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Thread: Drum or flat scan?

  1. #1

    Drum or flat scan?

    Hello everyone,

    I'm looking to convert 4x5 to digital so I can use the large inkjet printers at school (and use photoshop as well) but my question is: Can a flatbed scanner give me high enough quality to print at 40x50? Drum scans are expensive, so I was hoping to cut down on cost, but my work is VERY texture and detailed orientated, so I don't want to lose that when I enlarge. The reason I made the digital-to-film switch was for enlargement purposes, but not sure the best way to go about it. Any advice would be great! Thanks.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Miami, FL USA

    Re: Drum or flat scan?

    what flat bed would you be using?

    id say a high resolution scan of a 4x5 negative on a v700/750 should give you a good 40x50 but ill let those who have actually done it chime in.

  3. #3

    Re: Drum or flat scan?

    I'm not sure what scanner (flatbed) because I have not bought it yet.

  4. #4
    8x10, 5x7, 4x5, et al Leigh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Maryland, USA

    Re: Drum or flat scan?

    The Epson V750 enables you to scan 4x5 @ 6500 ppi, which equates to 650 ppi at 10x enlargement.

    That's twice the nominal 300 ppi that you print, so it should work OK.

    I've found the scans to be excellent when viewed on-screen. I don't print in that size range.

    - Leigh

  5. #5
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    USA, North Carolina

    Re: Drum or flat scan?

    Quote Originally Posted by carlosmh1910 View Post
    Can a flatbed scanner give me high enough quality to print at 40x50?
    It all comes down to how you define "high enough quality". If you are asking if a consumer flatbed can give the same image quality as a drum scanner at 10-12x enlargement, the answer is no. Not even close. But do you need that quality level?

    A better question is, do you need to print at 50 x 40 inches? I've found that the vast majority of images don't need and don't want to be printed that large. IOW, just because you *can* do it, doesn't mean you *should* do it. Just sayin'. And if you limit your enlargement to the 4-5x range, consumer flatbed scans should be more or less sufficient.

    If you are worried about costs, the wise thing to do is print smaller. Printing smaller lowers the cost of everything in the post processing chain, from scan to Photoshop time, to printing, to framing.

    Bruce Watson

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Re: Drum or flat scan?

    If you have free access to large printers at your university it's a great time to experiment with large prints. If you want to print large you should try it.

    I've used lots of scanners, from the old Leafscans to Nikon film scanners, Epson flatbeds and drum scanners.

    Perhaps my idea of quality is different than others, or perhaps I'm really bad at flatbed scanning, but I don't think the quality of an Epson flatbed is even remotely close to being able to give a good 40x50.

    I have an Epson 4990 that I bought when I started shooting 8x10. I have access to a V750, and I recently bought a Howtek drum scanner.

    With the flatbed scanners, I experimented with custom neg holders to find the ideal focus, and I also tried wet mounting.

    Ultimately, I think the Epsons are usable for about a 16x20 print from 4x5, though there is a real advantage with drum scans even for smaller prints.

    I would never, ever try a 50-inch print from an Epson scan. I guess if it's your only option and the printing is free, then there's no harm in trying.

    Does your school have any scanners? Or are you in a city where you may be able to rent time on a scanner? For example here in philly there is a photo arts center where you can rent time on an imacon scanner. The imacon, while not a true drum scanner, would probably give you good quality for that size print. And the imacons are fast, so you can get a bunch of scans done during a 1 hour rental.

    If I were you, I'd try to find an epson to try out. Scan your neg and then you can make small section prints at the enlargement factor of your final prints. Perhaps you can get the same neg scanned on an imacon and a drum scanner for comparison.

  7. #7

    Re: Drum or flat scan?

    The school has scanners called Epson V500. I've been printing at 13x19.5 and the prints are just too small. I know bigger is not always better, but for this specific project, big is ideal. I'll try to see if I can't rent a drum scan in the city (The school is in Chicago). Thanks!

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Baraboo, Wisconsin

    Re: Drum or flat scan?

    Different people have different standard for what's acceptable quality and what isn't. But for me, a 4x enlargement is about the best I'm happy with from my Epson 4990 (which is essentially the same scanner as the current 700/750 series). The resolution that Leigh mentions doesn't reflect the actual ppi that the 700/750 series is capable of resolving. That's more like 2200 ppi. So I wouldn't be happy at all with a 40x50 enlargement from a 4x5 negative made with that scanner. There are of course other "flat" scanners that cost a lot more than the 700/750 series but I've never used them.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  9. #9
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Fond du Lac, WI, USA

    Re: Drum or flat scan?

    If you can, have someone make a good scan with a V750, and then have someone make a good scan of the same film with one of the better drum scanners. Make prints. Compare. They don't have to be huge prints, as they could be crops from the scan, perhaps 16 x 20s.

    Another option would be pro flatbeds such as a Kodak/Creo, Screen Cezanne.

    Do you want to scan color or bw? If you shoot lots of Velvia, especially in contrasty situations, a drum scanner would be the way to go, as they do the best job with high density film.
    "Why can't we all just get along?" President Dale, Mars Attacks

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Re: Drum or flat scan?

    Usually you can't rent drum scanners since they're a tiny bit more complicated to use. But in a big city like Chicago I'd think you could rent time on an Imacon by the hour.

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