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Tuesday, 23 October 2007

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Please try again with the 35mm Mike. I have a much lesser Epson (the 4490) and am extremely pleased with my 35mm scans of Portra, Superia and Kodak 400CN. I will admit that it is not much use for transparency film though.
Lots of advice at http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/Epson_Scanners/

Cheers, Robin

A timely post, Mike. I just developed my first 4x5 negative two days ago; it's sitting on the light box as I write, waiting for me to admire it further. My problem is that I too now need a scanner, and the V700 is about the best thing available locally.

As to your problem, what about a Crown Graphic with the standard 127mm lens? That should satisfy the urge to play, yet leave the bank account (relatively)whole!

I have a feeling you are using Epson's software for scanning 35mm negatives. I've had good luck for some time with Silverfast (with other scanners). David Brooks writing in Shutterbug magazine is very sold on Silverfast's software. Other people swear by Vue Scan. Both are better than the standard software. With Silverfast I stopped scanning negatives as positives and now get a better final image. You have to try different film selections, however, and not necessarily use the one that supposidly matches the film brand, type and speed you are using.

Mike, the part of this essay about scanners is interesting to me, and eerily coincidentally timely. You see, I've been weighing the pros and cons, and studying various workflows and software options for 35mm film scanning, mostly for B&W. I've pretty much settled on the Nikon Coolscan V, but I'm not 100% sure if my money might be better spent elsewhere, like on a Nikon 35/2 AF-D. I still have a wet darkroom for B&W film developing and printing, but I have a bunch of 35mm silver negatives many of which I'd like to try printing digitally. They weren't great successes enlarged and processed.

The thought that I keep coming back to, as a justification for buying this scanner, is that maybe some negatives would look better scanned and printed on an inkjet, in my case an HP B9180. I'm starting to think that, even though negatives are obviously analog, maybe certain B&W negatives would be better served as an inkjet print. I like the idea of having the option of printing a negative digitally, as well traditionally. Is this necessary, or is it even true that a digital B&W print can be superior to a wet print? I don't know, but I would know if I got that film scanner.

"Equipment Begets Equipment." Indeed.

The Kardan wouldn't be a view camera I'd buy or use outside. The Technikardan 45S is more practical, but I think most people would be better served by a wood field or basic metal folder (like a Toyo). It's taken me six months to work out what I want to replace my 25 year old Wista with (an Ebony 45S Ti) so the best thing to do is buy cheap and be prepared to swap cameras until you work out what your specific likes/requirements are. Or even whether LF is for you. There's little penalty in changing your mind.

Personally I think that if you're going to shoot B&W, you should aim for 8x10 and just contact print them. Colour is a different story.

"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." -- Mike

You could have a hard line if it was your personal style. Thus:

"I'm fascinated by edges, by the planes that photography imposes on our every-day existence. Remember, every photograph is a plane, a slice of time and space, and everthing in front of, and behind, this plane is actually slightly out-of-focus. My reaction to this is to differentiate between the left and right sides of my work, imposing a slight variable tone on the left, to make this forgotten plane more palpable in the viewer's mind."

"So instead of throwing it away, I put it aside." -- Mike

Much better to mail it to somebody you don't like, at the cheapest postal rate, with either no, or a fake, return address. Remove the serial number first, in case you actually registered it. Then it's their problem. Al Gore would be a good choice (if you don't like him) because he would probably feel contrained to properly recycle it. George Bush would probably just throw it out the back window. 8-)

JC

As Click & Clack say on NPR: every project is an opportunity to buy more tools.

At our house, that special room is called the "room of dead technology." Sometimes wives can be cruel.

Having just taken a weekend workshop on Large Format at Project Basho in Philadelphia, I found myself in the hunt for an exceedingly deliberate camera.

After a few weeks on Ebay, I put together a plan whereby I might actually be able to buy another photographic toy. Something to do with a sixtieth birthday present with the kids kickin in for their dear old dad.

In any event,Mike, this is an excellent time to buy. The shoppers are few and far between. I snagged a Zone VI 4x5 field camera, a Zone VI wooden tripod, two boards and lens, (yep. One is a 210.) thirty two, countem, thirty two neg holders. A Zone VI bag, filters and a few other dodads for under a thou.

I'm thrilled. The camera is the perfect antidote to those who argue that I can't work fast enough without going full out digital. At my age, everything is a deliberate action.........

Fast......for what.

PS: Wanna by a film holder.

I have a V700 and I've gotten decent results with 35mm film. It's true that quality control must be bad. To compensate you Epson allows three height settings for the film holder trays. You are meant to adjust them by either removing them or changing their orientations to optimize the scan quality for your particular scanner.

Also, I've gotten good results with VueScan as opposed to the Epson software.

The bad scanner leads to a new scanner which leads to a 4x5 camera....

....which leads to a new computer because the 16-bit4x5 scans are so darn huge, and a new set of hard drives for backup of all those giant files, and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

So the new scanner isn't too expensive, but by the time you're done you've spent the cost of a new car.

I'm really attracted by the idea of view cameras. But then reality sets in - it's film. And not film you can just buy, put in the camera, then drop off at the photo place either - you're looking at a substantial outlay in money, time and space just to process the damn thing. Film was the reason I never took to photography before digital came along; it's messy, expensive and plain just no fun. If I shoot film I just end up with rolls of undeveloped film that makes me cringe with guilt whenever I'm reminded of them. And that's for easy-to-handle 35mm roll film - sheet film is way worse.

If Linhof et. al. wants to tempt me into the view camera waters, they can do no better than offer cheap entry-level digital large format (with "entry-level" in line with Linhof's definition above of course).

Cheap digital large-format? You have it on your desk already. You just bought a new one, in fact. Only, it's labeled "scanner" and scans sheets of paper and film on a glass plate, not an in-focus image in a view camera body. Hand-scanner size, with a USB port and a SD card slot. No need for a screen - you got a ground glass, don't you? Normal SD card storage is plenty - writing a large file is not fast, but you're not really snapping away with abandon in any case. If it takes a

Yes, a cheap scanning back is not going to be fast. What was the word - "contemplative"? Fits well with the view-camera theme, and nobody is going to shoot action sequences anyhow (and if they do, film backs are still available). And a cheap back will not have all the resolution and precision of a "real" one, but then, you don't expect perfection on the cheap.

Offer a back at not-the-highest-possible-quality for, oh, 600-1000 dollars perhaps, and a lot of amateurs will be willing to pick up a view camera and lens, and a lot of amateurs with a view camera will dust it off and put it to use again. Inevitably, a small portion of those will get seriously bitten and end up ponying up for higher-end gear, like better backs, more and better lenses, bodies...

Did your guru study at Brooks? People of a certain generation who studied at Brooks all seem to have been told that they should start with a 210mm lens, and often report that it was the only lens they used there. A sensible choice if one is learning portraits and commercial still life photography; not so sensible for architecture and landscapes.

If you want a monorail, I don't see why you would want a new Kardan RE, when you could have a more capable second-hand Sinar P or F or F1 or even a used F2 for less, not to mention a flatbed camera, if that's what you really want. Even a second-hand Tech V will be less than the new Kardan RE, if you want the gorgeous Linhofness in a folding package.

Mike,
The advice about the software is correct.
The Epson software is not capable of showing off the Epson hardware to its advantage, as strange as that may seem. I also use Silverfast.
I also use the previous generation Epson scanner, the 4990, and have had fantastic results scanning medium format negatives, including for gallery display. I found they hold up quite well even compared to Imacon scans, as long as I'm not making gigantic prints.
On the other hand, I use a separate, dedicated scanner for 35mm negs. I've never been completely satisfied with the flatbed output for the smaller negatives.
I've also had, by the way, the problem of the line in the middle (or elsewhere) in the image. Seems that's due to electrical interference, and I run my scanner through a voltage regulator, which seems to fix the issue.
Finally, the Chinese make some pretty good large format cameras at pretty reasonable prices. I'm thinking of getting one myself. Have a look at the Shen Hao brand, which is made right here in Shanghai.

Glimpse

Honestly, I think you're on the right track. That's a really nice photograph.But for God's sake don't be wishy washy about it. Buy the Kardan, or whatever, take a hike to the top of the Mackinac Bridge and toss that piece of crap scanner into the drink. (I'm being symbolic here, of course... perhaps.) Get an enlarger and make some prints. Even if it takes you the rest of your life to make 50 great prints from negatives like the one you've shown, it will amount to more than a boatload of homogenized inkjet.

Just my $.02.

Actually, Janne, LF film is not hard to process at all. Just get yourself some BTZS tubes, or make your own. You do need a place to set up to do it, and it really does need to be a dark (or darken-able) place--you can't load the film in a closet and develop at the kitchen sink, like I did with 35mm for years and years.

If you don't want to scan the negs, just get a large enough camera that you don't need to enlarge at all, and contact print. You can do that more or less in any bathroom, with very minimal equipment. Think of it as a diversion. Some people actually do like it, and find a lot of satisfaction in it.

Mike J.

My V700 is quite capable of doing 8x10 prints from 35mm. In fact, the printed results are just as good as those scanned on a Minolta DualScan 4 (B+W at least). You do need to run some tests to see what height the holder feet need to be set to. Mine are at their highest settings.

I prefer the Epson software over the Silverfast SE. I scan negatives as negatives, positives as positives. I scan B+W in 16 bit greyscale rather than colour, as some prefer.

Make sure you're in professional mode when using the Epson scan software. Turn the sharpening down low or off, set the resolution to 4800 (for 35mm) and manually set the exposure to ensure there is no clipping. In PS, set the levels, do a local contrast enhancement, then a decent sharpening pass, then resize to desired output size. Add a touch extra sharpening to taste.

Hi Mike,

Let's see more of those Michigan prints, definitely.

Sadly, I think, scanning has had kind of a perverse arc with LF. 6x7 film makes great scans for any kind of huge print you want to make. I lugged around a pos Shen Hao 4x5 for a while and never liked the format or the 210 lens I had, either. Wouldn't a 5x7 field camera with a wide lens and Polaroid film be a grand thing?

I bought a V750 - same hardware as yours but came with a bunch of useful software. Here are things I've found out so far (still, after several months, getting to grips):
Well worth colour calibrating. I got a colour calibration package with mine (not sure it was in the advertising) including a transparency target.
I use SilevrFast AI software. The film profiles are good for colour rendition & tonal range in B&W but...
...need to tune gamma to get the most out. For film I'm finding gamma 1.8 give me the results I'm after. For B&W that's way too high. For negatives, I left the scanner do the inversion but I'm sure I could play around with other options.
There is some beenfit in multi-pass scanning but it's diminishing returns (not least due to target heating up). I run 2-pass as default.
It's worth doing test scans (on small patches) to find your optimum film holder height, resolution & sharpening settings. My experience so far suggests once you've got setting s with which you're happy, stick to them (speeds things up, too).

I recently fell prey to GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), so I had a good chuckle when I read this. I'm actually in the process of unloading equipment and simplifying because I found that too much gear and too many choices actually stifles my creativity. I'm much happier (and more productive) when working with one body, a few lenses and one output device (in my case, an Epson R2400).

Like others have mentioned, height adjustment is crutial to get a good scan on the v700, from what I have heard. Also, when you are scanning such large films, you really need to keep the film flat. I think there is a website called betterscanning, or something like that, that offers anti newton ring glass in order to keep your negatives flat.

good luck! you can't learn everything about scanning overnight, but if it is going to be part of how you want to photograph, it is well worth learning it a little better.

I guess this slippery slope works both ways. I just bought a salvaged press camera and a surplus copy lens. The intention/rationalization was to keep costs low while getting a taste of LF and basic camera movements: cheap "user" equipment, contact prints, etc... But even before I make my first exposure I find myself checking out the available large format scanners and enlargers. Sheesh.

Read the firsts of paragraphs of your text laughing aloud. Felt I was being portrayed. I feel like you about devices: Need to know how they work before using them, I feel I should be able to fix them and I hate electronic gadgets because they really can't be fixed.
I did buy a scanner three years ago, on the recomendation of a friend, a famous film director/photographer. It's a HP s20, prehistoric on almost any account, but it does a nice job with negatives. I paid for it, new, 150 bucks off Ebay. Choosed it because it scans my horizon negs, the only scanner capable of doint that. For a general use (web, regular prints) it's good enough. Helped me ressucitate my old b&w negatives, now I even have a catalogue I can refer to.
But I still do wet prints, altough I miss the improvements I can manage with Photoshop. I have been reading about big contact negatives obtained from an inkjet printer, but it seems too difficult.
You forget that a view camera is indeed a mechanical device and as such you should be able to fix it. Don't let the Linhof glitz tempt you, you can buy a nice second hand 4x5 field camera AND a 5x7 studio rig for half the cost of a new Kardan. Nowadays they sell very cheaply.
It' true that software makes a big difference. I've been wrangling for a frustrating year with a Canon compact and it's raw files, trying everything without succes. Yesterday I discovered a small line in the Canon interface menu wich makes automatically beautiful tiffs. Was about to sell the thing, or rather to discard it, it's against my religion to trick innocent people into buying junk.

I'm not an expert on flatbed scanners (just bought a V700 myself), but I've seen some good operational notes on scanning with the V750, and other 3rd party software, at auspiciousdragon.net. See http://www.auspiciousdragon.net/photowords/?cat=22.

In all my years behind the dark cloth I never used a 210. It was either a 90 Super Angulon or a 150. Brings back fond memories!

d

Ah, ha. I see that your scanner purchase is leading you down the same path I went a couple of years ago. In my case, however, the 4x5 Shen Hao field camera was the chicken and the Epson scanner was the egg. I succumbed to the siren song of fantastic IQ and a simpler way of doing things. Reminded me of my father's 8x10 Deardorff and a fellow named Adams. After spending a boatload on the camera, lenses (got to have those), film, holders, tripod, accessories, bag to carry all this stuff and a scanner, I realized that, to my dismay, this was a film camera. My “darkroom” aka bathroom wasn’t dark enough. My back wasn’t strong enough. My hands weren’t steady enough. My patience wasn’t patient enough. So, I traded in the whole mess in on a Nikon D200. Although I have a nostalgic look-back at film from time to time, I’m very happy with my digital Leica.

As Michigan is my "homeland," I would love to see more of your old photos from the state online.

After shooting large format for 35 years, switching to Digital 1Ds when it first came out--clients said please no more film.
Just picked up the new Canon 40D with live view, nice image on a 30" screen and 100% magnifacation of area to focus on.
It's like a dream come true, I realized I had wasted so much time playing with that old technology for results that don't come close to digital when all the tools are used.
Mike, lines on scans are probably dust on the scan bar--you have to take it apart and blow out the dust, Just like the older digital cameras. Have fun with the 4X5 camera.

With a Jobo 3010 drum, couldn't you load it in one of those tent sized LF changing bags and get along without a dark place?

"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."
Words of wisdom.
When it comes to scanning B&W, it seems you have to try everything, even the things that aren't recommended.
When everything does come together though, you realize it's worth it.

Vincent Oliver's reviews on photo-i.co.uk seem to have good illustrated tips on getting the best scans from the v700 and v750.

If you want an easy way to process your large format negatives, take a look at the Paterson Orbital processor. Load the film in the darkroom/changing bag, then everything else is done in daylight. It's like a light-proof tray. You only need 100ml of chemicals to process four 4x5 sheets.

The easiest place to find 'em is on ebay UK.

I think the comment on LF being expensive is a little off base. Everything is relative of course, and there are many reasons to prefer a particular workflow, most of which are strictly personal,
however I am tired of the film is expensive thing. It is simply a knee jerk assumption based on the idea that a digital image is "free" when in fact that is far from the case, when you consider the outlay needed to shoot, process, edit, and output a high quality injet print, and the fact that the equipment and software obsoleces at a fantastic rate.

Because of the slow and deliberate method LF imposes on shooting, the true fact is that LFrs pay a little at a time, as they go, rather than everything front. I spend maybe 400 bucks a year on film and paper, and I shoot allot, mostly 8x10. That's ten years of shooting for the at least 4k I'd dump on a decent DSLR/lens/computer/software/printer set up that might begin to aproach what I can do with LF, and I would still be buying expensive paper and ink. And all, or at least most, of that stuff will be in a land fill in ten years, if not sooner.

So you can have it any way you prefer, but the premise that digital is somehow cheaper than film when you are talking in terms of LF, just doesn't hold water under honest scrutiny.

JBrunner,
I think it's more that all photography is expensive, no matter how you do it. For me, LF is potentially expensive just because it's not likely to be my main means of working, meaning that whatever money I devote to it will be spent on something peripheral.

However, I certainly agree with you that digital is not cheap. It's the most expensive form of photography I've ever practiced, that's for sure. LF is cheaper in nearly every way, from initial investments to ongoing costs (at least when one considers digital's ongoing costs honestly...that is, what we really spend on it, as opposed to what we theoretically think we could get away with).

Mike J.

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