View Full Version : scan vs enlarger
I shot a large dead tree with my 5x7, using a schneider 120mm f8 SA, and developed it in pyro, then scanned it on a flat bed scanner and digitally messed with it and printed it on my Epson 2200. I then took the neg to my local pro processing shop and they enlarged it and printed it on a diffusion enlarger and I made them do it over twice, trying to get a level of detail that I got on my printer. No luck. I used to use a condenser enlarger decades ago, and got really sharp results from an old speed graphic and an ancient ilex lens.
Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. I do not have a wet darkroom now, and this result amazed me.
A diffusion enlarger won't give the same crispness that a condenser enlarger will. By scanning, all of the additional image controls available with digital (such as easy unsharp masking, retouching, etc.) are introduced to the comparison, so the comparison is slightly unfair, or at least a bit biased. Unsharp masking can also be done with film, of course, but with a considerably greater investment of time and effort. Remember, too, that the printer driver for the Epson 2200 will interpolate the pixels in the scan up to the resolution of the printer, so there is an increase in apparent sharpness.
In the final analysis, I think it's a matter of personal preferences regarding the matrix of decision points - size of enlargement available, silver vs. digital print, etc.
A flatbed scanner will not get the results you want. Its the equivalent of trying to enlarge using a plastic enlarging lens. I met Chris Jordan this weekend and saw his work. He shoots 8x10, drum scans, prints using epson ultrachromes, and these were the sharpest, widest colour gamut prints I've ever seen. What you've done in effect is take your image, soften it by a large magnitude with the flatbed, convert it to a neg, then soften it again by enlarging it. Sharpening only adds hard edges, it won't add detail. I'd try getting a drum scan, outputting on an images setter and then trying to enlarge that
Herb, what is wrong with the darkroom prints? Is it the tones, the sharpness, or something else entirely?
Perhaps a lab will never be able to get what you want in a print. That's why most people here try to do their own darkroom work.
All the manipulating you did with your computer gave you close to what you wanted. That's probably what needs to be done in your own darkroom, and probably by you.
I am not sure why the result amazed you? Digital is capable of incredibly good results; comparable to traditional processes, perhaps better in certain aspects though the look is different enough to make it more of an apples and oranges discussion. I also suspect you put considerably more care in your output then the lab did.
Your result is probably not that surprising to those who regularly employ digital techniques. The choice of process is of course still up to you; they definitely give a different look.
Is there another lab you might try?
Wow-it's been months since I was involved in the forum-kinda like coming home. Several asked for responses, so here we are: Of course condenser is sharper than diffussion-I never understood why condenser lost favor. Digitally processed prints do indeed have a different look, but like Ron Wisner said, its the final result that matters, and in my case, I like them better. The lab, J.W. Labs, is well respected, and they have a drum scanner and can do wall sized prints, I just don't want to pay for the work just yet.
Last answer-the digital prints had a lot more contrast and "punch" than the lab was able to get out of the enlargement.
Thanks to all
Were they enlarging onto colour or B&W paper? My experience with my local pro-lab has found the opposite with regards to scanned vs enlarged. They stopped offering their chemical prints from transparencies after Kodak dropped its support of the R3 process so I was looking for alternatives as I don't have a 4x5 capable enlarger. For a test I had them do a "hi-res scan" from one of my 4x5 slides and print the result on their lightjet or similar printer at 10"x12". The result was an unsharp, pink tinted, flat looking print so I had them do it again with similar results (actually looked worse) - I didn't give them a third chance as they didn't seem to listen to me the first time. I had a similar photo of the scene taken with my 6x7 RFH on the 4x5 and a 90mm lens instead of the 150 I originally used and printed this on Ilfochrome at 12"x16". There's no comparison. After comparing some other results I'd printed from my other cameras I concluded that the resultant scanned print from the 4x5 slide at the pro-lab was somewhere between 35mm and 645 quality when compared with prints I'd done myself. I also had the pro-lab do one scan and print from a 35mm and 645 transparency which confirmed my initial conclusion that the only format they can compare with is 35mm although at least with the last two cases they managed to get the colour balance right. Ultimately I think the question of quality is more related to the care we take doing it ourselves than the actual process.
"A flatbed scanner will not get the results you want."
Julian: A drum scan of an 8 by 10 neg must be something indeed. But I also read an article in a recent view camera magazine article where an Epson 3200 was compared against a top end scanner in 4 by 5 b&w neg scan... the results (claimed the author) were not NEARLY as dismal as you imply. In fact, a side by side comparison at 100% showed very little visible difference.
The flat beds are not the best for 35 mm, but not bad at all for large format.
As Ralph said, "...there is an increase in apparent sharpness."
Leonard Evens has written about apparent sharpness here and there, and while the mathematics eludes me at times, I know he's right: with even a little skill in Photoshop's unsharp mask, my digital prints are so "apparently" sharp, it's nuts.
I'm not at all surprised that a straight enlargement appears less sharp than a scan with post-processing - and that without enormous effort, the lab couldn't match your digital adjustments to contrast and tonality.
A lot of brilliant mathematicians, artists, photographers, and computer engineers worked hard to make Photoshop possible. That's why I shoot large format film, and then scan it, correct it in Photoshop, and print digitally.
Hi Ernie, I've just been doing some side by side tests of the latest epson flatbeds, microtek, imacon, microtek 120 (this was all with 120 film)minolta multiscan pro. I rented each one and spent a week with each. Believe me, if you are shooting LF, any of these flatbeds is degrading the quality of your image. I ended up with the minolta which whilst not as good as the Imacon was good enough for me. There is no black magic to a scanner, you need sharp optics, good electrics and good film holders, this all costs. The film glass holders of the minolta gave edge to edge consistancy, whilst non of the flatbeds could do that where there was obvious differences. I'd ignore any magazine reviews until you do your own tests. However, everyone's milage may vary and they may suit your needs perfectly.
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