Negative scanning – thoughts

In this day and age, shooting film will most likely include scanning the negatives to use them for print or web. A lot of different scanners are available to do the job. From the cheapest one click scanners to high quality, high priced professional drum scanners.

In this post I will talk a little about my experiences which are, admittedly, limited. This is what I have learned so far.

I currently work with a Reflecta CrystalScan 7200 dedicated 35 mm scanner and before that a Canon Canoscan 9000F mark 2 flatbed scanner.
The Canon promises a resolution of 9600 dpi. But optically it can only deliver about 1700 dpi. The Reflecta promises 7200 dpi but only delivers about 3800 dpi.
Now why the difference in resolution? Well, the 9600 and 7200 dpi describe the precision of the motor, not the scanner optics. The 1700 and 3800 dpi are what the scanners optically can deliver. This number is what you have to look at when you choose a scanner.
The whopping 9600 dpi of the Canoscan 9000F mark 2 are really useless because the optics only deliver 1700 dpi, so even if it sounds great, it’s really not.
The Reflecta delivers 3800 dpi which is fairly good for the price range it is in.

Below, you can see a comparison between the two scanners. Same negative scanned on the Reflecta and the Canon – shown in that order. As you can see there is quite a big difference in sharpness. The Canon is very soft and on the Reflecta, you can make out the grain, quite easily.
Now, to be fair, I have to mention that I used to different programs to do the scans. The Canon scanned using SilverFast SE and the Reflecta using Vuescan. According to various tests, Vuescan is supposed to be the better of the two, producing higher quality results. However, the  difference in quality cannot be blamed on the software entirely. The scanner itself is probably what makes most of the difference.

 

raw0001 copy

This is a full view of the negative for reference – made from the Reflecta scan.
raw0001-blog

Now, I have learned from reading and talking to people, that even if the scanner only optically produces a certain resolution, you should still scan at as high a resolution as possible and then use an image processing program to reduce the size to match the optical resolution of the scanner. The reason for this is that you have to make sure that the scanning motor is working with enough precision to achieve the highest possible optical resolution. Now, how this looks at 100% crop differs from scanner to scanner. The Reflecta produces something like this – as you can see the edge is very pixelated. When you reduce the size to match about 3800 dpi, the pixelation should disappear:

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 22.09.25

 

Here is a 100% crop of the image resized to match the Reflecta’s 3800 dpi:raw0001-2 copy

And here is a full view of that image:raw0001-2-blog

I am still quite new to the whole scanning thing and I am certainly still learning. I will be posting about it as I learn more, but for now, I hope this was useful to you.