View Full Version : Scanner questions

2-Aug-2005, 20:56
I still print everything from 35mm to 4x5 in my traditional darkroom, however we have just bought a new computer. My current 8 year scanner is not USB compatible so I must buy a new scanner. My scanning needs thus far have been for web usage mostly. My question is if I was to buy say an Epson 4990 to scan my 4x5 negs, what realistically could I expect? There are a few lower priced scanners that will scan 4x5 negs at a lower cost listed on b&H but if I could spend a little more and actually get something worth printing from a neg scan I may be willing to spend more.

What have your experiences been? How about output? papers?

Ralph Barker
2-Aug-2005, 21:20
Aside from price and format capabilities, after having bought a few scanners, I'm of the opinion that there are three things that one needs to consider: optical resolution (not interpolated), D-Max (which the vendors tend to inflate a bit), and maximum scan size. If the scanner is supported by either SilverFast or ViewScan, everything else pretty much falls into place - at least once you've gone through the learning curve of digital work flow (the importance of total system calibration can't be over-emphasized) .

I use the older Epson 3200 (the 4990's grandfather) to scan prints and 4x5 negs, and I've been pleased with the results. Is it the perfect scanner? No. I'd like to have better focus control, or at least a focus pass in the software. But, with the right handling, and scanning with the emulsion side down (like in the enlarger), I get good results (or at least acceptable for my purposes). For smaller formats (35mm and 120), I use a different, film-only scanner - (again) an older Polaroid SprintScan 120. For 8x10 negs, I use an even older Epson Expression 800 Pro, an 800 DPI scanner. Again, good enough for Web work or smallish prints (Super B and smaller). If I wanted larger digital prints, I'd spring for a professional drum scan of the neg in question.

Frank Petronio
2-Aug-2005, 21:47
Ditto what Ralph says, I have a similar set-up with an Epson 3200 for 4x5 and a Konica Minolta for 35mm scans. I can get a good scan for 11 x 17 plus inkjet printing but it is labor intensive. For web use only, an Epson is more than fine.

Bruce Watson
3-Aug-2005, 06:59
IMHO, it should be acceptable for enlargements up to the range of 4-6x, depending on the image and the film. Clearly, really dense slide film is going to give it a problem. Give VueScan (http://www.hamrick.com/) a good look if you go with an Epson scanner.

John Flavell
3-Aug-2005, 07:05
I've been using a friend's Epson 4990 to scan black and white 4x5 and I've been very pleased. I've taken those images and made 11x14 prints and even sold a few. They work great for the website. I don't think the 4990 is as labor intensive as the 3200 and the Silverfast is very easy to learn. I'll probably buy the 4990 in the next couple of months to take driving somewhere else out of the work flow.

Frank Petronio
3-Aug-2005, 07:14
The nicest improvement the 4990 has is better film holders, which are important for holding the film flat and avoiding Newton's Rings. Hard to say they are worth the price, but it may sway you...

Ted Harris
3-Aug-2005, 07:45
The guts of the Epson 3200, 4870 and 4990 are basically the same with the improvements small and incremental. All the advice you have gotten so far is on the money. In the ~ 500 range, in addition to the Epson's you may also want to look at the Microtek i900 (glassless for film) and the Canon 9950. One point that cannot be stressed enough is that all the manufacturers inflate their specifications for these 'consumer class' scanners. See the May-June issue of "View Camera" for some detailed real world tests of the resolution and DMax of these scanners.

The 4990 or its cousins listed above will give you adequate performance for modestly enlarged prints (8x10 or 11x14) from 4x5 with excellent sharpness and detail. With any of the less expensive models it is a crapshoot. OTOH, if you can afford to go up to a bit less than a 1000 the Microtek 1800f is in an entirely different class for the quality of its output. If you don't mind shopping used you may also want to look at the Microtek 2500 and Agfa Duoscan 2500 (rebranded Microtek) which will still outperform the 4990 and can be had in the 200 range. One caution, they require a SCSI connection and may not work with current operating systems.

Ed Richards
3-Aug-2005, 10:21
I have had pretty good luck with the Canon 9950, using the latest (and much improved) version of Vuescan. I mostly do black and white and do not like that you cannot keep Siverfast from messing with the negatives. I will put a full size file from the scanner on a www site if you think it would help to look at.

Paul Butzi
3-Aug-2005, 10:22
I wish we could pick up the 1800f cheaply in the uk. The list price here is about 1400 uk pounds which is about 2,474 US dollars.

Well, folks over here in the US buy from Robt. White, and have stuff shipped across the ocean.

Any reason you can't do the same, buying from Adorama or B&H and have it shipped?

tim atherton
3-Aug-2005, 10:29

Unless it's a dual voltage machine, you'll blow it up putting 220 volts through it.... :-)


Paul Butzi
3-Aug-2005, 10:43
voltage, of course. That'll teach me to post stuff pre-coffee. Still, for 1474 dollars, I'd be willing to figure out a solution to that little problem. Holy cow, 2474 bucks for an 1800f. That's gonna leave a mark.

Ed Richards
3-Aug-2005, 10:52
The file is at:


It is a 25 meg file. The original image is Tmax 100, normal development in Xtol, scanned as an image at 4800 DPI (meaning no adjustments in the scanner). The original 700 meg file was downsampled to 160 megs, inverted to a positive, and slightly contast adjusted, but not sharpened! (I have made no attempt to pretty up the file.) The jpeg is from this tiff. Sharpening is a must on scanner files, but you do it best yourself in your photo editing program. This is just to show the raw output. Do not compare this with sharpened files. If you look at it 1:1, remember that you would be looking at a print that is about 80 x 100, and that is with a high rez monitor.

Nitish Kanabar
3-Aug-2005, 12:24

If USB compatibility is the only issue you have with your old scanner, then may I suggest you look at one of the following *bridges*.

* USB to Parallel Port brigde ( I strongly suspect that your old scanner cable plugs in to the parallel port - the scanner manual will help you here )

* USB to Serial Port brigde

* USB to PS/2 bridge

You attach the scanner cable to the parallel-port of the bridge and then attach the USB port of the bridge to the USB port of your computer and it should (ideally) work just fine.

Any competent computer supply/electronics store would have such a part and should be able to help you identify the correct part you need. It should cost you less than US$50, afaik.

Kirk Gittings
3-Aug-2005, 15:03
"and do not like that you cannot keep Siverfast from messing with the negatives" What does this mean? There is no problem at all turning off all auto adjustments in SF.

Ed Richards
3-Aug-2005, 15:34
> There is no problem at all turning off all auto adjustments in SF

There may be a way to get Silverfast to turn off all settings, but I cannot find it. I just want to scan the negative as an image and handle the coversion in the editor. (Remember, with different versions for every scanner, there are also scanner specific bugs and I may be hitting one.)

3-Aug-2005, 19:55
Buying from the US in to the UK is a doddle. Many electronic items these days that sell worldwide have switchmode power supplies that will work from 100V to 250V without changing anything. Even if not, a suitable transformer will cost a fiver... You get to give Gordon Brown 17.5% VAT plus typically 2 to 4 % import duty but other than that, given the favorable USD/GBP exchange rate at the moment (was even better earlier in the year...) its well worth it.


Kirk Gittings
3-Aug-2005, 20:27
In SF try scanning the neg in 16 bit grayscale as a transparency/positive unclipped. You will then get a completely raw scan of a b&w neg.

Ed Richards
3-Aug-2005, 21:24
Good tip. Can I do the same for a color negative using 48 bit?

John Flavell
3-Aug-2005, 21:54
I thought I'd throw another wrench into this discussion. I want to shoot a lot of Polaroid Type 55 on a project in a couple of months. Can those Epson 4990 4x5 negative holders deal with the slightly smaller type 55 neg size?

Brian Ellis
4-Aug-2005, 08:30
If the negative is smaller than normal you probably won't be able to use the 4x5 film holder that comes with the 4990 . That means you'll either have to make your own or just put the negative on the glass without a holder. I put my 8x10 negatives directly on the glass since Epson doesn't furnish a holder for 8x10 and that seems to work fine as long as I remember to put the emulsion side down. If the base side is down, which is what Epson recommends, I get Newton rings without the holder.

Brian Ellis
4-Aug-2005, 08:46
Kirk - Why is it necessary to scan a negative as a positive to get a raw scan? Wouldn't a scan of a negative as a negative but doing everything else you suggest also be a raw scan?

tim atherton
4-Aug-2005, 09:06
Vuescan lets you capture the complete raw scan - I use that for colour neg, and then NegPos to convert it.

(NegPos doesn't seem to do quite as well with B&W - but that's probably just me - but you can get the greyscale raw scan the same way with vuescan)

Kirk Gittings
4-Aug-2005, 09:08
For color negs, you could do that but why would you want to? You would need a color profile to accurately correct for that manufactures orange mask and those are only available in scanner software as far as I know. It would be virtually impossible to correct a raw scan of a color negative back to a decent positive image without those profiles.

tim atherton
4-Aug-2005, 09:17
Kirk, I've found NegPos does a much better job of converting raw colour neg scans than most of the scanner software (I have a slightly older version of Silverfast which is pretty good) - especially once you have tweaked it.

(btw - I find the older version of the software that's on the website actually still works better fro me than the free upgrade for licensed users)

I'll try and dig up the website, but you can google it and download the 30 day trial version

Kirk Gittings
4-Aug-2005, 09:35
Thanks Tim, I have never even heard of that.

Kirk Gittings
4-Aug-2005, 09:41
"Kirk - Why is it necessary to scan a negative as a positive to get a raw scan? Wouldn't a scan of a negative as a negative but doing everything else you suggest also be a raw scan?"

Brian, Yes of course. I was simply answering his statement that it couldn't be done in SF. I am not sure why anyone would want to do this. The silverfast profiles work exceedinly well at interpreting various neg films color and b&w. Though sometimes I actually prefer the wrong profile such as Ilford Pan F profile for Fuji Acros. But I have never tried or even heard of Neg/Pos. I will try it. Maybe I have missed something good.

tim atherton
4-Aug-2005, 09:54






NegPos is a bit like early vuescan - you need to read the manual and do your own fiddling, but I have got exceptionally good results with it - especially on some colour negs that vuescan or silverfast seemed to have trouble with (one is an english pebble beach where the millions of pebbles run every colour from white through greys to blues to pinks beiges and greens - nothing I tried could ever quite cope with it...)

M Brian Mills
4-Aug-2005, 10:24
I have used the Epson 3200, 4870, and 4990 for scanning 4x5 black and white, color-neg, and chrome. I have found that ALL give excellent results. Even from the 3200 I have been able to print as large as 40x48 and have had people get to where their nose is almost touching the print to try to determine if it is digital or analog.
I just made another print a week ago at 24x30 and I must say...I love it.
I purchased an Epson 4990 (for the greater D-Max) for myself as the other Epson scanners I used were owned by others.
I highly recommend this scanner.

4-Aug-2005, 12:11
I recently asked a local dealer about 1800f and he said it should be between 12-1300 Euro( in Germany.). RWhite did not have it at the time. If you want I can give you his address.
I plan to use RF most of the time so wish to replace my Minolta Multi by Nikon8000. :)