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I read a few of your questions and responses regarding scanners for large format negs and I have this question that keep creeping up. We spent many of our hard earn cash (or credit) to acquire good lens and good equipment in the hope of taking great pictures and when it comes to scanning them many of you recommend an epson 4870 or similar (. My question is this does this scanner really good enough to be used to print 8x10 or larger that are comparable in quality to a system using an enlarger and photographic paper or as I think it's just good enough to post small thumbnails on the net? ThanksPS. Based on James site (http://www.jamesphotography.ca/bakeoff2004/scanner_test_results.html) the 4870 is in the low third of the list but it does 4x5 and many higher up don't
I've just started working on printing my work digitally, and have been using the 4870 avialble at school. Printing a scan of a 4x5 negative at 8x10, or 11x14 from that scanner produces a print with just as much sharpness as a optical print, though I think (haven't tested though) that beyond that size, a scan with better resolution (in terms of lpmm) would probably become nessicary to remain on par with an optical print. And acctually scans made with my own scanner, a microtek 5900, which is really not as good as the 4870 (and not nearly as expensive too) will allow a pretty decent print up to around 8x10, not that bad for a scanner I didn't plan on being usefull for more than proofing and web images (though it's not good for _much_ more than that). Now with smaller film, the output from these scanners only allows a much smaller print with very good quality, but film scanners for smaller film are more affordable too. That's been my experience anyway.
I'm not sure I understand the bakeoff results, which, as you say, show that the 4870 is inferior in some aspects to the earlier 3200. (One of the 3200s listed is mine.) But others have reported excellent results with the 4870 and perhaps as much as 20 percent better resolution of small detail. Roger Clark, who is quite rigorous in what he does, seems to have a 4870 producing even better results than that, in fact quite exceptional results comparable to a drum scanner. Probably time will tell.
There does appear to be one problem with the 4870. Namely, you can't scan a 4 x 5 frame in one scan at 4800 ppi (or even 3200 ppi) at 48 bit color depth. You apparently can at 2400 ppi or at 24 bit color depth. 2400 ppi should be adequate for most purposes for 4 x 5. And if you have the equipment to handle the enormous files, you cal always scan twice and merge in a photoeditor if you need the full 4800 ppi at 48 bit color depth.
I have an Epson 3200, which I use for scanning 4 x 5. It produces quite good results, and from what I've seen, I suspect the 4870 does as well or better for most of what you might want do. One possible alternative to the 4870 might be getting a 3200, either new, if you can find one, or reconditioned.
If the 4870 is at least as good as the 3200 (I've seen many prints up to about 13x19 from the 3200 but haven't yet seen any prints at any size from the 4870) it's way way better than something you'd use just for thumbnail web posting. I don't personally pay a lot of attention to the scanner comparisons made at various sites in judging a scanner, partly because I don't have the technical expertise to know how valid the testing methodology is, partly because no matter what's done you're still looking at things on a monitor, not an actual print. As far as actual prints are concerned, I've seen many gorgeous prints up to about 13x19 from scans of 4x5 negatives made with the 3200.
I think you need to consider a balance between several factors, Yves. First, is the technical capability of the scanner and the scanning software being used (the software plays a significant role here). The scanner's optical resolution and D-Max are the critical factors. Second, is the digital imaging skill of the person doing the scanning and image editing. Just as a "master printer" will get more out of a negative in the enlarger, a "master scanner" will likely be able to produce better, larger digital prints from any given negative than a novice could. The third factor is your own personal taste and vision, and where you personally draw your lines between comparitive image quality. One person's "excellent" digital print is another's "crap". But, it appears that most people who use Epson 3200s or the new 4870s feel they do somewhere between a reasonable and an excellent job - considering the price.
Another factor to keep in mind is the role of the printer itself. Different types of inks produce different types of prints, and of varying longevity. Additionally, most photo printers will interpolate the pixels present in the scan into a pattern that will work for its print head. For example, many people consider an "optimal" image file for Epson printers to be somewhere around 300 DPI at the given print size. The printer driver, however, interpolates that image file so the printer prints at a stated resolution of 1440 DPI or higher. In other words, you have to scan at a resolution that will produce the number of pixels you need to print at the desired resolution for the print size you want, and then let the printer driver take over.
I am currently getting nice prints (10 x 12.5 inches) out of an epson 3200. Though I do have some problems: including newton rings & focus problems due to the sag in the 4 x 5 negative. I want to get my prints to 24 x 30 inches, and am looking for a better scanner. Someone has suggested a Microtek ScanMaker i900, but I haven't found any reviews yet.
I have been comparing prints from different scanners, and I can easily see the differences between a cheap flat bed, an expensive flat bed and a drum scanner. Even at small print sizes. In small prints it is in the Dmax (the shadows are all blocked up), and in large prints it is also the sharpness. I prefer to get my exhibition prints drum scanned.
From your answers I understand better what the marketing guys really mean when they say almost as good as a drum scan or whatever else they can find to say about the same thing and "for those who can't afford one" is always missing. Most reviews I've seen are subjective or questionable which makes all of them unusable because we don't know which one to trust.
Thanks all for your honest and very instructive response . I think I'm going to get the epson 2450 or possibly a 3200 just to fiddle around with and see which of my negs I'll have drum scanned if I can find someone who does this nearby (Montreal). This way I'll get top quality when it count and I'll be able to do good thumbnails for the net or whatever else I can think of and maybe I'll be happy with the results.
I almost forgot I'm a Linux guy but I also have an old Pentium II running Windoze NT4 for those situations. I use Gimp to do my digital work. I know there is a program called Sane to do scans with most scanners (they claim that even the 4870 will work with full capabilities). Since I never used it I wonder if someone here as used it and if I could do excellent work with it or if I have to go back to Windows to make the scans? I won't complain if I don't get responses for this one... Just joking..
Thanks again all very instructive.
I just purchased a scanner last Thursday at Calumet in Chicago. I started out to purchase a 4870 to use for 35mm and 4x5, just to be used for web and proofs. Their expert, Terry , recommended I purchase a Minolta 5400 DiIMAGE as 90% of my work is 35mm. Quality is much better for small sizes.
Of course now I will have to go back and get the 4870 for 4x5. Terry says the 4870 is fine for 2 1/4 and 4x5 but not precise enough for 35.
The only other option for 4x5 is a drum scanner of big $`s.
Several months ago I bought a Microtek ArtixScan 1800f to use for scanning 4x5 negatives to make prints.
I've very pleased. The scans are vastly better than I got using my previous scanner, an Epson 1640su Photo. No, there isn't a big difference between 1600 ppi and 1800ppi in terms of pixel density, but there's a HUGE difference in the quality of the scans in terms of sharpness and in terms of noise.
I've made some very large prints from scans made on the 1800f and am very pleased with the results - by very large I mean 40"x50".
I've compared the scans I get to scans from an Imacon 848. Yes, the Imacon is better, but the Imacon costs $17000, the Microtek cost me $1100. The Imacon is nice but it's not 15 times better.
I know several other people who scan on the 1800f and make large prints on Epson 9600 printers - all of them seem pleased.
The best part is the glassless negative carrier for 4x5. The 4x5 carrier for the Epson 1640su Photo was a joke - flimsy, a pain in the butt to use, cut into the image area, and horrible problems with newton's rings. In contrast, the holders for the Microtek are robust, easy to use, do not cut into the image area too much, and are glassless (except for the 8x10 holder, which has glass).
There are a number of issues that should be considered as well. I too, have recently purchased the 4870, though not had time to use fully. Currently have the 1640SU, Polaroid Sprintscan 4000 and previously the Nikon Coolscan. From the change in 2700 dpi to 4000 dpi, it appears that at 4000 dpi on a good scanner, the limiting factor is not the scanning resolution, but the film. Regardless of the film size/format (35mm, 6x6, 4x5, etc), the emulsion is very similar, and the size of grain remains reasonably constant. It has been suggested by various sources that the typical resolution of film is around 3000 to 3600 dpi. Though this seems to apply to lower speed, film grain films (Provia, Velvia, etc). However, that is not the end of the debate, rather, to capture data at 3600 dpi (for argument sake), Nyquist limit suggests that the sample must be 2x2 of the original, giving a required scanning resolution of 7200 dpi. So, it can be implied that a scanner with the optical scanning resolution of 7200 dpi, will be able to faithfully capture all the detail a film can produce. A 4x5 scan at 7200 dpi will be a massive 28,800 by 36,000 pixels, giving an uncompressed 24-bit file size of 2,966 Mb!
The second part, as raised before, is the optical density (or D-Max). It has also been suggested that there is no industry benchmark to measure the D-max of a given scanner, and figures range from 3 (poor) to above 4 (good). There doesn't seem to be a concensus as to the exact, quantifiable, meaning of the value. It may be possible to overcome this problem by scanning twice. The first scan, exposing for highlights, and the second, for shadow. Then digitally combine them. Of course, the get the most out of this, the final image will neet at least 16-bit per channel.
For me, the Epson 4870 doesn't represent a true 4800 dpi scanner, but rather a scanner able to operate at 2400 to 3000 dpi. What that means is, I plan to scan at 4800 dpi, but then using Photoshop, GIMP or Cinepaint (able to handle huge native 16-bit files) processing it for a final file size of 1.5 to 2.0 smaller. Downsampling can increase the the final file's quality, even though it may have less pixels, the quality of information in each pixel is superior to the original file. This can be best seen in anti-aliasing and 3D rendering with oversampling (again, related to the Nyquist limit/theorem). At 2400 dpi with 24 bit, the uncompressed file is 330 Mb, which is plenty big enough for a 32" x 40 print" at 300 dpi or 24" by 30" print at 400 dpi (almost LightJet).
It has been posted on some Internet sites that indeed the 4870 CAN scan 48 bit on a 4x5. But that requires a custom 4x5 scanning frame where the short side of the 4x5 (i.e., the 4" side) is aligned also on the short side of the scanner. That is, the 4x5 must be orientated 90° from its location. Not sure where one can get a frame like that though. I think that one might also be able to use ICE when it is like that. But haven't had the opportunity to try any wet mounting yet.
Another option to get the best out of the scanner is to use wet mounting. There are limited information and resources, but Kami products seem to be quite reputable. There is a product, called Scan+ (http://www3.sympatico.ca/gluemax/ScanMax/scanplus_kitbrochure.pdf) that has been designed for the 3200 and 4870, that allows wet mounting.
For scanning on Linux, I use vuescan from http://www.hamrick.com. Then I use gimp to edit the pictures. For me, the weak link on Linux is printer support. I print from a Windows machine using the software that came with my printer.
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