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Cheap Scanner for 120 & 4x5

Mike Bischof , Jan 11, 2012; 11:24 a.m.

What is the cheapest option for (occasionally) scanning 120 & 4x5 negatives and slides? I am not looking for something with all the bells & whistles (and the matching price tag) that will allow me to use the scans for printing large prints (that's for my wet darkroom :-) ). I am just looking for a way to scan them for posting them online (e.g. Flickr). Currently, I make contact prints and then scan them on a multi-purpose office scanner, which is somewhat suboptimal.



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Dan Ferrel , Jan 11, 2012; 11:53 a.m.

What's your budget? The HP Scanjet G4050 is $200 new and even less when on sale. It can scan up to 8x10, but has film holders for 35mm, 120 and 4x5 film. The IR dust removal and multisampling is problematic with it, so consider it a single pass no dust removal scanner. For occasional use it's fine, for anything more you may want to look at other (more expensive or used) options.

Andrew Gilchrist , Jan 11, 2012; 11:58 a.m.

If you really want 'cheapest', then look for any flatbed scanner with negative scanning capability. For reasonably-priced, one of the better of the lot is the Epson V600 (or older V500, etc.). Best of the flatbeds is the Epson V750M, then the V700, these cost quite a bit more than the V600.

Dedicated film scanners that can handle >135 format are harder/more expensive to come by as most of them have been discontinued, drivers haven't been udpated, etc.

Franklin Polk , Jan 11, 2012; 12:34 p.m.

I got an Epson 4870 with film holders for about $60 used. It is more than good enough for 35mm for web posting (I don't scan 35mm higher than about 1000dpi on it); I mostly use it to make scans of negative film for previewing. It can scan 35mm, 120 and 4x5. I certainly wouldn't use it for high quality scans of 35mm, but you mentioned you don't need that anyways.

Mike Bischof , Jan 11, 2012; 01:01 p.m.

Thanks everyone for the quick responses. I was thinking less than $200 (and cheaper is better ;-) ). Interesting about the HP Scanjet G4050, since B&H listed that as 35mm-only.
The Epson V500/600 are listed as only up to 120, so no 4x5s, and the V700/750 is clearly outside my budget. Is the Epson 4870 still available new -- I couldn't find it?

JC Uknz , Jan 11, 2012; 03:38 p.m.

The cheapest is obviously to use your camera as I did when I had a few quarter plates to copy and simply made a tunnel box with the negs at one end, camera at the other and a difused light source behind the negs. The chief thing to avoid is getting an image of the camera off the reflective surface of the negative, hence the tunnel painted black inside. Mine is wood though probably cardboard would surfice. My scanner and my wife's scanner were quite useless for the job which I think needs backlight to work, not frontlight.

Camera box to copy quarterplate glass negatives

JC Uknz , Jan 11, 2012; 03:52 p.m.

The camera's zoom and a two dioptre CU lens made filling the sensor with the plate image easy. 3648 pixels divided by 4.5 = about 800ppi

Dan Ferrel , Jan 11, 2012; 03:59 p.m.

Mike, I do have to say that the software on the G4050 for me is a test of your mental stability. At least with 35mm. The scanner uses the software exclusively to "find the frames", of which it does an incredibly poor job. Basically you need to set the frames manually in the software, and the next time you preview it wipes the memory and you start over. For 4x5 and 120 this is less an issue but trying to get the color right can be trying too.

This guy uses the supplied software and gets good results. He does state that he's scanning slide film and not negative or black and white. I use Vuescan for the G4050 as well as a Nikon Coolscan and Canon 35mm film scanner.

Mike Bischof , Jan 11, 2012; 05:02 p.m.

@JC -- I tried that (less technically advanced, though, since my best digcam is just a digital P&S), and wasn't so happy with the results, at least for B&W negatives.

@Dan -- if the HP software is so bad, can you avoid all that when you use Vuescan? I was going to get that maybe anyway, since I heard good things about it.

Dan Ferrel , Jan 11, 2012; 06:29 p.m.

I have Vuescan and swear by it. It's run just about anything I've thrown at it and I don't need to learn new software. I've even plugged my laptop into a Sony copier at my wife's work and it just worked. But, with Vuescan you can't use the extra 3 colors that the G4050 claims, can't use the IR dust removal (IR scan and RGB scan don't line up), and can't use multi-pass (scans don't line up). It is a simple flatbed scanner that also does transparencies. Also be advised that it's a 4800 dpi scanner, but it has.... issues.... over a single frame of 35mm film. Vuescan runs out of RAM and reverts to 2400 dpi, which is usually good enough for larger formats and definitely good enough for posting to Flickr. On a 64 bit computer you can get around that, but it takes some doing.
Here's my offerings. Mostly 35mm slides that are from the 60's, 50's and earlier (love that Kodachrome).

The G4050's Medium Format holder holds one 4x5 on the bottom and two 120 strips that are long enough to hold three 6x6 images or two 4x9 images each. In other words half a roll of 120.

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