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Wednesday, 21 December 2011


As someone who has been doing this for many decades, this is truly an alarming scenario. I have been 100% digital for about 15 years but I have lots and lots of important (to me) personal images on film that I have always assumed I would have a chance to digitize "someday".
Might have to start looking for hardware :-(
The driver issue however, is easier to solve: Vuescan. That has kept many a flatbed scanner going for me when the software no longer worked on whatever version of the OS I was using. Its like magic.

Hey Ctien,
Here is a great deal on a 949
He will sell it for 2500


Yes, indeed, the days of dedicated film scanning equipment are definitely coming to a close. Just a year ago in just such a moment of stark realization I was lucking enough to purchase a Nikon 9000 scanner in like-new condition for a very reasonable (nearly original) price. But today working units of the 9000, and my 5000, are increasingly hard to find and breathtakingly pricey when found. (On a total annual return basis they may be some of the best investments I've made.)

Whether we like it or not, whether it's convenient or not, whether we even acknowledge it or not the days of film photography are coming to an end. Scan your plastic frames now while you still can.

My 35mm Minolta scan dual 4 died. Refusing to pay the inflated prices of used Nikon scanners I purchased a reasonably priced Plustek 7600i. I am impressed with what the Plustek will do. It scans right down to the grain and even that's sharp. Not sure about the DR but I've found overexposed/under developed B&W negatives don't put much demand on the unit anyway. Not saying this is the ultimate solution but it is a decent affordable solution. A lot of owners rave about this unit. Build quality is very decent as well.

I agree on the hardware issue and pray daily that my Nikon 8000 outlasts me. On software, I use Viewscqn exclusively and always check to be sure a new version is available before I ungrade my OS. So far, so good.

The short half-life electronic devices and interfacing software is a problem that I've experienced myself.

Nikon scanning sofware on our university Macs was especially short-lived, and didn't survive an OS update. An update to Win 7 killed the driver software on my home computer, and that change took out both a Nikon Super Coolscan 4000 film scanner and an Epson flatbed scanner. Both products were still mechanically functional, but the new OS didn't let them work in either case.

To resolve the issue, I've been using inexpensive VueScan driver software written by Ed Hamrick. Good price, works with loads of different scanners, and best of all, is frequently updated. If you have functional but software-orphaned scanner, this is a good option.

Personally, I'd like to see someone offer interfacing software to work with digital cameras on copystands. I might be a little naive about what's workable, but on the surface it seems feasible.

Nikon is still servicing Coolscans. Earlier this year I sent my 9-year-old Coolscan to Nikon Canada for a CLA to solve some dust and louder-than-usual film loading noises. Cost me 300 bucks, which is cheaper than buying a used one (typically sell on eBay for around 700-900 bucks, in unknown condition).

And I keep a couple of circa-2004 computers around running Windows XP, specifically for the scanner. If they last me another 5 years, that should be enough time to finish scanning my slides and negatives, then it's "sic transit gloria mundi" for film.

One alternative for using old scanners with newer OS's is to use Silverfast scanner software, which continues to offer support for older scanners. But it will require you to completely re-learn your scanning workflow as compared to, say, Nikon Scan.

The website that must not be named really recommends NCPS:

Ctein... welcome to the year 2000, when Kodak stopped supporting PhotoCD and my super-expensive, SCSI-based, Nikon LS-4500AF (4x5 scanner) ceased being recognized by any modern OS. Through the use of a SCSI->FireWire adapter (Ratoc works for me http://www.ratocsystems.com/english/products/FR1SX.html) and Silverfast (http://www.silverfast.com), my legacy scanner is still operational. It remains an economical, high-quality, at-home alternative to drum scans (what few drum units that are still in circulation with a skilled operator, as most have been replaced by the faux drum scanners like the Hassy/Imacon you mention).

Good article. How to archive all the images people have is going to be an ever growing issue. Museums will have access to the type of high end gear you mentioned, but not many others. Heck it is even an issue to get bulbs for Kodak slide projectors!

Pick your best and get them scanned now. The technology is not going to improve much since there will be an ever shrinking market for the service. Sad, but inevitable.

I've long been surprised how difficult it has always been to make good scans. Good scanners always were expensive and software (that I know of) always was clunky. I just never has become easy or cheap to make good scans. I now use a v700 with Silverfast to scan my legacy slides, b/w, 35 mm and 4x5. I'm actually very happy with it, my previous ScanDual was good but painfully slow and its DR was abysmal. The v700 is much better in DR and color, and does automatic dust removal quite OK. The major problem I have is to get reliable focus, something where you need to trust the automatic of the v700. And Silverfast gives good results once you get it to work but the interface if just positively user hostile. It is really unnerving, and I have now scanned many thousands of photos, so the experience definitely is there.

My point here is this: if there's little demand, as in film scanning, there is little supply, therefore, prices are high (no economies of scale on the manufacturer side). What supply there is faces little competition, therefore quality (of software and hardware) is also not so good, and technology doesn't evolve much.

It will sure remain possible to get good scans for a while, just not affordable. And the same thing happened to recorded music where now I can hardly find any more CDs and the new standard seems to be 128 kbps mp3s if you want any music at all.

The economics of all this always work the same: the most popular technology gets all the positive returns to scale, while the top end becomes a very expensive niche market. Technologies that are replaced by newer technologies altogether become exotic specialties. Punch card reader anyone? But you can go down even further: fast food really is disproportionally cheaper than quality food. Instead of medium prices for medium quality the choice really is super cheap low quality or super expensive high quality. The middle just disappears. The same now happens to digital cameras too.

New technologies themselves usually start out with a huge consumer surplus (companies sponsor your adoption of the novelty with a lot of niceties thrown in), which in later generations is slowly optimized towards just good enough - and very very cheap. In food it's already fast food, in music it's already 128 k mp3, in digital photography it's going to be south of m4/3 (new Nikon format, iPhones), in scanning... well, probably south of v700s and their kind. It's really a kind of technological regression towards the most commonly desired price/quality ratio. The economies of scale involved produce winner takes all markets in many technologies. I would love more diversity of choice but wherever you look, not just in scanning, choices do disappear because of this. The same process that makes OK quality very cheap pushes good quality into the unaffordable.

Nikon still produces film scanners? I thought they stopped completely. Canon has also killed its dedicated film scanners, AFAIK. I was looking the other day and couldn't find anything more or less affordable, except cheap and shoddy 35mm scanners...

I think we see the effect of "cheaper and more numerous" school of thought, so prevalent in all the industries.

What are museums / archivists using? I imagine there are some very "high-end" solutions out there.

How about a using a good digital camera with macro capability, put the film on a light table and shoot a digital dupe?

A year ago I realized that scanning is the real problem for the future of film. It's not about whether film will continue to be made, IMO, but, rather, will most of us be able to do anything with it.

I have been contemplating parting with my MF gear because of this. 35mm went earlier this fall and was just replaced by NEX 5N so I can figure out this new-fangled digital stuff.

Would it be an option to use a large sensor camera, extension tubes or bellows, and photograph the film? I had a look in my RFS2035 scanner which I bought for $10 and this seemed to be the principle of that scanner.

BTW, the Kodak RFS 2035 and 3570 are from the late 90s, have a SCSI interface and, back then, must have cost a fortune....

When I moved back into film photography in 2008, I purchased an Epson V500 as a way to scan film with less cost and more control than a minilab could give; for 35mm and especially 120, it produces good quality for on-screen viewing and modest print sizes.

For me the learning curve has been to get the best scans out of C41 emulsions. For the last few years I kept discovering better & better methods both in the capture settings and subsequent post-processing, and now am reasonably happy with what I can get out of a well exposed frame. However, when this flatbed unit dies I'm not terribly sure what I can move up to to get better resolution down at the grain level. Dedicated scanners are few and far between, and finding one to support 120 is even harder.

I'm loving the new Ektar and Portra emulsions Kodak has relased over the last few years; I (and many, many others) wish the company would invest in producing a dedicated scanner at a decent price to complement and support their film sales. But given the state of the company and its history of business decisions, it's probably a request falling on deaf ears.

I wonder if the new Pacific Image 120 capable unit will prove to be a competent coolscan successor? (about $1995 new at the usual online retailers)

Wow. That stinks. People have mentioned Vuescan, but my (limited) understanding is that one can run a virtual machine (e.g. vmware) with firewire-to-scsi or usb-to-paralell-port adapters to work around legacy software issues. The virtual machine thinks it's still 1997 or whatever, and has no need for OS updates. Also, since it exists as a file on a drive, it is easy to archive. I'm thinking of using this trick to keep a stable, known good, not internet connected, version of XP around to talk to my printer.

I feel like I dodged a bullet. About a year and a half ago, I weighed the options of hybrid vs. digital for "really large prints". I almost went with a Pentax 67 and negative film, figuring my usage would be low enough that scanning a few frames here and there would be a better deal than buying a high end DSLR. Thanks to your advice (thank you!) and an improved understanding of depth of field* I held my ground with an E-520 until I picked up an E-PL1.

I still have a small backlog of negative film to get scanned, but no truly unique keepers. For the first time, I say, "thank goodness I didn't get the shot."

*not enough for my purposes in 6x7 format. Definitely not enough in LF, so I have yet to justify buying a pretty field camera.

does the TOP hydra megabrain have a solution for repairing the Polaroid SprintScan 120/ArtixScan 120TF?

Mine is working but who knows? Silverfast still supports altho the version I have is powerpc and that goes with Lion soon. I believe they have an upgrade.

I think your/the answer is buying the hassy scanner- if you amortize the scans out you would have to pay for in legacy and add in any new work you want to do in film then it is like buying a used mf digital back. It is the cost of doing business. These are just tools.

Justify it on time, and space (saves a darkroom build- ask the EIC how that is going...) and control.

In the past year I've rolled the dice on going the hybrid route. Picked up one of the last Nikon LS-9000s sold in Canada, and a Mamiya 7 kit. Still running a XP workstation. Hardware and software maintenance are definitely a risk. Not to mention raw stock in the way of film. If I was totally rational I would have probably been better off with something like the Pentax 645D, but this is my hobby and there is no requirement for logic.

And there is always something like this:

Too bad this


does not seem relaible enough. You would think with the market for an affordable (well, relatively) MF scanner they would take every effort to get it right.

@ Michael P: Museums are in the same boat. Most museum scanning involves flat art / graphic material or books which is easily accommodated in-house. But when slides and negatives must be reproduced for publication or illustration its a job that's often farmed-out to specialists (and budgeted against the specific project). Expert staff and high-quality special equipment are often just too rarely needed and costly for most museums to maintain, even the larger institutions.

Bruce K's nearly there ...
I've been using a wonderful hand-held scanner for about three years now. It's made by Nikon and produces RAW files; it's called a D700. I fit a bellows unit together with the slide-copying attachment with a 55mm Micro-Nikkor on it and as the whole thing moves together I don't need to worry about using a tripod even if the exposures are 1/2 or 1 second. When in doubt I can bracket the shots, I can check the results on the go with its rear LCD screen and needn't worry about colour temperature either until I open the results in ACR.

Maybe I need my eyes checked, but flatbed quality is fine for me. That, combined with Silverfast & Lightroom, make for a pleasant scanning experience. I swear, even though I can't get the 120 film totally flat & have to scan it emulsion side down to avoid Newton rings, the end result still pleases me, even when I pixel peep. Everyone's MMV, I guess.

It says something about photography in general that we stopped reading about the "top 10 hot new film scanners" about as quickly as we started to.... I'm just not sure what...

I was considering switching to digital about a year ago until my friend taught me lith printing. I was hooked since then and am still using films.

Ctein, I feel your pain. When repeated attempts to have my Minolta 5400 repaired failed (UPS kept dropping the fragile unit in shipping) I threw in the towel on film (well, that and the fact that the "pro" labs started turning out crappy work) Yeah, I actually miss scanning because a well-scanned Leica negative became an awesome digital print while still maintaining the look of film!

Reflecta now makes a Medium Format Film Scanner, the MF5000: https://reflecta.de/

I think Bruce nailed it with his digital camera suggestion, which is becoming a popular choice. It works.

Awesome (sarcasm alert) I just bought a Pentax 645n. Was planning on being a hybrid guy but perhaps it's not to be...

I realised recently that I simply love taking photos on film. I've been distracted by the the little screen on the back of my camera for the last 10 years and wondered where my love for photography had gone. I like the fact that with film you can't be sure and you just have to take it on faith that images are being recorded. You just have to get on with the job of interacting with your subject and pushing the button - and that's exactly what photography is for me, creating an image out of a relationship/interaction.

Thanks for the heads-up tho, Ctein. Let us know when they threaten to stop production on Tri-X or other important "developments". It's starting to seem like the middle of the end - I feel a bit sad

A few years ago I met a tech from National Geographic at a Hasselblad meeting. NG had two Hassy scanners running flat out scanning slides. I understand they have quite a few.

I second John Holland's comment above about keeping one or more functioning Windows XP (or Apple equivalent) computers around for use with legacy scanners. If you let them sit quietly in a warm dry place and turn them on only when needed for scanning, they should last a lifetime.

I positively prefer the results I get "scanning" 35 mm film with my D3 to those from my Sprintscan 4000 I can't use anymore (SCSI ...)

@Thomas Riishøj That unit seems to be the same as the Pacific Image Primefilm 120 that I linked to above

An Epson V700 (or even an older 4990 Photo) is not good enough? I think it is. As anything it has a learning curve to settle down with proper scanning software and use thereof.

Speaking of using a DSLR for scans, here's an interesting solution if you have thousands of slides:


So, there are still smaller outfits that are creating new film scanning equipment, but as you can see, the price climbs a bit. The days of getting a very good high capacity film scanner for 500 or 1000 dollars are behind us forever.

I never even bothered updating my film scanning gear. I have a dedicated G4/MDD/10.2.8 that will dual boot OS9 if I ever need to go deep into my archives. Plus an Imacon flextight Precision II,a Sony UY-100 high speed, and a Dimage for scanning strips at higher res..

I added up the cost and hassle of updating the hardware and software so I could chase the new OS, and felt it was a fool's game.

Anything in this loop can be replaced cheaply other than the Flextight, and Hasselblad is still servicing them.


Please don't read my comment as flippant (it's not, I can relate: I'm a digital child; never used film for anything more than snapshots in my parents' point and shoots but I recently bought a used Nikon FE2. Two weeks after I bought it, the last shop on my island to process film (at all!) , stopped. The thing is, I still use the FE2! I suspect it doesn't make my photography any better, but I like USING it so much more than my D90 or any of the few cameras I’ve ever used that I shoot, wait till I travel to a bigger town and hope I can get my film processed. It’s that much fun to use! I am now considering developing at home and scanning… don’t get me wrong, it all seems like an exercise in frustration and it will likely never happen… but I am considering it, so your comments are well timed.) but I find it fascinating and amusing to live in a time where something as anachronistic as a SCSI to Firewire adapter can be produced, marketed, found and sold!


using a camera


Hans van Driest

I do a lot of 35mm scanning (using a Nikon coolscan 5000) but I wanted to comment on the driver issue - it's a big issue agreed.... I found vuescan who built a 64bit driver for that Nikon scanner (Nikon have never released a 64bit one).... so if anyone is having driver issues - give vuescan a whirl (you can download a fully functional trial version that watermarks the final images)... I have no affiliation to them at all... just a happy user.

I believe this scanner, the Pacific Image PrimeFilm 120 Multi-Format CCD Film Scanner is a ringer for your Minolta scanner. It seems to me that Pacific Image has purchased the tooling for it from Minolta and is now producing it. It sells for a hair under 2k. Might be worth investigating.

I only shoot 120 film for myself and have a Microtek 120tf, and access to an Imacon X1, and if I couldn't scan, I'd be crushed. I've been scanning since the early 90's, and despite the pain of cloning dust spots, I still prefer what I get from a scanned color negative to anything from a digital camera.

This is 100% true, that's why there is no reason for shooting medium format film professionally - there is an unacceptable level of risk involved. And "risk" is a very optimistic word here, because almost certainly MF film scanning costs will rise to an unacceptable level.
However, things may be different for amateurs who are shooting silver BW and printing in a darkroom. Prices for MF gear which will not accept digital backs will drop and will get more affordable. Silver-based analog photography will rather survive, at least I hope so :-) Hey, if it was about to die, it should have died long time ago.

I have been saying for years that Kodak and/or Fuji needs to buy the Nikon scanning technology and sell film scanners for next to nothing. I can think of no better way to keep film a viable medium. I can't for the life of me figure out why these companies don't do this.

I've got a fully working Nikon 9000ED and recently purchased an Epson V750 Pro which should both keep me scanning film for a while and with Vuescan giving me the common RAW output to then take into Adobe ACR. But modern digital cameras and perhaps photostitching plus HDR methods will ensure we are not going to be left in the lurch once our linear photodiode array or PMT scanners die. As others have already suggested, we will end up where we started decades ago... on a photo copy stand with macro lens and high quality camera back.


I just sent my Nikon LS-9000 to Nikon USA for service when the power switch would not stay down. It took them two tries as the first time the unit arrived back pretty much DoA (oops). It's once again working great now. They even replaced the motherboard so hopefully this thing will last a long time.

The official Nikon driver does not work on 64 bit OS, but there's a simple hack to get it running even under Win7 x64. For Mac (and Windows) users, Vuescan developer is very eager to be the" last person standing" that supports all these scanners so we would be OK for a while longer in terms of software support.

I suspect at least someone, may be a small Taiwanese brand or something will "always" make a medium format scanner (always being within 10 years) as there are still a small but significant number of film shooters in Japan, China etc.

I am still shooting XPan with film, in addition to digital. When both of my XPan II die, then it would be time for me to move on to totally digital...

A digital camera with a good macro-lens will do the job.
Even negative can be inverted, in RAW. B&W is rather easy, color-negative is somewhat problematic, but with the aid of Photoshop good results can be had.
Even 4x5" on a 20+ MP camera is very good.

Better Scanning wet scan holders, while they won't turn your flatbed into a Nikon 9000, are reputed to do a very good job on MF and LF film. The trick is that they allow adjustment of the height of the holder to improve focus, and also hold the film truly flat. Works wonders, if their website is to be believed (http://betterscanning.com).

(And now back to scanning slides...)

Scanning film for archiving? Isn't film (OK, B&W film!) more archival than bits, anyways? :-P

When the purpose of scanning is just to have a copy handy, perhaps we will end up being better served by a high-end DSLR on a copy stand. What's a scanner if not a slow digital camera?

dumb question, can you use a macro bellows with slide copier attachment or some such thing to take pictures of the negative with your digital camera? Backlit with even illumination should not be hard, front of negative is in a dark tube so no reflections.

It rings a bell. My Canon scanner doesn't work in my Windows 7 computer. There are updated drivers, but for some reason the TWAIN or whatever they call it now will not work.

Can somebody direct me to a comparison between a good consumer flatbed (Epson V700, for instance) and a dedicated film scanner such as Ctein's or the Nikon CS9000? I really like photographs taken with the Mamiya 7 wide-angles as well as those taken using the the water-contact Nikonos lenses (15, 20 and 28 mm), and I am trying to use film as long as practical through the hybrid workflow. Thanks!

This may be one reason why I actually am leaning toward setting up for optical printing. That, and I spend altogether too much time around computers already.

That Reflecta scanners looks just like the Pacific Image PrimeFilm 120 on the B&H site, that has terrible reviews for reliability.


This is as I am sure you are aware just one problem of the many archive problems thrown up by the digital age.

For example: Tax records from 1000 years ago were ink on vellum and are still readable.
My tax & business records from the 1980s are on 8" single sided disks. Hopefully I will never need them. But future generations will not be able to read them easily either.

Now my records may not be of value to future generations - but perhaps many such records will be.

This is a real problem with no real practical solution in place.

(Maybe when cloud storage really comes of age nothing will be lost ...)

Yeah, this is a real problem. Photographing a negative or slide with a DSLR means a large loss of image information, far greater than scanning with a flatbed. There is absolutely no cheap solution to this problem. The film market is "dead" and Kodak has made Tri-X in 8x10 a "special order" item.

The real question is, what do you derive from your film images? Is it just the satisfaction of the image, or is it a revenue stream? If it's a revenue stream, then you need to do some accounting math, and go from there. Does the projected revenue justify drum scanning or the purchase of a high-end scanner? A $20,000 scanner purchase would justify itself if you had to do 2,000 scans professionally. Or you could purchase the unit, make your scans, and then sell it. What about renting or leasing? I'm sure that others have run into your problem before. I see from a web search that some facilities rent time on Imacon scanners. Look around your area, and see what's available.

(jab/poke) Surely there must be a solution before resorting to optical printing... ;p

I've been aware of this for a while. First, the software development for scanners stalled. Then, new scanners started to get discontinued. Now, parts start to run out and older scanners may entirely cease to work.

I've been working around this by building a scanning setup based on DSLRs. The advantages are twofold: I already own a DSLR, so using it as the sensor when scanning saves costs and since DSLRs develop rapidly, I get access to the newest technology.

So far the scanning in DSLR -approach has proved to be entirely competitive in terms of quality and speed to a scanner. The big but is that it takes some effort and craftiness to make this approach practical for larger than 35 mm, but for me the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Viewscan software seems to keep my Coolscan 9000 working even with OSX, so I have full digital access to my 35mm and medium format negatives and slides.

I was stumped for a while after finding a trove of 4x5 B&W negatives with nostalgic value - they were too big for the Coolscan. But after a while, it occurred to me that I could just put them on a light box and photograph them with my DSLR. It was a snap to reverse the digital files in Photoshop. I got great digital negatives, without a large format scanner.

It seems the same would work for 35 mm and medium format negatives, at least for B&W ones, using a macro lens and masking out the lightbox around the negatives. I'm not sure how well it would work with color C-41 color negatives.

"Does the TOP hydra megabrain have a solution for repairing the Polaroid SprintScan 120/ArtixScan 120TF?"

I have an Artixscan 4000tf, and when I contacted Microtek last December about getting the unit cleaned and calibrated I was told that they do in fact still service it. I'd get in touch with them (support.microtek.com) and see if they still work on the 120tf.

The Pacific Images/Reflecta 120 film scanner requires users to cut their 120 film into two-frame strips (645, 6x6) or single frames (6x7, 6x9). That negates it off my list.

But if you can't get excellent scans from the Epson 700/750 flatbeds, it's not a hardware/software problem. I've seen exhibition-quality prints made from them. And I've published dozens of scans made on my 700.

My Minolta scanner died recently and after research (including Mark Segal's pieces on Luminous Landscape about the Plustek 7600i-Ai and Silverfast software)
I decided to take the plunge and have been pleased so far. Easy to operate and produces very acceptable scans in colour and black and white:

This has actually become a growing source of worry for me. I'm in my late 40s, but I did not pursue photography seriously (as in learning the meaning of ISO, focal length, f-stop, etc) until 2005. I marked this shift by upgrading from a Canon G3 digital (my first) to the 350D DSLR. Within a few months, with no initial intentions, I started converting all of my files to monochrome.

And while I largely consider myself an "outside" shooter (as in outdoors, rather than socially excluded), I've lived in large cities, so the outcome has largely slipped into the category of street photography. Given this, I eventually became interested in picking up a rangefinder, a digital one, but at the time, a full frame variant did not exists, and besides, the Leica M8 was considerably out of my price range. The Epson was interesting (and readily available since I was in Tokyo at the time), but it was still relatively expensive and getting a little old.

Around the same time, I was also increasingly seeking to emulate the grain and tonal characteristics of film, and my RAW conversions just weren't doing it. I also found myself wondering if I was using the best technique.

So in early 2008, I switched to film, picking up an affordable Bessa rangefinder and a Nikon V ED scanner in the process. I've since been happy with the results, generally preferring scanned Tri-X to converted RAW files. The underlying pressure of ensuring that I was using the best emulating process evaporated, and I discovered that I simply enjoyed the process of using a film camera more so than a digital one. Still, in terms of scanners, concerns over discontinued products and diminished service have started to creep up in the noggin.

I currently use a Leica iiif, and no handheld Nikon D700 scanner (or 5D scanner) can serve as an adequate alternative if for no other reason than ergonomics. And while, as noted, I'm but an amateur, I've started looking at the entry-level Hasselblads for purposes of longevity, conjuring up sundry reasons to justify the investment…which would still be few years down the road.

Things can get pretty creative, but photography is important, and hey, I don't have a car (and have no future needs to purchase one), I don't have kids, and I don't smoke, drink, or gamble. More importantly, I don't have a wife, although that might unfortunately change...maybe.

Anyway, getting a Hasselblad would also allow me to pick up a TLR or other medium formats at low cost. After all, how much is a digital medium format, a high-end DSLR, or an M9? A digital TLR doesn't even exist, what a drag…

Why not just go into the darkroom (which would be a first). Well, that might be an option, and irrespective of anything, I do hope one day to make some wet prints of my negatives. But I want choice, and I do like the control (mainly via curves alone) that I have with a digital image.

I don't know if a correlation exists with vinyl, but I'm still amazed that albums, even if in small number, are still being pressed 30 years after the introduction of CDs and roughly 15 years after the rise of mpegs. And most buyers of these albums, which include mainstream acts, not just esoteric indie or dj stuff, are kids, not just nostalgic old folk like myself. High-end turntables and phono cartridges are still manufactured, and, in this vein, perhaps the recent release of the aforementioned reflecta MF5000 and Pacific Image 120 (dubious quality or not) signals not so much a resurgence, but at least a halt to complete extinction.

Frustrated with the film scanning issue I worked out a solution that provides results for me that are very comparable to those I have obtained from a Minolta Dimage 5400 for colour negs, slides and mono negs from 35mm.

I use my Sony A900 as the capture device and a custom made rig that consists of threaded PVC tubes, 100mm macro lens, bench to hold it all together with flash as the light source and an LED light to focus up.

Sounds standard enough but there are some differences, the whole rig is fully calibrated through testing to obtain perfect focus and uses the optimal aperture only. The light from the flash is pre-filtered to do two things. One, cancel out the effect of the orange mask on colour negs and two give identical exposure across all three channels on the cameras sensor.

The images are captured at 1/200 sec and the exposure is controlled by the power setting on the flash.

Resulting Raw files are processed in either RPP for very natural film like reproduction or RAW Developer for a little more punch.

The 24 meg sensor in the Sony easily handles the 35mm originals but I want more for medium format, i am sure that when the next 36 meg FF Sony comes along that problem will be solved, I will just need to change the focus distance etc on the PVC tubes and make some new neg holders.

One side benefit of this set up is speed, scans take very little time once you are set up, as anyone knows the wait while your average scanner scans a full hi res 35 mm frame is painfully long and scanning large numbers of frames is something one only does when you have hours to spare!

I am thinking about those old-fashioned slide scanning attachments for SLRs as well, as a couple of commenters have mentioned.

Wish someone would weigh in about image quality of that method vs scanners. I would assume worse, but the question really is "by how much"? Obviously, one is limited by the quality of the sensor and lenses one has available.

The flip side, though, is that this is a scanning method whose electronics and optics can be upgraded, and which is not facing imminent obsolescence.

Of course, the ultimate example of this would be a good enlarger with the enlarging lens replaced by a high res digital body and lens. Say a Sony A900 with a Leica R prime. Or, if you have one lying around, something with a Phase One back...

A note to anyone looking to scan 8x10, I got a microtek i900 desktop scanner that also has a tray underneath for "glass less" scanning (except for the 8x10 holder which has glass in the tray). I was about to knock out the glass To stop getting Newton rings when I tried taping the neg to the plastic part of the holder and keeping it suspended just above the glass.

The result is scans just as sharp as the ones with Newton rings despite the difference in distance from film to scanning sensor, a very nice surprise. I've used a lot of different scanners including the flextights, which while better are certainly no where near 10 times better.

Price of the scanner on eBay a year ago when I bought it, $149

One of these days I need to send all my black and white negatives to a place like this http://www.scancafe.com/ and get files back.

Around the time the D100 came out I remember borrowing a friend's F100 and a scanner and trying to scan a few frames of Tri-X. The experience was so traumatic that I bought a D100 almost on the spot and will never touch a scanner again. I used to have great fun making darkroom prints, but there is nothing that would get me in front of a film scanner again. Happily, or not, most of my most important pictures are digital already.

Just occurred to me that the slide-copier thing is more rephotographing than it is scanning, which makes me wonder if the results would be, qualitatively, more akin to darkroom work than to scanning.

I am just an amateur currently shooting only 120 using mamiya protl. I give up 135 for digital.

Bought Epson V600 and quiet happy (I used Canon U5000F before and it sucks). Maybe I am not too demanding on scan quality and not willing to spend a lot of money for high end scanning.

My God. Everything is so confusing with film. :(

I think soon film photographers will be anti-capitalism because they won't make scanners for us anymore.

Another thumbs up for the DSLR copy stand solution. I've put cut 6x7 negs. in plastic medium format slide mounts (which hold the film very flat). Then I put the "slide" on a light table and shoot it with my Canon 5D Mk II on a tripod at 90 degrees (with a 50mm lens reversed for macro) which yields a nice big file. I can fill the frame top to bottom with the 6x7 neg/slide and the output is pretty respectable. At this point I'd say it's on par with or slightly better than an Epson flatbed (mine's a 4990) but not as good as an Imacon. I'm sure the quality will only improve as my technique evolves. *shrugs* really, what else can you do at this point?

Ctein, I have Plustek 7200i 35mm scanner. It does negs and transparencies. It's been a stellar piece of equipment... and they sell for a lot less now than the A$600 I bought it for. It was coupled with Silverfast - difficult to use at first - but it's proved very valuable in cutting down my Photoshop time. They may even make a large format version. Worth a look I reckon.

Looked promising until I read the reviews:


I had the Coolscan 9000, it was OK, but it had issues too!


Dear Greg, et al.,

You're all right. I should look into Vuescan, which appears to have been recently updated for OS X 10.7 (Silverfast for the Minolta scanner hasn't been, so far as I can determine from the website). I will e-mail it about getting a review copy of Viewscan Professional and report on it here in a future column.

In a similar vein, virtual machines would indeed be a good way to keep the drivers running, but Apple is still prohibiting virtualizing older client OSes (another subject I meaning to write about at some point). Haven't looked at how well the peripheral drivers work when running an older virtual Windows OS under Mac OS. I should do that (in my copious spare time, sigh).


Dear KeithB,

NCPS is so-so, not great. Their medium format resolution is adequate (2400 PPI) so long as you're not doing much cropping or have a really, really sharp original; otherwise not so much. They don't provide 16-bit scans, and that by itself eliminates them from the “really good scan” category. Not clear if they accept cut film strips at all (it's not in their published price list).

The Adorama attachment is going to get you poor results. Stick with NCPS, if that's your alternative.


Dear Thomas, et al.,

The Reflecta and Pacific Image scanners are one and the same. I haven't tested one. I should ask them for a review unit. I doubt it will be as good as my Minolta; it still might be good enough for me to recommend.


Dear Chris,

I was never a Tri-X fan boy even in my black-and-white news photography days. it's not likely I will be the first on the block to observe its passing. But Mike's anguished wails should be audible around the entire planet without the assistance of the inter-web.


Dear Bruce, et al,

The copy-stand approach is extremely difficult to do well. If you ever did slide duping, remember how hard it was to get a result that didn't lose a significant amount of the information that was in the original.

A digital copy stand approach is highly questionable. You've got enough of an exposure range to deal with negatives, but it's dubious that you do for slides. In theory, you could apply HDR to the problem; in practice, you would have to calibrate your HDR conversion to maintain linearity over the entire density range (something which pictorial HDR is in no way concerned about).

In terms of resolution, a top-flight camera will get you about 3000 pixels across the width of the film. That's close enough to a really good 35mm scanner as doesn't matter. But it's about half of what you'd expect out of a decent medium format scanner. Definitely not enough for serious quality work.

To get to even that resolution level, you would need a meticulously-aligned set up and a truly superb macro lens to fully exploit the resolution capability of your DSLR over the entire field of view.

Precious few people have the equipment or the skill set to pull this off. You would probably be better off using an outside service like NCPS.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

@Chris Donovan: some digital cameras let you turn off the LCD when shooting. Or you can tape over it if you really insist!

Digital cameras (and post-processing) give you a lot of options ... whether you make use of them for your style of photography is also an option.

Perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't understand why people "complain" or disparage a feature that can be disabled, not used or ignored.

I was lucky enough to locate a Nikon Coolscan V ED at a reasonable price recently, and sold my Nikon Coolscan IV ED to a friend. Hopefully they'll both last for us for a while yet. I like working with film images now and then, acquired a lovely old Leica M body again recently and have been enjoying using it and scanning the results.

If the film scanners die and go away completely, well, with 12 to 24 Mpixel cameras now available, I'll just create a more permanent copy setup for capturing film to digital via that. It will be more of a PITA to setup color neg raw conversion parameters, but its not impossible.

Most of what I like to do photographically I can do more of and with better quality using a digital camera, but film is a lovely medium that I will be sad to see disappear completely.

For every thing there is a season.

I've thought a lot about using a camera for copying large-format negatives, but not in the Spiratone clip-on slide-copier sense or shooting on a light table. Maybe it's hare-brained, but here goes:

I'm thinking that SKGrimes or RRS could fabricate a geared, even ArcaSwiss-micrometer-like, jig onto which one could mount, say, the 5DII with Canon's razor-sharp 100mm macro lens. The negative would be taped onto a piece of white light-table glass evenly illuminated from behind and fixed perfectly parallel to the geared jig.

The camera would then be precisely cranked right and left, up and down, row by row, to take a series of photos of sections of large-format negatives. Each turn of the crank would cover a declared distance in millimeters so that after initial familiarization, looking through the camera viewfinder could be kept to a minimum. A rail would join the frosted glass to the geared jig so that the camera-subject distance could be adjusted for different-sized negatives and different numbers of "tiles." And, of course, there could be both medium- and large-format jigs; no reason to pay for 8x10 capabilities if one never shoots larger than 6x7.

The resulting photos would then be stitched together to create a high-resolution "scan" of the entire negative.

It seems that by using a sharp lens that's essentially free of geometric distortion, shooting raw, dialing down the contrast, and feeding the results into an auto-stitching program, one could get a very good file in no more time than it takes to run a large negative through a high-resolution scanner.

Even if very well made it would cost less than a good medium-format scanner and would never break or be orphaned of repair parts. Best of all, the scan-a-ma-jig would never be obsolete: the optics, electronics, and software could continually be upgraded as technology marches forward.

Any fabricators out there?

I have a little mountain of old scanners -- a couple of 35mms that I've persuaded to run on Vista, and a couple of old flatbeds that can work on the one remaining Windows Xp i have. Only solution I can see is to keep picking up ex-office XPs and run nothing but photo software on them...

Shoot larger film in a real camera and the lowly flatbed does pretty nicely since the enlargement ratio is so little. Medium format has always been a compromise and now ever more so.

I gave up scanners a few years ago after deciding they all got streaky eventually and didn't generally offer enough control, with a few higher end exceptions, and I've been using my Canon 5DII and various macro lenses. For 35mm, I like the Canon FD 35/2.8 Macrophoto, which is an RMS mount lens, and if I use it with an RMS-M42 adapter, it gives me almost exactly 1:1 magnification, so a 35mm neg or slide is a full frame 21MP 16-bit image. If I need higher resolution, then I can add extension tubes, shoot about 9 overlapping frames and stitch for around 5000 ppi maximum useful resolution. I have other lenses for other formats.

I keep a copy stand set up with a lightbox for transparent media and strobes for flat art and documents. I also have a Linhof macro rail for fine focus by moving the camera. It's way faster to scan a few hundred pages or a book with a camera than with a flatbed scanner, though that isn't such a demanding task in terms of image quality usually.

I can handle any format, use the glass neg carriers from my enlarger or the ones I saved from an old Nikon LS-4500 scanner. I haven't tried scanning an 11x14" or 11x17" neg, but the only extra equipment I'd need for that is a bigger light box.

It's just ordinary dupe work with a digital camera, so I can control exposure and make decisions about the tradeoffs between optimal aperture, ISO, and shutter speed for minimal noise. If I've got something tricky, I can use HDR techniques. I shoot raw and have all the Photoshop controls I need.

I have a few different spirit levels, including an Omega alignment level, to keep the system aligned, though one of these days I should invest in a laser alignment system, which would be faster and easier.

I still prefer to print in the darkroom, but if I need a digital file for publication, I can make a pretty good one with the tools I have, better in fact than any of the scanners I've owned, though I can't say I've owned what would today be considered a top-end film scanner.

I don't expect most folks can tell the difference between my flatbed scanned medium format shots and pure digital shots...and I don't care!

Here is a link to an article on the agnostic print, which some may find interesting


I have been shooting some film of late so I also made the plunge and purchased a Plustek 7600i AI. It's actually a pretty impressive scanner for the money, even if it doesn't get anywhere near the 7200 dpi that Plustek claims.

A tip for anyone who may read this.. After struggling with Silverfast's Negfix feature, I started scanning my color negatives as raw 48 bit positive scans and converting them in Photoshop. I stumbled across some reviews of a plug-in called ColorNeg (now changed to ColorPerfect, apparently) that does a fantastic job of converting the scans based on the film type. It takes a little bit of tweaking (gamma and exact color balance) to get it exactly right but it's worth it. I have all of my scans archived as linear raw data that I can go back to and "redevelop" easily.

Here's the website for the plug-in: http://www.c-f-systems.com/Plug-ins.html

Now my only problem is dealing with dust and scratches.

@Sven: Thanks Sven, yes, that's always an option, but it doesn't attract me at all. I won't be able to convince you, but there're several reasons why I prefer taking with film (cost is obviously is not one of them!)

1. I don't have to (can't really) do much post-production, which I hate and am not suited for. This means there is no absurd ratio between time spent taking photos and time spent uploading/backing them up etc etc. I know you said you can choose not to do it which is fair enough...

2. I take fewer photos. In this world of digital images and websites and full hard drives and back-up drives I feel that my digital photos are just more detritus on the pile. Film takes my photography out of this world, it relocates it in my real world (I also prefer reading books to e-readers). It also keeps my number of images down, and if I do (can) scan them, I can't imagine having more than 200-300 images on my computer per year (NB: this is a hobby, if I were working then of course digital is the way to go - speed, convenience, security [chimping again])

3. And this is probably my main point: I'm the type of photographer who gets distracted by the little screen on the back of my camera. I know you suggested taping over it but it would still be there for me and I would have raised anxiety during the taking process and would then have to edit and proof on a screen afterwards (see 1 and 2). This is a little related to Mike's desire for a B&W sensor, which I get: we want fewer options, rather than more, we don't want to have to ignore camera capabilities. A bit like driving a classic car rather than a new one. No, I can't drive 200km/hr+, but the lack of this capability means I don't have to (I live in Germany so these speeds are legal and relatively normal here). Call me gramps if you like but I find it stressful driving that fast anyway.

I can't think of any other points at the moment, but I know I'm right (for me). Each to their own eh? And by the by, I spend just as much time as any other TOP reader looking at what's coming out and which digital camera should I buy next (I'm thinking the rumoured Ricoh GXR 24-85mm aps-c... but there I go again)...

For what it's worth, I saw a couple of big drum scanners for very little money ($300-500 for a Linotype-Hell S3400) on eBay.

One problem is immediately obvious: they are big. That is, they are huge. The sellers accept only local pick-up. :-/ It's not something you can put on your desk.

Another problem is, I know nothing about them, whether they are good. It seems they do have ways of working with Firewire and MacOS, though.

Still, if they are good and they can be made to work, it's an option.

I found a scsi adapter to firewire so that my old Polaroid scanner can continue to run in case I were to need it and I also swear by Vuescan. The scanner is mediocre at 2500 dpi but what I note is that unless you have shot low iso films such as docupan or even Pan X, the res is sufficient as we are talking about slightly blurry grain and not data..easily corrected with software for those who are aware that real data can be collected from such mediocre image quality sufficient for a three foot print. I do it all the time so i know this is true. What I do note however is the lens quality of my old images is more the issue than the scans..Lenses have made remarkable progress so the least of one's problems might be with the scans...

Dear Folks,

I think a little perspective is in order. In our film days we went to all this trouble choosing our cameras and lenses to give us the image quality we wanted, selecting our films carefully and, if we were doing our own processing, making sure it was the way we wanted. We made sure we had good enlargers with good enlarging lenses. We tried different kinds of print papers to get the ones that worked well with our negatives or slides. I don't mean that we were necessarily obsessive about it (some folks were), but we didn't treat it all as slapdash. So, deciding that it's okay to throw away a lot of the quality you built into that film when you scan it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. If we really cared that little about how much the final result looked, we could have saved ourselves a whole lot of money over the years.

That said, there are many ways to get "adequate" scans, for some value of that adjective, but that doesn't mean they're living up to the quality of the original film. I've got a 4990 scanner. It'll do decent scans. It doesn't come close to what a film scanner will do, by any measure of image quality. I've pulled very, very good prints for clients from 4990 scans. They are by no means as good as the prints I could make from a proper film scan.

Now, I shouldn't damn all flatbed scanners, as I haven't tested the Epson V750-M. I really should do that before a blanket condemnation. But it seems to be in a class of its own. I can say that anything much below that is much like printing with a $30 enlarging lens. It'll look pretty good... until you try printing with a top-flight one and discover all the quality you've been throwing away.

Ditto for camera captures, at least with the cameras most of us can afford. If you can afford a high-end Phase One back, well buying a quality scanner isn't an issue, either. Real corner-to-corner sharpness is very difficult to achieve for both optical and mechanical reasons. Again, like that $30 enlarger lens, you can get adequate. But that's it.

So, tell me again why we bothered to make really good (from the technical point of view) film photographs for ourselves if we're supposed to be satisfied with mediocrity now?

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

One advantage of a good scanner like the Coolscans over a DSLR copy setup is that the scanner has an infrared channel. This detects dust on the film surface, so that the software can delete those parts of the image and interpolate from adjacent pixels.

The infrared channel doesn't work with Kodachrome, so you have to spot those manually. It does take much longer. This would be required for the camera solution too, and I wouldn't want to spend the time.

I'm with FrankP. I have a Nikon 9000 which is still going strong for MF and 35mm, but my ageing Epson 2450 produces quite acceptable results from 4x5 negs. It might be a blessing for me if the Nikon packs in, because then I will need to restrict my film endeavours to large format. Might even be forced to get a 10x8

A couple of years back, I got bitten by the photography bug again. The first camera I bought was a pristine sample of my first camera, a Nikon F2A. I went to the extreme to find a good supply of Fuji Velvia and I also got a Plustek 7500i scanner to import my pictures in the computer, where all my pictures are stored.

Everything worked OK until Apple moved to Lion, when Silverfast stopped working and I had to purchase SF version 8, which is full of bugs. SF support is not the most helpful in the world (they suggested that I remove all my external devices in order for the software to recognize the scanner, yeah, I am going to disconnect my external drive so I can do a scan!). Vuescan seems to be an alternative, but my quetions to the author of that program never got answered, so I am kind of reluctant to pay more money for scanning. So yes, scanning is becoming more complicated and more difficult.

I am now considering to sell all my film gear, just to avoid the hassle. Or to send my 35mm negatives to US and have a lab scan them for me. It is just not worth my time and the frustration involved.

Dear Michel,

As the opening paragraphs of this column stated, this is about USING the photographs on the film, not archiving them.


Dear Brian & robert,

I think there's an implicit question in your comments (and Michel's now that I think on it) of "But, why would someone WANT to scan and print their old film photographs?" Well there are lots of reasons. For one, few photographers find the time to print all the photographs they'd like to, as they make them. There's always a backlog of negs and slides one hopes to print someday... and some of them will get printed. For two, most printers get a lot better over time, and the urge to remake an old print that is pretty crappy is not uncommon. For three, being able to print digitally instead of wetly means that it's possible in a large number of cases to make a much better print now than one could have previously. For four, just the notion that all the photos one made before digital took over should become inaccessible is somewhere between unpalatable and unacceptable; if that's really an OK state of affairs, then might as well just toss all that film in the trash. For five...

...OK, lotsa reasons.

As for whether I would personally find it cost-effective or desirable to invest in a five-figure scanner kind of ducks the issue. For one, a large fraction of my income comes from making VERY high quality prints-- that's true of a miniscule percentage of photographers. For another, I'm effin' crazy-- I'm the guy who took out a second mortgage on his house so he could keep doing dye transfer printing. What works for me doesn't have a lot to do with solving the general problem; very few folks would evaluate the cost/benefit ratios the way I do.

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

I bought an Epson V750 Pro which does make scans of very high quality. It does medium format of any size and also large format as well as 35mm film. You can also batch scan quite easily. They can be printed at very large sizes (12 x 18 quite easily) and I think are so near to a dedicated film scanner (I bought it to replace one), that you would be hard put to tell them apart. Dust and scratch removal is easy and included in the software.

The V700 is basically the same scanner with less advanced software. I know the V750 has extra coatings on the glass compared to the V700, but I doubt that this makes a big difference. Vuescan supports loads of scanners as do Silverfast, and these can be used with OS X Lion and Windows latest offerings without compromise.

This review helped me decide as it compares it to the Nikon 9000ED with favourable results:


I am very happy with the Epson and would recommend it without reservation.

Sounds like there's a good business opportunity for a scanning house to set up shop (are there any already?). Sending the negs/slides out might be expensive but there don't seem to be inexpensive solutions left.

If _we all_ want to keep film scanners on the market, it seems like a simple solution would be _let's all_ buy one.

Mike has a link over to B&H.

(This was NOT a paid advertisment.)

I'm using a 4870 to scan 4x5s, for which there's an even thinner supply of scanners. It's fine for 4-5x enlargements, but for bigger enlargements I wind up forking over $100+ a shot for drum scans. I'm hoping that in the future A) someone decides there's enough profit in a new dedicated film scanner that accepts 4x5 or B) I can get the same quality from digital in the future at a sub $5k level. Right now my 5D can't hold a candle to 4x5 Provia.

again there is a weird coincidence between your writing and my reality:
Last weekend I decided to build a system for getting digital copies of some colour negatives with my digital camera.
I used my Panasonic G3 camera, a Minolta MD 50/3.5 Macro lens with an adapter to mFT and some kind of DIY-device that holds the negatives.
What all the articles on the internet don't say, of course, is that if you want to do it right to get the maximum of resolution, you have to work very carefully and it's not setting it up in 5 minutes and shoot away.
Some problems to solve:
- For colour negatives you have to use a filter to get rid of the orange mask. Doing this only with software or custom WB didn't work for me. You'll never get the full colours of the original only through software conversion, and that's a problem all scanners have with colour negs. (My solution: a combination of two green and blue Lee flash filters, cheap and easy.)
- You have to ensure that the negatives are flat. My fiddly DIY-device does this for me.
- Even with a small negative it is really important to get the same lighting for the whole frame. Just a flash in a simple softbox produces a hot spot you can see in the final picture.
etc. etc.
It took 5 minutes to get the first pictures as a proof of concept, but it took several hours on two days to find a setup that gets me reliable results with maximum quality.
Now I get evenly lit digital images of my negatives with very accurate colours, lots of details in the shadows and highlights. They are tack sharp from corner to corner. The files from my G3 have about 13 megapixels left after cropping and clearly show all the information down to the film grain.
My conclusion:
- You only know how difficult/easy it is until you try it yourself. (As always.)
- When you have a working setup you can take pictures very fast (compared to scanning), but you still have to spend some time with some layers and curves to get the colours right.
- This method works great for 35mm negs, but for larger formats you have to use high-res expensive cameras. But hey, it's better to pay big money for a high-res camera than for a high-res scanner, isn't it? (One more excuse for getting a medium format digital back ;-))

But I know you knew all this before, Ctein, because of your background in physics. Perhaps it's possible for you to give this method a try before spending a lot of money on a new scanner?

Anyway, thanks for reading.

There have been a few comments about the Plustek 7600i. I decided to check it out, and found that B&H has it on sale for $259 through Sunday...


Thankfully, my trusty ol' Minolta DiMAGE Scan Dual IV has not gone kaput, and because of Ed Hamrick's VueScan, I am able to continue to use it in this day and age.

If all else fails, there are companies out there that are raking in the profits of people wanting to get digital copies of their old film images... Imagery Lab, White Glove Scanning, etc.,

Perhaps someone has already suggested this but something along the lines of a Honeywell Repronar with a larger image stage that would take current DSLR cameras would be a workable and futureproof solution.

I feel your pain. About a year ago, I decided to get back into film because digital was just not making my socks roll up and down with excitement. So I took the plunge, bought a 4x5 kit, a used Mamiya 7 kit and a 35mm Rangefinder; then reality set in: traditional darkroom processing can be a daunting undertaking even when one is careful handling chemicals can be hazardous to ones health, not to mention the additional cost of the equipment if you don't already have an enlarger, etc. So, my thoughts turned to the digital darkroom: How to scan? Dedicated film scanners, flat-bed scanners, scanning services, drum scanning -- Oy Vey!!! I've contemplated a Epson V700-750 flatbed. It may just be the ticket.

Just a thought--seems to me the best way to digitize B&W is to make an 8x10 print on RC and then scan it on a flatbed, even a cheap one. Looks great on screen. The only thing is, I have no idea if you could then use that file to make an inkjet print with--I've never tried that. However I used to upload my illustrations for "Black & White Photography" magazine this way, and they looked great in print.

I suspect the inkjets might look best same size, and would not take much resizing, but I don't know.


Yes, I still have a mountain of slides to scan. Currently I am using a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED, but it is slow tedious work. I did see a recomendation to use a Beseler slide duplicator to re-photograph your slides. I don't know how many of these are still around.

Sir --

In my judgment, this scanner issue is critical to the future of film. Either commercial or (most) hobby uses of images now more-or-less demand digital high-resolution processing. There is no sense arguing about; that appears to be the case.

I'm surprised that, other than a few niche labs, high res scans are not now a routine part of film processing . . . and i do NOT mean just 2 meg pixel either (which seems to be a default because THAT is what "high def" video applications demand).

Anyway, this seems to be a critical issue that film must overcome to remain viable. If it cannot, the future is bleak indeed for film.

-- gary ray

Dear folks,

Okay, you win!

I had no idea there would be so much interest in re-photography as a substitute for scanning (truth is I had no idea there would be so much interest in this column, period).

You have all given me much more hope for the future. Rather than film “scanning” becoming impossible, it may merely be a somewhat arcane and skillful craft... like so much of photography. No longer “you push the button, the scanner does the rest” but reasonable for a dedicated-but-still-sane printer to do.**

It is doable. Doing it well is not easy. But given the high level of interest, rather than continuing to tell you how difficult it is, I should tell you everything I know about how to do it right. So, shortly after the new year, I will write a column about this.

Please understand that re-photography is not something you can just toss together and expect to have produce really high quality results. You might get lucky; you probably won't.

The best way to think of it: suppose you decided to build your own enlarger for doing your darkroom printing. People have done that, but think of all the ways that could go wrong from stability, to alignment, to uniformity and collimation of the light source, to the choice of appropriate lens, all the stuff you'd be worrying about normally in darkroom printing.

Think of film re-photography like doing enlarging, except you're working in the macro range, where everything gets fussier and more particular.

In other words, doing this is going to require a certain amount of knowledge, skill, experimentation, and calibration.

Anyway, come the new year (more or less) I'll give you my best thoughts on how to tackle the project.

**(the guys at “Agnostic Print” seem to be doing this successfully, but when you read the article linked above, you'll realize these are folks who have a major level of expertise (way beyond mine) and are willing to throw very large amounts of energy and money at their operations. I'll see if I can get it down to the level that mere mortals could tackle.)

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Mike, regarding scanning a B&W 8x10, Ralph Gibson said the following in a 2001 interview:

"I am one of those people who happens to believe that you get better results scanning from flat art, rather than negatives. You know the world is divided. There are those who think you can scan from black and white negatives and get good results. I don’t happen to share that view. I have owned a Nikon CoolScan and I still have one, but the truth is, I don’t get the results that I want. And I have spoken to other photographers who corroborate my views. I think that scanning film works better for news agencies."

Here's a link to source: http://bermangraphics.com/press/ralphgibson.htm

I have huge respect for Gibson and must give this approach a try.

Just out of curiosity , I'd like to hear a consensous answer to " how good is good enough " for film scans .

Since the largest I ever printed in a darkroom on a regular basis was 50 inches square from 6x6 film , I'd accept a 15,000x15,000 file as good enough . My b&w negs are insanely contrasty, ( I got a deal on 50" rolls of PRW ) so I need a lot of bit depth.

How big is "good enough" for the rest of you?

Maybe it's time for a poll?

Yes, but you missed another option – "photo-reproduction".

About a year ago I got so frustrated with the speed of my scanner (Minolta DIMAGE 5400) that I spent 400$ on a bellows reproduction set (belows + film/slide holder) and a lens, and now I can spend seconds to photograph my negs.

I think that this is the most trivial and economical solution for many years to come.

The only drawback I see with this approach is the complexity of making very large resolution "reproduction" – you'll need to photograph parts of the neg and then stitch the image back together semi-manually.

When talking about DSLRs for scanning, I was inferring a proper mechanical setup (one that I like is a Nikon bellows with slide copier), a high quality duplication lens optimized for the right magnification, flash as light source (eliminates vibration and good spectral qualities) and a careful setup while understanding the software process. For slides, the colors are straightforward, but the density needs to be watched out for. For negatives, the mask and negative low-contrast image are the challenges. I would say that with a good DSLR and proper raw conversion profile, the vast majority of slides do not present contrast problems. In fact, I once compared a scan done in such way with a Nikon DSLR to the entry level Minolta film scanner at 3200 dpi, the resolution being similar, but the Nikon having better shadows.

Now for larger formats than 35 mm or very high resolution, things get trickier. The only reasonable way is to stitch together multiple frames (or use a high resolution back), which requires a bit more mechanical and software prowess to get right without running into silly problems such as alignment or distortion.

Even though I use these methods myself, I'm slightly hesitant to recommend them to everyone simply because one cannot just buy a complete solution as one can with a scanner. I admit it, I'm an engineer, I have an MSc and the aspect of tweaking and controlling this precisely intrigues me. Ctein raises very valid points about the challenges in this approach, but I will point out that scanners have very annoying issues too, such as general software speed, stability and usability, compatibility quirks, slowness and the film not always being flat. My view is that DSLR scanning and dedicated scanners are now in some aspects directly competing, but neither is currently superior in all areas.

So what happens if you use a digital camera to dup a slide or negative? Will the result be a "film look" or a "digital look"?

The simple fact that used Nikon scanners are now selling for more than they cost new - and they were then the most expensive around! - is more than enough proof that all the arguments of "film is dead" are just utter marketing nonsense by digital camera peddlers.

If anyone with half a brain actually picked up the build license for the Coolscans and did a re-badged version, they'd see immediate returns.
Of course, it's not that simple. Vuescan is not better than the latest Nikonscan for the Nikon range. In particular, it can't do a quick auto preview of all images in a strip. Which makes Nikonscan the only viable alternative. And it hasn't been updated in eons.

Primefilm has done something similar with the old Kodak 7200dpi scanners, which were quite good. Their 7250 "Pro" model is quite good, with D-Ice, and still made although the drivers suck. Vuescan fortunately works really well with that one. And they also do a MF scanner which is almost as good as a Coolscan 9000.

And if the Kaisers of this world finally saw the light and put out a 12Mpixel - or higher - full sensor digital scannner with reasonable focusing and flatness control, D-Ice and raw output, things would indeed be on the mend.
Unfortunately, some utter idiot has convinced them that 9Mpixel is the max anyone might need for film conversion. Which is completely false, and I got plenty of proof of that.

And no: flatbeds simply do NOT match a good dedicated scanner, no matter what. Never did, never will. At least not at a price point that is accessible to the common mortal!

Perhaps the most important thing about Ctein's OP is the length of this thread of comments, which means there's an anxious and untapped market for a good scanner that costs less than an Imacon.

Like Ctein, I like inkjet prints from scans of negatives even better than my darkroom prints – though I admit we're in the minority.

I have a temporary solution, which is to make workprints with the cheapest of flatbeds, Canon 9000-something; I then prevail upon a friend who has an old Imacon, and old Mac with SCSSI port, to make exhibition prints. But what I really need is a Nikon 9000. Please, Nikon, get the tooling out of the warehouse?

I had high hopes for the PrimeFilm 120, but was disappointed by the erratic quality control reported by early purchasers from B&H. Nobody, as far as I can find, has reviewed this scanner, perhaps waiting for Silverfast to come up with quality software.

Together, though, I think we've shown how many TOP readers are concerned about scanner availability, and I wish some reliable manufacturer would take note.

As I think I've posted previously, I have always had a belief - perhaps delusion - that one day, when I have more time, I will go back to film for the majority of my photography, as I find the cameras and the results (in B&W) more appealing to my taste. The little bit of film shooting I did this year, on a weekend when the family were away and I could get some space and peace to develop, confirmed this for me.

But the gradual disappearance of film, chemicals and now, crucially, the technology I need to finish the work, suggests to me that this looks increasingly unlikely. My ageing Acer ScanWit and Epson 2450 are still more than adequate for my needs (I don't have Ctein's quality demands), but I seriously doubt that both will be in working order by the time this project becomes tenable. (And it's not as if I've made much progress with the existing backlog of negatives.)

This has a knock-on impact on current purchasing decisions, as I'm contemplating renewing my digital kit and wondering whether to stick with Nikon, and thus hold on to a brace of cameras with lenses that work across DX and 35mm, or bite the bullet and go mirrorless - in which case I might as well cull the film gear to make room (both physical and mental).

Perhaps if I were being realistic, I'd see that the latter, combined with suitable post-processing software, offers a more suitable destination than a retro future that looks increasingly impractical to attain.

Another vote for vuescan here. Ed Hamrick keeps it up-to-date in the sense of running on new machines and operating systems. I use it with my Minolta 5400 scanner and am also trembling for the day when the scanner breaks.

This thread might be of interest:

(it was to me)


have you tried contacting Bellamy at japancamerahunter.com or Dirk at japan exposures.com? If someone in Japan is still working on these scanners, they should be able to connect you with that service.

Dear toto,

If they're faithful to the original they'll look like "film."

pax / Ctein

I own both a V750 pro and a Nikon V ED, so I can compare resolution on site. For my 9x6's and 9x8's I use the V750 and it's a nice machine up to an optical resolution of about 2600 dpi, which will get ME where I want to be. The filmholder sucks a bit.....but that can be corrected via Betterscanning aftermarket products or using the Kami fluid wet mount, which increases the resolution a bit. For my 35mm I use the Nikon....and Nikon still services these scanners. If you are desperate for a new scanner Ctein I suggest you take a deap breath, look very freindly to your local bank manager, and checkout this site:


And do it fast since prices are rising. I wonder at what price Nikon will step in, since at a cool 10 grand in dollars.....I guess they should be able to make a profit even building small series.

Greetings, Ed (and all the luck with the firewire/scsi adapter, smart action Ctein)

P.S. All the best seasons whiches to Ctein/Mike and all the readers and writers of The Online Photographer. Keep up the good work.

I'm another gone-back-to-film who is worried about my Minolta Scan Dual III packing it in one of these days. Before reading this thread, I had imagined that I'd be the only one doing things like holding off on an OS upgrade due to Silverfast compatibility. Should have known that I'd find like minds on this site.

I'm still a hobbyist(amateur) on 135 and 120 film and bought the canoscan 9000F for making low res digital contact jpg's to pick out the best shots from a B&W 135 neg roll. Same for 120 B&W negs. I'll print them later wet in the DR. C41 rolls 135 are still processed by my lab and they give me 36 fine 15x10cm prints without any PC work involved for 4,5€. I scanned my 135 slides on low res for PC viewing but gave up this awful time consuming process last week in favor of going out and enjoy life and (!) erased all the earlier crapy low res slidescans from my HD not needing a new HD soon by doing so. When I want a good print I'll send it to a lab, when I shoot slides I'll pop them into my projector and archive them afterwards. I decided: analog stays analog like in the old days, digital jpg's end up on the HD and will be printed on chrystal archive paper for having a look at them without any electricity and PC switched on...

Epson Perfection V750-M (or its successors) for 90% slides + drum scanning for 10% where the best quality is required?

From my experience with microscopy, wet mounting makes a big difference in image clarity - so appearance of wet mounting for flatbeds looks very promising.

It's worth a look into the Flextight scanners. I bought a used one a few years ago. It was about $8000. As a professional, you probably want the best and something that is both easy to use, likely to have software updates and tech support. I never used the Minolta and it may be a dream, but I suspect it doesn't compare well with a Flextight. You of all people, who sells prints for a goodly sum, is an expert in one of the most time consuming and costly photographic printing methods, should realize the value of tools that get the job done well. I'm afraid your article just comes across as a complaint about the cost of and lack of scanners to choose from. That's how it is. I think that with your reputation, Hasselblad would lend you a Flextight to review and publish your results. I hope that you'll pursue that option. Your photographs deserve it. Best, Barry

One more vote, Ctein, to hear your take on how to set up a camera to photograph slides & negatives.

Too late to make any constructive contribution to this excellent and extremely informative comments thread, but I thought I'd step-in and add my name to those of us hoping for a better choice of film scanners in the future.

Through dogged persistence (downloading the entire list of US Nikon dealers, and contacting them in alphabetical order) I managed to buy a new Coolscan9000 last year, just before they were discontinued and prices skyrocketed. Even before that, many (supposedly) reputable dealers were selling their consignment of the scanner at a large premium on ebay, instead of in their own stores.

As said, since then the price has spiraled. This certainly suggests an underlying demand. It's obviously too much to hope that film manufacturers could somehow cooperate to purchase the technology from Nikon and rebadge their excellent scanners. As Nikon wants consumers to stay on the digital treadmill (a guaranteed future cashflow) they probably won't ever revive this long-lived equipment at any price.

Here is experiment. After my Nikon 9000 broke second time in less than 3 years after scanning few hundred images during these years I don't want to repair it. I took the only functioning part of it - glass carrier, inserted 35mm negative and placed it on the light table. I mounted 5DII on tripod with macro lens giving me 1:1 magnification and took a picture of the negative. It is not 9000ED, but close. I can see the grain. With 6x7 negs I was taking 6 shots per image and stitching it. Looks good.

"The copy-stand approach is extremely difficult to do well."

You might want to try it before you knock it. Photographing film negatives with a DSLR is no more difficult than any other kind of careful macro photography, and depending on your originals, the results often are better than any type of scan, because of the inherent differences in the image chain.

My "problem children" were always 35mm negatives made on high-speed silver-based black-and-white films; I could never get really satisfactory scans of them despite trying a variety of film and flatbed scanners from several manufacturers (Canon, Minolta, Kodak, and Epson among them.)

DSLR "duping" with a diffused light source produces a much better result with these types of originals: dust and emulsion damage, which are exaggerated by a scanner's highly collimated light source, are better controlled, and "grain aliasing" is far less of an issue. If I'm losing any detail, it's only in the sharpness of grain edges, and that's detail I don't care about.

And of course switching to a DSLR-based imaging model lets you jump off the sinking ship that is film-scanner technology, and instead transfer to an option where quality and choice are increasing rather than decreasing.

If you're going to do a lot of duping, you might even want to pick up a used 35mm slide copy setup such as an Illumitran or Chromapro; these once-very-expensive units are now being retired at throwaway prices (at least those that aren't literally being thrown away!)

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