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Thread: scanning b&w 4x5 negatives

  1. #1

    scanning b&w 4x5 negatives

    After years of practicing photography as a "serious amateur", I bought my first 4x5 view camera strictly for b&w work. After just one shooting session and 4 developed pictures, I have become a believer. Nothing rivals the detail and clarity of a 4x5 negative ( or larger). I will always use my darkroom for a "get away" where time flies like no other place. I am curious however about digital scanning of b&w negatives. Are there any scanners out there for this purpose? Thanks.

  2. #2

    scanning b&w 4x5 negatives

    There are quite a few flatbed scanners with 4x5 film adapters. Canon and Epson both have fairly inexpensive models or high-end models at reasonable prices. To put things in perspective, I have an older canon which 'only' scans at max 2400 dpi. This yields a 9600x12000 image. This is overkill for any inkjet print.

    There are many threads here that talk about the good scanners, but I reccomend to find one with good software and dynamic range over the DPI.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Nov 2003

    scanning b&w 4x5 negatives

    I've had good luck with Epson 2450/3200 scanners. See That includes one example of a 4 x 5 scan made with the 2450 scanner. It also includes a bw scan made from a 6 x 7 negative. The 3200 is perhaps 10 percent better at resolving fine detail. I usually scan at 3200 ppi and rescale in my photoeditor to about 2000 ppi. Probably rescaling to 1600 ppi would suffice for most purposes. Scans made with these scanners can be enlarged 5 to 6 times without noticeable loss of detail, even when viewed relatively closeup. You can enlarge even more if the resulting print will be viewed at normal viewing distances rather than with your nose pressed against the print.

    High end scanners like the Imacon or drum scanners will do better, but keep in mind that if you go much above 2000 ppi with 4 x 5, your files will be extremely difficult to process.

    The Epson and similar flatbed scanners may pose some problems with transparencies because the dmax's are relatively low. But they are more than adequate for negative scans, either in color or bw.

    Epson's latest version, the 4870 can scan at up to 4800 ppi, but it is not clear it is much better than the 3200. Reports so far have been mixed. Some have found it a significant improvement, and others have claimed it is not as good. The 4870 does claim a dmax of 3.8. The 3200 may be available at discount.

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

    scanning b&w 4x5 negatives

    Like most things, it depends. If you mean, are there any scanners designed solely to scan 4x5 negatives, I would have to say if there are I've never seen nor heard of one. For large format, there are basically two ways to go - flatbed, and drum scanners.

    Like you, I do 4x5 B&W almost exclusively. I started out with an Epson 2450. After I made a few prints, I began an investigation that led to me buying a used Optronix ColorGetter 3 Pro drum scanner. What I'm saying is, I have scanned 4x5 negatives on a range of equipment, from consumer flatbeds to drum scanners.

    IMHO, which you should pursue depends on how big a print you intend to make, and how determined you are about getting the most you can from your negative.

    If you are going for 16x20s and smaller, you will probably be pretty well served by a consumer flatbed like the Epson 3200. From 16x20 to 24x30 you may begin to notice some quality fall off, depending on how quality conscious you are. Above 24x30, you might want to seriously consider a drum scan to get the most out of your negative. Of course, this is just my opinion, and YMMV.

    In starting out, you would probably be best served by a used or refurb. Epson 3200 IMHO. They aren't very expensive, you can run them with VueScan which is pretty good software, and it's good enough that it may be all you ever need. At the very least, you can learn a lot about scanning from one of these. If after you've done it awhile you decide you need "more" then you can certainly upgrade to bigger/badder scanners.

    One thing you should be aware of is that all the scanner manufacturers seem to lie like crazy about their own scanners' capabilities. I wouldn't loose any sleep over any claims for Dmax in particular - unless they are advertising results of an ANSI-ISO Status A Dmax test, I wouldn't bother to listen. Imacon is especially bad about this, but Epson's claim of a 3.8 Dmax for the 4870 isn't credible either, IMHO. Just something to be aware of.

    Bruce Watson

  5. #5
    tim atherton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 1998

    scanning b&w 4x5 negatives

    "Like most things, it depends. If you mean, are there any scanners designed solely to scan 4x5 negatives, I would have to say if there are I've never seen nor heard of one. For large format, there are basically two ways to go - flatbed, and drum scanners. "

    Well, there have been a couple of dedicated 4x5 filmscanners (not sure if any are still in production) - the venerable Leafscan4x5 that some still swear by for B&W. Nikon LS4500 and the Polaroid Spritnscan45 (which may be made by someone else now?)

    That said, up to a cetain point, the Epsons mentioned + Vuescan seem to do a very good job. And yes, the Imacons are very good (and rather expensive)
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn blog

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 2000

    scanning b&w 4x5 negatives

    My Nikon LS4500af do a pretty decent job on scanning 4x5 B&W and produces a maximum data of around 70 megabites and arround 200 mb on colour transparency. Scanning prior to darkroom printing is where I find the use of scanner most useful. I actually don't have a printer and not really planning to get one yet. However, I have been printing mural size B&W with 150mm rodagon-G and believe me it is worth the trouble compared to the convinience of digital printing!

  7. #7

    scanning b&w 4x5 negatives

    The Epson 3200 does do a nice job , but if you get one you should think about only using the USB interface and leaving the firewire interface alone. I've had two Perfection 3200s die in mid-scan with firewire port failures in the last month. The usb port has continued working (although I only have usb 1.1 so it was slow). It also doesn't help that Epson has no large repair centers and they wanted me to drive the scanner 100 miles to get to the closest small repair center.

    The good news is that Amazon gave great customer service, replacing the first scanner and then giving me a full refund when the second one died. It was especially nice since the fault was Epson's not Amazon's.

    I'm currently looking at the Microtek 8700 as a replacement, it's not that much more expensive than the Epson.

  8. #8

    scanning b&w 4x5 negatives

    I have successfully used a Nikon LS4500 film scanner for Negs and Trany's - I have now scanned all my archives and gone digital so I have one for sale

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