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Good Scanner for different size older negatives

Tim Fastle , Mar 26, 2008; 04:23 p.m.

My father was a photographer in World War II and went on to be a photo instrumentation engineer for 40 years at Sandia National Labs. Unfortunately he passed away in 2001. I have recently gone through all of his possessions and found an amazing archive of negatives from his time in World War II as well as the eras of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Most of them are on what I have been told are large format negatives (about 4" x 5") but some are on negatives of about 2" x 2". I would like to make digital scans of all of these for historical purposes as well as to print copies to get to some of the families of people in the pictures.

I am something of a novice at photography. I did pull up past questions on the subject in the photo.net archives but they did not clarify the issue for me. I am not clear on how one might scan negatives. From reading the other forum items I gather that a "film scanner" basically makes it easier to do because it has a pre-sized negative holder and probably pre-formatted sizing. And that a flat bed scanner is more flexible because it can accommodate many, if not all sizes. Is this correct? And if so, does it still have to be a special flat bed scanner to scan negatives? I assume all or most cannot -- that there has to be a "negative" setting and capability to the scanner? There are probably close to 1000 of these negatives (4"x5"). Would a flat bed make this way to labor intensive or is there a way to set one up to be efficient or new ones that have jigs or a better way to scan different size negatives? This is all guessing that my assumptions, that you preview on a flat bed and then crop all but the negative before scanning, is correct (thus why it is so slow).

If anyone could give me the low down on how a film scanner might be different than a flatbed for this purpose and also tell me what might be a good scanner for what I have (multiple size negatives and many of them). I want to be able to do decent quality but am not overly concerned about it being the absolute tops in resolution and so forth. Also, any input regarding good yet easy to use software for this would be a great help.

Sorry to be so ignorant but ... I just is!

Thanks in advance.

Tim

Responses


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Perry Arnett , Mar 26, 2008; 04:43 p.m.

I bought an Epson 4990 refurb for $279 a month or two ago. It does everything that I think you would want a scanner to do. Reasonably fast once you get the hang of things; PLENTY of resolution for what you want; comes with film and/or neg holders in four sizes; the software is highly intuitive; offers digital ICE and all that.

You'd enjoy it - or one similar - for what you wnat to do.

Perry

Darin Heinz , Mar 26, 2008; 05:17 p.m.

A quick-and-dirty approach would be to employ old-skool copy-stand techniques. Mount a digital camera with sufficiently high focal length directly above a light box, pointed straight down. Use an aperture setting one or two stops down from wide open to achieve maximum sharpness (a little counterintuitive, but this probably a different discussion in and of itself), and photograph the negatives. Load the photos into your computer, run a photo-negative process, and adjust for brightness and contrast, and you'll be all set. I have done this with 120 and 4x5 film with excellent results.

Good luck!

Darin

Michael Briggs , Mar 26, 2008; 06:28 p.m.

As the term is generally used, a film scanner is a scanner that can only scan film. But of the film scanners that are available new at a price that an amateur might pay, film scanners can only scan 35 mm and medium format film. So there is no film scanner that can scan all of your father's negatives because of the 4x5 negatives.

Some flat bed scanners only scan paper. There are others designed to scan paper and do a credible job with films. This includes the hardware capability and software to use the hardware. These flatbed scanns can scan 35, medium format, 4x5 films and sometimes larger. Manufacturers include Epson and Microtek. Commonly filmholders are provided for 35 mm, medium format and 4x5. Other methods are necessary for odd-ball sizes, e.g., taping to a glass holder. The resolution of the flatbeds isn't as good as a dedicated film scanner, which limits the maximum enlargement possible for a highest quality print. For this reason a dedicated film scanner could be a better choice for a collection of just 35 mm films; but for a collection of many sizes, a flat bed is more versatile.

Are some of the negatives color, or are they all black and white? Black and white will be easier to learn to scan, since no color balancing is necessary. Nor will you have to be concerned with differential color fading of old films. But the digital ICE feature mentioned by Perry won't work with black and white negatives.

Tim Fastle , Mar 26, 2008; 06:59 p.m.

Thanks Perry, Darin and Michael. The information is helpful. First I should say that the majority of the pictures are black and white but many are also color and I would ultimately like to work with them all and multiple size negatives. He also had a bunch of 35mm negatives.

I am getting a better understanding of the process and it sounds like a good, relatively simple flatbed with the standard film holders including the 4x5 would make the most sense for my needs. I did do some reading on the Epson 4990 that Perry mentioned and it sounds like it would work well for my needs but it seems it is discontinued and no other refurbished units are currently available. Is there an upgrade or follow up to that model that might make sense or, another one I should look at that might fit the bill and be reasonably affordable? Is buying a more expensive scanner going to make the process easier? One other question. Darin mentioned running a photo-negative process if I were to photograph the negatives. More out of curiosity (not sure my knowledge of photography would get me where I needed to be to pull that off)is this process (run a photo-negative process) a component included in most photo software or is it something else? Thanks again!

Armin Seeholzer , Mar 26, 2008; 07:58 p.m.

Yes I recomand buy the Epson Pro 700 or 750 they are even better then the 4990!

Armin Seeholzer

John Shriver , Mar 26, 2008; 09:59 p.m.

If you have lots of odd sizes, a good accompaniment to the Epson 4990 would be the universal filmholder from http://www.betterscanning.com. Get the version with anti-newton glass.

You'll never find a commercial holder for 116 or 616 film, and you almost certainly have negatives in that size.

For software, consider Picture Window from Digital Light and Color. Affordable, easy to learn, good tutorials, good manual. You really don't need to suffer with Photoshop's huge learning curve, it's a tool optimized for experts who use it constantly.

Michael Briggs , Mar 26, 2008; 11:08 p.m.

In the US, the Epson V750 Pro comes with a tray for fluid mounting films that could be used for odd film sizes. Wet mounting is more work. I don't know if the tray could be used dry.

Darin Heinz , Mar 26, 2008; 11:45 p.m.

The photo-negative process is built in to virtually all image editing software. IrfanView, ACDSee have it, PhotoShop certainly does. Even Microsoft Paint has it--called "Invert Colors" under the "Image" pull-down menu.

There is really nothing to it, as it is generally a one- or two-click process.

It's also a good way to "preview" the negatives and select which ones you want to have printed chemically or professionally scanned, if you don't buy a scanner right off.

All it costs is time... and not much at that!

Darin

Laurence Olver , Mar 27, 2008; 06:45 a.m.

Tim, you have most of the answers I think. But some extra points:

(1) The Epson V700 and V750 are the same machine (afaik), what you get with the 750, for lots more money, is a fluid mounting kit and full version of a piece of complex scanning software - Silverfast. There are some other extras, but neither of those is something you really want to be dealing with unless you have a lot of time on your hands for learning. Check out the V700.

(2) Another vote for the BetterScanning universal mount which allows wet or dry mounting of different sized negs. Good kit, much better build quality than supplied with scanner, and more flexible too.

(3) You have a slight problem, flatbeds aren't bad with large images but really the smallest you can go is medium format size. Below that the resolution is disappointing even though you do get the appropriate mounting kit with the scanner. So, your 35mm slides/negs are not going to be that great, ideally you ought to find a film scanner for those. That implies more hardware costs. Perhaps get a flatbed and try first.


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