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Thread: Scanning 4x5: Buying an Epson Flatbed VS my current DSLR (5DII) VS Lab Scans

  1. #1

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    Scanning 4x5: Buying an Epson Flatbed VS my current DSLR (5DII) VS Lab Scans

    I am struggling with deciding on a scanning option for 4x5 film. I am considering the following 3 options...

    1) Buy a flatbed -- probably an Epson V750 or whatever.
    Pros = straight forward process. You buy the scanner, insert the film, done. Quality is probably going to be the best of the 3 options (?)
    Cons = Up front $ cost.

    2) Use my current Canon 5D II DSLR and set up a scanning station.
    Pros = I already have the DSLR, so it should be the most affordable option. Fewest barriers to entry.
    Cons = Quality (?) and start-up time/effort needed to set up the station and learn the process. Do I need a macro lens, a light table, what else do I not know about?

    3) Just have the lab that processes my negatives do the scanning for me at $5.00 per sheet.
    Pros = Easy!
    Cons = no control over scanner settings, price adds up over time, quality is probably lowest of the 3...


    I am on a $ and time budget (newborn at home, working full-time, and studying for masters degree) -- so I REALLY want something that saves me time and money. I don't mind doing a bit of extra work to learn how to do it correctly in order to save time and $ down the road however.

    Can anyone share their take on these options?


    EDIT: I should have mentioned this in my original post (now edited to include): I shoot Portra 160 and 400 in 4x5 only. I mainly want to scan in order to have some high quality images to display on a website and to print proof prints using 8x10 paper (print will be smaller than 8x10 to leave some white around the edges). (Note: I shoot BW as well but prefer the 35mm look for BW film).
    Last edited by Wista45SP; 18-Dec-2019 at 14:34.

  2. #2
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Scanning 4x5: Buying an Epson Flatbed VS my current DSLR (5DII) VS Lab Scans

    I was in your same place 7 years ago. I bought a new V700 and have used it alot, especially for fixing old family prints

    I also scan sheet film on it from 2-1/4 X 3-1/4 to 11X14 partially.

    I dislike the scanner and when it breaks I will switch to Nikon DSLR shooting on a new LED lightbox. With a DIY copy stand

    But I never use the 'scans' for digital printing. I scan to post here on this forum. I make DR prints only.

    I also tried nearly every old school copy stand made and prefer to rig my own using an enlarger or studio camera stand.

    Lighting is key to copy and scans, modern cheap LED Light Tables work darn well. And I have the old ones for nostalgia...

    When I copy prints or other art, I make a huge copy setup using strobes bounced off the 10' ceiling.

    Don't buy a scanner if money is tight.
    sin eater

  3. #3

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    Re: Scanning 4x5: Buying an Epson Flatbed VS my current DSLR (5DII) VS Lab Scans

    I've never used a DSLR to scan film, but have used an Epson flatbed to scan 4x5 and 8x10 film for nearly 20 years. IMO, the quality from a flatbed scanner is fine for LF film, once you're familiar with obtaining optimum quality from the hardware and know how to properly sharpen in PS. Here are some things to think about, if planning to use a DLSR:

    1. I, too, own a Canon 5D II and would consider this camera the absolute minimum for top quality work. Something in the 40+ megapixel range would be better.

    2. Yes, you need a macro lens, extension tubes, macro bellows, etc, for obtaining close critical focus.

    3. Setup to do the scanning is tricky and can get quite costly. You'll need a daylight balanced light source, some means to hold the film perfectly flat (and, generally above the light source is best), and a copy stand or some way to ensure absolute alignment of the film plane and subject (film) plane. Take a look at Negative Supply's products to see how expensive all of this can get!

    4. A conversion plugin such as NegativeLabPro for LR will, again, IMO provide the best quality and is certainly the easiest/fastest method to obtain a positive.

    Personally, given the demands on your time, I'd toss the negatives into PrintFile sleeves, get an inexpensive scanner just to provide a "contact" sheet, then send out for scans of your best images.

  4. #4
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Scanning 4x5: Buying an Epson Flatbed VS my current DSLR (5DII) VS Lab Scans

    DSLR scanning if done right and with a decent level of proficiency will be best. You will have to decide on doing multiple capture + stitching or single-shot, or make sure your rig can handle both.

    Getting a solid rig with good lighting and such is the difficult thing, and yes you'll want a good lens that can focus close.

    There are lots of threads about this around, do some research and see how others do it. It's not my bag but a lot of folks here are doing it.
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram
    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

  5. #5

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    Re: Scanning 4x5: Buying an Epson Flatbed VS my current DSLR (5DII) VS Lab Scans

    Thanks for the responses so far. I found what looks to be a good value option -- Epson 4990 w/ aftermarket betterscanning.com 4x5 film holders.

    I should have mentioned this in my original post (now edited to include): I shoot Portra 160 and 400 in 4x5 only. I mainly want to scan in order to have some high quality images to display on a website and to print proof prints using 8x10 paper (print will be smaller than 8x10 to leave some white around the edges). (Note: I shoot BW as well but prefer the 35mm look for BW film).

  6. #6
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Scanning 4x5: Buying an Epson Flatbed VS my current DSLR (5DII) VS Lab Scans

    Try your lab. How is the quality? If it's good enough, you've just saved a lot of time. How long does an Epson scan take? I don't know, as I haven't had one in a very long time. Dslr 1-shot scanning can be very fast, but there is some setup involved. You would need a light source, negative holder, a well-aligned camera support, a good macro lens......
    Please stop feeding the trolls.

  7. #7

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    Re: Scanning 4x5: Buying an Epson Flatbed VS my current DSLR (5DII) VS Lab Scans

    I hope this puts some things into perspective...
    I just started to scan my collection of film transparencies ranging from 35mm up to 4x5. First I ran some tests with my EPSON PERFECTION V750 PRO verses my Nikon D850.

    V750: Scans made using Epson's film holders. Scans for 35mm made at 4800 dpi., larger formats at less dpi. No sharpening, dust removal, etc. Levels were adjusted for maximum image information. Saved as 48-bit color tiff files with no compression.

    Nikon D850: First off I am using a Nikon Multiphot system adapted for using a FX digital camera, a Nikon D850 in my case. Alignment of camera back, lens, and film stage is essentially 100%, All "stages" of the Multiphot are factory machined to be "perfectly" aligned. Lens used is a 120mm f/6.3 Macro-Nikkor (barrel lens in Leica screw mount made to be used with the Multiphot). Optimum magnification for this optic is 1.2X to 4X. I tested all my specialized macro and enlarging lenses, and this optic proved to be the sharpest at its #3 aperture. At first used the (condenser) collimated light source on the Multiphot. It was way, I mean way too harsh for this use, so I used a full spectrum Aristo 4x5 light box under the film. Film holders essentially mask all extraneous light.

    Image sharpness: The D850 won but not by all that much. In practice both the digital images from the V750 and the D850 should both work quite well for up to probably 13x19 prints. If one wants the better possible resolution, then the D850 wins. On the image files from the V750 and the D850, tried using Topaz Labs Sharpen AI app. Worked with the digital image files from D850, but not so well for the scanned image files from the V750... Not sure why, but just not interested in pursuing this any further.

    "Look" of the image files: Huge difference here. Scanning full tonal range Kodachrome color transparencies... Images from the V750's scans seemed to be low in contrast but did record a huge range densities/tones. RAW images from the D850 looked terrible at first, but after adjusting them in Adobe's Photoshop Camera Raw 11.4.1 and adjusting the exposure to +3.50, the shadows to +100, and the highlights to -48, the images looked great. At first look, the D850 image files (after being adjusted in Camera Raw) looked to be far more accurate than the image files from the V750. Reminded me of in the early 1990s when we started to use a newly introduced Kodak Kodak Dye Sublimation printer for printing images for publication. Our designers hated the "look" of those photographs, telling us that their tonalities were distorted, and they were right.

    As I start to convert my transparencies into digital image files, should learn more and will post additional info, especially when I start to shoot my 120 and 4x5 films.

    Addendum: The 120mm f/6.3 Macro-Nikkor was designed to photograph glass slides and flat specimens. For shooting flat objects, it excels over a Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Macro-Symmar HM. For shooting 3D objects, a Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Macro-Symmar HM excels over the 120mm f/6.3 Macro-Nikkor. They are very different lenses indeed.

  8. #8

    Re: Scanning 4x5: Buying an Epson Flatbed VS my current DSLR (5DII) VS Lab Scans

    Just my 2 cents here, but if you are only looking for web display and 8x10 max, a single image from your DSLR of the negative on a cheap light pad would me more than sufficient for those purposes. Sure, a stitched together, macro lens, proffessional copy stand created image from a DSLR would be higher resolution, but you're doing a max 2x enlargement.

    A few years ago I also had this question (at the time the lab was scaning my film). I was frustrated with the lack of color control from the lab, and it took longer than I would have liked in PS to correct. So I tried the DSLR method, and while it produced acceptable results, the whole setup and focusing and stitching was a PITA and not worth my time. I bought an Epson v850 and now I can set the negative in the holder (using the holders it comes with for 4x5 as they are decent), setup the color and contrast first pass, hit scan and walk away until it's done.

    Hope this helps.

  9. #9

    Re: Scanning 4x5: Buying an Epson Flatbed VS my current DSLR (5DII) VS Lab Scans

    Hello,

    There maybe a different way of seeing the pros and cons...

    In themselves, the Epson series are the worst solution when your goal is to extract the last bit of information from your pictures. But, and it is a big but : it is, so far, the only solution existing on the consumer market. Even Canonscan did not have a transparency back going farther than 120 films. And they aren't any more in this market (you cannot get a new 9000F any more).

    Higher quality means a pre-press machine (flatbed like an eversmart, drumscan like an Howtek) except for the Imacon which is, in my mind, most of the time over-priced.

    So if a V700 series is the worst solution ; does it make it useless ?

    The answer is... No ! And it might be your best choice. Why is that ?

    Because you do not want to get every last bit of information ;-).

    D-Max and resolution claims from Epson are a fantasy. But there is still some "compartiments du jeu" where it can be useful.

    Your goal is screen & 8x10 prints from colour negatives. This the Epson can do.

    Colour negatives never render as much density as colour positives do (and this is where the d-Max of the Epson is way to unsuficient) and for an 8x10 print you only need 600 dpi witch is far away from the maximum real resolution of the Epson (said to be around 2400 dpi).

    So as you stated in your opening post for Portra and 8x10 prints it can do it and give you satisfying results.

    Considering DSLR reproduction, yes it is tempting. Yes you already have it. But, as said before, you will need much more implication to get equal results. Just consider the fact that all led panels are not equal : the key word is IRC. The problem with led is the quality of light. Most of them (especially chinese) do not offer a "full white" witch is translated in "holes" in your file's colours when you do the inversion. To get an idea of the problem, make a search on led lighting for cinema or television. Those are giving you a good IRC. But the price... an order of magnitude ;-) That maybe one of the reasons (plus the fact that the market is tiny) why you don't see today led panels for colour enlargers (no more filters just instructions for addressable RVB led - colour correction so much easier)

    Another problem is the inversion : you will need a way to get a positive picture. With a scanner, you get it with the software. With a DSLR, you have to choose a special software or do it by hand (time or money : your choice !). Last thing : your reproduction installation cannot be permanent. Otherwise, it means that your DSLR cannot be used for anything else ;-) And, as you cannot be sure that your installation is perfectly rigorous ; it means that you will have to remake alignment (at last you do not have to take the objective - sensor relationship into consideration like in an enlarger)...

    There is also some common needs for the two processes : the better your negative is exposed, the easier it is printed (and colour temperature has it's role in that game).

    So, if I were you, I'll seriously go for the scanning solution. Especially if you have found a bargain on the 4990 with betterscaning (it does seriously improve the image definition).

    Jérôme

    Every thing is always easier with a marine gun !

  10. #10

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    Re: Scanning 4x5: Buying an Epson Flatbed VS my current DSLR (5DII) VS Lab Scans

    Why is using a digital camera to copy a negative or slide or print called "scanning"? The Epson scanner, I understand. Doing Copy work -it's just copy work.
    "My forumla for successful printing remains ordinary chemicals, an ordinary enlarger, music, a bottle of scotch - and stubbornness." W. Eugene Smith

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