scanner and using a lab for scans , seems perfectly sensible to me. I shan't make lab suggestions since you probably don't want to use the places I go to in the UK, but we're not talking hard to find here, ranging from very cheap bulk scanning on Nikons to expensive drum scans.
    I was intrigued by Thomas Sullivan's comment that he "can judge quite easily the worth of a negative just by looking at it." I can understand that with b&w but if he can do that with a colour neg then he's doing better than me. Personally I need to be able to see how the colours work as well as assessing exposure before deciding whether I'm going to get any use out of a shot. Irrespective, what makes this question complex and interesting is that there are so many options , none of which are right or wrong except in the context of how an individual feels he wants to work.
  15. you indicate, B&W negatives are dead easy to judge. Color negatives....I have no problem judging exposure.....but yes, I'm about 50/50 on reversing the colors in my head, but constantly getting better at it. The orange mask don't help one bit. The best method I've found so far is to put the negative up to my monitor with a pure white image on it....tends to blast thru the mask. Still ain't perfect. But to tell you the truth, color negatives are few and far between for me these days. As I indicated in another thread, digital color shot exposed to the right, and processed in Lightroom from a RAW file, and from a full frame DSLR is so close to color negative i just don't see any reason to shoot it these days. Except, perhaps, Extar 100 in my Mamiya 7. And there, there's only 10 frames anyhow.
  16. Les,
    While all the images in your example are exposed under manual control, it is clear that the film scanner is compensating for exposure whereas the digital images are exhibited as-is. Without this compensation, one would expect that the Ektar scans would appear much brighter than shown, closer to the digital examples.
  17. I purchased a Coolscan 9000 as a interim device until I could get my B&W darkroom up and running. The wife and myself have a lot of historical and family negatives to process. I have a lot of slides to work on as well so we thought we'd get the scanner.
    Needless to say this was a real heavy hit to our budget, particularly since it was not to replace the darkroom as I didn't think it would be nearly as good.
    The scanner was a real surprise. Using the supplied film holders the scans are just adequate but when we got the rotating film holder with glass the results are really improved to the point I'm not I'm not in a rush to install my darkroom. 6x9 scans are incredible on this thing. (I really like real B&W prints done the old fashioned way best but....later)
    It really takes a lot of time to scan film with this thing for sure, but while it is working I can do other things.
  18. A chore it might be if I need to scan something to digital, but it is a price that I am more than happy to pay given the pleasure that I get from using my old manual focus Nikons.
  19. ... scanning negatives and/or slides with a film scanner is a chore. I use a Nikon Coolscan V.​
    Sell the V. Replace it with a 5000 and the whole film strip adapter. This will allow you to digitize an entire 36+ frame roll without manual intervention. It takes about an hour.
    The whole strip adapter can be had from Nikon for about $300. If you're reasonably handy, the 6 frame adapter bundled with the 5000 can be converted to the same.
  20. Pardon me saying this but if scanning is a considered a chore, isn't time to use a digital camera?
  21. as I said previously in another post, Les....I don't doubt your results at all. I just said you should test it against a full frame camera. Clark did this, and his results were what I had anticipated full frame Raw could do.
    I don't own a camera to run tests....someone else can do that. But I do take their credentials into concideration....and Clark's looked damn good to me. I own a camera to take pictures.
    As far as results, i've taken pics with dozens of different films, and various size digital sensors. My eye, and it's pretty good at seeing differences, has told me that a full frame camera is extremely close to, if not better than, the best films in 35mm. I cannot say that about even my 20D in RAW, but my 5D I can.
    Real world results, in the form of great pictures is what photography is all about...............not running tests. But what the eye can perceive. And that's all I'm gonna say on the subject.
    As to the OP's comment. If I was him, I would shoot color in full frame digital, and shoot B&W in medium format film and scan it. You would then have the best quality vs convience going for you.
  22. Dave, I operate a slide scanning service out of my home office where I use 3 Nikon 5000 scanners with the optional SF-210 feeder. The feeders are a must have, for my business .
    Many of my competitors use the same set up. I run NikonScan at mostly the default settings and edit each tif file, post-scan in PS, to make enhancements.
    I've created a page of slide scanning tips .
    You'll find a big range in scan pricing Dave. Some companies send the work out of the country for low labor costs and some don't do custom, individual enhancements. And some, simply seek the sector of the market who look for the lowest price and make their profit on the bulk of work they get.
  23. I scan on an ad hoc basis, a few frames a week. Usually I have 4x6s made, sometimes just an index print. Always I store the film in this multi-terrabyte contraption . I scan in order to put photos on the Internet. Don't ask me why but I simply would not be able to sleep nights if I did not add to the millions of photos posted every day on the Internet, to share with my virtual friends. Here's a picture of a duck. Now I can sleep.
  24. "...You have made observations about your results. You have opined to that effect. Now all you have to do is publish your data for public review..."
    actually no i don't. Clark has done that for me. That's the beauty of human intelligence....we don't have to do everything individually. We can rely on other's quantitative testing. If you don't accept his results, then you rebuttal him with your own full frame testing.
  25. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck well then it must be a duck. glad you feel better now. :)
  26. jbm


    Yep, scanning film is a massive pain in the posterior, even when it's going well. I still like the quality of the images shot on 400 or lower ISO film better than anything that comes out of my dSLR, with the caveat that digital blows film away for certain situations (studio, anything where you want to change your setup based on instant results). The Nikon scanners are, for the money, really magnificant machines. The film loader with the 5000ed makes scanning an entire roll pretty simple.
  27. I still shoot 35mm 1/2 frame and for myself I had hoped that scanning would just give me an idea what negs I want to enlarge in the darkroom. Sort of a quick review. Contact prints of half frame negs are really small and hard to read don't ya know. I figured a flatbed scanner would be good enough to do job but like the OP I've found the process so labor intensive that I just gave up. I still use film because I really like mechanical, non battery dependant cameras and that limits you to older film cameras. I am amazed at the advancement in digital in the last decade and think they are the bee's knees for many applications.
  28. I find the effort in scanning to be less than the effort in raw processing, since I can just pick the film et voila.
    Some scans are more time involved (i.e medium format black and white with glass holder where spotting has to be done manually). Yet the results they provide are not achievable with a DSLR.
  29. Thomas,
    "actually no i don't. Clark has done that for me."
    That is incorrect, even if Clark had posted accurate/valid information (which is not the case), there is no substitute for experience where you hold the prints in your hand and determine which one looks better.
    Clark's vision in the the Canon 5D 12.x megapixels DSLR provides superior apparent quality than 6x7 film grain film. Thomas, do you agree with Clark?
  30. I enjoy scanning film:
    1) I scan high resolution, fine grained, MF (6x7) B&W on a Nikon 9000 (APX 25, Rollei ATP and Panatomic-X) and I find the results are wonderful. I still get to choose my developer and fine tune the whole process until I get what I want.
    2) I scan my father's 40 year archive of E6 and K-14 35mm transparencies in batches on a Nikon 5000ED/SF-210 to share with our family. This is rewarding in a different but no less satisfying way.
  31. Thomas - I would caution you against continuing this. You are dealing with two people who have a reputation for dragging unrelated threads into the mud of a digital versus film debate. Two people who cannot let any positive comment about digital go unchallenged. They are convinced beyond reason that they are right and that only their tests or experiences are valid. Clark may be a planetary imaging specialist for NASA with a beautiful and accomplished portfolio, and testing procedures they can't even understand much less duplicate. But that means squat against shots of crayons and toy soldiers for them. Any discussion on your part will prove a complete waste of time.
    In short: do not feed the trolls.
    Dave - for film you are having developed you could try a lab which offers "premium" 4000 dpi scans. Standard scans offered with most services will probably leave you wanting. But even premium scans are usually cheaper if done along with developing. Quality will vary by lab and you just have to find one you're happy with. For existing shots I would try a small business or individual like Harrington. My guess is that you'll get more attention to detail this way.
  32. Thomas,
    here is a test performed with toy soldiers that may help for the comparison on dynamic range.
  33. Not sure what Daniel refers to about negating positive comments about digital.
    Digital camera are an absolute wonder of technology and a pleasure to use. (My opinion)
  34. There's only one way to get through it. Alternate between scanning and surfing the web on your computer. If you have a game or race or something you can go back to it's even better. Only watching the microwave is slower than scanning if you just sit there and wait on it to finish.
  35. I use a Nikon Coolscan as well - and you are right it takes time. But it is a labor of love, and if you have enough computer power you can be working on pictures at the same time other pictures are scanning so there's lots to do. I've become the family photo historian, and now have over 60K of family pictures from three generations, back to the late 1800's digitized. We are able to easily share all the family pictures back and forth across the multiple continents we live on, and that makes it well worth while.
  36. Yep. I have a separate dedicated computer on the scanner.
    Never tried the microwave yet to pass the time.
  37. Microwave? Is that something new? Remember I use film. :)
  38. I recently shot several rolls of Fuji Neopan 1600 35 mm film on my Mamiy 7II using the panorama adapter. Now I want to scan the negatives on my Nikon coolscan 9000 scanner, but I don't have a proper film holder.
    Is there anyone out there who sells modified 35 mm film holders so I can scan more than one negative at a time, or do I have to buy the Nikon rotating holder? Does the rotating holder permit me to scan more than one negative at a time? I am not mechanically inclined so I would prefer not to make masks or fiddle with film holders.
    I looked in the archives and found one guy who modified a 35 mm holder. I wrote him an email but have not yet heard back from him.

    Thank you very much.
    Mikal W. Grass
  39. Good Lord. Photographers will argue about anything.
    Four nine months now I have been posting a film scan every day on my blog. The scanning itself is mostly done now, and let me tell you, it was definitely a chore. It is neither the meditative, hands-on experience of the darkroom, nor the predictable, pragmatic experience of a RAW workflow. For me, it's the worst of both worlds.
    As for the results: I did hang a show this summer that was about 65% film images. 11x14 inkjet prints, on Crane Museuo Rag, behind glass, in gallery light. Several very experienced photogs had trouble picking out the four digital images. That tells me the quality results are pretty much on par, at least at those sizes. Whether that is good or bad depends on your perspective.
    I continue to shoot film for two reasons: Film cameras, and dynamic range. But I no longer believe in the "look" everyone talks about, unless we're talking about medium/large format black and white. And even then, I bet a Hassy with a digital back would be fierce competition.
    Here's my Scan-A-Day project:
  40. I had a scanner and sold it. I have a complete and near mint Leitz Valloy II darkroom set up. It will be sold too.Why? Nik Silver Efx. Digital cameras and software have come a long way and are constantly improving. There is no right or wrong, just personal preference.
  41. I was quoting the joke "Only watching the microwave is slower than scanning if you just sit there and wait on it to finish."
  42. Thomas Sullivan very good points!
    Im not sure why people try to compare digital to film, or why people try to make digital "look" like film? Why not use digital for its own unique characteristics ?
  43. Film and digital are both complimentary tools. Neither one can do everything the other one can.
  44. I have found scanning at home superior to having a lab do the work for me. I have tried professional labs, 1 hour labs and Cost Co. For large files you must go to a professional lab and pay a hefty price. For small files I have found CostCo to be pretty good. I have never had a scan from a lab or from my own scanner that did not require a tune up in photoshop. Scanning frustrations drove me into the digital world 3 yrs ago kicking and screaming but I have found it liberating. I have 40 years of negatives and will always need a scanner but I have found the Epson V500 to be fine for what I need. It's simple to use and I can scan 35mm and medium format with it. This scanner should not be used if you are thinking about large prints or large volume.
  45. I have a couple of old SCSI Scanners (Canon FS2710 & Minolta ScanDual) and a couple of old computers (Apple G3 and G4). So I scan on both at the same time! In the old days of commercial darkroom printing we would have 2, 3 or even 4 enlargers going with different jobs. You wrote stuff down and worked fast. Once you get it down it's not so bad, and all those old Computers are pretty cheap now.
  46. Like I said, both digital and film supplement each other. And you can't make one from the other (neither in convenience not in results).
    Thinking that a filter applied to a digital capture can emulate the results of film is incorrect. Adding grain texture to a digital capture is not the same to an analog capture of the original subject.
    Below the same composition was taken with a Canon 40D + 60mm macro and also with TMAX 67, Provia 67, Velvia50 67 and Velvia 100 67. The film was scanned with a Coolscan 9000.
    100% crops (not resampled) are here:
    You can try to upsample the 10MP DSLR and add grain texture using Silver EFX to match the film scans but it is IMPOSSIBLE. (If anyone wants to take a stab at it please do so and post the results).
  47. In the same fashion, I cannot pretend using a capture with color film to emulate the results of a capture with B&W. It is also impossible. Anyone using Silver EFX feel free to try using the 100% Velvia scans to emulate the 100% TMAX scans. [link provided above for 100% scans]
    I point this out to clarify that it is not a film vs digital. All captures -of any type- are bound by the data they gather in their original take.
  48. Also as you may notice, the resolution (in lines per pph) of the different scans of Velvia 50, Velvia 100, Provia and TMAX is different. TMAX being the highest because TMAX outresolves the Coolscan 9000 by a much larger margin than Velvia does, and provides a wider frequency for the scan sampling to be maximized.
  49. I have tried professional scanning, then bought a Nikon 5000 and added a Nikon 9000 more recently. I should have just got the 9000 to start with but I shoot a lot more 35mm film than MF film. For 35mm the 9000 is a lot faster and easier than the 5000. Professional scanning gets much more expensive than buying a scanner very quickly. Scans done by processing machines are very poor quality but cheap. Good quality scans are expensive and you can quickly pay for a scanner. Even the Nikon 9000 is only $2100 - if you wish to scan MF you will need one of the glass film holders (either the rotating or non-rotating) which adds about $300. The 9000 can scan 5 (35mm) transparancies or 12 negatives. I find scanning is faster and easier than enlarging and printing.
    I tried the Epson scanners (V700) but found the quality very poor for 35mm and reasonable for MF (especially 6x8). Even with MF it takes a lot of effort to get a good scan from the Epson - the Nikon is much easier for good consistant results. Drum scans are better than the Nikon but the difference is small and I have to pay $50 - $70 for a top quality MF scan in Canada!
  50. "I recently shot several rolls of Fuji Neopan 1600 35 mm film on my Mamiy 7II using the panorama adapter. Now I want to scan the negatives on my Nikon coolscan 9000 scanner, but I don't have a proper film holder.
    Is there anyone out there who sells modified 35 mm film holders so I can scan more than one negative at a time, or do I have to buy the Nikon rotating holder? Does the rotating holder permit me to scan more than one negative at a time? I am not mechanically inclined so I would prefer not to make masks or fiddle with film holders.
    I looked in the archives and found one guy who modified a 35 mm holder. I wrote him an email but have not yet heard back from him.

    Thank you very much.
    Mikal W. Grass"
    I'm sorry I didn't respond earlier to you, I thought someone else would respond.
    The easiest way for me was to use the FH869GR film holder from Nikon. Yes it is really expensive. I paid about $500.00 Cdn for it!! (Piece of plastic and glass) With this I was able to scan 24x66 negs from a Noblex very nicely as well I have scanned 6x17 negs, one half at a time. Stiching together in Photoshop will be my next endeavor.
    I tried the other method of using the modified Nikon FH-835S, with acceptable results, but it is still one frame at a time and the focus is not quite as good as the glass FH869GR holder. It is a fiddly time consuming job, I know, but the results are very good.
    "Is there anyone out there who sells modified 35 mm film holders so I can scan more than one negative at a time"
    I don't think so but, I'm not completely sure.
    "Does the rotating holder permit me to scan more than one negative at a time?"
    No, unfortunately, only one at a time. The scan at 4000 DPI will create a file of about 217 megs! Lots of stuff to work with. I can see the grain with my scans at this resolution.

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