Thoughts on the perfect scan - is it that important?

Started 5 months ago | Discussions thread
D Cox Forum Pro • Posts: 26,748
Re: Agree for B&W

Neil-O wrote:

Steven Seven wrote:

So I have to wonder if this obsession with *exactly* reproducing film with our scans is really important, or if it's just the film analog (heh) to pixel-counting.

I agree with you for B&W. A negative is not a final image, and just like I used to experiment with different papers, we're experimenting with curves in Photoshop today.

But a color negative is a different animal. I see two differences:

  1. Designers of a color negative emulsion have a certain final "look" in mind, a certain color profile.
  2. The orange mask is removed by chemical reactions during printing.

So if you're scanning, you probably want to:

  1. Properly simulate the result of chemical reactions in software. It is not a simple white balance adjustment.
  2. Preserve the original color profile of film.

In my opinion, consumer-accessible color neg scanning is, and has always been, in a sad state. 95% of Portra scans I see online do not look like Portra to me: most of them have horrid color shifts, others try to go after "true-to-life" look and end up resembling digital images from early 2000s.

Back in mid-2000s I had a Nikon Coolscan 5000 ED, arguably one of the best film scanners ever made, and despite my best efforts, I was only happy with my slide scans. One can always compensate for the horrible software/hardware with skill and practice (and some dpreview users do) but it's big enough PITA for me to stay away from color negatives.

This coronavirus situation has given me a lot of spare time and I've been culling loads of prints that frankly should have been binned a long time ago. Sifting through colour negative prints has been a deflating experience. Almost without exception I find the scanned negatives, on reflection, to be a poor representation. It makes no difference whether it's a lab scan or my own, comparing scanned negatives to chromogenic prints is just no contest.

I'm not sure you can fully compensate in post processing either, but as you say it is such an effort, and seems to go against the ethos of using film in the first place.

it is somewhat different with slides and I have a few prints that I am quite happy with, but I still wonder what they would have looked like wet printed.

Cibachrome prints from slides could be very good, although the high contrast of slides was difficult to deal with.

When "scanning" with a digital camera, HDR deals nicely with the high contrast. Many cameras have an HDR mode built in, if you don't mind the JPG output. Otherwise you can bracket and use Affinity Photo; but this is much slower.

It's been such a long time since chromogenic printing was the norm, I wonder how many observers of colour neg film images actually know what they should look like.

Slides are horrifically expensive to work with and famously intolerant of poor technique, but I'm coming to the conclusion that it's the only option for colour film as I can't see (consumer) scanning technology/software improving at all.

I wonder how good Nikon's in-camera software is ?

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