Whats the best film scanner?

Posted by johnkobeck on May 1, 2014as , , , , , ,

That is a question I get asked all the time. I have tried ’em all. When I first started scanning negatives I was using an old Minolta strip film scanner. I forget the model number. It did an okay job, but it was a pain in the ass, and time consuming. Then I bought one of those Nikon Coolscan dedicated film scanners. That did a much better job, but again, its very tedious and time consuming. I was working with medium format film quite a bit in those days and so I decided to simply use my Epsom V750 flatbed, with the holder from Better Scanning. Since it was medium format film, I was “told” by many I wouldn’t see much of a difference if any from the Coolscan. So I sold the Nikon Coolscan for more money then I paid for it new (on Ebay).I was using that flat bed scanner for about a year and I was happy with the result, until……….I decided to test it and compare it to the scans my lab offers. I use North Coast Photographic in Carlsbad CA. I had an upcoming show and it was important to have impeccable scans. Well, when I got the scans back from North Coast I was blown away! The images that I thought were scanned well by my flatbed were in fact shit in comparison to the ones that North Coast did. This was not a drum scan mind you. These were their “economy scans” on a Noritsu Koki. Well, This made me think. Does this mean all the scandsI had done over the last year or more were poor and lacking? Yes probably. I had only the most important images rescanned by North Coast. It was truly like night and day.

So whats the bottom line? For me, I just send everything out. Scanning on a flat bed is a waste of time and even though it may look great to your eye, its not great. Or at least its not as great as it should be. There is a lot of information in that negative and if your using a crap scanner then you are missing out. North coast charges about $13.00 a roll to Budget Scan 35mm or 120mm @ 2048 x 3072 pixels (18 mb). Thats fairly decent. Personally I don’t print big. I prefer small prints. If the work is really good then it should draw the viewer in. Huge murals doesn’t mean the photo is important. It just means its BIG. You can spend an extra $5.00 and get 
Enhanced Scan 35mm @ 3339 x 5035 pixels (48 mb). Those prices include developing.

So save the $2500.00 you were going to spend on a Nikon Coolscan and just send your film out. Spend your time making art, not sitting in front of a monitor scanning film.

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