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120 Film Scanner

Hameed Chughtai , May 04, 2010; 05:58 a.m.


I am looking for recommendation for medium format film scanner. My requirement is to scan 6x12 frame of negatives and color transparencies, I came across Epson v500 which (as per specifications) does the job but got mixed reviews of quality and also been suggested to look for a dedicated film scanner rather than a flatbed.

So I have two part question, first are the new flatbeds (like v500) really mediocre when compared to dedicated film scanners? Keep in mind I would like to print too (mostly large landscape books 13x11 size). Second, if I have to go for dedicated film scanners for medium format (which should support 6x12 frame size) what are my options?

Any thoughts, recommendation, ideas? :)



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Eric Brody , May 04, 2010; 08:10 a.m.

Flatbeds really are inferior to dedicated film scanners, no question. One of the best dedicated film scanners is the Nikon 9000, not cheap but compares favorably in quality to a drum scanner. The Epson V7xx are likely better than the V500 though I do not know the details of the V500. I am not sure there are many options besides the Epsons at the lower end, possibly the Microtek M1 in the middle, and the Nikon 9000. After that there are Imacons and drums. In my view, the best bang for the buck is the Nikon. I have one and use it for 6x6 and 6x7, have not tried 6x12. You might need to stitch.
Good luck.

David Littleboy (Tokyo, Japan) , May 04, 2010; 08:44 a.m.

You will need to stitch with the Nikon 9000, since it only scans up to 6x9 at a time. The better flatbeds are good for up to 6x enlargements or so, so the Epson V500 would probably be fine for your use and the V700 or V750 most certainly would be. You'll need the MF film holder + anti-Newton glass from betterscanning.com to get the best from the scanner. Also, I'd recommend using Vuescan. (Some people prefer Silverfast, though.) I've had nasty artifacts with Epson's ICE (but not Nikon's), but find Vuescan's IR cleaning function to work fine with the V700.

Also, the 9000 is a special-order item here in Japan, and may be hard to find elsewhere.

Scott Murphy , May 04, 2010; 09:22 a.m.

"are the new flatbeds (like v500) really mediocre when compared to dedicated film scanners?"

In a word, definitely. I owned an Epson V700 and it was not until I used a friend of mine's Nikon Super Coolscan LS-8000 ED, that I realized just HOW inferior they really were. If the biggest enlargment you are likely to do is 8 x 10, I doubt you will see much difference. But 11 x 14 and larger, especially 16 x 20 and 24 x 30, the differences is like night and day.

I would strongly recommend you save your money and not bother with flatbeds altogether. Try and find a used LS-8000 or LS-9000 on Fleabay. The extra money you will spend will pay dividends in higher image quality.

Tim Mulholland , May 04, 2010; 09:22 a.m.


Hameed Chughtai , May 04, 2010; 09:38 a.m.

The LS-9000 ED can not scan the 6x12 frames as per the Nikon product specification page, which is my main reason to get the film scanner.

John A , May 04, 2010; 09:41 a.m.

I have had a couple of Imacon's (last purchased right after Hasselblad took it over) and I think they are the only film scanners out there for larger film sizes--all the way up to 6x17. I do mostly 4x5 and they are excellent. I have heard good things about the Epson V750(?-I think that is the model), but you are still shooting through glass, which just adds some loss of resolution by definition, but might serve your purposes without busting the bank, as it were!

Kelly Flanigan , May 04, 2010; 09:50 a.m.

This question has been on several thousand threads over the last 10 to 12 years; it probably be asked tomorrow too.

A flatbed today is WAY BETTER than the 3000 buck pro flatbeds a service bureau like me bought in the early 1990's; that were only 800, 1200 dpi devices; or later 1600. Once pro flatbeds hit the 1200 to 1600 dpi levels; it radically reduced the farming out drum scans; yes DRUM scans. Many drum scans of say 4x5 back then were only at the 800 to 1200 level; and one paid 1 to 2 bucks per megabyte of scan; today that is like equal to 2 to 4 bucks.

The reason amateurs constantly are totally confused about scanning is they have no goals; no client with an actual job. Thus there is NO logical way to say if a scan is good enough. Drum scans at just 800 and flatbeds at 1200 have been used for a huge amount of pro work; magazine covers; but often it is with 4x5 stuff long ago.

If money is no object then buy a real film scanner like a 9000. If the enlargement is small a flatbed is totally ok.

The real sad thing is a flatbed today costs 1/5 to 1/10 what a pro 1200 dpi flatbed cost in the early 1990's; it has a vastly better dynamic range; scans way quicker; is way sharper too. Since modern flatbeds are hawked to amateurs; BIG DPI sells; even if the numbers are fibs. Thus modern flatbeds are more hawked to folks who like 5 horsepower shop vacs; 200 watt dinky coke can speakers; ie BS sells.

Unless you know the real world application; one cannot say if a pair of sissors or a knife is sharp enough. Are you cutting butter or doing surgery?

Like any tool; you need to understand its limits. Flatbeds pull out a lot of info; but not the entire thing with a real sharp one. If the stuff to be scanned is 1950's box camera 6x6cm stuff; the old Epson 1200U here at 1200dpi is overkill. It is not for a Hasselblad shot at F11 with panatomic-x with a camera connected to a granite block; it requires a 9000 or a drum scan.

A consumer flatbed is like a kids knife or kids sissiors ; it might not be the sharpest thing. One will find RADICALLY different results with flatbeds too; thus there is not a common resolution these things clock in at; but a horrible swarm of mixed results.

Scott Frindel Cole , May 04, 2010; 09:54 a.m.

Well said

Hameed Chughtai , May 04, 2010; 11:03 a.m.

FWIW, I came across this old article on LL on drum scans, interesting final thoughts regarding flatbed comparison, what I have gathered so far, and feel free to correct me if I am wrong: Drum Scanners for professional quality but there is no options available in a so-called "normal" price range (less than $5k). Imacon is the closest ($12k) drum scanner that can handle 6x12 negatives and transparencies. Other options Howatek Grand or ICG, are completely out of question since I am not planning to set up a lab.

Nikon LS-9000, though we have big followers here, is not capable of scanning 6x12 frames (for new readers: if you have missed my last comment, see the nikon specification for LS-9000)

So, I am guessing, for my hobby needs, latest Epson flatbeds are way to go since they can handle 6x12 and resolution, though not ideal for billboards, is decent enough for printing.

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