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Stick with film and get a decent scanner


Active Member
Remember, the following is from a person up to his eyeballs in top end MF digital equipment ... including a Leaf Aptus 75, Hasselblad H3D/39 & H2D/CFH-22, and a Hasselblad CFV.

Not only do I have it, but I've been using MF digital backs for many years now and do know how to get the most from them.

The digital backs are fantastic, I have to have them to survive in the commercial world of photography. And admittedly they are fun to use personally if you are an "immediate need" sort of person. However, were it not for that commercial need, I may have only secured the CFV ... if that.

The reason is that film is equally fantastic, even if you bring it into the digital domain after processing the film, and never go into the darkroom.

So with a fraction of the investment a digital back represents, you can equal (or IMHO, even exceed) MF digital imagery. Now I know there are lot of pretty accomplished folks that would beg to differ with me. But in discussions with them I've felt many didn't like the dicipline of film in the first place, and tend to prefer the flawlessly smooth regimentation of pixels over the randomness of grain ... which IMO adds that quality of being more lifelike and provides more of a sense of visual depth.

I was struck by this as I began using the new Epson 3800 to make larger prints than I've done in the past. Mind you, I've made four prints so far, three of which were shot on film and scanned on my old Minolta Multi-Scan Pro ... NOT the Imacon 949. I'll be printing some of those 949 scans next.

So, IMO, for a comparative pittance, one can stand toe-to-toe with the best digital backs out there ... you just won't be fullfilling that "immediate need" gap if you have one : -)

Shoot film and enjoy. Digital backs will always be there if you want one.

Fascinating post! The need for 'instant fullfilment' is
more and more a thing of everyday life. In that sense I'm
probably a bit non-typical (well, in other aspects I might
be non-typical just as well, but let us not go there

I generally just "know" what the film has captured for me, so I do not
feel the need to stare at an LCD screen. But given an LCD screen on a
digicam I will use it semi-regularly. Moving from 35mm towards MF
Hasselblad made me bracket even less than I did before. Unless I
manage to sweet-talk someone to let me use a MF digiback I will most
likely never find out if I would 'chimp' on a Hasselblad LCD or not.
Short of film going out of business completely of course.

Food for thought all this..

Marc, I agree on the film part. However, unless you can afford a 949, scanning film at 3200 dpi takes forever. On my Flextight Photo, a 6x7 scan takes about 10-15 minutes each, without dust removal after scanning. A MF digital back really cuts down the time to get a finished shot. The digital file looks cleaner, but the film has more information. I sometimes shoot both, first getting the digital shot, and then re-shooting the same scene with a film back to get a larger FOV. A 949 would definitely make film more attractive.
Sounds like you're an "immediate need" kind of guy Larry : -)

One inexpensive way to boost productivity with scanning is to stuff as much RAM in your computer as you can ... and get a scratch disk for PhotoShop to draw on. This doesn't speed up the scanning, but it does allow you to work on the previous scan in PS while the scanner works in the background scanning the next frame.
> I agree, to a degree, with several of your points.

> I use a Coolscan 80000ED, and at 4000dpi "true" resolution (no > interpolation), I can end up with a final image that is nearly > 9000x9000 pixels, 14bits deep. In practical terms, nearly 0.5 Gb/ > image. Digital backs have a fair ways to go to beat it.

> However, although I still think film ( or the scan of same) is > better quality, "instant" feedback and the near "zero" film cost > are great attractions. And like it or not, if you shoot more, you > end up with more keepers...( there is a reason National Geographic > photographers were quoted a few years ago as saying they could burn > 1000 rolls of film/assignment).

So each has its "thing", and best area of application, depending on the subject, environment, time demands, and a multitude of other factors....not forgetting the $$$ factor as well and how it creeps in there in numerous insidious ways.
Robert, I don't think the folks on this forum are stringers for National Geographic, nor shooting 1000 rolls of film when they do shoot ... and National Geo shooters don't use Hasselbald MF cameras that I know of ... their 35mm gear is a different animal.

I shoot 35mm digital for weddings for many of the reasons you mention, but getting better images isn't one of them. Not one GOOD shooter I know of has said their work gets better when they shoot digital verses film.

I, for one, wouldn't go back to film for commercal work. Shoot, burn, done. Studio work approved on the spot. No film, processing, or scanning charges.

However, that's a bit different than the applications most of the regulars here are involved with ... including me when it isn't for money ( I still do shoot some wedding work with a Hasselblad, but the vast majority is digital).

Lastly, $30,000. buys a lot of film and processing ... unless, of course you're blowing through 1000 rolls per assignment : -)
> Just making the point that each has its own unique advantages, in > specific circumstances. I use both depending on what outcome I > want, and the conditions I need to work under.

That said, I still think scanned film gives "better" imagery, although digital may be by far the preferred medium for a specific application or situation. So I lean heavily towards film if I am doing "fine art" type shots, but then toward digital for "commercial" shots.

As the saying goes, " Your mileage may vary".
Hi Larry,

> On my Flextight Photo, a 6x7 > scan takes about 10-15 minutes each

If you aren't scanning slides, then you should set your exposure time to minimum. You will get no degredation in image quality by doing this. I scan 6x6 in 3-4 minutes. You only need that long an exposure time for slides, or if you have a bad bulb, or your lense is stopped down too much.


That's exactly the point Robert, for most using MF for personal work, or fine art applications film remains a highly viable, even desirable media.

Those of us that already have MF digital backs have a choice .... which for me, and apparently you also, tends to be employed more in the commercial arena. I think there are more people in "personal photography" c& than commercial shooters contributing to this forum.

Austin, interesting comments. My approach has always been to spend the time doing the highest resolution 16 bit scan available from the scanner ... resulting in a "master scan" that can allow any size final print with-in the limits of reasonable post scan interpolation and taking viewing distance into account.

I also find it interesting that we spend tons of cash on arguably the finest optics in the world, take infinite care in making our exposures, and then become impatient with the actual print production.

This is obviously the digital age. However, what I am forwarding here is that film performs just fine even when migrated to digital reproduction. It is just a positive reinforcement for those feeling pressure to go digital as the capture media.

In the final analysis, with "personal" end use in mind, I would recommend investing in a good scanner before a digital back. All the post skills will be obtained through scanning, and it becomes an easy transition to a digital back later. In the mean time most of us have a lifetime worth of film that we can scan at our leasure. That in itself is an absolute joy to do, and makes a scanner all the more valuable.

I am just selling my complete darkroom equipment , but will not give up using film and develop the B/W myself .
Before i decided to buy the CFV , I almost bought the HASSELBLAD X1 SCANNER .
You remeber the discussions about that in an other thread .
The ARTIX SCAN 1800F i have , is a very good scanner for 4x5 and larger , but not for MF .
So the X1 is still on my list , as I also want to get good scans from my 6x6 , 6x9 and 6x12 films . And the X1 can also scan 4x5 sheet film .
Till i can afford , i will get the best images scanned by a professional lab , only about 5 km away from my place .
Equiptmentwise, digital and scanning give very different stories.

For digital, I have to restrict myself to only a few brands like Hasselblad H. Most of the cameras and backs will give a compulsory crop.The digital equiptments are expensive and they are still evolving with a volatile price.They are subject to high rate of depreciations.I have to keep myself up to date all the time and it is expensive to do so.

I would not agree that you need a 949 in order to give a good scan.I have an Imacon 646 for 645 it gives a 250Mb 16 bits file 35 million pixel for most people this is more than enough.The choice of equiptments is very broad if you have a 646 and that you don't have worries of being out of date.All your equiptments become full frame. You can start collecting classic equiptments and can see how fascinating it was even half a century ago.These images from the old equiptments could still be show up in your computer.You don't have to worry about depreciation and in fact you can enjoy the price of the equiptments going up.The current model of the Hasselblad scanner X1 has the same specification as my 646 but it is at least 2k more expensive. I saved by buying my 646 one year ago.Last year I invested on my Contax 645 and this year I can see the price surge of my system.

My 646 helped me in 35mm as well. It becomes 6300dpi in this format and gives a file 280Mb several times more pixel counts than the Canon 1Ds mark 2.When Leica introduced their M8 with maximal wide angle at 21mm a short while ago, I was enjoying my full frame M3 with Zeiss 15mm f2.8.

Scanning is less important in medium format because most of the images produced by the digital backs are very good. In smaller format when everything becomes critical, it is more important when the difference in image quality becomes much bigger. Images from 35mm digital cameras lack punch. Yes, It contains lots of details but it has a much paler complexion of colours.Darkness and brightness contrast is also lagging behind.
"I would not agree that you need a 949 in order to give a good scan."

This is true. I've made great scans with a Minolta Dual Scan Pro MF scanner. A Good Nikon MF scanner does a great job also ... both for the a fraction of the price of an Imacon or other high-end film scanner. The principle that you pay a lot for incremental improvements is as true for scanning gear as it is for other photographic gear.

However, the 949 (now called the X-1), is a different scanner than the 646 and 848. Setting aside that it is considerably faster, and can batch scan using multiple holders ... it has a completely different light source than the other Imacons. This is the first Imacon scanner to employ a diffused light source which simulates the look of an optical print made by an enlarger. The effect is high resolution scans with beautiful detail without enhancing the grain ... similar to how good fine art enlargers work. Also, the D-Max is 4.9 verses 4.6 of the other scanners. Not that there is anything wrong with any of the Imacons and the incredible work they can do ... it's just that they aren't all the same.

One of the reasons the Minolta MF scanner has achieved almost cult status is the invention of a replacement diffused light source by a 3rd party. This scanner now has it's own blog and links as to where to get the replacement light source and how to install it. There is even a poor man's diffusion device that you place in the film holder to approximate the effect with Minolta 35mm scanners like the 5400.

Jurgen, while there is an opportunity you should seek out a Imacon 949. There may be a few left, and available at a reduced price. I paid $5,500. less for mine and got a lot of free accessories with it ... almost the same price being asked for an 848 at the time. There is no difference between the Imacon 949 and the rebadged X-1. Hasselblad just doesn't want the Imacon branding on any products anymore.
MY BAD, I was thinking of the X5 not the X-1. The X-5 is the same as the 949. However, my comments concerning the 949 (AKA, X-5 ) still stand.

" ... and gives a file 280Mb several times more pixel counts than the Canon 1Ds mark 2."

Not the same thing Joseph, It's like comparing apples and oranges. Digital files are pure and regimented as a one-to-one import to the computer. It takes a much larger meg film scan to equal a smaller RAW file from a 1DsMKII.

But if it's the film look you want, then don't look to digital capture. All the simulated film looks I've seen look fake. Film grain is random and digital isn't.
> Actually I am an amateur. I have been shooting for 46 yrs ( since > age 8), sell a few images on micro-stock to stroke my ego a bit, > but decided I would not take the "pay cut" of being a professional > photographer. I have a PhD in Nuclear Chemistry, and currently work > as a DBA/consultant which is how I can afford the Hassy to begin > with!!! Maybe when I retire.......
Robert, it's funny how people get into this field. I'm also an amateur that periodically sells a few shots. I've got an MS in Polymer Chemistry and I currently work as an IT consultant. That's how we can afford some of this s tuff (also by keeping it under the wife's radar)!
Hi Marc,

> Austin, interesting comments. My approach has always been to spend the > time doing the highest resolution 16 bit scan available from the > scanner ... resulting in a "master scan" that can allow any size final > print with-in the limits of reasonable post scan interpolation and > taking viewing distance into account.

I still advocate exactly that. I assume you are replying to my post on reducing the exposure time? Reducing the exposure time has no effect on resolution or bit depth.


> The wife is the one who wanted me to start some of the micro- > the hobby had a chance of supporting itself. She also > has a hobby...knitting. She thinks $4/ball of yarn is outrageous so > you can imagine what she thinks of a 903SWC!!!!

How did you get into photography, chemistry, and then IT?

My father use to take 4x5 press shots for the railroad in the 1930-40s for accident reconstruction (he was civil engineer), so there was always a camera around the house. I started "kitchen sink" development when I was 8. 10 years later I went into chemistry ( partly due to the photography influence I think...I remember using ferricyanide to bring out the hilites of my B&Ws).

After that nuclear chem because it combined everything I had an interest in ...computers, physics, wet chemistry.

I started in 1979 using room size mainframes to analyze nuclear analyses of some of the Apollo moon rocks. By the mid/late-80s small computers started showing up connected to instruments in the lab, eventually the numbers in the computer (trends, etc) were more important than the instrumentation. By the mid-90s I was using databases (Rdb, Oracle) to manipulate the vast repositories of numbers, and hence where I am today......a database consultant and "closet" photographer!!

With the advent of "digital darkrooms" I haven't cracked a bottle for any "wet" chemistry ( of ANY sort) in 3+ years now.

I must admit however, that I am somewhat sad that my Beseler 23C sits in storage gathering dust. Old habits are hard to break. I rather miss the sweet aroma of acetic acid clinging to ones bed clothes at 3AM, or the dark stains under the fingernails from the Dektol.
" I assume you are replying to my post on reducing the exposure time? Reducing the exposure time has no effect on resolution or bit depth."

Yes Austin. Not challenging your post, just wondering how you go about reducing exposure time on a scanner?
Hi Marc,

> just wondering how you go about > reducing exposure time on a scanner?

Most scanners have an exposure time setting in the driver/software.


What scanner(s) have that ability?

Perhaps "most", but none that I've ever used. Not my Polaroid, Minolta nor Epson Flatbed (I just looked), and I'm pretty sure the Imacon doesn't, but I'll re-read the users manual and ask my re-seller who is an expert with that line of scanners. Hope it does, because even faster scans would be cool : -)