Scanning black-and-white 35mm negatives with the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mk II and ScanGear

I scanned some black-and-white negatives recently with my CanoScan 9000F Mark II and the ScanGear software that came with it, and I want to share the results.

I took much of the advice some of you gave me in my last CanoScan post. Namely, I scanned at 4800 dpi and turned off all of the image enhancements, including unsharp masking and dust/scratch reduction, that ScanGear offers.

My scans were still mighty soft, but what I learned from you is that this is to be expected, and it’s what unsharp masking is for. So I looked up some online information about how to use Photoshop’s unsharp mask tool and fiddled with the settings until I liked the results.

This is the scan I made that I like the most.

Here’s the scan Fulltone Photo made, after I Photoshopped it to my liking. Both scans have their positive qualities. I like the great detail the Fulltone scan shows in the brick foundation of the log cabin. My scan looks good to me and I would happily use it for any of my usual purposes.

My Old Kentucky Home

Let’s pixel peep for a minute. At 4800 dpi, my scans turned out to be about 6800 pixels on the long edge. There’s minor variability among them in length and width because ScanGear determines each image’s edges individually. The Fulltone Photo scans are all 6774 pixels long. So these are comparable scans. Here’s a detail from my scan of the above image at 100%.

Here’s about the same square from the Fulltone scan at 100%. I’m straining at the seams of my experience here, but at 100% the Fulltone scan looks more usable to me despite its enhanced grain.

But at blog sizes, my CanoScan/ScanGear scans are great.

The Fulltone Photo scan is below. Both scans look wonderful to me.

My Old Kentucky Home

I made 1200-pixel-long copies to upload here. 1200 pixels is big enough for every blog purpose I have.

Again, my CanoScan and ScanGear scans are, at blog size, in the same league as the Fulltone scans.

Maker's Mark Distillery *EXPLORED*

One more scan fro the CanoScan and ScanGear.

In this case, I prefer the Fulltone scan. As you can see, my scanner got some ghosting from the sprocket holes. Also, in my scan the barn is softer; its roof slats aren’t as defined as in the Fulltone scan.

Maker's Mark Distillery *EXPLORED*

I made these photos on Arista EDU 200 with my Nikon FA and 35-70mm Zoom Nikkor, by the way.

I am getting somewhere with the CanoScan and ScanGear. Thank you for your kind and excellent suggestions.

In this same scanning session I scanned more 35mm color negative scans, also at 4800 dpi with all image enhancement turned off. I’ll share results in an upcoming post, but I got mixed results.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.


27 responses to “Scanning black-and-white 35mm negatives with the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mk II and ScanGear”

  1. Sam Avatar

    Nice results!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Sam!

  2. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

    Canon’s definitely softer, but you’re right about it not mattering at web sizes.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Maybe if I keep at it I can improve the Canon’s results even more.

      1. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

        Could be right, then again you know the old saying that you can’t polish a turd…

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Well, yes. But I’m not sure I’d call these scans turds. They’re not good enough for professional publication, to be sure. But they’re good enough for any purpose I typically use scans for.

      2. P Avatar

        I’m sure you will, Jim. I look forward to seeing more of your personal scans as you refine your technique.

  3. P Avatar

    Very nice, Jim. I’m glad you were able to get the sort of results you had hoped for with B&W. I’m sure as you refine your workflow things will only get better and better.

    When you had these negatives pulled out did you happen to evaluate their density? I still suspect they’re probably a bit on the thin side. It would be very interesting to know what the actual negatives look like.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m by no means an expert at evaluating negatives but yes, I’d say they were a little thin.

      1. P Avatar

        That’s good to know as it confirms my suspicion that Fomapan 200’s true speed isn’t actually 200 when developed in Clayton F76 Plus. It isn’t in most other developers either, by the way. But that’s not a problem. It just needs to be rated a tad lower. This is helpful information for me as I’ve considered using F76 Plus in the future, so thanks for letting me know. I like that it comes as a liquid concentrate and is more eco friendly than most others out there. And based on everything I’ve seen and read, it is at least as good as D-76, if not better. It might be one you’d be interested in trying out as well if you eventually decide to do something other than a monobath. I’m still very interested to see your results once you get around to doing the EI 125/160/200 test. I think you’ll be amazed and very pleased with how much better the results are when the film is given a bit more light.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I’m used to color negative films liking overexposure but not b/w. Maybe one day I’ll try it with this film.

        2. P Avatar

          You have to keep in mind that the film speed of B&W emulsions is not fixed. Unlike color processes (C-41 and E-6) that are entirely standardized, B&W processing is not. So regardless of the indicated speed stamped on the box (which may or may not even be based on ISO standards), your chosen developer and developing method might not match that speed. The effective film speed of B&W emulsions is dependent upon the developer you use, the dilution, and so on. Depending on these factors, you could have a loss of speed, or an increase in speed. This is why if you start looking at the tech sheets of various film stocks you find that in some of them the manufacturer tells you to rate a film at one speed for a certain developer, but to rate it at a different speed if using another developer (a different speed than what they themselves printed on the box), in order to achieve negatives with proper density and normal contrast. In the case of Fomapan 200, the consensus seems to be that the only way to achieve the speed printed on the box (i.e. 200) is to use a speed increasing developer, but that with “normal” developers it is not a 200 ASA emulsion. So if the developer being used doesn’t give an effective film speed of 200, then “overexposing” Fomapan 200 wouldn’t really be overexposing it at all. It would just simply be rating it at the correct speed to yield negatives with good density and normal contrast based on the developer being used. This could be EI 100, 125, 160 or something else entirely. Thus, the number on the box may not be correct at all for the way the film is developed. Do note that I am not talking about pushing or pulling film here. That is something entirely different that will yield negatives with either higher or lower contrast, respectively.

          Take care.

  4. Chris and Carol Avatar

    Have you scanned color slides yet with the Canon? I’ve had excellent results but most of my slides are at least 30-40 years old so some “playing” is necessary during post-production.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes! Even older slides – late 40s/early 50s. Have a look.

  5. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I love using old cameras, taking photographs and even developing my own black and white film. Scanning…not so much. I wish I had your patience. A few years back, I scanned hundreds of old Kodachromes my Dad shot decades ago. I loved seeing those old chromes come back to life on my computer screen, but the scanning process was so tiresome. I will be following your progress for a possible spark of inspiration.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I don’t enjoy at all how long it takes to go from laying the negative in the scanner to having a usable image. There’s a lot of waiting and a lot of tedious clicking around Photoshop. I can’t imagine that I’m ever going to love this.

      However, I want to shoot more medium format and I just can’t stomach $17 per roll for processing and scanning only to get 8 or 12 images. This is pushing me hard toward buying a tank and the other paraphernalia to process my own. Then I’ll scan. And I’ll save a boatload of money.

      I’ve got two more posts in the can already with more scanner trials, including color medium format. Spoiler alert: the medium format negs scan way better.

  6. Mike Connealy Avatar

    Looks you are making rapid progress with your scanning. Not having any familiarity with the hardware and software you are using, I can’t contribute much in the way of suggestions. Looking back on my own efforts I see that my early years were characterized by too much sharpening and excessive saturation. These days I take a more pragmatic approach in an effort to get the most from my negative scans. I usually try the auto contrast and levels settings in photoshop first. If that doesn’t get me what I think is possible I then usually go to the ps CS2 options for adjusting highlights, midtones and shadows to get the balance I want. With b&w I also often try several film type profiles which helps to get the most from a set of images.
    There’s no question about the economics of home processing. It only costs me about a buck a roll to develop a roll of C41 color. If you do b&w stand development with Rodinal or HC-110, the processing cost is a small fraction of the color cost because of the high dilution.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Don’t we all have to walk such a journey? I look back on the images, all lab scanned, that I tried to improve in Photoshop early on and I tended toward too much contrast and saturation. I wonder in five years how I’ll criticize my editing of my current images. As I lean harder into scanning my own negatives at least I have the benefits of the last several years of experience with these tools to build on.

      1. Dan James Avatar

        Jim, I think our tastes evolve too, so when we look back at photos were were making and processing five years ago, they weren’t necessarily “wrong”, just we might do them differently now. This is why I rarely go back to old images and try a different processing approach with them – I reckon I could do this virtually every month and get a different result! I just have to process them the way I feel is best at the time, then move on. We can’t keep revisiting 1000s of images!

  7. Peggy Avatar

    As you know I have the same scanner and the results are always a little soft. It is very disappointing, especially when a cheap portable scanner does get sharp images…it just crops more. Unless I eventually go for proper printing, I have learned to accept it. I will keep an eye on your experiments though.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I have one of those cheap Chinese digitizers and yes, it delivers sharp images right out of the box. But the color is poor, and because it’s shoddily built there’s a light leak that sometimes mars the upper left corner of images. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs.

  8. Dan James Avatar

    Jim, glad to hear you’re getting results you’re happy with for b/w negs. That’s the holy grail with home scanning!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      If I can get decent b/w scans w/o buying any more gear or software, maybe I’ll shoot more b/w!

      1. Dan James Avatar

        Easier to develop your own b/w too I understand…

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I know other photobloggers who do both color and b/w and they say that color isn’t any harder, you just have to manage temperature precisely.

          1. Dan James Avatar

            OK. It’s much harder to shoot colour though, IMHO! : )

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: