Scanned negative IQ

Discussion in 'Film Discussion and Q & A' started by Bill Thornhill, Oct 19, 2015.

  1. Bill Thornhill

    Bill Thornhill TPF Noob!

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    Hello All

    I've only recently become aware of people scanning negatives so they can be adjusted digitally. This has rekindled my interest in film, but I wonder if anyone could give me an idea of how good a technique this is as regards to image quality, especially when it comes time to print the digital files?
    I'm looking at getting into medium format but as I still have my old Nikon F 501 I may just dust that off first.


     
  2. limr

    limr Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I can't go into the technical details too much because I don't know them very well and to be perfectly frank, I don't necessarily care about them too much. All I know is that I shoot film almost exclusively and have been scanning my film in for the past several years on a dedicated flatbed film scanner (Cannon CanoScan 8800 - there are newer models out, and Epson makes good flatbed scanners as well.)

    You can scan at lower resolutions if you're just checking the images or planning to keep them on the computer, and scan at higher resolutions for printing or more intensive editing. I've not printed larger than 11x14 yet (from either 12o or 35mm) but I have no doubt that scanned at higher resolutions, I could print larger.

    There is a point of diminishing returns. For example, many scanners will claim they can scan at 9000+ dpi but in reality, you're not getting anything significantly better than you would get at half that. Most of what I've read suggests that you pass the point of diminishing returns past 4000 or so, and best results seem to come in around 2400 dpi.

    I tend to scan initially at 1200 dpi and that is more than enough for the fairly minimal editing that I do and viewing on screen, or even printing up to 8x10 (35mm) or 11x14 (120). If I want to print larger, or if a particular image just doesn't have enough information at 1200, I'll rescan at 2400.

    You can check out my Flickr page if you want to see examples (link in signature). And mind you, those have also been resized. The initial scans are larger files (for most 35mm, around 1mb give or take, and 2-3mb for 120).
     
  3. cgw

    cgw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You might also check various scanner model/brand boards on flickr where technique is discussed. DSLR scanning is another option. If you've not shot much film recently, it might be worthwhile to see what's left of labs in your area and what they can process.
     
  4. Ysarex

    Ysarex Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    :popcorn:

    The emoticon there is for what's to come.

    First the really simple answer to your question: When it comes to IQ in the final image digital camera originals are going to have the edge over scanned film not so much in a straight head to head comparison but in what either process is able to achieve. It's not a huge edge and shooting film is still a excellent way to go.

    I stopped shooting film but I still spend a lot of time working with it as my students still shoot film and it's my job to help them do that.

    The IQ comparisons:
    1. State-of-the-art digital cameras record more DR than film. This means that you have more tonal data to work with using modern digital cameras versus film. And that's really the kicker for me. If you're going to prioritize a list of the technical characteristics that we value in a photo then tonal response takes the top slot.
    2. Recording of fine detail still falls to film if you shoot any film size above 35mm. Modern digital cameras now beat 35mm film when it comes to recording detail but medium and large format cameras are way beyond digital -- no contest there.

    Everything else like color accuracy and color response really are so adjustable once the film is scanned that these are not issues.

    Film has grain which will be apparent in a final image. Being old school originally I like grain and will sometimes add it to a digital image.

    Here's two example photos that illustrate items 1. and 2. above.

    truck.jpg

    That photo is a digital camera original. Captured in the image you see there is 10 stops of tonal data. Here's the JPEG that the camera created.

    truck_2.jpg

    The camera blew the highlights and in a high contrast scene like this the shadows are fully black. In the photo above processed from the raw original you can see detail up under the rear tires and the highlights are not blown. You can't do that with film whether you scan it or not -- film won't record a usable 10 stops of data.

    So big deal: take a different photo with film and don't expect it to do things it can't. Control the lighting when using film and this difference goes away. So in that sense there's an element of unfairness in the comparison. Digital IQ isn't necessarily better so much as digital provides more possibilities.

    This is a 3000 ppi scan of a medium format film negative. At this screen size you don't really see the detail advantage that film offers.

    nina.jpg

    Here's her left eye at 3000 ppi.

    nina_eye.jpg

    Digital really can't do that. Unless you're going to buy on of these: XF Camera System and it's very easy to just up the ante with film even further. In 35mm however digital will win the fine detail contest. I still make large prints and I can print this photo on and Epson 9880 at 30x40 and the detail advantage of film will be quite obvious. An 80 mp Phase One camera system in not in my budget and even at 80 mp quite frankly medium format film is still better.

    Trouble with this is it quickly gets esoteric. It doesn't much matter because very few of us are really taking photos that are going to be enlarged to the point where it shows. In today's world of average screen size images and 8x10 prints or smaller there's no issue here.

    Joe
     
  5. vintagesnaps

    vintagesnaps Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I usually get film scanned when I get it developed. I've scanned some of my darkroom prints and alt process images and Polaroids and can get a comparable good quality copy if I use a high res setting on the scanner. I usually can't tell a difference from a distance but up close of course the paper and look of a wet print and an inkjet print are different (not better or worse, just different texture or shine, etc.).

    I think it depends on the original image, if that's good I'd expect to be able to get a good quality scan. Edit - And my digital camera is DNG; I rarely use or print the automatically generated JPEGS.


    Dust off the Nikon and toss some film in there!
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2015
  6. gsgary

    gsgary Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    This was shot with a Mamiya C330 at 80mm wide open at F2.8 and scanned with a cheap Epson V500

    [​IMG]

    and this is a crop of above

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. Ysarex

    Ysarex Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Here's a continuation with a digital/35mm comparison.

    First screen size photos of two flowers where the flower centers were of similar size and recorded in similar proportions in the frame.

    columbine.jpg

    The above is an un-cropped 35mm Fuji RDP transparency scanned using an Epson 750 scanner at 4000 PPI.

    NOTE: Lenore's comment about scan resolution is a very correct. I'd suggest you hit a diminishing return ceiling with any film closer to 3000 ppi. At that point you're scanning the grain in the film. At higher resolutions what are you trying to do -- scan what's between the grains? I have this image laying around as we were running some tests on the Epson scanner for which Epson claims a 6400 ppi optical resolution which is just plain laughable.

    anemone.jpg

    The second image is from a 12mp digital camera. I selected an image from this camera because that's the 35mm/digital point of equivalence when it comes to recording detail. 35mm film has about the same level of recorded detail as you'll get from a 10mp digital camera.

    At the above screen resolutions both images look good and both originals would make very good 8x10 prints with the grain in the film photo beginning to show. Here's a side by side comparison with the film scan sampled down to 2400 ppi and the digital image at full res.

    compare.jpg

    There are complicating factors of course. A better scanner may do a little better with the film, the digital camera has a better lens, etc. But in this side by side the detail is pretty comparable.

    Move the digital camera up a notch or two to a 16 or 24mp sensor and the 35mm film is no longer competitive.

    Joe
     
  8. runnah

    runnah Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Scan at a higher resolution than you are going to print. Most printers can't handle Much past 1440dpi, you'r average drug store photo printer is much less. It's its really not worth it.

    As for film vs. digital, well I think saying 10mp or 12mp is the same as film is a bit misguided as there is more to a sensor than just the megapixels. Take for example the Sony a7s, which is a full frame (35mm) sensor that is only 12 mp, where as the Canon 5Ds is 50.6 mp. The different is the size of the light cavities that make up the sensor. The ones of the Sony are massive great buckets where as the ones on the Canon are wee thimbles. This greatly effects the dynamic range and the color rendering. Neither camera is a slouch, the a7s is much better at low light and dynamic range.
     
  9. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    The Luminous Landscape had an article perhaps a year ago or so, on the benefits of using a high-quality macro lens and a carefully flattened negative paired with a flash light source as a way to shoot 24- to 36-Megapixel "copies" of negs and slides...the results achieved by the two co-authors of the piece were better than their scan results.Dust and scratches were MUCH less apparent in the d-slr images than in the scans, and the d-slr copy shots looked better than their scans. Other people have reported good results doing this too, shooting copies, rather than scanning.
     
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  10. timor

    timor Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I heard that to. Only once did that with very bad 110 transparency and after many attempts eventually I was able to make somewhat better print with some small editing. And I am no master of digital by any standard. :ambivalence:
     
  11. cgw

    cgw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    The plus-size gorilla at the table is scanner technology. It's stagnant relative to camera sensor/processor advances. Epson can't convincing argue there's much(if any) IQ difference between the V700/V750 and their current replacements. Seems a matter of time until someone wheels out a product for 35mm/120 DSLR scans for way less $$$ than an Epson V800/V850.
     
  12. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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