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Thread: Betterlight Scanning Back for Film Scanning?

  1. #1

    Betterlight Scanning Back for Film Scanning?

    Has anyone tried using a Betterlight Scanning back to scan film?

    I am somewhat new to photography and I am upgrading my LF kit. I instantly fell in love with the quality and careful slow Zen-like mindset of LF over "point and shoot". I am scanning chromes on a Epson 3200 scanner with acceptable, but not excellent results. I am trying to upgrade my kit while staying within my budget. I am looking at buying a better scanner, (Microtec 2500f, or perhaps with a stretch a used refurbished Eversmart Pro, older Imacon or something similar), with the idea that I will upgrade to a Betterlight back when my budget allows.

    But even a better scanner is an expensive step. Perhaps it would be better to wait for my budget to allow for the Betterlight, or just stretch now and pay later.

    But again I can't imagine not shooting film. Betterlight backs are slow. With film I can shoot portraits, street photography etc.

    So the idea arises to shoot film where appropriate and scan the film with the Betterlight back in an enlarger type setup. I understand that this will have poorer quality than a drum scanner, but hopefully it will have higher quality than an Epson 3200. I imagine with the Betterlight software I could pull out an excellent scan. I understand that I would have to use a Graflock Back with the enlarger, but that is probably not so difficult.

    I am looking at the 4000E model of Betterlight back. It is more in my budget and all Betterlight scanning backs are upgradeable. My output is an Epson 4000 modified with CIS, Symphonic Ink and Evolution Glicee RIP from . I am shooting with a Horseman camera with Fuji and other assorted lenses. I am planning on shooting more 6x9 than 4x5 with a roll film adapter.

    Would this system work? If so what is needed to make it work to the highest quality?

    Any help is appreciated.


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Nov 2003

    Betterlight Scanning Back for Film Scanning?

    I don't have any specific knowledge, but it seems doubtful to me that you could do better that way than by scanning with an Epson 3200.

    Just what is the problem with the 3200? It is true that it won't deliver the resolution a 3200 ppi scanner is theoretically capable of, but you should be able to make scans capable of 5 to 6 times enlargement. You might also have better luck if you use color negative film. All scanners can be stressed by the dmax requirements of reversal film, and less expensive ones like the Epson particularly so.

  3. #3

    Betterlight Scanning Back for Film Scanning?

    While this seems like a good idea I suggest you file it under "extreme emergency methods". I've done this and gotten pretty good results but its a lot of trouble and I don't think its any better and certainly not cheaper than what you'll get with a $400 flatbed. (unless you have a studio full of the stuff you need) Basically you will set up your camera as a copy camera with a light source behind the film to be scanned. Obviously you will have to have a good set up that is square and repeatable - a really excellent set up! You are working at pretty close magnification so an enlarger or copy lens will be better than a taking lens. The next step is the light source. Tungsten is out (IMO) unless you can gel it to daylight and have some way to control the heat generated. Daylight rated flourescent might be best. But whatever you pick get it to have as close as possible to daylight spectral distribution. You will need to control its intensity to a level that suits the ability of your scan back to capture. Next you will need to control ambient and stray light by either building a housing or at least draping a blackout cloth over the whole assembly. Setting this up and tearing it down will be time consuming and frustrating. (trust me)

    Using an enlarger might be a better path but how would you focus and what will you do about the dust that falls on the scan back laying there open while you are working? Or maybe a process camera would be a good solution if you must try this. In the end you will have built a scanner that might work pretty well but it'll be slow, clunky and might cost more than simply buying a manufactured version.

    Since you are shooting more 6X9 I suggest you buy a Nikon MF film scanner and be done with it. That will give you the best quality and value.

  4. #4
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Rio Rancho, NM

    Betterlight Scanning Back for Film Scanning?

    I don't think using the Betterlight back in a copy-camera arrangement (which I think is what you meant by "an enlarger type setup") will produce results as good as you're getting with the Epson 3200 scanner. That approach, I think, introduces too many "second-generation" issues.

    If you'll be shooting mostly 6x9 with a rollfilm adapter, I think you'll get much better results with a dedicated film scanner. For medium format, I use a Polaroid Sprintscan 120, which was bought out by Microtec.

  5. #5

    Betterlight Scanning Back for Film Scanning?

    Thanks for the information.

    I was hoping that this was a good idea but I understand that taking of scan of a second generation image will give less quality.

    It sounds like I will have to give up the dream of high quality scans of 4x5 for the moment due to price concerns.

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