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Thread: Flatbed Scanners -- or "Am I an Idiot?"

  1. #1
    Jack Flesher's Avatar
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    Flatbed Scanners -- or "Am I an Idiot?"

    Okay... Just had one of those "Ah-hah!" moments. I was comparing scanners today at my local photo store -- Epson 4990, MT i900 and MT i800.

    First off, the Epson was fastest, the i800 sharpest by a touch and slowest by like 3x, and the i900 the softest and slower than the Epson. The "new" holder on the i800 is no great shakes. You need four hands to hold your tranny in place while you lock it to avoind crinkling the tranny. Add the incredibly slow scan times and this is one scanner to avoid if you plan on scanning 4x5 at any significant resolution. The i900 was softer and slower than the Epson and had a weird halo on high-contrast edges. (So guess which scanner I brought home...)

    Anyway, back to my stupid... I was testing these scanners out on a piece of 4x5 tranny. I used them all and came back to my office to compre their results to my aging Epson 3200 pro -- a scanner I've had a love/hate relationship with for the past few years. Great for casual reflective scans, marginal for tranny and really sucked for 4x5 since the holder was crap and I always got Newton rings. Here's when the "Ah-hah" hit. I am SURE somebody else has realized this and I simply missed the memo... But in my defense I have been a sort of 3-year hiatus from the 4x5 film world.

    But now I'm back. So in comparing my 3200 scans to the above breed, it's age is clearly showing. Even with Silverfast, the best I could manage was still softer and had less DR than any of the above newer scanners and itr is slow too. No surprise. As I put my test tranny in the crappy holder I asked myself why a company like Epson could not design a better holder -- FTR, the holder for the 4990 is essentially unchanged from the 3200, only there are 2 slots so you can scan 2 4x5's at once. Wow.

    The Epson manual clearly states to load the base side down with the tranny inverted left/right. Base side down with 4x5 means the smooth shiny side of the tranny -- also the side that bows out -- can also easily contact the glass surface of the scanner and generate Newton rings. Dang, no free lunch... No problem, I placed little shims on my 3200 holder to hold the bowing tranny off the glass, I could do the same again with the 4990. Or I could buy that guy's fancy holders...

    That's when I decided WTF, why not load the tranny emulsion side down? Now the tranny bows away from the glass the way it should and then gravity works for me, drawing the center of the tranny almost perfectly flat, yet still leaving an air-gap above the glass. Sure the image would be reversed, but a mirror-flip in CS is a piece of cake. So I tried it. Result? Best scan I ever got off my 3200, period! Ran back to camera store with test tranny, loaded it upsidedown in the 4990 holder and scanned. WOWSERS! WAYYYYYY sharper than the first set of scans with the tranny loaded -- errr -- correctly... So I came home with the 4990.

    Okay, certainly somebody is going to tell me this is old news and ask where the ____ have I been...

    Feeling stupid in Silicon Valley,
    Jack Flesher

    www.getdpi.com

  2. #2

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    Flatbed Scanners -- or "Am I an Idiot?"

    Thanks for the very informative comparison, Jack. Those are the models I'll be looking at in a month or two.

    I hope you'll keep us updated on your experiences with the Epson.

  3. #3
    Jim Ewins
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    Flatbed Scanners -- or "Am I an Idiot?"

    Good thing I never read the instructions. I just thought the emulsion should be close to the glass. Now you've done it-- triggered lust for a "new silver bullet". Have you tried a 8 x 10 neg? thanks for the report. Jim

  4. #4
    Jack Flesher's Avatar
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    Flatbed Scanners -- or "Am I an Idiot?"

    Hi Jim:

    Re 8x10 scanning, Epson supplies what appears to be a sheet of OHT film for scanning up to 8x10 on. It is not a holder per se and I suspect it is some form of anti-Newton plastic since it rests directly on the scanner glass and the tranny/neg in turn sits directly on top of it.

    I don't shoot 8x10, but would be happy to do a test scan of 4x5 resting on top of this sheet and post the results here. I am busy for the next few days, so it will probably be next week before I get the new scanner up and running and can do this.

    Cheers,

    Jack
    Jack Flesher

    www.getdpi.com

  5. #5

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    Flatbed Scanners -- or "Am I an Idiot?"

    Scanning with the emulsion away from the sensor always seemed crazy to me, and I assumed no one actually did that. It certainly makes for a softer scan on the 9550. That'l teach you - ignore those instructions.

  6. #6

    Flatbed Scanners -- or "Am I an Idiot?"

    Hmmm... I own a Microtek i900 and am happy with it, although I've never tried the Epson 4990. The only instances of "halos" I've seen were related to sharply ramping a curve (overexposing) a flat negative, which in my experience causes those halos to appear in many flatbed scanners.

  7. #7
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Flatbed Scanners -- or "Am I an Idiot?"

    i'm guessing that the improvement is coming from better focus, not specifically from which side of the film faces the glass ... the epson's have been known to have a lot of variance in the focal plane. if the neg is bowing visibly one way and then the other, you might be changing the focal plane by well over a millimiter. people who wet mount use shims to find the plane of best focus (and fine tune by flipping the emulsion side one way or the other).

  8. #8

    Flatbed Scanners -- or "Am I an Idiot?"

    I tested my 4990 and found sparpest with B&W negs emulsion up

  9. #9

    Flatbed Scanners -- or "Am I an Idiot?"

    The 'guide' for 10x8 is just that, a guide. The internal dimensions are greater than 10 x 8, so you can move the film about. The film just lies on top of the glass, which means you can get newton rings whichever way up you place the film.

  10. #10

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    Flatbed Scanners -- or "Am I an Idiot?"

    My problem with scanning through the emulsion is that it is not perfectly clear and must add some diffusion to the data. If it is necessary for focus, you might try a shim of paper under the carrier instead. Then you could get the emulsion facing the sensor and be in focus. I found a shim of folder paper worked fine to raise my negatives enough to avoid newton's rings, and did not affect sharpness. The 9950 does seem to be focused just a bit above the glass, which makes sense - while you can scan flat art at hig rez, there is not much flat art that is high rez so who would know if it is a little out of focus?

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