View Full Version : 4X5 & Digital?

Bob Ring
5-May-2004, 05:45
I'm looking for recommendations for a film scanner that will scan 4X5 chromes. There are obviously many options that include flat bed Epsons, Microteks, etc. for example. Any thoughts as to what works best? Any specifics on resolutions to look for? Thanks for the help!

George Stewart
5-May-2004, 06:33
Although not the ideal solution, I'd recommend the Imacon 343 as the best overall for the price. This scanner is designed or 35mm and MF, but they make a 6x12 holder that appears to have been designed specifically for scanning 4x5. I purchased this holder and have been scanning 4x5s in two scans for many months now. Basically, one sets the film in the holder biased towards one side of the film, the exposure is set, and the scan accomplished. Then the film is moved so that the other side can be scanned-the software remembers the exposure information from the previous scan. Finally, the scans are assembled in software. The resolution is 3200 DPI (much more than full 4x5 scans from the much more expensive Imacons) and focus is never an issue since the lens is fixed at the factory. I've scanned Polaroid Type 55s (with the rough edges) in four scans with the above mentioned holder. I've made larger than 40x50 prints with these scans with great results.

Soon, I'll get the 6x17 holder and start scanning some 4x10 negatives. It's a very flexible and high quality scanner!

I tested the Microtek 1800f and thought the results were good enough for a 3x enlargement only.


Bruce Watson
5-May-2004, 08:21
What I did was to purchase a used drum scanner. In my case an Optronics ColorGetter 3 Pro. PMTs are sharper than the CCDs found in flatbeds. PMTs are also capable of seeing through the high density that chromes are capable of. That said, it's difficult to believe any manufacturer's claims of Dmax as every manufacturer "measures" Dmax in a different way it seems. I laugh at anyone's claims of 4.8 however (it's the theoretical maximum you can get with 16 bits, and has nothing to do with real world scanning).

With drum scanners, you get to fluid mount the film on drums which gives you the ultimate in focus and control, and also fills in minor scratches and other surface defects of the film. Fluid mounting also helps lessen dust and so lessens spotting time. Don't underestimate the value of fluid mounting -- it's great stuff if you are into quality.

Finally, you can mount multiple films on the drum, start it scanning, and go do other things. With most flat beds, and the Imacons, it's one film at a time (especially when you are talking sheet film) which means that when you are scanning, you are tied to the scanner.

I found drum scanning isn't nearly as difficult as "they" say it is. Yes, there are a couple of learning curves, but there are learning curves with any new piece of equipment.

Drum scanning is an alternative more people should consider IMHO. It gives you the ultimate in quality. If you buy used, you can also get huge "bang for the buck." My entire kit (scanner, mounting station, computer, software, shipping, insurance, etc.) costs me USD 5k. It paid for itself in less than 100 scans.

A good resource for more information on high end scanners (film scanners, flat beds, and drums) is the yahoo group:


You have to join to read the archives, IIRC. Search the archives - there's a wealth of information there.

Leonard Evens
5-May-2004, 09:11
I have an Epson 3200, which produces quite good results for negative film. The Epson 4870 has a slightly higher dmax, and it ought to suffice for transparencies that have been properly exposed. Of course, either a drum scanner or an Imacon will produce better results, but the prices are considerably greater. You can find an example of a scan of a 4 x 5 negative at www.math.northwestern.edu/~len/photos/pages/e2450.html That was done with the Epson 2450. The 3200 has about 10 percent higher effective resolution and the 4870 perhaps 20-30 percent higher effective resolution. Most new owners of the 4870 swear by it, and even claim it is adquate for 35 mm film, which I doubt. For 4 x 5, it should produce very good results. But if you expect to make wall size prints which are going to be viewed close-up, you would do better with a $12,000 Imacon.

QT Luong
5-May-2004, 20:44
At the recent View Camera LF Conference, Charles Crammer showed two 20x24 prints, one made with a drum, the other with a 4870. There were very little differences. I'd agree that a used drum would be a better value than an Imacon if you want better than that.

Bob Ring
6-May-2004, 04:04
It appears that the Epson 4870 is quite good for 20x24 as you suggest. Here's a link to a UK site with a full test on the 4870 Epson scanner: http://www.photo-i.co.uk/. Another recommendation was to have a local lab scan a chrome via flatbed & drum to see for myself! Thanks for your inputs.