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Thread: Home Testing Flatbed Scanners

  1. #1
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Home Testing Flatbed Scanners

    Having gone thru like 12 flatbed scanners in three years (4 Canon 9950's, 1 Epson 3200, 2 4870's, 3 4990's, two Microtek 1800f's) and with seven failing in the first week. I have some suggestions to test yours for manufacturing defects when it comes out of the box.

    1)Look for crap, dust and fily residue underneath the glass. You can clean this by disasembling it but you shouldn't have to and if you do you will invalidate your warranty.

    2) do a 100% max dpi RGB scan first thing of a neg or trans. that has clear blue or gray skies. Look at the scan at 100% and check for alignment by checking whether the scan is evenly sharp on all edges. If the edges are all sharp but the center is out or vice versa that is generally a film flatness issue which can be dealt with rather than an alignment issue. If the corners are not evenly sharp return this puppy. It can't be fixed by you.

    Also look for streaking in the direction of the scan. This will not get better.

    Also look for stretching of the grain in the corners and ghosting. Stretching has to do with sloppy tolerence in the belts. Both of these are common in the Epsons and you can live with it if you don't print above 16x20.

    3) do the same scan with Digital Ice on and check carefully for banding (banding is a repeated pattern) in the skies. This is the most common place that banding will show up. If you see banding return this puppy. It can't be fixed by you. Do this even if you never intend to use DI. This exposes a hardware flaw.

    4) Repeat with DI on 2) but apply a steep curve to the prescan. This will also show more subtle banding problems that may inadvertantly creep up on you trying to scan a flat or underexposed negative. Do this even if you never intend to use DI. This exposes a hardware flaw. Return it.

    5) Are the scans less sharp than you expect (your expectations might be too high if you are used to drum scans)? Put some paper shims under the film holder and scan again. Do the corners get sharper? If it does the focus is off. Return it! It is a manufacturing flaw! You can't fix this and you don't want to have to use shims every time you scan. Lay a 4x5 directy on the glass emulsion up and repeat the test. Is it sharper? Return it or keep this one for wet scanning! It is a manufacturing flaw! But you can make it work for you if you wet scan.

    This testing allowed me to pick up defects in 7 scanners right out of the box and return them till I got a good one. What do you do to test a scanner?
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    "When did photography become a desk job?" Kirk Gittings 2009

    KIRK GITTINGS
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  2. #2

    Home Testing Flatbed Scanners

    I think it's pretty obvious what you would say about buying one of these used, on ebay :-)

  3. #3
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Home Testing Flatbed Scanners

    why don't you ask, just to be sure ... i think Kirk has eleven scanners on ebay right now ; )

  4. #4

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    Home Testing Flatbed Scanners

    Thanks Kirk for sharing your knowledge.

  5. #5
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Home Testing Flatbed Scanners

    Paul, I know you are teasing but just to be clear. When I say for instance I had 3 4990's I mean. I returned two to get one good one (which is now on the fritz also). I currently am using a 4990, an 1800f and a Nikon 8000. All do something I need.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    "When did photography become a desk job?" Kirk Gittings 2009

    KIRK GITTINGS
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  6. #6
    Scott Davis
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    Home Testing Flatbed Scanners

    Kirk- if someone told you you had to keep only one of the three you currently have, which would you keep?

  7. #7
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Home Testing Flatbed Scanners

    My problem is the diversity of my needs. I need high volume 6x9 color neg batch Digital Ice scans for my business from the 4990, high quality b&w scans for my art from a 4x5 that will do a good 16x20 with no dust correction and the occasional huge enlargement from a 6x9 color for clients from the Nikon.

    What I really need is an Imacon 949. But if I could only have one of those three it would be the 4990, but it would be a compromise for all my needs. If you don't need Ice look also at the later production Canon 9950. I have not tested the Microtek i800. It should be a contender too.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    "When did photography become a desk job?" Kirk Gittings 2009

    KIRK GITTINGS
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    LIGHT+SPACE+STRUCTURE (blog)

  8. #8
    Jim Ewins
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    Home Testing Flatbed Scanners

    Kirk, just set up a new 4990 yestday. These defects, can they be seen on a iMac screen LCD or must they be printed? Thanks for the "heads up". Jim

  9. #9
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
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    Home Testing Flatbed Scanners

    Kirk - a question about focus. Does the 4990, for example, shift focus from the top surface of the glass (as would be used for prints) to a preset point above the glass when the transparency cover is activated by the scanning software?

    I still use the older 3200 Epson (after having used earlier Epson models). Based on my casual comparison of print scans vs. film scans, my assumption has always been that the scanner's focus was preset for prints, and that the film holders were a compromise between sharpness and Newton's rings. I get better film-scan sharpness on my old 3200 by scanning with the film, emulsion side down, directly on the glass. Scanning with the emulsion side to the glass (the reverse of Epson's instructions) I seldom have problems with Newton's rings.

    I've been thinking about upgrading to the 4990 for 8x10 film scans, but I'm curious if the focus mechanism is still the same as used in the 3200.

  10. #10
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Home Testing Flatbed Scanners

    I believe the Epson's have fixed focus so that flat art is technically always slightly out of focus.

    For 8x10 you really ought to look at the Microtek 1800f. It is designed to lay the film on the drawer glass emulsion up. It is on the plane of focus from my tests.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    "When did photography become a desk job?" Kirk Gittings 2009

    KIRK GITTINGS
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    LIGHT+SPACE+STRUCTURE (blog)

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