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Thread: Noob question... scanner for 4 x 5...

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    London, Sussex, Cornwall

    Noob question... scanner for 4 x 5...

    I'm sorry to sound like a noob but I have searched extensively without really getting very far.

    I'm an experienced photographer with a mostly 35mm and latterly digital background but am working on a project that requires me to capture at the best possible quality. The first part of the job has been done on a Leica M8 and though with care its files print to 24 x 36, I might well want some larger and even at that size I crave better detail and smoother gradations.

    I have therefore purchased a Wista 5 x 4 field camera and started shooting, though have yet to get enough frames to have a batch developed, which I will have done by a reputable pro shop.

    I print to an HPZ3100 and use Ilford Gallerie Gold Fibre, though have recently been experimenting with Harman gloss FB AI. In any event they are baryta papers and I am extremely happy with their look, feel and smell for this largely B&W project.

    I know that for very large, exhibition quality prints I am going to have to get my LF negs drum scanned. My question (phew!) is:

    For prints to 24 x 36" can I get very high quality (subjective I know, so let's say, quality that YOU would happily exhibit in a professional context) from a flatbed?

    My proposed workflow is to get the film developed by a third party, then scan for proofing purposes myself using a yet-to-be-purchased Epson V750 or Microtek M1/F1. Which of these is likely to give the best results for my needs? And will either give good enough results for my exhibition purposes?

    Sorry again for being a noob. All help very gratefully received!


  2. #2

    Re: Noob question... scanner for 4 x 5...


    I am not a pro but I think the general consensus is that the largest you can go with a 4x5 scanned on a flatbed scanner is 3-4x enlargement, so a 16x20 would be the max. That rule of thumb is supposed to apply to the Epson scanners, V700, V750 and the 4990 that I have. I have made a 16x20 from one of my chromes and it looks good but it could definitely be sharper. At some point, if I ever get an image good enough I'll pull out all the stops and have a pro lab do a drum scan and make a print and compare that to a print made with the same image scanned on the 4990. I have no experience with the Microtek scanners but I really doubt you could get a high quality 24x36 print made with a scan from a flatbed scanner. If you can let me know and I'll run out and buy one


  3. #3

    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: Noob question... scanner for 4 x 5...

    I recently had the same neg scanned on an my 4990, an Imacon, a Creo and drumscanned.

    In my estimation only the pro-flatbed and drum scans were suitable for larger than 16x20.

  4. #4
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    USA, North Carolina

    Re: Noob question... scanner for 4 x 5...

    Quote Originally Posted by tashley View Post
    For prints to 24 x 36" can I get very high quality (subjective I know, so let's say, quality that YOU would happily exhibit in a professional context) from a flatbed?
    Assuming the scan target is 5x4 film: From a current generation professional flatbed, yes. From a consumer flatbed, no. From most drum scanners, yes.

    Bruce Watson

  5. #5

    Join Date
    May 2006

    Re: Noob question... scanner for 4 x 5...


    I don't think there's much difference between an Epson V700/750 and the Microtek. Personally, I went with the v700 simply because it was $100 cheaper than the Microtek and Epson's support is much much better. The Epson's also have ICE.

    Really, any differences between them will be simply your ability to perform a good scan. In fact, given the current level of scanner technology, most scans are limited by the operator.

    As mentioned, the general consensus is that the so-called "consumer flatbeds" (excellent term BTW, conjured up by those who paid big bucks a few years ago for their high end equipment) are only good for 3-4x enlargements. Perhaps, but unlikely. I just scanned a 4x5 Velvia tranny last night using Vuescan at 3200 ppi with 8x multi-sampling (single-pass). Once the file eventually got into Photoshop, I applied post-capture sharpening and then down-sized to 1600 ppi. Another light pass of USM and the file is pretty damned impressive. The one thing everyone discounts is that the Epson's take sharpening extremely well. They take sharpening more like DSLR files than film scans.

    So yes, the scans from these machines appear soft in their raw state but that's mostly just an issue of micro-contrast; largely a result of the extremely diffused light source. Luckily, this is exactly what unsharp masking is designed to correct. The exact opposite to this for example, would be the Nikon scanners with their LED light sources; personally I find them brutal with grain-aliasing. Yes, the files straight off the scanner are sharper but they don't take any amount of post capture sharpening well and I find the tonality of the files too "crunchy". In fact, I've had to use Noise Ninja on almost any scan I've had done on a Nikon. The above is precisely why I bought the Minolta 5400 a few years back since it has a built-in grain diffuser and a much less collimated light source.

    Here's 2 scans as a comparison. The first is a Nikon 8000 and the second an Epson v700.

    Here's a few crops from the Epson 4990 from the scanner comparison on the home page here. I took the unsharpened Epson crops and simply re-worked 'em a bit to see how close I could get to the Screen Cezanne. The first 2 are the Cezanne and the last 2 are the 4990. Of course, this is an oler Epson and it's unlikely that the original operator attempted to determine the optimum film holder height.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Santa Cruz Mountains

    Re: Noob question... scanner for 4 x 5...

    The forum is based on Large Format film.
    However, I can tell you without hesitation the following information:
    I have shot Velvia 50, Techpan, and Ilford PanF 50 on 2 x 2 format using a Rolleiflex 3.5F.
    In each case I have examples of film printed as large as 24 x 36 easy.
    The last batch I did for my own friends and family was large prints of Crater Lake in B&W ISO 50.
    I borrowed a friends Canon 9950F and spent about 1.5 hours scan +post processing for the frames that were targeted for reproduction on 24 x 36.
    I would never have purchased that flatbed scanner but the best dpi I could achieve didn't make as large enough difference to using a slightly lower resolution that produced a file size of approx 70 MB.
    The end product was simply excellent and if we could have done better I think it would have been greedy. It was good enough.
    That said,... we are all looking for the best we can get for the $$ spent.
    If you are shooting 4x5 with decent lenses then there is no doubt that even a flatbed may give you exactly the result required at print/ customer.
    We can all argue about it but the proof is in the pudding.
    Hope this helps the stress level of purchasing the scanner because I'm going though the very same issue.
    Not completely confident that the ArtixScan M1 Pro is worth it's wieght.


  7. #7
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Albuquerque, Nuevo Mexico

    Re: Noob question... scanner for 4 x 5...

    As mentioned, the general consensus is that the so-called "consumer flatbeds" (excellent term BTW, conjured up by those who paid big bucks a few years ago for their high end equipment) are only good for 3-4x enlargements.
    Wrong, boy are you grossly misinformed, like myself who has owned Epson 3200, 4870(2), 4990(3), 750 Pro (currently), Microtek 1800f (3), Nikon 8000, Canon 9950f(4) and Creo Eversmart (recently bought I have far less invested in the Creo than all the consumer flatbeds combined), most of the experienced people on this form went through every conceivable available scanner before biting the bullet and finally buying a truly professional grade scanner. The 3x-4x limit came from years of testing (and frustration) and finally consensus by many of the leading professionals in the business who participate on this forum about these consumer machines for making actual museum/gallery exhibit prints. Like myself, most of us have no interest in pursuing commercial scanning or printing work so our only motive here is to share our experience. Yes I do teach scanning workshops with Ted Harris, which aim to help people get the most from their consumer scanner, and also demonstrate their limitations compared to professional scanners. These workshops talk about all the tricks (sweetspot, wet scanning, optimum focus height etc. etc.) to maximize output from their scanners. IE we have an investment in making these work at their highest level tempered by their limitations.

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  8. #8
    3d Visual Effects artist
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Culver City, CA

    Re: Noob question... scanner for 4 x 5...

    I can easily get much more usable resolution out of a 4x5 flatbed scan (4990) than my Canon 1Ds2. I would have no doubts you could make much larger prints with a flat bed scanned 4x5 than your M8. After 3-4 enlargements, yes a drum scan will be sharper, but a flat bed could probably easily produce a 3 foot wide print from a 4x5. Just not quite as sharp as the drum scan. I've only done one drum scan test, and my results lead me to believe that any around about 3 feet wide or smaller, I'll be perfectly satisfied with my flatbed scans. I have yet to print at larger sizes than this.
    Daniel Buck - 3d VFX artist
    3d work:
    photography: -

  9. #9

    Join Date
    May 2006

    Re: Noob question... scanner for 4 x 5...


    You can call me misinformed all you like but in all the hot air tossed around here about the "consumer flatbeds" only being good for 3-4x, nobody has shown why this rule applies. All we get is heresay and conjecture. I showed 2 comparisons above that pretty well illustrate that this rule may not be the whole truth. The first case against a Nikon from a fairly well respected website and the second from our own scanner comparison.

    Now if you say that the Cezanne example above is sub-par, then that only illustrates my point that the scanner operator plays almost as important a part as the hardware. Personally, of the 2 crops I prefer the Epson; the Cezanne crop is oversharpened and is showing visible artifacts. Either way, they're both so close as to be insignificant and would not show in print.

    Since so few seem to want to show scan examples, here's another one I did tonight. The scan was made at 3200 ppi, downsampled to 2400 ppi and sharpened. The crop is 329 x 348 pixels, so pretty small. This crop (1.09 x 1.16 inches @ 300 ppi) would be what you'd see from a 32 x 40 inch print at 300 ppi, way beyond what most here will print including the original poster of this thread. Even at this size, you can still read the writing on the headstone. I doubt many printers would be able to lay down dots precisely enough to resolve the detail and even if they did, I don't think I'd wanna examine a 32 x 40 inkjet print this close. Personally, I feel that the sharpening I applied is a little too much and for my own tastes, I'd go with less normally but this is a quick and dirty test. Oh and BTW, this image was made quite a few years ago and is from my very first box of 4x5 when I started, so who knows where I focused or if I even had enough DOF.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Santa Cruz Mountains

    Re: Noob question... scanner for 4 x 5...

    Very pleased to see that some people agree, in part, to what I was commenting on.
    Each individual's goal and requirement may be entirely different as to the limitations in print media, print hardware, etc,... OR distance that the subject matter is expected to be viewed from.
    Example: Sometimes it's impressive to gander 3 to 6 inches away from an enlargement to see vast details and marvel at the quality of photographic medium and the author's ability to catch time standing still.
    Likewise, concerning the 2 x 2 to 24 x 36 inch enlargements from Crater Lake, my intention was to view from a distance of 1 to 15 feet. It suited the purpose perfectly. Seriously good looking photos, at that much of an enlargement, using a scanner that had lackluster performance compared to what can be purchased in flat-bed today.

    Some of the users must require a different level of detail in the print that cannot be achieved (as implied) by consumer/prosumer flatbed film scanners.
    I will give the benefit of the doubt to that criticism and move on with it...

    For the other users who question the ability to perform quality flat-bed film scanning using something 4 x 5 inch film or larger... I'll reiterate that you can get excellent results, especially in the hands of people that can afford to take the time to edit the scans.
    I assume the differences in opinion and individual experiences are so complex that generalizations made in these forums will always be debatable.
    It's all good,... I learn something everyday.

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