Epson V550 vs Heidelerg Drum Scan for Medium Format

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Barry Twycross Veteran Member • Posts: 3,200
Epson V550 vs Heidelerg Drum Scan for Medium Format
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I've not got much medium format film, only 50 6x7 negs, but they're my wedding photos, so I've been quite keen to get then scanned. My solution was to buy an Epson V550 and do it myself, the quality of that was called into question in a recent thread. And I started to wonder if I were missing anything.

So when my local pro printing house recommended an outfit which would do drum scanning, I thought I'd give that a go. Their service is not cheap, I opted for the best they could do which ends up with a 1GB 16 bit tiff, and costs more for one frame than the V550 did.

I got the result back and was impressed by the resolution, it was imaging the grain, at least to some extent, where the V550 only ever gives a hint of grain. The file was 137Mpix, but looks to have somewhere in the range of 50-100Mpix really.

My previous attempts with the V550 came to about 30Mpix. I'm really only interested in printing the pics at about 8x10, so 6Mpix would do for me, but more is better.

I then spent a little time trying to get the best scan I could from the V550. I'm using VueScan to do the scanning, and the drum scanners say they use SilverFast.

Comparing the output, it's obvious that the drum scanners added quite a bit of sharpening, I can get my output to look the same at lower resolutions with an aggressive unsharp mask. I'm really not fond of the colours the drum scanners came up with the shadows are very muddy and muted, and I haven't been able to make the colours look right to me.

The V550 VueScan output looks pretty good to, with a white balance adjustment. I set VueScan to do "Neutral" colours, which I understand to mean it adjusts the colours for what it things the particular neg stock should need, and doesn't look at the actual output. (It has other modes for that, which usually work better.)

Then I ran the result through my usual noise reduction, and Affinity Photo tone mapping, to brighten it up and came up with a reasonable result for the V550 scan. I couldn't make the drum scan colours look good. (If anyone can work out how to make them look like the V550 scan, I'd be interested.) Then I saved the result as a 100Mp file for the drum scan, and a 60Mp file for the V550 (after sharpening). The results are below.

(My blushing bride didn't want to show her face, so she's blurred out.)

In places the background on the V550 scan is problematic, and needs a bit of smoothing. As is, I think it'd print at 14". The faces could stand about a 50" print. The drum scan is showing less issues in the background, and could stand at least a 20" print, and the faces could stand about a 70" print.

So you do get something better, in resolution terms, from the drum scan, but I'm not happy with the colours, and I think I'll stick to careful use of the V550. That's good enough for me.

These desperately need some touch up. There was more dust etc on the drum scan than I was expecting, they were supposed to clean the neg before scanning. And despite using an IR clean, the V550 wasn't too good either.

Raw drum scan (just exported as a jpeg), was sent to me reversed. 137Mpix

Raw V550 scan. 60Mpix

Drum scan, noise reduced and tone mapped, 100Mpix

V550 finally result, 60Mpix

 Barry Twycross's gear list:Barry Twycross's gear list
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