Film Photography

Experimenting with ScanGear on the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II

I have been happy overall with the scans I get from the labs I use. I punch them up a little in Photoshop but they’re usually usable as is. But as a frugal dude I’m always looking to cut costs, and lab scans aren’t cheap.

My wife bought us a Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II scanner a couple years ago. It scans both 35mm and medium-format negatives. It’s an upgrade over my previous scanner, an Epson V300, which handles only 35mm.

Life’s been stupid crazy since then and I haven’t made time to play with the CanoScan, except for the quick scans I made of my mother-in-law’s 1940s-50s Kodachromes (see some here, here, and here). They turned out well enough using the bundled ScanGear software.

I was pleased, but surprised. The software Epson bundled with my V300 was terrible, and I expected Canon’s bundled software to be, too. So the other night, too tired to sleep, I got out some recent color negatives and scanned them with the CanoScan and ScanGear. I then edited the scans in Photoshop until I was reasonably satisfied.

I was thrilled that ScanGear automatically removed the color negative’s orange mask. The Epson software couldn’t do that and it was a pain to sample and correct for the mask. I never got it right.

I’m still building my scanning skills and knowledge, so this comparison is bound to be flawed. But here goes: my first CanoScan/ScanGear image. Yashica Lynx 14e on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400.

Fulltone Photo of La Grange, Kentucky, processed the film and scanned the negatives on their big Noritsu scanner. I Photoshopped those scans to my satisfaction, too. But even the base scans offered dramatically better sharpness, color, and tonality than the CanoScan.

Down a Zionsville sidewalk

I couldn’t resolve considerable softness in many of the images. This photo of a green house shows it best. The CanoScan/ScanGear scan:

The Fulltone scan is obviously sharper, even at blog resolution.

Green house

This negative was loaded with dust, or maybe scratches as no amount of cleaning ever cleared it up. So I turned on ScanGear’s dust and scratch removal. It cleaned up the marks, but added unsatisfying mottling on the shadowy parts of the image.

The Fulltone scan is better by a mile.

Drying dishes

The ScanGear scans aren’t good enough. Yet. I haven’t mastered this software. If I keep experimenting, I might get better scans.

Or I could buy VueScan or SilverFast. I already own SilverFast for the Epson V300 and know it to be cumbersome and frustrating but effective. The scans still aren’t fully lab quality but they’re close enough.

Unfortunately, my copy of SilverFast works only for Epson V300 scanners. I’d have to buy a copy made to work with the CanoScan 9000F Mark II. The cheapskate within me urges me to try again with ScanGear.

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62 thoughts on “Experimenting with ScanGear on the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II

  1. the joys of scanning huh. I’m amazed by the difference in the scanning still – and it does make me wonder every time I scan a photo if I’m actually really seeing the photo I took. colour shifts in colour film especially drive me around the bend – if I do go mad it will be from scanning colour film I’m sure ha

    The full tone images do seem sharper you’re right and the white balance is much better, especially in the first one where you can see the difference with the white framing of the house.

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  2. Johnny says:

    Jim you could be my double! I bought the 9000f MK11 a couple of years ago and just dabbled with it and put it to one side for a while.I thought it was the bees knees and was pleased with the results but felt I could improve them. I just did the basics and really need to figure out how to get the best out of ScanGear. Like you I’m reluctant to buy another piece of software until I feel I really need it. I understand it’s better at scanning medium format negs rather than 35mm. The results from my medium negs look ok to me but then don’t have any pro scans to compare them with.

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  3. I’m still using the same Epson 2450 scanner I bought about fifteen years ago along with the Silverfast-SE light software that came bundled with it. After I had it about five years I bought the next version of the scanner and found that it was inferior to what I had, so I sent it back. I’ve since looked at upgrading the software a couple times, trying newer versions of Silverfast and Vuescan. To me, the software interfaces seemed poorly designed and atrociously priced. So, I’m plodding on with what I have.
    The thing I like about my old version of Silverfast is that it has profiles for a lot of film types which provide very good base results which I can then manipulate with Photoshop to get the image I want. After fifteen years, of course, there are a lot of film types that are not included in the old Silverfast, but I can try several different choices easily and always end up with something useful.
    I’ve mostly arrived at my own techniques through trial and error, but have had a bit of help from on line friends. For instance, Rick Drawbridge at Photonet uses the same old version of Silverfast and he gave me some good ideas about processing Kentmere in pyro developer and then scanning using an Ilford film profile in Silverfast.

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    • Scanning is such a challenge that when you find a solution, I say stick with it. The only reason I’m not sticking with my V300 is that I really wanted to scan medium format. I am hoping that this is the year I’ll start to process my own film, at least the medium format stuff. I have a bunch of old boxes I want to try.

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  4. I just had to talk a classmate out of buying a Canoscan 9000f a few weeks ago, did my own tests years back now and flatbed scanners are decidedly shit and their specs are grossly overinflated. They say they offer 9600dpi scans but really the effective resolution is 1500dpi or below. I recommended spending the money for a Plustek Opticfilm 135 because from the reviews I’ve read (at filmscanner.info) for the price it gives you very close to its advertised 3600dpi resolution. It is almost $400 but for the price at least you get something brand new and the resolution is good enough for you to print rather large if you ever needed to. Remember my Pakon’s resolution is only about 2100dpi, but for the web I’m resizing my images to 25% of their full size, 1500×1000.

    Scanners like the Pakon, Noritsu, etc, can get great results, but they do require operation by someone that knows what they’re doing and actually gives a shit. Most of the places I’ve had my negatives scanned don’t fit into either of those. And even with my own scans I’m having to adjust things and then fix them in Photoshop after the fact. You doing the same thing with the lab scans isn’t surprising at all, just part of the process and it shows you care enough that you’re willing to do it. If you have a good lab and build a relationship with them, they should be able to give you scans that you want, but how much do you pay for scans? If you average about $5 per roll then after shooting 80 rolls of film that Plustek scanner has already paid for itself. Still, I can tell you right now you’ll spend a lot more time on scanning and Photoshopping with your own scanner than getting the lab scans. Always a trade off, just depends on how valuable your free time is.

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    • Shit is in the eye of the beholder. I was happy enough with my Epson V300 scans. They weren’t all the way to Noritsu quality from the labs I use but they were good enough for me and for the things I use my scans for.

      Some of the scans in my first book came off the V300, because the lab scans I had were too small. I liked the V300 scans better in a couple cases.

      I would rather pay the lab to do the whole shebang, frankly. But I can’t escape how processing and scanning is edging closer to $20 a roll incl. shipping. Holy freaking shite. The lab downtown does C41 processing and scanning for $10 which is much better, but it’s hard to reach.

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      • P says:

        Jim,

        I’m sure that once you get the hang of this scanner you’ll be able to achieve results that you’re happy with. I look forward to seeing your personal scans as you continue to improve your technique. Just hang in there! I’ve seen many other people’s scans who utilized this same scanner that were able to create pretty nice images, better in my opinion than most of the scans I’ve seen made with its direct rival, the Epson V600.

        It’s a given that a consumer flatbed will never be able to produce scans even remotely close to what a minilab scanner is capable of; at least, if the lab operator is competent, which many lab employees are not at all in my experience. Likewise, a minilab scanner can’t produce anything like a drum scanner can. But for images whose destination is the web and therefore only marginal resolution is needed, flatbeds can get the job done to a certain degree. And in turn they can save people who actually shoot a fair amount of film a lot of money, especially since most labs have seemingly been overtaken by greed and are massively exploiting their customers these days for scanning services (as well as processing). It’s truly sad.

        For sure, the less bells and whistles you have enabled in the scanner software, the better off you’ll be in terms of the image quality you’re able to achieve. It’s best to do all post-processing yourself in Lightroom/Photoshop (or whatever editing software you use) and not to let the scanner software do anything extra. Eventually, once you’ve fine tuned the aesthetic you’re after, you can create macros (you’ll probably need to create different ones for different film types) and batch process entire rolls using your photo editor of choice, instead of individually editing every single photo, which will produce the best results but is very time consuming. But in the scanner software, I would definitely recommend that you turn off all the extra junk so that you effectively just get the raw scanner samples to work with. The more manipulation that’s performed on an image in-scanner, the more the quality is going to go down before you even start working with it. In order to have images that are more flexible and don’t degrade as rapidly, also make sure to scan as TIFFs, 16-bits per channel if possible. Lossy JPEGs don’t allow for any post-processing to be performed without serious consequences. TIFFs are lossless, and are what everyone doing photo editing or graphic design of any sort should be using if they want to retain decent quality. This fact used to be understood so it baffles me that labs have somehow managed to convince their customers that JPEGs are an acceptable file format for film scans. They’re not acceptable, in any way, and if the people running these labs know anything about image processing they’re fully aware of this fact. If they don’t, they shouldn’t be running a film lab. For people getting lab scans, you should be demanding TIFFs as standard at no extra cost. If your lab won’t provide TIFFs, they’re ripping you off and are not worth supporting. If they will provide TIFFs but charge extra for it, they’re blatantly ripping you off and are again not worth supporting as it’s no extra effort. They’re just price gouging and profiteering. And the argument that storage space or bandwidth are bottlenecks today is totally laughable. If these labs can’t store TIFFs because they’re too large, they need to purchase a decent storage solution for goodness sake. They can more than afford it with how bad they’re ripping off their customers. It doesn’t cost much anyways since storage today is cheaper than peanuts. Besides, they only need to store the files until delivery to the customer is complete, plus maybe a short window (a month at most) to ensure everything is good. Then the lab can, and should, delete them, freeing up that space. Even if these labs are scanning thousands of rolls per week, storage is so cheap today that the argument is simply moot. Likewise, bandwidth is effectively infinite today (relatively speaking), so that’s also no excuse. And labs, if you don’t want to deal with uploading the files and managing them in “the cloud,” don’t. Buy archival CDs/DVDs in bulk and burn your customer’s scans to those (I’d prefer this, actually). And don’t charge for the discs that literally only cost you pennies a piece. I’ve seen that become another common ripoff practice in the last few years. I already went into this the other day on another one of your posts so I’ll stop here. It just really bothers me that the film communit at large doesn’t seem to realize or care how severely most of these labs are ripping them off (we’re talking they’re being taken for insane profits). I’m sure that plenty (the majority) of would-be film photographers have been totally alienated due to the cost of processing/scanning/etc. That’s just not right. And it’s also entirely unaffordable for nearly anyone (unless they’re made of money) who wants to pursue film super seriously, meaning they need to shoot a lot of film, not just a single roll every once in a while. And those are the types of people the film manufacturers and distributors, along with the labs, need to be helping and serving and fostering because that’s how their business can grow (and do so exponentially). But today, labs in particular seem to prefer huge short-term profits, and totally disregard the fact that it may very well be their undoing. The price gouging has really gotten out of hand, and I think it’s safe to say it’s harming the film community and the industry in a major way, even if the big players don’t realize it yet because they’re still riding the resurgent hipster/lomography wave that over the last few years has probably generated a very large — but what is likely temporary if they’re not careful — increase in profits for them. They need to start trying to truly serve the dedicated silent majority of film photographers (i.e. not the hipsters and those who only shoot Holgas because it’s “cool”), as well as those interested in film but can’t afford to get into it. If the manufacturers, distributors, labs, and all other businesses who are supposed to be there to serve the film community don’t start making sure film photography is affordable and accessible for the long haul, they’re not going to survive very long, and film will inevitably disappear along with them. I sincerely don’t want to see that happen. That’s the reason why I bring this stuff up; because it seems most film shooters are not thinking about these things and they need to be, or they’re just not being vocal, which is allowing the profiteering to go on unchecked.

        Anyways, back to the topic of scanners — The thing I don’t understand is why Kodak, or whoever owns the patents, doesn’t just start manufacturing Pakon F135 units again or something similar and selling them to consumers at a fair price ($250 or so sounds about right as there’s actually not much to them at all from an engineering standpoint). You’d think this would be in their interest since one of the largest turn-offs to shooting film, if not the largest, is that there is no reasonable scanning option available to us at all. I mean none. And it has to be keeping a great many people from shooting film; probably millions or even tens of millions, if the truth was known. That’s a lot of potential customers for Kodak, Ilford, et al. Or why doesn’t Konica start making their dedicated roll film scanners again? How about you, Nikon? The fact that it’s 2019 and people are having to fiddle around for hours and hours with film holders and flatbeds (or even the slightly higher quality dedicated film scanners available that are way overpriced) to produce very marginal scans of a single roll of film is simply ludicrous. And it’s a real disservice to film as a medium because what people are seeing in their scans versus what is actually contained within their negatives is miles apart. Most people are only getting to see a tiny fraction of the image information that is actually contained within their film. And sadly, that means most people don’t and won’t understand why film is so incredible from a technical perspective, not just an artistic one. That’s especially true since darkrooms are so scarce today. I mean, I think the majority of the population actually sees film as this “lo-fi” thing that was replaced by this newer and superior thing called digital, when film is not at all “lo-fi” and is in no way technically inferior to digital sensors. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. And if we, as amateur film photographers, actually had an affordable option available to us to easily produce very high quality scans ourselves, in a reasonable amount of time (say, an uncut 36-exposure roll scanned as 16-bpc TIFFs in thirty minutes or less), then I think there would be exponentially more of us and film as a medium would be taken a lot more seriously than it is because the capabilities of it would be irrefutable. But in order for this to happen in the digital age, all of us need to be able to affordably produce quality scans that actually showcase what film can do. And again, that can only be to the benefit of companies like Kodak, Ilford, Fuji (okay, maybe Fuji doesn’t care anymore), Rollei, Agfa, etc. I can only hope that somebody at one of these companies is actually working on rectifying this problem because the present situation is pathetic. And Kodak, the Scanza is absolutely not what we need. It’s precisely what we don’t need.

        Well, I wrote another book. Sorry, Jim. But hopefully you got something out of it. If not, maybe someone else will.

        I do look forward to what you’re able to do with your Canoscan as I also considered it a possibility at one point, and may again in the future.

        Take care.

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        • Interesting points re JPEG vs TIFF. I’ll try TIFF next time and see how it goes. I scanned to TIFF some with the V300 and for my purposes I didn’t notice any benefit and the file sizes were way larger. But who knows. I’m open at any rate.

          I’ve always felt like scanning negatives was akin to taking old tape source recordings and digitizing them: a good enough representation but all of the depth and nuance remains on the tape, or here the negative.

          Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone could produce something like the Pakon today at a reasonable price? But I bet the film makers aren’t thinking home scanning is the future of film.

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        • P says:

          You know, Jim, sometimes I wonder just what exactly the film manufacturers are thinking the future of film is. Their decisions really don’t make sense to me the vast majority of the time. Again, the Scanza? Slide film is prohibitively expensive for most so why Ektachrome? Why P3200 (a special use film) instead of Plus-X (an every day film that I personally prefer to Tri-X)? I’m thankful Ektachrome and P3200 are back, don’t get me wrong (thank you for bringing them back, Kodak), but they don’t seem like the best choices if you’re trying to build a customer base and grow the community as a whole, and thus ultimately secure your future. And I mean, unless you live in a big city and are lucky enough to be near one, community darkrooms are gone. College darkrooms are gone (almost all of them, at least). Home darkrooms are no longer feasible for the vast majority because they don’t have the room, or they rent, or both. So ultimately that leaves scanning as the only option to see the results of our film adventures for probably 99% of us. Lab scanning is impossibly expensive unless a person only shoots a roll every month or two, and even then it’s by no means cheap. So for a lot of us (very obviously most of us, I would say), that leaves home scanning as the only real option if we want to be able to shoot a decent amount of film. So what does that mean for those interested in shooting film, veteran or newcomer alike? Well, it causes a ton of people to attempt to fight the currently ridiculous home scanning battle for typically lackluster and unsatisfying results (and I’m sure many give up and quit shooting film altogether because of how absurd it is), or it means they shoot way, way less film than they’d like to (meaning way less revenue for the film manufacturers/distributors, and everyone else with businesses tied to the film industry) and then get ripped off by labs to get decent quality scans (and sometimes they don’t even get good scans from labs due to incompetence and/or laziness). In either case, substantially less film is being bought by consumers. Surely that’s not what manufacturers like Kodak want? Don’t they need to be selling as much of their product as possible? So, if I was Kodak or Ilford or any of the others it would make sense to me that getting a high quality, affordable, easy to use, full roll film scanner on the market is the absolute top priority. Because after all, it’s kind of imperative to their survival, is it not? If I had a scanner similar to the Pakon that could produce lab quality scans I would shoot way more film — WAY more. I’d shoot every chance I got because I wouldn’t have to be thinking about the small fortune it presently requires to get decent scans afterwards. It seems these companies are not thinking forward at all, and I’m personally concerned it’s going to ruin them and be the end of film altogether. I hope not.

          One more note — the Pakon F135, Nikon CoolScans, the Minolta Dimage, etcetera are all ancient technology by this point, so with the advances in technology/computing/manufacturing it really makes no sense that something at least as good is not available to consumers. Frankly, scanners of even higher quality should be available for very reasonable prices. Think about how cheap electronics are today compared to 15-20 years ago. Scanners should be no exception.

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        • I’m making some guesses here:

          The Scanza is probably much like my Wolverine F2D digitizer. Hell, it might be made by the same company. This digitizer (hesitate to call it a scanner, it’s a light table plus a digital camera) is not aimed at people like us. Market is consumers with a ton of old negatives and slides who want to be able to share them on Facebook. Not real film photographers. I bought my Wolverine for just that purpose — to scan in my 126 and 110 negs from childhood. It did a minimally usable job very quickly, and that’s what I needed from it. Here’s my review of my Wolverine:

          https://blog.jimgrey.net/2014/08/15/wolverine-super-f2d/

          It was P3200, and not Plus-X, because Kodak has nothing to compete with Ilford’s 3200 offering where they do already have T-Max in ISO 100 guise; bringing back Plus-X would likely only cannibalize T-Max 100 sales. I’d love to have Plus-X back too, for the record.

          I’d love it if Kodak or Nikon or somebody would sell a modern fast scanner in the league of the Pakon that ran on Windows 10. I’m betting the blocker is perceived ROI; they’ve decided what the film market is going to be and building a good 35mm scanner at a price people will pay won’t generate the margins they need. I think your argument may be that if there are good 35mm scanners the film market may increase; you might be right, I don’t know.

          Home darkrooms may be out of the question but home film processing isn’t. I have intention to start doing my own b/w, esp. medium format, at home this year with a monobath (to start). Then I can scan it on the CanoScan. Et voila, saving $20 bucks a roll to get my eight or twelve images.

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        • P says:

          My understanding based on looking into it a long time ago is that that Scanza is virtually identical to the Wolverine and is indeed manufactured by the same company (if I remember what I read correctly). Basically the same item exists under various other names as well. The market is saturated with these poor quality devices. That was kind of my point. Why is Kodak wasting their resources on this?

          Regarding P3200, I see your point. However, T-Max 100 and Plus-X are nothing alike, just like FP4 PLUS and Delta 100 are nothing alike. If anything, it seems to me Kodak would want to introduce a product that directly competes with their largest rival’s medium speed, traditional, cubic-grain, every day film. That film is Ilford FP4 PLUS. Since Plus-X is gone, Ilford pretty much has no competition there. I find it hard to believe that a special purpose film like P3200 is making Kodak more money than Plus-X would be. Regarding Plus-X cannibalizing TMX sales if it were on the market, the fact that Plus-X is no longer available doesn’t mean I shoot TMX instead; it means I shoot FP4 PLUS instead. From Kodak’s perspective, that’s just lost business. But I’m sure it makes Ilford happy. I also want to see Plus-X return.

          My argument regarding what effect the availability of an affordable, high quality film scanner would have was indeed that if such a scanner existed I believe wholeheartedly that the film market would increase dramatically. I know tons of people are completely turned off of film because there is no decent scanning option (and can you blame them?). And there must be a lot more people out there like myself, who, if they weren’t at the mercy of film labs for scanning and the huge expense that goes along with it, instead of shooting one roll of film in a month (or even none) they might be shooting 5-10 rolls of film in a month. That’s a massive increase in sales for the film manufacturers.

          Yep, I think you’ll be much happier with not only the cost savings (which is huge) but also the control you have over the entire process once you start developing yourself, especially if you eventually move on to more standard developers from a monobath. I’ve never used one, but monobaths do have a certain allure about them. But for sure, not being at the mercy of a lab is a wonderful thing. I’m looking forward to seeing your results, both in developing and scanning. I think the Canon should do a good job with medium format for creating web content. Good luck once you get started!

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  5. I can’t comment on color issues because I only shoot and scan B&W film. Concerning sharpness, I have used a CanoScan 8800f, Plustek 8100 and Epson V700 with OEM, VueScan and SilverFast software, and in every instance I got the best results by turning off all sharpening and other image manipulation by the scanner and scanner software and sharpening in post with Photoshop or, more recently, Affinity Photo.

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    • I plan to scan some old b/w negs next in my experimenting with this scanner. I’ll try leaving off all of the in-scanner corrections and see what happens. I’m wondering if the auto dust/scratch removal is harming sharpness, now that I think of it.

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  6. Hey Jim, I recently used my Epson V800 for some panoramic 35mm scanning (XPan), as my usual Nikon Coolscan 4000 could not handle the wide format. Wow! the loss in sharpness was truly amazing. Mostly as I have only used the flatbed for medium format, for which it is great. I even use the custom Betterscanning holders, and still the flatbed was miles off the sharpness of the Nikon. I also never have the sharpness turned on in the scanner software as I prefer to use a custom action in Photoshop or use Lightroom, so it is like for like.
    Colour was less of an issue, as I have a set workflow, and I have colour profiled both scanners and the computer. This is less important for negative film as this tends to be fixable quite easily and to taste.
    Having said all that, the actual quality of the flatbed is sufficient in most cases, even my panoramic scans, maybe only not for a really big blown up print. Definitely for screens and medium to small prints.
    You do have to keep in mind though, a flatbed scanner cannot focus, they tend to have a fixed focus, so the film plane only needs to be out by minuscule amounts to impact sharpness. You may find the sharpness issue is better resolved by using holders which are be height adjustable. Just don’t compare it to a lab scan or dedicated film scanner, you’ll only disappoint yourself.
    In terms of software, I use Vuescan, mainly as it allows me to use the same interface for both scanners, thus keeping my workflow simpler.

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    • I do wonder if I might not have had the negative tray fully locked properly then. If it was off by even a hair that could explain the softness I got.

      I’ve made 8×10 prints of 35mm negs scanned on my old V300 and they look great, and 8×10 is as large as I can imagine printing.

      I haven’t figured out color the CanoScan yet. I am not happy with the bleh color on that shot of the green house. More work to do!

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  7. Jim, I read this with great interest as I had the exact same scanner.

    My results weren’t bad, but still inferior to what my local and reasonably affordable supermarket lab could do. But much more of a factor for me was the time and fiddling about it took.

    I enjoy photographs for two reasons – to play with cameras and to get out in nature walking and exploring. Spending hours hunched over a scanner and computer doesn’t serve either of these. For me it’s not photography, I’m not interested in this end of it.

    Plus I found myself holding back from shooting film because I was dreading the scanning experience – it was impacting my enjoyment of the hobby overall.

    In the end I came to my senses, realised what was happening, and went back to supermarket lab scans which I was really happy with. Though these weren’t all that expensive (if I had four rolls processed at once it worked out about £4 a roll for develop and scan), but add in the initial cost of the film and shooting 8-10 or more rolls a month just got beyond my means. I shudder at the thought of the time it would take to scan those 8-10 rolls of film a month, let alone some months when I was shooting 15 rolls! Hence my drift towards and ultimate full immersion in digital photography only. It comes down to cost and convenience – I loved using film and the old cameras and lenses, as you know.

    P’s comments are excellent and make plenty of sense. If there were high quality, speedy scanners available to the average consumer, they would likely find a decent market, at least initially. I wonder if another factor is a lack of ongoing market though? The technology must be there already to make one that would serve the average photographer’s needs and be good for five years plus. Whereas the camera industry generally is churning out new products every few months are relying on the mass of consumers that have to have the latest camera. This wouldn’t be the case with a scanner. Most film photographers reading here and using decade old cameras would I’m sure be looking for something that’s a long term investment and the initial outlay would pay for itself over the five years plus they own and use the scanner. They wouldn’t get caught up in the upgrade cycle and buy a new scanner every year, so there might be limited ongoing income for the companies producing them, compared with the market for new cameras. Just a thought.

    I hope you find a faster and more efficient workflow than I did – though I think it’s unlikely with the Canon scanner with all the manual input required.

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    • I spent some time last night and this morning scanning some b/w 35mm and more color 35mm with the CanoScan and ScanGear. I took some of the other commenters’ advice and scanned with all ScanGear enhancement settings turned off. When I brought the b/ws into Photoshop I was fairly easily able to tweak until the images are 90+% as pleasing as the pro scans. The color scans are…better, but still disappointing.

      SilverFast has some features in its pro version, essentially doing three scans and merging them somehow, to improve color output. Maybe that’s a path.

      This does take an enormous amount of time. I expect that I will build speed as I build skill. Paying for lab scans will always be faster and more convenient! And just shooting my Pentax K10D will be enormously less expensive and more convenient still.

      You make a great point about a good neg/slide scanning solution quickly saturating the market.

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      • It’s the time factor that killed it for me. Just have so many other ways to better spend two hours a night!

        The other factor is that people maybe assume that Canon or Kodak or Nikon or whoever profit from scanners. It’s likely that a tiny percentage of their income is from these devices. It’s like a greengrocer being asked to stock lychees and kumquats for the three people in town that enjoy them, when he makes his living from selling apples, potatoes and bananas by the bucket load. Why would any of these companies think it good business sense to serve a tiny niche community that might buy a new product (scanner) from them once or twice every decade?

        I’m sure there was a link on here a few weeks back to another blogger who looked into Fuji in some depth and found their film production was a tiny percentage compared with other markets they’re into, so it’s no shock they don’t invest as much into film as when it was mainstream and one of their major income sources.

        Perhaps the future of film scanning might be a box like device that just moves the film along one frame at a time, synced to a socket on top where you plug in your DSLR and insert the lens into an aperture of some kind. In other words a more motorised and automated version of what many people now do with DSLRs and macro lens to scan their negs?

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        • Great points. The market for film scanners is minuscule compared to the other markets these big companies serve.

          You make a stellar point about a box-like device for DSLR digitizing of film. This is probably something an individual or a startup would be best suited to invent and build. Have you seen Hamish Gill’s pixl-latr project? http://www.pixl-latr.com

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        • I had heard of pixl-latr but not looked into it as I don’t use film anymore. Yes this looks much more like the future of scanning film. Why pay for the lens and other electronics within a flat bed scanner, that’s like to be inferior to the lens of the kind of camera many of us have anyway. With some kind of stand so the pixl-latr could be in a fixed position and a camera fixed above it, this makes a lot more sense, and looks much quicker to use then scanners.

          And from the massive pledge total on the Kickstarter page it seems many agree!

          Jim I know you have DSLRs, haven’t you looked into this kind of option, even if you use the film holders that come with Canon Scanner and a cheap light box or an iPad to backlight the negs?

          Like

        • P says:

          Hello Dan,

          Somebody other than Jim actually read through my incredibly long replies! Thank you! Now get ready for another one — haha!

          I understand your thoughts that Kodak or whoever might be concerned that after strong initial sales there may not be an ongoing market for the type of film scanner we’re discussing. However, I would say it doesn’t matter, and they shouldn’t care. In fact they shouldn’t be concerned at all with making profits directly from the scanner itself. That’s not the point of introducing such a device. Their concern is selling and making money from film, not scanners. But, and here’s the vitally important thing, they’re not going to sell nearly as much film as they could if people can’t utilize that film in a way that makes sense. Thanks to the immortal titles of Ansel Adams’s three foundational books, we all know that film photography is threefold: the camera, the negative, and the print. Kodak and other film manufacturers are very fortunate that at present there are enough functioning film cameras out there they don’t have to worry about “the camera” (yet, but they will eventually). Obviously, for a film manufacturer, film, or “the negative,” is their bread and butter; it’s what they’re trying to sell a lot of (plus the chemistry to develop said film, which they’ve got covered). Finally, we come to “the print.” Well, in today’s world it would be more apt to say, “the print, or the scan,” because as I’ve already stated the vast majority of us have no access to, nor do we have the ability to build, a darkroom. Thus, scanning becomes of imperative importance, and something that I believe must be addressed, and soon, by the film manufacturers if they plan to survive long-term. After all, what is the point of shooting and developing film if it’s impossible to see the fruits of those labors in all their glory (or even a fraction thereof)? There isn’t any, and I think your own experience reflects exactly one of the two camps of people I described in an earlier reply: those who quit shooting film altogether because of the present absurdity of home scanning, and the ridiculous expense of lab scans. I’m in the other camp: those who severely limit themselves and shoot a single roll of film every month or two and then pay the outrageous price for lab scans. But, if the type of scanner we’re discussing existed, those in camp one would probably start shooting (and thus buying) film again; and those like myself in camp two would start shooting (and again, buying, which is of critical importance to film manufacturers) five times, ten times, or even twenty times more film than they are at present. No matter how you look at it, that’s WAY more film being sold. If you’re a film manufacturer, and you care about your survival, it seems to me that this is simple math, is it not?

          So, in summary, the film manufacturers need not be concerned with the profits they can make directly from selling film scanner hardware. They do need to be concerned with what that scanner will do for their film sales, and ultimately how it will massively grow the community, change outsiders’ perspectives on film (it’s not “lo-fi” and hipster!) and make them recognize its merit and value (both technically and artistically), and perhaps most importantly, ensure their continued survival as a film manufacturer.

          If people are home developing and scanning, and the best results they’re able to achieve after absurd amounts of time and effort spent are equivalent to a fifteen year old digital camera, what’s the point in shooting film? And with the present availability of scanners, that’s pretty much exactly the situation we find ourselves in. And it’s largely responsible for the layman’s false perspective of the capabilities of film as a medium, which is undoubtedly extremely damaging to film manufacturers because it frankly makes film look like trash compared to modern digital cameras, when it’s anything but. And this disparity and misconception is only going to get worse as digital continues to improve. So yeah, I’d say getting an affordable, fast, extremely high quality roll film scanner on the market is not some minor thing. It’s imperative. You’ll note that even though I mentioned Nikon and Konica (Minolta), my discussion was really directed at the film manufacturers, as this is really their (gigantic) problem. But there’s no reason they can’t make an attempt to partner with Nikon or Konica or whoever to bring a quality scanner to the market. None. And I may be mistaken, but wasn’t the Pakon F135 already in part created through a partnership with Kodak? Of key importance is that if a film manufacturer does bring one of these scanners to market (and hopefully they do) is that it is extremely affordable. It must be. If and when Kodak or Ilford or whoever decides to do this it would be wise of them to consider selling it for very small profits on their end, at cost, or even at a loss, just to ensure it is affordable for the film community at large. Again, profits from the scanners is not the concern here; it’s the massive amounts of additional profits from film sales that the scanners will generate, and the growth of their consumer base. Selling at a loss may seem strange, but it’s long been a common practice in the electronics and computer industries. There are near infinite examples of such. One example is home audio and video technologies. The profits, at least initially, never came from VHS/DVD/Blu-ray/CD/etcetera players. These hardware devices were commonly sold at a loss in order to drive sales that generated the actual profits for these companies; that is, sell of the mediums that these devices were created to play. The profits came from the sell of tapes/DVDs/Blu-rays/CDs/etcetera, not the players. Analogously, film is the medium film manufactures need to sell to make legitimate profits (that’s their true business), but in order to sell enough film for it to be sustainable people need to have access to affordable scanning hardware. It’s really that simple.

          Take care!

          Like

        • P, yes, your replies add a great deal of value to Jim’s posts.

          I completely understand your point. But I wonder if film for some of the big companies holds much interest/profit at all anymore?

          They’re never going to get a fraction of the sales of the 70s, 80s, 90s when film was mainstream and everyone and their grandmother was buying it. Most people use smartphones.

          I just saw a headline this morning about Canon seeing significant and unexpected profit drops and rethinking the future of some of the camera lines – they blamed smartphones as the main cause.

          Maybe some small companies whose reliance on film forms a much large part of their overall business, like Ilford, Fomapan etc, will be the ones to pursue a route like you suggest?

          I imagine an Ilford “approved” or jointly made scanner would have significant credibility.

          But I wonder if even the most effective scanners have a future – see my reply to Jim just now. I think with most people owning a digital camera with quite possibly a better lens than is in the average scanner these days, whether the future will be products like pixl-latr and scanning film with digital cameras becomes the norm.

          It will make it far more affordable too, as the parts required have no electronics, lenses etc, they just need to hold the negatives and the camera in the right place.

          It would fit into people’s already familiar workflow, as the images will just be on the memory card ready. No new software to invest in or learn (from Jim’s comments above it seems a huge amount of time is spent fiddling about with different settings in the software).

          And even if it meant having to buy a camera, very decent older DSLRs or mirrorless cameras can be picked up for less than £100.

          I expect some people could – and already do – get more than respectable results by “scanning” negs with smartphones.

          If there was a product where you could just sit a digital camera in the top, easily slide your film in the bottom and digitise a 36exp roll in 15-30 seconds per frame say, then it might encourage me (and no doubt many others) to take up film again.

          And that of course, as you say, will boost film sales.

          We’ll all watch with interest!

          Like

        • I’d have to buy a lot of equipment to do DSLR digitization of my negs. I own no light box, no iPad, no DSLR macro lens. I do own a DSLR but at 5MP I’d want to get a newer one, at least 8-10 MP. That’s a lot of outlay.

          Like

        • Have you not got the K10D? That’s 10MP and in my view punches well above its weight, especially at native ISO.

          You could try using extension rings or close up filters and a great lens like a Takumar 55 before you decided whether you needed a dedicated macro lens.

          I have no idea how much light pads cost, but I’d guess significantly less than in iPad! In theory though for 35mm you only need something with a screen bigger than 36x24mm. A quick look on Play store shows a number of light pad apps for Android phones, I’m sure there are similar for iOS.

          Like

        • I guess I thought the K10D was 5MP. If it’s 10 then we’re really talking.

          I’d then need a light pad plus some sort of rig to suspend and hold tight the K10D over the negs. I’d want to do both 35mm and 120.

          Like

        • No it’s a capable 10MP!

          Do you have a tripod? If so you might be able to adjust it to use, or get a boom kind of arm to come out and position the camera over the negs.

          Anyway, it might be an avenue worth pursuing and that gives a better output than any flatbed scanner. Just the fact that with a DSLR everything is in a fixed position must be an advantage over a scanner that has a moving lens.

          Like

        • Aside from the very expensive camera and lens, the tripod, light pad and film scanning mask seem reasonable. I think my Canoscan cost about £200 so assuming you have a camera already it’s a cheaper set up.

          Like

        • P says:

          Thank you, Dan, for your comment about the value of my replies. I really appreciate that. I’m not one to write dialogue of short length as I feel it rarely adds anything to a conversation, and rather only leads to disjointed confusion and ultimately a total failure to effectively convey one’s thoughts (regardless of the topic). Sadly, in today’s world, writing long text of any type is typically not only frowned upon and ridiculed, but is often totally ignored. This is ridiculous, in my opinion, since the way to legitimately learn about things (anything, in any field) is to read, read a lot, and think about the things you’ve read and whether or not you agree or disagree with them; and hopefully if you disagree, you’ll choose to write a response with your own thoughts so people can think about that as well, and thus a thoughtful and polite discussion can be had, even if people don’t see eye-to-eye. This is how true progress is and always has been made, is it not? Sometimes I wonder how anything is accomplished at all today, since most people can’t be bothered to even form complete sentences, much less take the time necessary to express complete thoughts on a subject. Obviously, many who read and write actual well-written material for blogs (sadly, a seemingly dwindling population) are not the type of people I’m talking about. That’s one of the many reasons I enjoy Jim’s blog so much. Besides the fact that he posts great content and shares many of my interests, an inordinately large portion of his followers seems to actually value reading and writing. That’s becoming very rare, based on my personal observations. And Jim, that only speaks to the quality of your work and the value of what you do. So, thank you.

          Now, prepare yourself. Because in order to address most of what has been discussed since my last reply and give my personal thoughts and ideas on the subjects at hand, this is probably going going to get long. You’ve been warned, but I do hope you’ll bear with me and read through it. To those who do, thank you!

          Outside of Fuji and possibly one or two of the European film manufacturers who are also largely invested in other things, I think film definitely still holds a ton of interest, and profits, for these companies. In fact, my understanding is that many of them, especially the smaller ones, are not very diversified at all, meaning if film dies so do they. Even when discussing the larger two guys, Kodak (and certainly Kodak Alaris, by extension) and Harman (Ilford) who at this point are into other markets as well, I still imagine that the sell of film and related chemistry are consequential enough that if these portions of their companies ceased to exist, they would feel it in a major, and highly detrimental, way. I haven’t looked deeply into the present structures of either of them, so that is admittedly speculation. Therefore, take it as you will. If anyone knows more about Kodak and Harman in this regard I’d be interested in hearing about it. Now, Fuji, you’re right; based on their actions I don’t think they care about the longevity or survival of their film division at all, because they are into so many other things today. The article you mentioned was written by EM on Emulsive, and he states in that article that Fuji’s film division only accounts for one percent (yes, 1%, as in 1/100th) of their net profits. If that is true, and it probably is, then what I don’t understand is why nobody I’ve seen discuss this has thought about it from the other perspective, the correct perspective in my mind, not the “bottom dollar/everything is about money” outlook. Think about this, if Fuji continued to manufacture and sell film at zero percent profit, meaning they do nothing but break even, then their net profit as a company would only drop by a measly one percent. I mean seriously, personally I think they would have enough respect for their origins, their incredible past, and their legacy within the film industry to keep the film division alive even if it doesn’t make them a single cent. Again, we’re talking about one percent of who they are today. Isn’t paying homage to one’s origins worth that, especially if you’re doing as well as Fuji and can afford it no problem? If not, that’s just sad, plain and simple. And if that insignificant amount of money really is that big of a concern to you as a company, then increase the cost of whatever, arguably valueless, consumer makeup/cosmetic products you’re manufacturing by a couple of cents per item and you probably just exceeded the income you were making from film in its entirety. But for goodness sake, if you’re a company like Fuji, have some respect for your heritage and keep film alive and affordable (and bring back ACROS, while you’re at it). That goes for all the film manufacturers out there, whose origins are film, even if film isn’t your primary source of revenue anymore, pay tribute to the founders of your company and to your history, and keep film alive and affordable to everyone, even if it doesn’t make you much, if any, real money. After all, if it’s not a big part of your overall business anymore, then it’s not going to hurt you very bad, is it? That’s my two cents on the matter.

          Regarding digitizing film with a DSLR (or mirrorless camera), a macro lens, and a light source (typically a lightpad or a controlled flash) — While I won’t argue that reasonably high quality results can’t be achieved using this method (they can, I admit), I still ultimately see this as nothing more than a stop-gap solution to the very problem I’ve been trying to address. But it’s not a real solution, in my opinion. There are a great many issues with this sort of setup being practical or truly and faithfully showcasing the unique qualities of film as a medium (and more specifically, each unique emulsion out there). Despite that, it is probably a better option than flatbed scanning, or even using some of the currently available and massively overpriced dedicated film scanners, if someone has the means to set up such a system.

          One of the biggest issues with this method is when attempting to digitize color negative film. Getting accurate colors/temperature/white balance/etcetera is not an easy task. That said, there are people out there making huge strides to address this problem, but it still has a long way to go before I think it’s viable. Color slides are much less of a problem in this regard, but still have their own set of challenges as well. There’s a reason why people still shoot slides in the digital age. It’s because the way slides capture a scene’s light/colors/saturation/etcetera is incredibly unique and can’t be faithfully replicated digitally. So, do people really think that a slide, which captured a scene and was then digitized with a digital sensor, can somehow faithfully represent what the same digital sensor couldn’t do directly? Logically that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but maybe I’m missing something. Thankfully, B&W film is much easier to digitize and get good results using this method, and that’s probably what most people who need a solution like this are generally shooting anyways. After all, while some people out there do, most of us don’t develop our own C-41 or E-6, even if we develop B&W. I would venture to guess that if a person is shooting large amounts of color negative or slide film that they are probably pros and as such can afford to work with a pro lab for their scanning needs. That is not the audience I’ve been addressing in my replies who desperately need a proper home scanning solution (or another alternative is for non-pro labs to stop thinking they are and return to charging fair prices — probably wishful thinking). Everything I’ve been talking about is in the context of all us amateurs because we are not pros getting paid for jobs that we can then just build the cost of processing/scanning into what we charge for our services. I’m assuming basically everyone reading this is an amateur/hobbyist (or possibly retired pros, as well), not a working pro. On that note, can any non-pros out there who enjoy it afford to shoot slides on even a fairly regular basis anymore, more than maybe a couple of times per year at most, due to how expensive it is? (A quick note to the film manufacturers and distributors, as well as labs and all other related businesses within the film industry: Just in case it still isn’t clear, there are infinitely more amateur film shooters than pros, but due to the cost of everything — especially decent scanning — most of us can’t afford to shoot even a fraction of what we’d like to, and for this reason many have given up using your products altogether. That can’t be good for your business. But what if we could shoot a lot more film, and in turn your business multiplied by ten times, or even a hundred times? Things would be a lot more sustainable and your futures a lot more certain, wouldn’t they?)

          Another major problem with this method is that even if someone fabricates such a “box” that they then mass produce for consumers, not everyone owns a DSLR or mirrorless body (I don’t, and honestly I don’t care to). And even less people have proper macro lenses (1:1 really is necessary for the best results and they’re very expensive). Of course, people can use standard lenses with extension tubes/bellows instead, but the quality won’t be as good as with a proper macro lens and if they’re trying to utilize the full digital sensor area they’re bound to have two more problems to deal with: distortion and vignetting. To try to remedy those problems one can possibly experiment with enlarger lenses, but then adapting those to a digital body becomes trickier still.

          That brings us to the next major problem: not everyone is utilizing the same digital body, or the same lenses, so for anyone to manufacture a “box” that works for everyone, with the equipment they already own, becomes a real nightmare. Is the digital sensor full-frame? APS-C? Micro-four-thirds? Is the lens a true macro lens or something else? What’s the lens mount? What’s the size of the filter ring (potentially needed to ensure the camera’s sensor plane is perfectly parallel to the film strip)? What’s the focal length? Etcetera, etcetera. I think you get the point.

          Another issue is that each digital sensor (and camera) is going to provide different results than others on the market. This means that the results one person gets when scanning a certain emulsion, let’s say TRI-X, may — and likely will — look totally different on another person’s similar setup, even if they scan the exact same piece of film. The purpose of scanning film is to faithfully capture the unique aesthetics and qualities of that piece of film, and to have uniformity in its representation. DSLR/mirrorless scanning won’t provide this, at least not outside of a single person’s setup. I guess people could argue that the present situation is already worse in this regard, and I won’t say they’re wrong as the current situation is so bad it’s not even funny (that’s why we’re discussing it). But if two different people both shot a roll of TRI-X in similar lighting conditions, rated it at the same speed, developed it identically, and took the rolls to two different labs for scanning, then if the labs do their jobs correctly either of those two people’s scans should have the unmistakable characteristics of TRI-X, rated at said speed using said method, in said lighting conditions, and developed in said chemistry. It should be blatantly obvious, and in my experience it is if labs do their jobs right. This is true even if one lab uses Noritsus and the other Fujis. The images won’t look identical, but the unique qualities of different emulsions, along with how they were effected by exposure and development methods, should still be faithfully replicated if the lab operator knows what they’re doing. After all, these scanners are capable of scanning at very high DPIs, so the individual grain (down to a certain minimum particle size) of every emulsion, and as such the entirely unique grain structure of each, should be being fully resolved by either of these minilab systems (an exception might be certain extremely fine-grain emulsions, like CMS 20 II for example, where scans would probably be grainless at the resolutions we’re typically dealing with). So even if their output doesn’t look 100% identical, very similar results should be able to be achieved with either, and both should faithfully represent whatever emulsion they scanned. I should note that most labs with Fujis apparently have no clue how to use them properly though, at least in my experience, and the results are generally atrocious, especially with B&W. But I do know they’re capable because I have seen excellent results some people who own their own Fujis were able to produce. Back to the “scans” coming out of the custom rigs we’re discussing, however, if it wasn’t for the caption stating what the film stock was — even if the ISO of the film, what it was rated at, and all development details were given — the image may look great but I still likely wouldn’t have a clue what the emulsion was. It’s as if every digital camera imbues its own aesthetic into the image, confusing what the true “look” of the emulsion is. Legitimate film scanners, in theory, only capture the structure and qualities of the film emulsion itself (i.e. a highly accurate digital representation thereof), not the film plus the digital sensor used plus the camera’s internal processing. Personally, I want my film scans to look like my actual film, nothing more and nothing less. Isn’t that kind of the point of shooting film, to show off its incredibly unique qualities, qualities that the digital sensors in modern camera systems can’t and will never be able to replicate, regardless of what digital camera manufacturers try to tell you? Film is, after all, a real physical and tangible thing in an unadulterated state other than how one chose to expose/develop it, whereas digital cameras are really just a false effort to replicate the aesthetic of film by utilizing digital sensor technologies and a whole lot of code/software. Other than the instant gratification of digital, which I would argue isn’t gratifying at all, it almost seems idiotic, doesn’t it? Obviously this discussion is a massive one in and of itself because during the digitization of anything a certain amount of processing must be done; there’s simply no way around it. But I believe a level of authenticity, uniformity, and consistency must exist or we arrive back at the question of why bother with film as a medium at all?

          Dan, you mentioned that the sensors in modern digital cameras as well as modern camera optics are likely superior to what is in flatbed scanners for the purpose of digitizing film. For small formats (35mm and possibly 120) that’s probably true. But comparing what existed previously in quality consumer dedicated roll film scanners, it’s definitely not. The engineering behind the sensor and optical design for dedicated film scanning hardware is vastly different than that of camera systems. This is by necessity, as the way they function and their intended purposes are very, very different. This is also why minilab scanners are not just a very expensive variation of the type of device we’ve been discussing. I do think we’ve gotten to a point where the sensors in modern digital cameras, if paired with a proper lens, can achieve very serviceable results when used to digitize film, and do so relatively quickly. But they’re still a long way away from even coming close to achieving what a quality dedicated film scanner is capable of in terms of both the level of detail that can be captured as well as accurately and faithfully representing the film material being digitized. Do some searching and find the people out there on Flickr who have built insanely expensive versions of what we’ve been talking about, and who actually upload their images at an appreciable resolution. Then do the same for people using Nikon Coolscans or other similar “ancient” dedicated film scanners. The difference is night and day.

          There are a lot more concerns with this method that we could get into, but I’m going to leave it there. I think you get where I’m coming from. This type of system has so many variables that to do it right, really every person would need to build their own unique setup after they have literally done all the math involved. Most people are not going to do that, even if they’re capable and already have most of what they need. Then, even if they do, whether their results are even a true representation of the actual film or if they’re so heavily impacted by their digital system to the point of losing any authenticity is another legitimate concern and something to be considered.

          It will be interesting to see how the pixl-latr works out. I do applaud Hamish for trying to bring such a device to the market to help people who choose to go this route, but it still doesn’t do anything for those of us who don’t already have a lot of expensive digital equipment and who have no interest in going this route, like myself. But for those who do, I think it’ll be a great thing. He’s certainly doing a lot more than the film manufacturers are in this regard, and I appreciate that.

          All that said, even if people are able to use this method and get nice results, that in no way means it’s the solution; it’s just further evidence of how dire the film scanning problem really is. And that’s all it is, in my opinion. We still need a real solution, meaning a proper and affordable dedicated film scanner that is simple, fast, and does the quality of the medium justice.

          Wow, that was long. Sorry! But I do hope someone read through it all as I tried to bring up a lot of things that people may find helpful, haven’t thought about previously, or at the very least find somewhat interesting.

          But as you said, Dan, we’ll just have to watch with interest and see what happens.

          Once again, take care!

          Like

        • This is why I love blogs and think they are still such a valuable form of communication and community. People actually have thoughtful and meaningful conversation, it’s not all likes and hearts and soundbites…

          Like

        • P says:

          Outside of Fuji and possibly one or two of the European film manufacturers who are also largely invested in other things, I think film definitely still holds a ton of interest, and profits, for these companies. In fact, my understanding is that many of them, especially the smaller ones, are not very diversified at all, meaning if film dies so will they. Even when discussing the larger two names, Kodak (and certainly Kodak Alaris, by extension) and Harman (Ilford) who at this point are into other markets as well, I still imagine that the sell of film and related chemistry are consequential enough that if these portions of their companies ceased to exist, they would feel it in a major, and highly detrimental, way. I haven’t looked deeply into the present structures of either of them, so that is admittedly speculation. Therefore, take it as you will. If anyone knows more about Kodak and Harman in this regard I’d be interested in hearing about it. Now regarding Fuji, I think you’re right. Based on their actions I don’t think they care about the longevity or survival of their film division at all, because they are into so many other things today it appears they see it as inconsequential. The article you mentioned was written by EM on Emulsive, and he states in that article that Fuji’s film division only accounts for one percent (yes, 1%, as in 1/100th) of their net profits. If that is true, and it probably is, then what I don’t understand is why nobody I’ve seen discuss this has thought about it from the other perspective (certainly nobody has written about it that I’ve come across), the correct perspective in my mind, not the “bottom dollar/everything is about money” outlook. Think about this, if Fuji continued to manufacture and sell film at zero percent profit, meaning they do nothing but break even, then their net profit as a company would only drop by a measly one percent. I mean seriously, personally I think they would have enough respect for their origins, their incredible past, and their legacy within the film industry to keep the film division alive even if it doesn’t make them a single cent. Again, we’re talking about one percent of who they are today. Isn’t paying homage to one’s origins worth that, especially if you’re doing as well as Fuji and can afford it no problem? If not, that’s just sad, plain and simple. And if money really is that big of a concern to you as a company, then increase the cost of whatever, arguably valueless, consumer makeup/cosmetic products you’re manufacturing by a couple of cents per item and you probably just exceeded the income you were making from film in its entirety. But for goodness sake, if you’re a company like Fuji, have some respect for your heritage and keep film alive and affordable (and bring back ACROS, while you’re at it). That goes for all the film manufacturers out there, whose origins are film, even if film isn’t your primary source of revenue anymore, pay tribute to the founders of your company and to your history, and keep film alive and affordable to everyone, even if it doesn’t make you much, if any, real money. After all, if it’s not a big part of your overall business anymore, then it’s not going to hurt you very bad, is it? That’s my two cents on the matter.

          Like

        • P says:

          The article about Fuji you mentioned was written by EM on Emulsive, and I believe he states in that article that Fuji’s film division only accounts for one percent (yes, 1%, as in 1/100th) of their net profits. If that is true, and it probably is, then what I don’t understand is why nobody I’ve seen discuss this has thought about it from the other perspective (certainly nobody has written about it that I’ve come across), the correct perspective in my mind, and not the “bottom dollar/everything is about money” outlook. Think about this, if Fuji continued to manufacture and sell film at zero percent profit, meaning they do nothing but break even, then their net profit as a company would only drop by a measly one percent. I mean seriously, personally I think they would have enough respect for their origins, their incredible past, and their legacy within the film industry to keep the film division alive even if it doesn’t make them a single cent. Again, we’re talking about one percent of who they are today. Isn’t paying homage to one’s origins worth that, especially if you’re doing as well as Fuji and can afford it no problem? If not, that’s just sad, plain and simple. And if money really is that big of a concern to you as a company, then increase the cost of whatever, arguably valueless, consumer makeup/cosmetic products you’re manufacturing by a couple of cents per item and you probably just exceeded the income you were making from film in its entirety. But for goodness sake, if you’re a company like Fuji, have some respect for your heritage and keep film alive and affordable (and bring back ACROS, while you’re at it). That goes for all the film manufacturers out there, whose origins are film, even if film isn’t your primary source of revenue anymore, pay tribute to the founders of your company and to your history, and keep film alive and affordable to everyone, even if it doesn’t make you much, if any, real money. After all, if it’s not a big part of your overall business anymore, then it’s not going to hurt you very bad, is it? That’s my two cents on the matter.

          Like

        • P says:

          I mean seriously, personally I think Fuji would have enough respect for their origins, their incredible past, and their legacy within the film industry to keep the film division alive even if it doesn’t make them a single cent. Again, we’re talking about one percent of who they are today. Isn’t paying homage to one’s origins worth that, especially if you’re doing as well as Fuji and can afford it no problem? If not, that’s just sad, plain and simple. And if money really is that big of a concern to you as a company, then increase the cost of whatever, arguably valueless, consumer makeup/cosmetic products you’re manufacturing by a couple of cents per item and you probably just exceeded the income you were making from film in its entirety.

          Like

        • P says:

          But for goodness sake, if you’re a company like Fuji, have some respect for your heritage and keep film alive and affordable (and bring back ACROS, while you’re at it). That goes for all the film manufacturers out there, whose origins are film, even if film isn’t your primary source of revenue anymore, pay tribute to the founders of your company and to your history, and keep film alive and affordable to everyone, even if it doesn’t make you much, if any, real money. After all, if it’s not a big part of your overall business anymore, then it’s not going to hurt you very bad, is it? That’s my two cents on the matter.

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        • P says:

          Regarding digitizing film with a DSLR (or mirrorless camera), a macro lens, and a light source (typically a lightpad or a controlled flash) — While I won’t argue that reasonably high quality results can’t be achieved using this method (they can, I admit), I still ultimately see this as nothing more than a stop-gap solution to the very problem I’ve been trying to address. But it’s not a real solution, in my opinion. There are a great many issues with this sort of setup being practical or truly and faithfully showcasing the unique qualities of film as a medium (and more specifically, each unique emulsion). I’ll detail a few of them in the comments that follow. Despite the problems, it is probably a better option than flatbed scanning for 35mm, or even using some of the currently available and massively overpriced dedicated film scanners, if someone has the means to set up such a system.

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        • P says:

          One of the biggest issues with this method is when attempting to digitize color negative film. Getting accurate colors/temperature/white balance/etcetera is not an easy task. That said, there are people out there making huge strides to address this problem, but it still has a long way to go before I think it’s viable. Color slides are much less of a problem in this regard, but still have their own set of challenges as well. There’s a reason why people still shoot slides in the digital age. It’s because the way slides capture a scene’s light/colors/saturation/etcetera is incredibly unique and can’t be faithfully replicated digitally. So do people really think that a slide, which captured a scene and was then digitized with a digital sensor, can somehow faithfully represent what the same digital sensor couldn’t do directly? Logically that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but maybe I’m missing something. Thankfully, B&W film is much easier to digitize and get good results using this method, and that’s probably what most people who need a solution like this are generally shooting anyways. After all, while some people out there do, most of us don’t develop our own C-41 or E-6, even if we develop B&W. I would venture to guess that if a person is shooting large amounts of color negative or slide film that they are probably pros and as such can afford to work with a pro lab for their scanning needs. That is not the audience I’ve been addressing in my replies who desperately need a proper home scanning solution (or another alternative is for non-pro labs to stop thinking they are and return to charging fair prices to consumers — probably wishful thinking). Everything I’ve been talking about is in the context of all us amateurs because we are not pros getting paid for jobs that we can then just build the cost of processing/scanning into what we charge for our services. I’m assuming basically everyone reading this is an amateur/hobbyist (or possibly retired pros, as well), not a working pro. On that note, can any non-pros out there who care about shooting slides even afford to shoot them anymore due to the cost?

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        • I think this opens a larger can of worms P. That is, those who (amongst which I include myself when I was shooting film) extol the virtues of film photographs over digital, but ultimately the “film” images we have saved and share are ones that have been digitally scanned.

          The argument then is, if you’re using a DSLR to scan colour film negatives, and the DSLR is capable of producing good enough results (in layman’s terms the DSLR’s innards have a good enough range of colours, tones etc), then why not just use the DSLR in the first place?

          (My main argument here would be that using film cameras is a different experience, regardless of there’s even a roll of film in them!)

          Also, if you’re someone scanning film with either a DSLR or a flatbed scanner yourself, or have a lab scan the negs to a CD or memory stick or online folder for you, and have never had prints made directly from the negatives, how do you even KNOW how accurate the colours are? All you’ve ever seen are digital interpretations of them.

          And if you’re not too concerned with having images that are as authentic and true to prints made from the negatives of the original film emulsion as possible, then again, why not use a digital camera? You’ll end up in the same place in your workflow – in something like LightRoom, Photoshop, Snapseed etc, applying digital tweaks to digital images…

          This discussion is virtually endless! : )

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        • P says:

          Another major problem with this method is that even if someone fabricates such a “box” that they then mass produce for consumers, not everyone owns a DSLR or mirrorless body (I don’t, and honestly I don’t care to). And even less people have proper macro lenses (1:1 really is necessary for the best results and they’re very expensive). Of course, people can use standard lenses with extension tubes/bellows instead, but the quality won’t be as good as with a proper macro lens and if they’re trying to utilize the full digital sensor area they’re bound to have two more problems to deal with: distortion and vignetting. To try to remedy those problems one can possibly experiment with enlarger lenses, but then adapting those to a digital body becomes trickier still.

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        • Again this comes down to how “good” people want the images to be. I have no direct experience with the DSLR set up, but if an affordable set up can produce results “better” than you can get with a flatbed scanner, and in a fraction of the time, many people are going to be more interested in this approach.

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        • P says:

          That brings us to the next major problem: not everyone is utilizing the same digital body, or the same lenses, so for anyone to manufacture a “box” that works for everyone, with the equipment they already own, becomes a real nightmare. Is the digital sensor full-frame? APS-C? Micro-four-thirds? Is the lens a true macro lens or something else? What’s the lens mount? What’s the size of the filter ring (potentially needed to ensure the camera’s sensor plane is perfectly parallel to the film strip)? What’s the focal length? Etcetera, etcetera. I think you get the point.

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        • P says:

          Another issue is that each digital sensor, and camera, is going to provide different results than others on the market. This means that the results one person gets when scanning a certain emulsion, let’s say TRI-X, may — and likely will — look totally different on another person’s similar setup, even if they scan the exact same piece of film. The purpose of scanning film is to faithfully capture the unique aesthetics and qualities of that piece of film, and to have uniformity in its representation. DSLR/mirrorless scanning won’t provide this, at least not outside of a single person’s setup. I guess people could argue that the present situation is already actually worse in this regard, and I won’t say they’re wrong as the current situation is so bad it’s not even funny (that’s why we’re discussing it). But if two different people both shot a roll of TRI-X in similar lighting conditions, rated it at the same speed, developed it identically, and took the rolls to two different labs for scanning, then if the labs do their jobs correctly either of those two people’s scans should have the unmistakable characteristics of TRI-X, rated at said speed using said method, shot in said lighting conditions, and developed in said chemistry. It should be blatantly obvious, and in my experience it is if labs do their jobs right. This is true even if one lab uses Noritsus and the other Fujis. The images won’t look identical, but the unique qualities of different emulsions, along with how they were effected by exposure and development methods, should still be faithfully replicated if the lab operator knows what they’re doing. After all, these scanners are capable of scanning at very high DPIs, so the individual grain (down to a certain minimum particle size) of every emulsion, and as such the entirely unique grain structure of each, should be being fully resolved by either of these minilab systems (an exception might be certain extremely fine-grain emulsions, like CMS 20 II for example, where scans would probably be effectively grain-less at the resolutions we’re typically dealing with). So even if their output doesn’t look 100% identical, very similar results should be able to be achieved with either minilab system, and both should faithfully represent whatever emulsion they scanned. I should note that most labs with Fujis obviously have no clue how to use them properly though, in my experience, and the results are generally atrocious, especially with B&W. But they are capable machines as I have seen results, mostly from individuals who own their own Fuji equipment, that indicate they are. Back to the “scans” coming out of the custom rigs we’re discussing — with these setups, if it wasn’t for the caption stating what the film stock was (even if the ISO of the film, what it was rated at, and all development details were given) the image may look great but I still likely wouldn’t have a clue what the emulsion was. It’s as if every digital camera imbues its own aesthetic into the image, confusing what the true “look” of the emulsion is. Legitimate film scanners, in theory, only capture the structure and qualities of the film emulsion itself (i.e. a highly accurate digital representation), not the film plus the digital sensor used plus the camera’s internal processing plus any lens anomalies. Personally, I want my film scans to look like my actual film, nothing more and nothing less. Isn’t that kind of the point of shooting film, to show off its incredibly unique qualities, qualities that the digital sensors in modern camera systems can’t and will never be able to replicate, regardless of what digital camera manufacturers try to tell you? Film is, after all, a real physical and tangible thing in an unadulterated state other than how one chose to expose/develop it, whereas digital cameras are really just a false effort to replicate the aesthetic of film by utilizing digital sensor technologies and a whole lot of code/software. Other than the instant gratification of digital, which I would argue isn’t gratifying at all, it almost seems idiotic that film was replaced by digital, doesn’t it? Obviously this discussion is a massive one in and of itself because during the digitization of anything a certain amount of processing must be done; there’s simply no way around it. But I believe a level of authenticity, uniformity, and consistency must exist or we arrive back at the question of why bother with film as a medium at all?

          Like

        • If we want to be true to the original film emulsions though, wouldn’t we just skip all digital “interpreations” entirely and have prints made from the negatives? If you’re going with some kind of digital scan, then there’s instantly a compromise. It just comes down to how much you know or care about the difference between them.

          Like

        • P says:

          Dan, you mentioned that the sensors in modern digital cameras as well as modern camera optics are likely superior to what is in flatbed scanners for the purpose of digitizing film. For small/medium formats (35mm and 120) that’s probably true. But when comparing to what existed previously in quality consumer dedicated roll film scanners, it’s definitely not. The engineering behind the sensor and optical design for dedicated film scanning hardware is vastly different than that of camera systems. This is by necessity, as the way they function and their intended purposes are very, very different. I imagine this is also why minilab scanners are not just a very expensive variation of the type of device we’ve been discussing. I do think we’ve gotten to a point where the sensors in modern digital camera systems, if paired with a proper lens, can achieve very serviceable results when used to digitize film, and do so relatively quickly. But they’re still a long way away from even coming close to achieving what a quality dedicated film scanner is capable of in terms of both the level of detail that can be captured as well as accurately and faithfully representing the film material being digitized. Do some searching and find the people out there on Flickr who have built insanely expensive versions of what we’ve been talking about, and who actually upload their images at an appreciable resolution. Then do the same for people using Nikon Coolscans or other similar “ancient” dedicated film scanners. The difference is night and day.

          Like

        • P says:

          There are a lot more concerns with this method that we could get into, but I’m going to leave it there. I think you get where I’m coming from. This type of system has so many variables that to do it right, really every person would need to build their own unique setup after they have literally done all the math involved. Most people are not going to do that, even if they’re capable and already have most of what they need. Then, even if they do, whether their results are even a true and faithful representation of the actual film or if the “scans” are so heavily impacted by the digital system used that the unique qualities of the film itself are lost is another legitimate concern and something to be considered.

          It will be interesting to see how the pixl-latr works out. I do applaud Hamish for trying to bring such a device to the market to help people who choose to go this route, but it still doesn’t do anything for those of us who don’t already have a lot of expensive digital equipment and who have no interest at all in going this route, like myself. But for those who do, I think it’ll be a great thing. He’s certainly doing a lot more than the film manufacturers are in this regard, and I appreciate that.

          Like

        • P says:

          All that said, even if people are able to use this method and get nice results, that in no way means it’s the solution; it’s just further evidence of how dire the film scanning problem really is. And that’s all it is, in my opinion. We still need a real solution, meaning a proper and affordable dedicated film scanner that is simple, fast, and does the quality of the medium justice.

          Wow, that was long. Sorry! But I do hope someone read through it all as I tried to bring up a lot of things that people may find helpful, haven’t previously thought about, or at the very least find interesting.

          But as you said, Dan, we’ll just have to watch with interest and see what happens.

          Once again, take care!

          Like

        • P says:

          Jim, after doing some reading as to possibly why my comments weren’t going through, I think it may have to do with the poor quality of the Akismet spam filter. If all my messages that never posted went into your spam, then at this point just leave them there. It’ll cause more confusion if they are all the sudden just dumped to the page, creating tons of duplicate information and a total mess. Sorry, and thank you.

          Like

        • P says:

          I assumed that was the case after looking into it. Sorry for the mess. There are still a lot of duplicate comments. In fact, now that you let the first post from 10:09pm go through, everything else can be deleted since all the other comments are just broken up pieces of that one. You can wipe all subsequent comments ater that one out, which would probably be good for the sake of continuity and clarity. But man, was trying to get things to go through aggravating, especially since at first I didn’t have a clue why. I almost gave up. I probably should have. Dealing with technology that thinks it’s smarter than you are gets extremely old. I feel the same way with auto-corrected text, which usually creates more typos for me than it fixes. It’s all frustrating, and I’m sure you can relate. Sorry again for the mess!

          Like

  8. P says:

    The article about Fuji you mentioned was written by EM on Emulsive, and I believe he states in that article that Fuji’s film division only accounts for one percent (yes, 1%, as in 1/100th) of their net profits. If that is true, and it probably is, then what I don’t understand is why nobody I’ve seen discuss this has thought about it from the other perspective (certainly nobody has written about it that I’ve come across), the correct perspective in my mind, and not the “bottom dollar/everything is about money” outlook. Think about this, if Fuji continued to manufacture and sell film at zero percent profit, meaning they do nothing but break even, then their net profit as a company would only drop by a measly one percent. I mean seriously, personally I think they would have enough respect for their origins, their incredible past, and their legacy within the film industry to keep the film division alive even if it doesn’t make them a single cent. Again, we’re talking about one percent of who they are today. Isn’t paying homage to one’s origins worth that, especially if you’re doing as well as Fuji and can afford it no problem? If not, that’s just sad, plain and simple. And if money really is that big of a concern to you as a company, then increase the cost of whatever, arguably valueless, consumer makeup/cosmetic products you’re manufacturing by a couple of cents per item and you probably just exceeded the income you were making from film in its entirety. But for goodness sake, if you’re a company like Fuji, have some respect for your heritage and keep film alive and affordable (and bring back ACROS, while you’re at it).

    Like

  9. Jim, sorry if I added to any confusion. I was replying to some of P’s comments via the notification drop down, then realised after a while comments and parts of comments were being duplicated.

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  10. P, I’m not sure if all my replies have come through as I was replying to comments via the WP notification bell, not on Jim’s blog. I don’t if I’ve replied to a comment that was already deleted so my comment has nothing to reply to and nothing to “hang on” to. Anyway, fascinating discussions!

    Like

    • P says:

      Yeah, Dan, I really messed things up last night as I kept attempting to post my comments, but nothing would happen. So I kept trying, and kept trying… At first I thought something was just glitching with the submission form or my internet, but then I started thinking there was possibly a character limit so I decided to break up my massive original comment into smaller chunks and attempt to post them individually. This turned into an even bigger disaster, as a lot of these smaller comments wouldn’t go through either; and then I was even more confused. Nonetheless, I kept trying — for way too long — as I felt I had spent too much time writing my reply to the things you had brought up since I last posted anything to give up on it too quickly.

      I eventually came to my senses and started searching for a reason why my comments weren’t being published and came to the conclusion that the Akismet spam filter must be aggressively filtering my comments and throwing them straight into the trash. Jim later confirmed my suspicion. But it was too late. The damage was done. I had created a mess that dumped all over the page once Jim marked my comments as not spam.

      My original, full length (gigantic) reply is the one timestamped 10:09pm, at the top of all the rest, immediately following your comment at 3:20pm on the 26th. My 10:09pm comment didn’t show up until Jim released it from the clutches of the spam filter many hours later.

      I think he’s already deleted a lot of the duplicate/redundant comments, but a lot remain. Jim, as I said in an earlier reply, feel free to delete everything following the 10:09pm comment. The rest can go as they’re all redundant. The 10:09pm comment is the only one that really matters.

      Sorry again, Jim, and to you as well Dan. I really caused a nightmare. I guess now I know better.

      But yes, it has been a fascinating discussion. I’ve enjoyed it immensely. Maybe we can continue it later on without me doing any more damage to Jim’s comment area for this blog post.

      Like

      • At this point I’m leaving the comments on this post as they are and moving on. I think everyone who cared to be a part of the discussion figured everything out okay!

        Like

        • P says:

          Haha, okay, Jim! I really am sorry. I think you and Dan are probably the only ones who were reading my replies anyways due to their lengths, so it probably doesn’t matter at this point if there’s redundant junk strewn all over the place. It may, however, mess up the tally for your “most commented on” posts that you put together annually, but hopefully not.

          Like

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