Scanning Old Photographs

mickyatesFilm, Mick's Photo Blog, Photography, Scans Leave a Comment

I have archives going back to when i started with photography, the 1960s. The first 35mm camera I could afford was a Prinz Mastermatic III, a re-branded Halina Paulette, purchased in 1969 just before I started at the university of Leeds.

Here’s a 1973 advert – and note the difference in price with a Spotmatic, then one of ‘the’ cameras to own.

1973 Advert

An ongoing project is to scan my archives, both slides and negatives, and perhaps the only silver lining in being socially distanced’ right now is that I have both time and motivation to do this more systematically than I had been doing before. I have an Epson V850, which replaced my Plustek 8000i a couple of years ago.  I find it delivers high quality scans, the software is very easy to use, and the batch processing is a godsend.

Epson Scan Settings

After much trial and error, I scan at 6400dpi. I do realise that this is a bit over the top for modern files, but many of my older negatives are in need of some restoration, and I find the extra resolution really helpful. Here is the uncropped scan, of the Royal Oak in Burton’s marketplace, 1969.

Flat Scan, Lightroom corrections

And here is a crop of the detail in that same image. Not bad for a cheap camera.

Flat Scan, Lightroom corrections, cropped 

I experimented with the Digital ICE technology. This uses infrared to eliminate dust and scratches, and works really well on colour materials. But, on black and white, it is a no-no. First, a ‘quick’ scan using ICE.

Digital ICE Speed setting

Note the severe distortions and pixelation.

Then, I used the ‘quality’ setting.

Digital ICE Quality

Better, but notice the publican’s name over the door – it is also severely pixelated, and the end result is worse than the original.

So, do not use digital ICE to scan black and white materials.

I went back to the flat scan, and processed using Topaz Sharpen AI. I previously tested Topaz Gigapixel, which I found excellent.

Topaz Sharpen AI and final corrections

In Topaz AI Sharpen is that you can use one of three settings – sharpen, stabilise or focus. I find that with these old negatives, the ‘stabilise’ setting works best. ‘Sharpen’ is frankly very similar to Lightroom / Photoshop, and ‘focus’ can lead to some extreme striations when pushed too far.

‘Stabilise’ renders nicely, and whilst it is a small improvement on Lightroom, it is noticeable.

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