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Thread: Purchase drum Scanner or pay for scans

  1. #1

    Purchase drum Scanner or pay for scans

    I'm still new to LF I'm trying to decide if I should invest in a drum scanner or not. I am somewhat mechanically and technically inclined and don't mind tinkering with things.

    I've read through the Yahoo scanner Hi-end forums, have done the Google searches and have looked around at the used scanner market a little just to get an quick idea of what is involved and believe that owning and operating a drum scanner is no simple undertaking, but it's doable, so is it a good investment? I'll number my ideas to reduce the amount of typing needed to respond.

    My goal is to become a fine art landscape photographer and sell enough prints to keep me in the canyons with a camera??? I have no idea what the most popular print sizes that sell are and I may be heading over the top quality wise when it's not necessary.

    1. Some people in this list have commented that it's better just to continue to shoot, and just pay for drum scans? Is there an optimal archival 16 bit file size for 4x5 scans?

    2. A number of people seem to use the Epson scanners for a lot of work and have drum scans made when needed. If I sink $1,000 into an Epson and mounting kit and then pay $$$ for drums scans it seems like a used drum scanner may pay for itself in a few years? The M1 is due but I'm assuming that it will be in the same quality range as the Epson's given the price point. Some have given up on the Epsons completely.

    3. A number of very experienced people on this list use the Eversmart flatbeds and not drum scanners? I'm guessing this is because the Eversmart's quality and ease of use will handle the majority of the scanning needs and there may only be a few instances where drum scans are needed beyond the capability of the Eversmarts?

    4. WCI, Calypso, etc. use the Tango scanners but I have heard the the smaller apertures of the Azteks and the ICG's provide better resolution. Many people think the Tango scans are all one needs but some people think that the finer resolution of the smaller apertures is apparent, and better?

    5. A used Howtek/ Aztek scanner seems to be a logical choice if a used drum scanner is eventually chosen and it seems like having the capability to scan in 16 bit mode is needed. Is there a need to scan above 4000 dpi? It seems like the for quality the Howtek 4500 is the cut off at the bottom end or maybe the 8000 dpi Hi Resolve is? I'm not sure at what specific level of machine or software is needed for 16 bit capture. I'd like to get some feedback on these scanners before calling Aztek.

    I'm sure the variety of opinions and answers recieved will not point to one specific solution, as the people on these lists have not gravitated to one, but it will help me understand the options a lot better. I will have to keep my investment in a scanner and all accessories to under $7000 as a cut off.

    I'd like to hear what works for you, what prints sizes and quality seem to work and what you would do if you were just starting out as I am now. I don't wish to start a format war so if there is an opinion presented that you would like to disagree with off the list please email me at zzing@cox.net.


    I am really gratefull to all the people that contribute to these forums that have made my foray into large format photography a pleasure. I understand and appreciate the years of hardship and bad investments that I have been able to avoid. Most of all I enjoy hearing what a rewarding experience shooting LF is for everyone.

    Thanks for your help!

    Dave Jeffery

  2. #2

    Re: Purchase drum Scanner or pay for scans

    I have just started in LF as well and am wrestling with the same sort of situation. My wife and I have a fine art digital printing business that we run part time and up to now have outsourced 4x5 scanning locally to a lab with an Imacon 848. Results vary depending on the operater. We have now identified who the best operater is and so insist on that same person for performing our scanning. The cost of the scan is then transferred to the customer. However, now that we ourselves are shooting 4x5, we have an interest in obtaining a scanner. But, as we still have a number of lenses to acquire we are going to defer purchasing until next year. The cost of the scanner would complete our lens arsenal and allow us to take a few trips which I feel is more important when just starting out. Having said that, I did have a chance to compare the Imacon 848 and Cezanne flatbed scanner using the same image, and I have to say the Cezanne furnished the higher quality scan in terms of resolution and shadow detail (both were 16-bit scans). The Imacon does a lot of default sharpening in the acquisition software, and unless the operater knows how much to decrease this sharpening, the scans can look a bit artifactual. I'm interested to also hear what the experts on this forum recommend.

  3. #3

    Re: Purchase drum Scanner or pay for scans

    Forgot to add that we are outputting to an Epson 7800 (we rarely get requests for anything larger as most our customers have switched to DSLR's, but now that we have switched to LF I suspect the 7800 will be replaced with a 9800)). Our prefered paper stocks are all Hahnemuhle (PhotoRag 308 and Fine Art Pearl are our best selling media; we have a few that prefer German Etching and William Turner for their texture). Cotton canvas is another big mover. The native resolution of the Epson printers is 360 ppi and this is what we usually adjust our image resolution for. We always print uni-directionally at 2880 dpi despite the longer print times. I calibrate the head alignment once a month manually and have never had a problem with banding. For ICC profiles, I prefer to make my own with a Gretag iOne Pro spectrophotometer.

  4. #4

    Join Date
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    Re: Purchase drum Scanner or pay for scans

    If you can get good scans from a vendor then the cost is a cost of business and may be (please check with your tax professional) deductible. If you bought the scanner, you could also depreciate the scanner cost over time.

    Becoming a good scanner operator is a process. The best ones that I know have been to training and have years of experience. I would advise you to determine whether or not you can support the cost of a drum by trying to sell your work that other people scan. If you have enough sales then buy a scanner. If not then you don't have an extra paperweight.

    Mike Davis

  5. #5
    Rio Oso shooter
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    Re: Purchase drum Scanner or pay for scans

    Hey there Dave! I have only been doing 4x5 about a year now so I am new at this. I to am capable of working on complex equipment and have thought about drum or high end scanning. I am surprised that people like my images enough to take them off the wall of my home and insist on a price. I have found that there is a lot of film used and not a lot of total "keepers". I would think that even if you have a drum scanner you would want a flatbed to cull out the keepers. I have gathered from reading the posts that most of the pros here do just that to save time and money.

    Richard

  6. #6
    Founder QT Luong's Avatar
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    Re: Purchase drum Scanner or pay for scans

    > My goal is to become a fine art landscape photographer and sell enough prints to keep me in the canyons with a camera???

    In my opinion, your goal is difficult enough to achieve that you shouldn't burden yourself with becoming a good scanner operator, which is a skill (and investment) only peripheral to your goal. These days, on the global market, it is possible to obtain excellent scans at a modest price.

  7. #7

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    Re: Purchase drum Scanner or pay for scans

    Quote Originally Posted by QT Luong View Post
    > In my opinion, your goal is difficult enough to achieve that you shouldn't burden yourself with becoming a good scanner operator, which is a skill (and investment) only peripheral to your goal.
    Bingo. It's effort spent somewhere other than the capture process. Everyone, I think would be better served by devoting more time to being better photographers, than by being scanning wizards.

    Just a plug for WCI - I typically have my stuff scanned on the Creo (not wet mounted) which provides enough quality for the web and some hi-res JPGs to preview. When a customer orders a print, I will have WCI drum scan and print it at the same time. This way, I pay only the high scanning cost up front, not for work that I don't know will sell or not.

    Just my 2 cents worth,

    Ben C

  8. #8

    Re: Purchase drum Scanner or pay for scans

    The way to figure out how much to spend on a scanner is to consider how many scans you might have done for you in one or two years time. That should give you a rough dollar figure to start, though likely you might want to spend more.

    Repairs on drum scanners can be expensive. Even a replacement drum can cost quite a bit. Another issue on some older scanners is the need to maintain an older computer system just to run the scanner. This is often why newer and better supported high end flatbed scanners can be a better choice, though there are other reasons.

    Buying a high end scanner is a better idea for running a scanning service or business, and not just so you have it for your own usage. In fact, I think if you approached print sales as a business, you might find that a fine art photography business is highly speculative. Work on speculation is rarely ever a good idea.

    Anyway, take a look at Creo (now Kodak) iQSmart and EverSmart scanners, Dainippon Screen Cezanne, and Fuji FinePix and Fuji Lanovia for flatbed scanners. There is also Purop-Eskfot, sometimes called Eskographix, though support is not that great. Compare most of these to some drum scanners, and you might find that you can do more scans per hour, have a slightly easier time scanning, and get quite good results for most film scans. Also, a good company to buy used scanners is Genesis Equipment.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat
    A G Studio

  9. #9

    Join Date
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    Re: Purchase drum Scanner or pay for scans

    Quote Originally Posted by riooso View Post
    ...I have found that there is a lot of film used and not a lot of total "keepers". I would think that even if you have a drum scanner you would want a flatbed to cull out the keepers. I have gathered from reading the posts that most of the pros here do just that to save time and money...Richard
    Sadly, this has been my experience, as I struggle with transparency exposure in the early, decaffeinated, hours. Last week I shot thirty sheets and only have two I know to be keepers; there's another slide that is a stop over exposed but I have no way to evaluate it aside from cutting it up and scanning the chip with my 35mm film scanner. I hesitant to invest $60 in an otherwise nice image with blown highlights. I think your suggestion is a good one riooso: a flatbed to separate the wheat.

    Ben's approach is reasonable if his client's are patient, but a person is going to lose sales if turnaround is a month long.

    Another idea is to form a co-op. The scanner could reside in a central location (like Anchorage for instance ), members could pay an annual membership fee and minimal per piece charge.

  10. #10

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    Re: Purchase drum Scanner or pay for scans

    It is amazing how fine a quality you can get with a high-end consumer flatbed, if you learn to scan. A 4x5 does not have to be scanned at 4000 or 8000ppi to get a large print. Scanning a 4x5 at 2500ppi can yield a native file capable of about a 35" wide print at 300 dpi. With minor interpolation you can go considerably bigger with very little loss of visual impact.

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