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Thread: Digital Scanning vs. Flatbed Scanning?

  1. #1

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    Digital Scanning vs. Flatbed Scanning?

    I don't know much about digital scanning, but I've been reading threads about this methodology. And I wonder, how does it really compare to flatbed scanning?

    For simplicity, let's assume that one is using a full frame camera to scan a 35mm negative or transparency. Let's also assume that one is using a high quality, HM Schneider lens that is optimized for 1:1. (Best possible optic, intended for the purpose.) Given the above, let's see where "logic" leads us and what questions this "logic" might suggest.

    RESOLUTION:

    The arithmetic implies that, if one is using a 24mp camera, one is capable of "scanning" a 35mm at 4000 DPM resolution. Is this not well beyond the effective resolution of an Epson flatbed scanner? One can "specify" higher resolutions in Epson Scan.

    But practically speaking, is this resolution achievable on an Epson 850 scanner?

    Is it really achievable using digital scanning?

    How does flatbed scanning methodology compare to "scanning" through a high quality lens? Better, or worse?

    FLARE:

    I've read recently that flare can be high in a flatbed scanner, especially compared to drum scanning. By comparison, I can imagine a setup using digital scanning, where flare can be kept to a minimum. So I wonder, can flare control be an advantage for digital scanning, as compared to flatbed scanning?

    Again applying arithmetic, a 4000 dpm would enable one to print a 35mm frame to a 20"x13.3" photograph.

    COLOR TEMPERATURE:

    With flatbed scanning, it's my understanding that one has a single quality of light having a single, constant color temperature.

    Yet with digital scanning, one could use one of those 35mm slide duplicators and control the color of the background light. Would this not be an advantage over flatbed scanning?

    GAIN:

    I've also heard that drum scanning technology enables one to control the "gain" in a scan, thereby enabling better shadow detail and control. And, this offers an advantage over flatbed scanning.

    Back to using a slide duplicator as part of digital scanning, wouldn't being able to adjust the intensify of background light be similar to adjusting the gain used in a drum scan? At the very least, wouldn't the degree of control in digital scanning be an advantage over flatbed scanning negatives or transparencies?

    So, lots of questions to ask. But, I'm beginning to suspect that digitals canning offers a huge advantage over flatbed scanning.

    But, does it really?

  2. #2

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    Re: Digital Scanning vs. Flatbed Scanning?

    The Epson scanners are a strange beast. Because they lack focus (ha), there is an EXTREMELY limited range of "sharpness" in them. A well-calibrated, non-jostled, unabused (ie, every time it's moved, the locks are engaged, it's never been dropped, kicked, beaten, hammered, etc.) scanner should be capable of 4800 PPI resolution with no problem. If you're scanning in the middle section of the scanner, using a film holder, with the film at 3mm height above the glass, then you should be using the "high resolution" sensor, which is claimed to be 6400 PPI.

    The problem is getting that 4800/6400 PPI. After much testing, I've determined mine is very close to being at 3mm height. I typically scan at 2400 PPI, and occasionally will scan at 3200-- I've never felt a need to push it to 6400 PPI. I'm also not sure my source material is up to the challenge.

    Regardless, a target of 2400 PPI, with some mild sharpening, produces what I consider acceptable results.

    With my DSLR, I can theoretically hit 7000 PPI by doing multi-image stitching. The quality is impressive, but I'm not sure it's worth doing on a regular basis. I'm working on an automated rig to do the image taking, but my 3D printer has been... problematic... and so the project is stalled probably until next month.

  3. #3

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    Re: Digital Scanning vs. Flatbed Scanning?

    I have an engineering background but that said I tend not to run the numbers.

    I baulked at buying yet another scanner so just tried DSLR scanning and I've been well happy with the results. I get approx 45Mpx files from a 6x12 neg and 5x4 should be nearly double that. I could go larger of course by taking more frames but I can already resolve all the grain and can easily up-res 2 or 4x with Topaz if required.

    As for gain/Dmax/etc, I only scan negs so that doesn't matter.

    In short, unless you plan to buy your own drum scanner, or pay for someone else to buy one, I think that DSLR scanning it the ducks guts and depending on what gear you currently own it will cost almost nothing to set up.
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  4. #4

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    Re: Digital Scanning vs. Flatbed Scanning?

    I am considering going down the route of using a DSLR to to make multiple row scans of large format film which I would then stitch together. I am thinking about building a scanner that will house a camera and macro lens and be motor controlled on 3-axis. I could program the area of the scan, I just need to figure out how to effectively convert black and color films from a digitally stitched tiff file. That is one of the nice things about using my V850 and Silverfast. The output for what would be intended as large prints might not be perfect but it's very good and you can use it as soon as you scan it. With the digital camera even if you get the scan done well you still have to work with it in post processing before you can use the scan. How people inverting black and white and color negatives in post to get the most out of a DSLR scan?

    -Joshua

  5. #5

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    Re: Digital Scanning vs. Flatbed Scanning?

    B&W is trivial. Invert, set the white / black points.

    Color is more complicated-- Negative Lab Pro (Lightroom plugin) is a popular option. I use Darktable and it's Negadoctor plugin.

    For stitching, I use Affinity Photo. I also found that using the same exposure for each frame made Affinity's job much easier, and produced an image with a greater dynamic range.

  6. #6
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Digital Scanning vs. Flatbed Scanning?

    Quote Originally Posted by neil poulsen View Post
    Is it really achievable using digital scanning?
    Yes. With a 24mp camera, I get about 1000 spi more than with an Epson when I scan a resolution target. A friend with a 40mp camera gets a real 4000 spi.

    How does flatbed scanning methodology compare to "scanning" through a high quality lens? Better, or worse?
    Better than an Epson scanner in both resolution and dynamic range. And that's not even taking hdr into account, with is very practical with 35mm film, but less so as one moves up in film size. (It's usually not needed.)


    I've read recently that flare can be high in a flatbed scanner, especially compared to drum scanning. By comparison, I can imagine a setup using digital scanning, where flare can be kept to a minimum. So I wonder, can flare control be an advantage for digital scanning, as compared to flatbed scanning?
    Yes.


    Yet with digital scanning, one could use one of those 35mm slide duplicators and control the color of the background light. Would this not be an advantage over flatbed scanning?
    Yes. You can, if you an RGB light source, adjust the RGB number to get the best information from each channel. PWM can lead to banding.


    So, lots of questions to ask. But, I'm beginning to suspect that digitals canning offers a huge advantage over flatbed scanning.

    But, does it really?
    Depends on the flatbed. I have a Cezanne. It does a true 6000 spi. I can't get that high with my camera system. Do I need to? That's a value judgment.

    I use a slide dupe system to scan my fathers old slides. No other system I know is as fast, and the results are very good.
    Last edited by Peter De Smidt; 21-Mar-2021 at 14:26.
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  7. #7

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    Re: Digital Scanning vs. Flatbed Scanning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua Dunn View Post
    ...How people inverting black and white and color negatives in post to get the most out of a DSLR scan?

    -Joshua
    For colour:

    Vuescan will do a pretty good conversion you just load in a pre-scanned image. BUT you have to buy the pro version to get that feature and I'm too tight to do that. I tried Filmlab as well, that seemed to do a reasonable job.

    Other programs will do it also, but I just add a layer filled with the base colour and merge with "subtract" in Affinity. Apparently "divide" works as well.
    Rob Gray — Nature Photographer Extraordinaire
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  8. #8

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    Re: Digital Scanning vs. Flatbed Scanning?

    Thanks for the responses. I've obtained reasonable results scanning 4x5 using an older version, Epson scanner. Not having a Nikon 9000 scanner (for example), my interest is in getting a better, clearer scan of medium format film.

    I've seen Nikon 9000 scans compared to Epson flatbed scans, and the Nikon scans are obviously much better.. I wonder how results of a Nikon 9000 would compare to good digital scanning?

  9. #9

    Re: Digital Scanning vs. Flatbed Scanning?

    Quote Originally Posted by neil poulsen View Post
    Thanks for the responses. I've obtained reasonable results scanning 4x5 using an older version, Epson scanner. Not having a Nikon 9000 scanner (for example), my interest is in getting a better, clearer scan of medium format film.

    I've seen Nikon 9000 scans compared to Epson flatbed scans, and the Nikon scans are obviously much better.. I wonder how results of a Nikon 9000 would compare to good digital scanning?
    The 9000 is an excellent scanner and Digital ICE alone makes it a very attractive option. The downside will be more noise potential in shadow recovery and very-slow-scans!

    The problem is that you can't just say 'camera scanning' as if it's one thing. If you do the work and really build up an amazing scanning set up, you're exceeding the quality a Hasselblad X1 or X5 can output. However, you can easily exceed the quality of a flatbed with a simpler set up.

    My recommendations are to not slouch on the light source, and try to get a camera with pixel-shift. Negative Supply will sell you a very good, very bright light with a 99CRI. Used Panasonic S1R cameras are not very expensive. Use the Sigma 70mm ART for the lens. Don't try to be fancy with an enlarger lens, bellows unit, it's not worth the hassle. Then get a good copy stand and you're basically all set. You will be able to bang out 150ish MP files from a stack of 4x5 film in minutes instead of hours or days. For medium format, the transport carriers will allow you to do full rolls with incredible speed.

    To process the files you have NegMaster, Grain 2 Pixel, and Negative Lab Pro. All are very good, see which workflow you prefer.

    The fact is that the set up I just described probably comes close to the current market cost of a Coolscan 9000. Again, the 9000 is excellent, and ICE is awesome. So, do some thinking on which you really want to dive into. You can process Coolscan files through the above software and still get those amazing color conversions we're seeing now. Plus the 9000 has a smaller desk profile by far. There really are no wrong answers here.

  10. #10

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    Re: Digital Scanning vs. Flatbed Scanning?

    Quote Originally Posted by neil poulsen View Post
    Thanks for the responses. I've obtained reasonable results scanning 4x5 using an older version, Epson scanner. Not having a Nikon 9000 scanner (for example), my interest is in getting a better, clearer scan of medium format film.

    I've seen Nikon 9000 scans compared to Epson flatbed scans, and the Nikon scans are obviously much better.. I wonder how results of a Nikon 9000 would compare to good digital scanning?
    Some digital cameras will require stitching to get results that are comparable to drum scanners with 4X5 and medium format film. You can get this level of image quality in scanning medium format with a Sony a7r iv, using 16 frame pixel shifting. Pixel shifting, or sensor shifting, is a relatively new technology that allows you to approximately double the effective resolution you get with a single frame with the Sony a7r iv. For example, the a7r iv sensor itself with a good lens is capable of resolution of over 100 lpm, with pixel shifting the effective resolution increases to over 200 lpm. And it woks on both grayscale as well as color film. The increase in file size is from 60 mp with single shot to 240 mp with 16 frame pixel shifting. The Panasonc Lumix SIR is also very good for this work. With 8 frame pixel-shift increase the pixel count increases to 187 mp.

    At a much higher end in terms of cost the medium fomat Fuji GFX100 is capable of final file sizes with pixel shifting of 400 mp.

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