Scanning 35m Film


TPF Noob!
Apr 12, 2006
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I'm looking to take my 35mm film and scanning it onto my computer. I no longer have darkroom (no proper space anymore) and it's cheaper for me to print my own prints from my computer. However, I still prefer to take photography with my 35mm SLR, so there's an obvious difference in technology here. I'm a college student on a budget, and while I understand that a good film scanner is an investment, I'm warey on spending $500 on a film scanner.

I do primarily B&W film, Infrared (both BW and Color), and color night time. Especially with the night time, removing much of the grain would be ideal. My work is mostly ammature (since my architecture career is so involving) but I hope that producing more of a portfolio will encourage me to actually pursue this in a greater seriousness.

So my question comes to two main topics. The first is what does scanning resolutions (3200x3200 or 4000x4000) mean when I want to print the final image. What is my max size. My second question is does anyone know of any quality film scanners (preferable under $300) that will accomplish my goals? I often don't print beyond 11x17 (I have to take it somewhere to do larger than 8X10), but I'd like a scanner that could get me a bit larger than 11x17 prints. Eventually after a quality portfolio is created, I will purchase a printer that can do 13x42 prints.
I use a Minolta Dimage Scan Dual III 35mm scanner and am quite pleased with it. Resolution is up to 2820dpi, at that resolution I can create very respectable 11X17 prints. I've not tried printing anything larger than 11X17, but the scanner is capable.

I believe the price on this thing is somewhere around 300US.
A dedicated film scanner is a good thing to have, and the Minolta ones are good, though not quite as good as the Nikons (which are typically much more expensive). Another option would be a good quality flatbed scanner with a transparency attachment and film holders.

To answer your question about resolution, your enlarging really isn't that much different (in terms of quality) than it would be doing it in a darkroom, i.e. it depends a lot on the type of film that you're using. The average resolution of negative films is about 3000dpi (dots per inch). Therefore, you ideally want a scanner that can achieve that resolution. Color positive (slide films) typically have a resolution quite a bit higher than negative films, meaning you'd want to scan at a higher resolution, and your image can be enlarged bigger without problems. Fuji Provia is arguably the most "grainless" film on the planet, with a resolution that I'd estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of 5000dpi. There's absolutely no way you'll be able to achieve a resolution that high with a scanner in your price range. So practically speaking, the scanner you purchase probably won't break 2000-3000dpi, if it's good. In terms of print quality, using a low-grain, low-speed film, you can get prints upwards of 13x19 without issue. I've done 13x19 enlargements of 35mm negatives, using Ilford PanF (ISO 50), and would be comfortable going slightly larger, but not too much larger. In the end, it really depends a lot on the kind of film you use. Aim for a scanner with as high a resolution as you can, and with the right film, you should be able to do some very good sized enlargements.
beatledud said:

So my question comes to two main topics. The first is what does scanning resolutions (3200x3200 or 4000x4000) mean when I want to print the final image. What is my max size.

this gives you an image of 3200 pixels square. depending how high-resolution you wish to print (eg 300 dpi) will determine how big your physical 'print' is..

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