I need a flatbed scanner to scan prints for my magazine articles, which I submit via email. In general, though, I have very bad luck with scanners. I am not good at making them work, for one thing. For another, they keep breaking. My last scanner acquired an infuriating tic that made it useless: there was a hard line in the middle of every scan, on one side of which the scan was just a little lighter than it was on the other side. This was infuriating because it seemed like a very small, almost trivial malfunction, aside from which the scanner worked perfectly. But when you are scanning illustrations for magazine articles, you can't have a hard line in the middle of every picture with a difference in tone on either side. It won't do. After months of arduously correcting this defect in Photoshop—which was not as easy as it might sound—I decided the scanner was useless, and put it aside.
This is another problem for me with scanners. When the scanners break, they don't seem quite broken. When a mechanical piece of equipment breaks, I fix it. When an electronic thing breaks, my brain still goes, "Maybe you can fix it." Even though I can't. So instead of throwing it away, I put it aside. It seems too close to "working fine" and not close enough to "irretrievably busted" to throw away.
This is not smart behavior. If you persist in this behavior, sooner or later your basement and your garage fill up with useless junk, and they do a show about you on afternoon TV called "Conquering Clutter." I have not reached that point yet, but it is something I know is a risk for me.
Anyway, I bought an Epson V700 to scan prints with. It works fine. So far.
The V700 is also supposedly good for scanning negatives. So I tried scanning some 35mm negatives. Either it's not good at scanning negatives, or I'm not. Maybe some V700s are good for scanning negatives, but, as Oren says, "Consumer scanner specifications are all hype and voodoo and quality control is mediocre anyway. Experimentation with your own sample is the only way to know what it can do and whether it will meet your standards...In the world of scanning-voodoo, you take whatever seems to work for you and run with it, regardless of whether it's what someone else says is best." Maybe some V700s are better than other V700s. It's difficult to tell exactly where blame should be ascribed. Let's just say this V700 operated by me can't scan 35mm negatives worth jack.
But it comes with a 4x5 holder, and it seemed reasonable that it might do better with larger negatives, so I rooted through several closets (uh, filled with junk) and some of the shelving in the basement and found a box of negatives I made in 1987 in Michigan with a 4x5.
This is the first scan I made. It's from a Type 55 neg. Carl says he hasn't done much scanning "from itsy-bitsy sheet film" (he means 4x5), but he was able to give me a lot of good advice. The key piece of Carl-advice, for me, was to scan the negative as a positive and then invert it in Photoshop, rather than telling the scanner software that it's a negative.
I haven't printed it yet, but it looks pretty good onscreen. Although I wish the pigeon weren't being modest and looking away from the camera. Carl says, "You've got a sense of the grain, but not a full rendering of it. But then type 55 is/was very fine-grained film."
Speaking of goals [see previous post], nobody's ever seen this Michigan work, and I think one of my goals should be to scan a small portfolio from it and put it online. (I do write down my goals, but each time I do, the sheets start out like this: "1. Write down goals [CHECK]. 2. Find sheet with goals written on it.")
If I keep the number of pictures cut to the bone, people might even believe I did a pretty good job depicting the region. Working with a view camera wasn't terribly amenable for me. (Too slow. View camera photographers use the words "deliberate" and "contemplative" as euphemisms for slow. They still mean slow.) Incidentally, looking at these negatives again for the first time in a decade and a half or so, it's painfully obvious to me now that I was simply working with a lens that was too long. I was under the influence of a guru at the time who recommended a 210mm (8-inch) lens as one's first or only lens. I see wide, not narrow, is the problem there. The pictures make it obvious that I was just struggling with the focal length—the bridge in the picture above was one of the few things that I was far enough away from to make the lens make sense. I sure wish I had fallen under the spell of a guru who insisted on a 5- or 6-inch lens.
To continue, these initial experiments have whetted my enthusiasm for working this way deliberately: that is, shooting 4x5 film to make negatives ideal for scanning, and then scanning them on the V700. It seems like it would be a lot of fun. The slowness of view cameras might not be so bad now, because I've gotten more deliberate and contemplative since 1987. Maybe it's fast enough for me now.
Which is how I find myself idly shopping for a view camera.
I can't afford the view camera I really want, not because I can't afford it absolutely but because the outlay doesn't seem like a smart allocation of limited resources given what I'm going to use it for: probably, wide-angle documentary shots of a small town in Wisconsin that absolutely no one needs or will want to buy. (Or possibly even want to see—even in said small town.) So I look online at used cameras. But that's no fun, so lately I've been looking at "entry-level" new cameras. This doesn't really make any sense at all; I don't need a new camera. I just bought a new camera, albeit of a completely different type. (I'd show you, but my monoblock broke recently too.) That doesn't stop me from looking.
Has anyone seen this, for example? It's the new, upgraded version of the Linhof Kardan E, the Kardan RE. This just seems like it would be a marvelous camera. Linhof (imported into the U.S. by HP Marketing) says it has:
• New play-free solid brass micro drive for extremely smooth focusing of the camera on the monorail.
• New design and improved handling of the operating knobs with anti-slip rubber rings.
• Optimized angle scales for easier reading of Scheimpflug adjustments.
• Non-removable lasered scales.
• Additional spirit level at the rear standard for control of horizontal leveling.
• Red marked zero position of vertical shift.
...All of which sounds just great, although I wasn't aware that these points were shortcomings of the Kardan E.
There is one little drawback, but just for me. The entry-level Kardan RE costs more than a new field camera of the type I already decided I couldn't afford. (I'm going to leave my ruminations over the use of the term "entry-level" for another occasion.)
Anyway, you see how this works? Equipment begets equipment. One day my cheap flatbed scanner starts putting a hard line down the middle of all my scans, which leads straight to being dazzled by gorgeous little Linhofs.
Well, not straight.
Featured Comment by David Kelly: "Mike, the reverse can also be true. My daughter, whose visual talents far exceed mine, shoots a Nikon FM3a with a modest assortment of three lenses, but needs to share her work with friends online and wants to learn digital printing. So she was on the verge of buying a D200 body and all that goes with it, for about a grand and a half. AF lenses in their expensive multitudes would then have beckoned. Instead she bought a Microtek i900 hybrid scanner, which costs roughly a hundred bucks less than your Epson, yet in her inexpert hands does a fine job with both 35mm negatives and prints, plus even legal-sized documents so she can not only go on shooting her beloved little FM3a but also get rid of her fax machine. Maybe she just lucked out. But my point is in this case equipment prevented a purchase of more equipment. and saved her at least a thousand bucks."