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Thread: Best cheap large format negative scanner

  1. #1

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    Question Best cheap large format negative scanner

    Hello everyone, I'm new to this forum, but I hope to stick around for many years.

    I am looking for a cheap way to scan hundreds of 5x7 and 8x10 negatives as an act of goodwill for my local library. These negatives are a range of ages, but mostly from the late 20s until the late 50s. I have been putting this project off for about two years, and now that I've started I've come to realize just how difficult a process it is. I have an Epson Perfection 2400 Photo scanner that I was given, and while it works, as several of you may know, it is made to scan slides and 35mm. I have tackled this issue as much as possible, even improvising a holder, but the fact that the b&w negative setting only scans an image roughly two inches wide is seemingly insurmountable. For some test scans and some particularly important negatives I've traveled down copy and paste road and pieced the negatives together from multiple scans. This gives a mostly effective negative (see attached), but is very slow, and is therefore no way to tackle the remaining several hundred negatives.

    So anyway... I was curious if anyone knows of an inexpensive scanner that I could use, as the few I've researched are nice(such as the Epson Perfection V700), but bottom out at about $500, a hefty price tag for a small-town public library and/ or a college student.

    Any help with my predicament would be greatly appreciated, and until then, I'll keep grinding along with what I have.

    Thank you sincerely for any help,
    -Phillip

    ps.
    I was toying with the idea of taking an older/free scanner and cutting/disconnecting the portion of the cable that illuminates the scanner head, and then lighting the bed from above. Is this even worth attempting, or am I barking up the wrong tree?

    Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Best cheap large format negative scanner

    Well cheap option #1 is to rig up a diffuse light source and photograph them with a DSLR. Quick and effective. Not the best quality unless you go to greater lengths but for simple archival purposes it should be fine. If they are color negs though it can turn messy fast trying to get rid of the orange mask.

    #2 is one of those cheaper Canon scanners that would do 8x10. I think they have one that big anyway.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Best cheap large format negative scanner

    To what purpose will the scans be applied?

    There are very cheap used scanners with transparency adapters that have an optical resolution of, say, 1200 spi, that could be used to make images for web display or for printing in a catalog at smaller size. Even prints (for mechanical reproduction) at negative size would probably be decent. But if you want an archive record as a backup for the real thing, it's going to take a much more significant investment.

    For example, I once owned an Acer 1200UT flatbed, and I used it for making many scans of medium and large format negatives printed up to about a 2 or 3x enlargement, and it did okay. It lacked the dynamic range for slides, but for negatives it was acceptable. I'm still displaying some of those images on the web. It was $99 when I bought it (ca. 1999) and I doubt something like that would get more than 20 or 30 bucks now. For 5x7 and 8x10, the quality would be acceptable for many purposes.

    Rick "but it must have an illuminated transparency adapter for scanning film" Denney

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    Re: Best cheap large format negative scanner

    I tried improvising a light source for scanning 4x5 negatives on a cheap Mustek. The results were poor. Perhaps disabling the internal light source would have helped to get reasonable highlight contrast. Considering the time required to scan several hundred negatives, an Epson 700 might be efficient and reasonably economical. Maybe you can find a volunteer with a suitable scanner and farm the job out.

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    Re: Best cheap large format negative scanner

    The question is, what if you succeed? What will you have left the library? Are they looking to create a catalog for the web? Are they looking to archive the images for future generations? Will they ever want to make a print? When the paper dies, what will they have? And most specifically, will it be at the level of quality that they need?

    Goodwill is admirable, but I think you need to answer those questions first. If all they need is a catalog and will never want anything else, then the digital camera idea is fine. If they want a scan, then one has to ask why they want a scan. Back when I was knee-high to a grape, my Dad would say to me, "If you're not going to do it right, then don't do it at all."

    If you answer the questions in one way, you could be doing them a disservice...

    Good luck,

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  7. #7
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    Re: Best cheap large format negative scanner

    If other people want the things scanned, they can pony up the money for an epson v700. You might not have it, or the budget might not have it, but I'm sure someone does. Put a plan together and ask for a v700.

  8. #8

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    Re: Best cheap large format negative scanner

    A used or refurbished Epson 4990 (predecessor to the 700/750) does a very nice job with 4x5 and 8x10. I'm not sure of the cost, maybe $150-$200. They turn up on ebay and elsewhere occasionally.
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    Re: Best cheap large format negative scanner

    4990 would be a good bet. I have a 4870 which is similar but slower (and cheaper).

    Honestly, this is really, really slow work. To do a good job is very exacting. After you do a 100 negatives you will understand. The pictures you are scanning will become a lot less interesting to you when you are deciding whether or not to scan them. You will be tied to the scanner, because each scan takes a few minutes, so if you step away from the desk...no scanning. Don't want to discourage you, but I hope those negatives are really awesome. And yeah, that the library has a specific use for them.

    Or if you can figure out how to do the DSLR thing, that would be much, much faster.

  10. #10

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    Re: Best cheap large format negative scanner

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenny Eiger View Post
    The question is, what if you succeed? What will you have left the library? Are they looking to create a catalog for the web? Are they looking to archive the images for future generations? Will they ever want to make a print? When the paper dies, what will they have? And most specifically, will it be at the level of quality that they need?

    Therein lies the issue, they don't know what they want, they'd rather wallow in it for 20 more years until it's all crinkled plastic, or the nitrates burn the place down. I'm looking to get reasonably good scans of even 300-800 dpi so that the photos survive in any form. Scanning at ultra-high res would be great, but I'm just looking toward a future where they can be viewed at all. You've given me some good ideas, thanks for the help.

    Quote Originally Posted by rdenney View Post
    Rick "but it must have an illuminated transparency adapter for scanning film" Denney
    As I just said, 1200 dpi is higher than I'm scanning them now, and they're plenty big for my main goal which is to see that this group of several hundred images of local history don't fade away with no record at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Corran View Post
    Well cheap option #1 is to rig up a diffuse light source and photograph them with a DSLR. Quick and effective. Not the best quality unless you go to greater lengths but for simple archival purposes it should be fine.
    The DSLR option really isn't an option at all unless someone wants to gift me one of them, as they're just as expensive as the scanners.


    Thanks for the input everyone, I'm going to look around and see if I can stir up some interest. If not that HP G4050 looks like the type of scanner I was thinking of, so I'll proabably find the $100 and get that.

    -Phillip

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