Film Photography

A new (old) scanner

I’ve been unhappy with the 35mm scans my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II produces. They lack sharpness and shadow detail. I’ve done everything I can figure out in VueScan to make them better.

I’ve complained about this before, and reader P paid sharp attention. He contacted me recently to recommend a dedicated 35mm scanner he found used for a good price, refurbished, at KEH. I bought it straightaway.

It’s the Minolta DiMAGE Scan Dual II, which was manufactured in about 2003. This scanner’s maximum output is 2,820 DPI, yielding images of roughly 3680×2580 pixels. That’s nearly 10 megapixels, which is enough for anything I do with my images.

When it arrived, I quickly scanned a negative strip from a roll of Ilford Delta 400 I shot in my Olympus XA in December to make sure the scanner functioned. It did, but my scans weren’t sharp. So I tried again later with the same strip, digging into the manual and into VueScan’s settings to get focus right. I got very good sharpness that time.

I’m going to show you all four frames from both scanners. In each pair, the Scan Dual II scans are first and the CanoScan 9000F scans are second. I’ve tweaked both in Photoshop to my liking, within the limits of the scan — but the ScanDual scans didn’t need very much help. They are far better than the CanoScan scans, especially in contrast and sharpness. The contrast is apparent right off, but you need to see these scans at full size to appreciate the sharpness difference. To do that, click to see them on Flickr and then click them there to see them larger.

At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park

Even though the Minolta is 17 years old and relies on a USB 1.0 interface, I got scans faster than I ever do from the Canon. This is in part because VueScan was able to accurately detect frames in the Minolta, and it can’t in the Canon for some reason. I have to painstakingly select each frame before scanning.

The Minolta scans are far sharper than the Canon scans straight off the scanner. No amount of Photoshopping can make the Canon scans look sharp, while a tiny bit of unsharp masking makes the Minolta scans look great.

This scanner’s native software doesn’t work with Windows 10. Fortunately, VueScan recognized this scanner instantly and was ready in seconds to make scans from it.

I kept going, this time with a strip of color film. This is Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400, shot in my Olympus OM-2n using the 50mm f/3.5 Olympus Zuiko MC Auto-Macro lens. I sent this film to Fulltone Photo for developing and scanning. My scans from the Scan Dual II are first, and Fulltone’s scans are second. I adjusted VueScan’s settings as best I could but still got rather cool scans. So I adjusted white balance and a few other settings on them in Photoshop.

The Scan Dual II scans are not far better than the Fulltone scans. I rather prefer the color Fulltone delivered — but it could be that after all these years I’m just used to the color a lab’s Noritsu scanner delivers. Now that I’m looking at these again, the ScanDual scans might have a slight magenta cast, and removing it might help. Yet these scans are acceptable for the day I might choose to develop color film at home, or wish to rescan an old color negative.

Tree tunnel
Tree tunnel in autumn
Harvested
Harvested
Harvested by the barn
Barn in the harvested field
Abby and Amherst
Abby & Amherst

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Film Photography

Ilford Delta 400 in LegacyPro L110

I’ve had about enough of my scanner, a Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II. Despite getting negatives with gorgeous density when I developed Ilford Delta 400 in LegacyPro L110, a Kodak HC-110 clone, about half of the scans look terrible. I used the Ilford data sheet recipe of Dilution B, 7:30 at 20° C. I made the photos in my wonderful Olympus XA.

I made these three images on a graffiti wall in Bloomington when I was there to walk in a park with my oldest recently. The tonality and sharpness are pretty good. These images needed very little post processing.

Sank
Superhero

On the way home I stopped in Martinsville to see an old friend, this brick road that was probably laid in the 1910s. It is the precursor to State Road 39, which is maybe 500 feet to the left, out of the frame. The bricks in the foreground look nearly three-dimensional, as if you can reach out and touch them.

Old brick road, Martinsville, IN

I went to McCormick’s Creek State Park to walk with my youngest. Thanks to COVID-19, I’m seeing my adult children in the outdoors whenever the weather allows it and I can get away. My scanner just couldn’t pull good detail out of the shadows on these negatives.

At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park

I had a chance to visit my favorite abandoned bridge on the way home. It was starting to get dark that gray afternoon and the XA gave me shutter speeds of 1/15 or less at apertures that would secure lots of depth of field. I backed off to f/5.6 as a compromise, but for some reason I got underexposed negatives. My first scans were so dark as to be unusable. I re-scanned these images, tweaking settings to bring out the shadows, and got images like this one. It’s better, but still not great.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

I have no idea what happened in this image, which I made at the Bloomington park. It’s grainy and not sharp, and the tones are flat. Maybe that reflecting mirror fooled the meter?

Switchyard Park, Bloomington

I finished the roll in downtown Zionsville. This is the best image from that little walk, technically. A couple other images have a more interesting composition, but I whiffed focus or shook the camera a little. It was a heavily overcast day and again I was getting slow shutter speeds at f/5.6. I’ve had great luck with the XA in crappy weather before, so I don’t know what happened here.

Jewelers

The Olympus XA is a never-miss camera for me, which heightens my disappointment in these images. The negatives look great, it’s just that my scanner isn’t getting the detail I know is there.

Stay tuned — a solution is on the horizon.

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Oops

Oops
Olympus XA
Ilford Delta 400
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B
2020

When I have film in a little camera like my Olympus XA, I tend to carry it with me everywhere I go. I had some Ilford Delta 400 in the XA when I visited my mom. We sit out on her patio next to a propane heater, which keeps us warm enough even when temperatures are in the 40s. We haven’t tried it yet with temperatures below 40. The propane heater wouldn’t be necessary at all were it not for COVID-19, of course.

Mom has a keen eye for nice things, and so she noticed my XA right off. As I showed it to her, I accidentally fired the shutter. The little orange button is so sensitive and easy to fire when you don’t mean to! This is a shot of the balcony above her condo, and the sky. I rather like how it turned out.

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Film Photography

single frame: Oops

A camera misfire that turned out.

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Cars

Cars of my past
Olympus XA
Kosmo Foto Mono
2017

I haven’t owned many cars in my time but until these two I never missed one when it was gone.

I really loved that Toyota Matrix and I was sad when I had to let it go. It had become a beater worth maybe $500, and it needed a repair that cost twice that. When you own a beater, you think long and hard about every repair because the accumulating repair money would soon buy a better car. You learn to live with most broken things. But in this case, the broken thing made the car a safety risk. Goodbye, Matrix.

I wasn’t excited about the Ford Focus when I bought it. The price was right and it met a critical requirement of carrying me, the kids, and the dog. But then I found out that it handles like a sports car, cornering tight and flat. It had decent oomph for an economy car. I threw that car hard down twisty highways. I loved driving it. But it was getting up there in miles, and my son needed a car, so I sold it to him and bought a used VW Passat. The Passat is a surprisingly good car, perhaps the most reliable and competent vehicle I’ve ever owned. But it just isn’t fun like the Focus.

My son had the Focus for about a month when someone ran a stop sign and put an end to that poor little Ford. My son was uninjured. His stepdad found a great deal on a used 20-year-old Saturn with just 30,000 miles on it. Between the insurance payout and the price of the Saturn, my son came out $500 ahead. Not bad!

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Film Photography

single frame: Cars of my past

Two cars I don’t own anymore.

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Black Chrysler

Black Chrysler
Olympus XA
Arista Premium 400
2013

I’ve gotten so much good use from my Olympus XA since I bought it in 2012. It’s so small and easy to take along, and it has a great lens.

I used to wear cargo shorts to the Mecum auction every year because could stuff my pockets full of small cameras. My Kodak EasyShare Z730, my Canon PowerShot S80, and my Canon PowerShot S95 all came along every year. I had two battery packs each for the Z730 and the S80, and four for the S95. I routinely took more than a thousand digital photos at the auction, which drained every battery.

I used the digitals to make some pleasing shots, but also just to document the cars. When I shot film — and only one or two rolls, to manage costs — it was always about making pleasing shots. The Olympus XA treated this 1938 Chrysler Royal right.

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Film Photography, Old Cars

single frame: Black Chrysler

A 1938 Chrysler Royal.

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Film Photography, Travel

Crossing the Chicago River on Kodak T-Max 400

I had a lot of good photographic luck on our early-January trip to Chicago. So much so that I’m still sharing photographs from the trip in late March! I made these crossing the Chicago River at both Jackson Street and Adams Street. On Adams Street, we were walking to our breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s; on Jackson Street, we were on our way back. It was the end of our trip; driving home followed breakfast. I had Kodak T-Max 400 in my Olympus XA, and I hoped to finish it before we got back to our parking garage. I failed, but it was fun trying. I’m usually careful not to waste shots when shooting film, but on this walk I photographed freely. It was a lot more fun that way!

On the Chicago River
On the Chicago River
On the Chicago River
On the Chicago River
On the Chicago River

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