Poor 35mm Scan Quality?


TPF Noob!
Dec 12, 2015
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Charleston, SC
Can others edit my Photos
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Hello, everyone!
This is the first time I've ever posted, and I'm hoping for some answers maybe.

First a little background; I'm attending my local technical college for film production (I love movies) and the main core of the curriculum is shooting on 16mm and 35mm cameras. Because of this and my love of film, I decided to get back into shooting film photography.

A couple of months ago I bought a Canon AE-1. Yesterday afternoon, I went downtown and shot a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 film that I bought from B & H photo. I brought them to the only lab still in town that develops film. I had them do a normal process and scan the images to a CD. When I came home, I was quickly disappointed to see that the pictures looked pretty bad. The exposure was mostly correct, the color was fine. It just looked like a really low resolution scan. I'm not sure if this is just a standard scan the lab does, and I have to ask for a nice, high quality scan. I used two primes with it; a FD 28mm and a FD 50mm. I use both of these lenses (via adapter) on my GH2 and have no problem with quality. I've always gotten sharp and punchy pictures with them. For some reason, my scanned pictures looked, for a lack of better word, 'muddy'. Blurry, kind of soft, and pretty disappointing. I've attached a few to give you guys an idea.

I've used a Loupe to look at the negative against the light, and it looks fine and sharp (from what I can tell). I'm not sure what the issue is; whether it's the camera itself, the film (hope not), or the lenses in some way (really hope not). Sorry for the long rant; I was looking forward to looking at crisp, beautiful film, and was pretty upset with the result. Any help is appreciated. Thanks! (Sorry for the long rant!)


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Rare is the commercial lab than scans film at high-res as SOP. The images you posted are at 1544 pixels long.... not much at all. Fine for emailing and posting om FaceSpace and MyBook, but not much else.
You will have to ask about higher resolution scans, and the cost.

I have had the lab do scans, then I re-scan selected negatives on my flatbed scanner, saves a lot of time for a reasonable cost.

Those are evaluation-grade scans..useful to look through and see what the images "are", and okay to e-mail or upload for casual use, easily sent, easily stored because, well, they're small and low-resolution scans. For people who are working like Phil is, this size of a scan file is fine...he can select the ones he likes, and then scan them at high resolution on his own scanner setup. Many people would want a much higher-resolution scan, especially if the price is reasonable. MAKING high-quality scans one frame at a time on a home-type scanner (either flatbed or a dedicated film scanner) is a rather slow process; the lab has the advantage of a very expensive and FAST scanner that can scan the uncut film, and that alone saves time.

I looked at your images: I would say the lenses are fine. There's some clues that the lenses are resolving even small details, all the way out to the corners of the frames...but the SCAN resolution, and sharpening, are both low.
Sorry for the late reply, everyone. I appreciate all the feedback.

I called the lab today, and they did tell me that they did just a standard scan. They do offer a high resolution scan (around 7200 DPI), but unfortunately they charge $3 a frame. For a typical 36 exposure roll, that's $108. I found another that offered to do high res scans for about $15-20 total for a roll. But I may do some research and save for my own scanner since I would like to make this a serious hobby (any recommendations would be great). Again I thank you all for the replies.

Also, the corners of the frames being black were my fault. I used a rubber donut on my lenses that got a little bent in my bag, and folded into frame a little bit. I didn't see them when I took the pictures.
Most Fuji Frontier or Noritsu labs' scan default is what you. Both are capable of higher resolutions that shouldn't cost you more $$$. Just make sure the operator knows how to switch scan resolution. Fujifilm.ca scans my 35mm film at around 3-4MB. Not huge but adequate for web use. Cost is $5/roll for process/scan service. It helps keep the dust off my pet film Nikons.

BTW, the contrast in some your shots is hellishly high which doesn't help.
I wish Derel wasn't so darn smart. He's good.
I have learned, since the early days of this century, not to trust neighborhood labs. Since film use went down I suspect they do not maintain their lab equipment well (it costs money). If you made a movie on 16mm film, say, would you sent the film to Walgreens or something? Think of the scans you got at your neighborbood drugstore or whatever a poor quality proofs. You can get a film scanner and make high quality scans at home. It is not easy. It took me a year of futzing around with my scanner to get really good quality scans and I looked over the shoulder of folks who knew what they were doing a time or two too. But you don't need a drum scanner or spent an arm and a leg. A professional printmaker said the scans I made on my Epson v500 Photo scanner to make 11x16 prints are good enough to make prints four times larger. Hang in there.

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