Scanning and processing film

mickyates Film, Mick's Photo Blog, Negatives, Photography, Practice, Processing, Scans Leave a Comment

I don’t do my own ‘wet processing’ anymore, so when I send the film away I always also ask for scans. I know this is more expensive than home processing, but it’s a choice for convenience and, frankly, consistent results a choice. I send my work to Exposure film lab whose service I find excellent. They scan with a Fuji Frontier SP-3000 or Noritsu HS-1800 like many / most pro-labs. You can get various scan sizes, though I now always get the biggest they can offer (TIFFS).

I do, however, scan a lot of older slides and negatives myself, using the Epson V850 flatbed, also as TIFFs, and I have written about scanning archives and my black and white process.

A good friend of mine has just got back into film, and is doing their own processing and scanning. He uses his Leica M10 to ‘scan’ the negatives via the Negative Supply gizmo, rather than a flatbed, and he likes the resultant DNGs. We got into a friendly debate as to the best approach. In particular, Jono was qusetioning the relative sharpness of the Epson produced scans.

I cannot do a straight apples-to-apples test on methods, though some time ago I did run a test comparing the Epson versus a commercial scan of medium format Kodak Portra taken with the Bronica SQ-A.

The Portra originals were processed and scanned by Metro Imaging. At that time, I asked for JPGs (an error) and they delivered an image size c.2,000. It is a bit oversaturated.

Bath Abbey April 2019 – Metro Imaging JPG

Then I went back and re-scanned using the Epson V850 as a high resolution TIFF – image size 6,000, with better saturation control, here reduced to the same size as the Metro version.

Bath Abbey April 2019 – Epson V850 TIFF converted to JPG

I prefer the Epson colours though both could be tinkered with.

Still, the main point is sharpness. The test isn’t fair as the JPG from Metro is pretty highly clarified, but nothing wrong with the Epson scan.

Like a lot of film work I might add a touch of Topaz Sharpen for a final result.

I also personally value the time saved using the batch processing of the flatbed – it can be scanning 12 negatives whilst I am doing some other work, unlike the camera scan approach which requires one’s constant attention.

Digging around on YouTube, I found a helpful comparison of the Epson versus scanning with a DSLR by Patrick Doyle of Sprocket Holes. Perhaps he gets carried away at the end on megapixels but the workflow points are in line with my own experience – as is the sometimes ‘off’ colour rendition of Negative Lab Pro which I have tried and no longer use.

Anyway, I guess the main thing is that ‘it all depends’ and ‘it’s personal preference’.