Scanning negative films (35 and 120)

Started 4 months ago | Discussions thread
Franglais91 Senior Member • Posts: 1,122
DSLR/Hybrid with a macro lens and a Tablet

Baylock wrote:

Hi,

I've read a lot about this topic here and in some other forums. I have to say that it's confusing sometimes because people (legitimately) tend to become very technical and it's amazing to see how opinions can differ so much even though the topic is based on facts. I understand why, for sure, it's just confusing. At a certain point, I wonder how those technicalities are relevant in my case.

I often shoot 24x36 and 6x6 films in B&W. More often than not, I shoot in very low light (night), without flash and I use 3200 asa films or I push 400 ones up to 1600, depending on what I want to achieve. So, needless to say I have some grainy pictures.
FYI, I shoot in color too.
Now I want to scan those pictures the best I can (sharpness, resolution, color rendering and density) and I face a dilemma:

-Wet scanning + focus adjustment on a flatbed scanner (Epson V850 for instance)
-A film dedicated scanner (but the good ones, like theCoolscan or the Dimage multi pro that do both 35 and 120 are out of my reach)
-Digitizing with a camera (considering a High res camera like the A7R II for instance).

I know that a flatbed is more often than not disqualified for 35mm but here is the thing : considering I will wet scan ad buy the accessories to adjust the focus AND that my pictures are grainy, will I still benefit more from the other solutions ? To which extent ?

Film scanners seem to be the real thing, but the most accessible are dedicated to 35mm only and the others are stupidly expensive AND hard to find AND old enough to be a chore to make them work on an iMac (unless you buy one or two version of Silverfast, which is also crazy expensive).

Digitizing seems to be an elegant solution but if I'm convinced when it comes to sharpness and resolution, I'm not so sure about how it would handle density. As I shoot in the dark, I have quite a lot of contrast and I need to be able to extract all the details I can from the dense areas.
So, after a lot of reading, I'm back to square one.

In any case, I can go up to 1500 euros for a setup (considering second hand), IF I can get the most out of it, but not higher.
Still, I want the best I can get.

I read a lot about resolution but the confusing thing is that it seems to depend on the many things: the level of details contained in the film (as I said, most of my films are grainy) and how much those negatives have to be scaled (I plan to exhibit some of my stuff as an amateur and honestly, the bigger the better...). Some consider that people look at pictures from a distance, which allow some degrees of tolerance, but I don't. So I want my own work to be flawless, even at very close distances.
If, at any distance, it feels like digital or sub par, then it's a no go.

I know that printing in a dark room is the way to go then but I need to go digital because it's easier. And I don't have enough room in my amateur studio to make large prints anyway. I plan to send my files to a professional studio.

One last thing I have to insist on: I'm an amateur alright but it doesn't mean I don't want the best out of my pictures. So, if possible, let's consider I'm a pro with a tight budget, just for the sake of the discussion

Thank you for your opinions.
I would be glad to read what you have to say about this.

I've digitised thousands of my 24x36 and 6x6 negatives. Black-and-white is easy apart from the dust (silver gain is opaque to infra-red), colour slides are easy apart from the deep shadows and colour negatives are often a nightmare. Here are the tools that I've used:

- Nikon Coolscan IV 24x36 film scanner = very good but very slow plus the native software doesn't run on Windows 10

- Epson Flatbed scanner with illuminated back (pre V series) = better than nothing for 6x6 but it's really not very sharp. It doesn't resolve film grain. If the grain is part of your picture then it's a disappointment

- 46Mpix DSLR with 105mm macro lens on a tripod looking down towards the film in a film holder laid on top of a pile of books about 30cm above a 10-inch tablet with a white image flat on the floor = excellent and it cost me nothing

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