Mar 182013
 

Visiting with My Father – Do You Print Your Photos?

by Amy Medina

Saint Patricks Day makes me think of my dad. Though auto parts and cars were his trade, he was into photography, and enjoyed taking photos. He unfortunately passed away in 2001, prior to my passion for photography taking full bloom, and I often wonder how he would view my love for it, especially in the digital realm.

Of course, like many kids who grew up in the 70′s, I have faux leather-bound photo albums of the family photos, showing their age and faded, filled with the silly shots and the out-of-focus posed family shots, where my dad handed his camera to someone and our heads are partially cut off. There are photos taken by him, by my mom I’m sure, and by other people with cameras who gave us their doubles. Many of us have these albums laying around or tucked into a cabinet… and I’ve only really come to appreciate their existence as I’ve gotten older.

And then, a couple of years ago, my brother discovered a box of my father’s slides in the bottom of a closet. I knew of them, but years ago; I remember curiously looking through them as child and teenager, squinting through the plastic magnifying loop and holding them up to a window. But I had forgotten about them over the years, in the back of my mind assuming they got lost when my father sold the house I grew up in, or even thrown away just to save space. When my brother found them again after decades of not seeing them, and years after my father had passed, it was like digging up buried treasure.

We sat on my living room floor looking through the mysterious photos that focus in mostly on my father’s time in the service, stationed in Okinawa during the Vietnam War. There are also early family photos, from before I was born and into my toddler years. What pops up are faces of family members long gone, and faces of dear family friends we’ve since rekindled relationships with, and photos of beaches and towns all the way around the world, during a very different era. There are only a few, but there are even photos of my dad himself, where his fellow soldiers and friends seemingly grabbed his camera a stole a shot, like the one of of him sleeping.

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It was a renewed glimpse into my dad’s life, and something my brother and I could experience together, being reintroduced to the man he was — the one we knew and the side of him we knew less about. We talked about our memories and the shots that reminded us of his unique character. We made jokes about some of the things he focused in on. This experience itself created our own new memories, some of which will now always be jokes between us, and something quite special.
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And we shared the photos. I went on EBay and for $15 bought a working slide projector. We were blessed last Memorial Day with spending time with old family friends — friends of my mother and father from “back in the day” who I called Aunt and Uncle and cousins… and we had an evening slide show, projecting the old images and memories across the room onto a screen that brought us thoughtful moments, melancholy feelings and laughter. It was a weekend of unique bonding and closeness, filled with new experiences, and refreshed memories brought to us through stories and my father’s photos.
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All of this gets me thinking: what happens to all of our photos that are sitting on hard drives decades from now? How will our memories be relived by our children and grandchildren? Are we to leave instructions behind on how to access our achives, and is that experience the same as finding an old box of photos in the attic? If a hard drive is disconnected and stored away, reducing our stories to zeros and ones, will our children and grandchildren be able to just plug them in and enjoy them if discovered years later?

There is a tangibility to printing out photos, or leaving behind slides and negatives. It’s something we are losing as a society. I don’t pretend to not enjoy technology… quite the contrary, I’m about as geeky as they come, appreciating all that computers and electronics have to offer, and I take full advantage of the advances. I also think several generations from now, a lot of this will have been worked out somehow by our great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren; the dilemma of common formats and how to access our deceased relatives’ digital footprint. Or at least I have great hopes it will be all worked out. But what happens in the meantime?

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At the end of every year now I print all my photos. I know that may seem excessive and I suppose many of you take a whole lot more photos than I do. There may be a different process you have to take in self-editing first, though be careful not to edit out that blurry photo of grandma because years later you will appreciate it as one of the shots that exist of her. The point is, I want to leave behind boxes of actual photos for my loved-ones to discover and savor… instantly. And I want you to do the same. We should leave behind something tangible that takes no effort to enjoy.

Of course, I’m not talking here about the artistic prints or the gallery canvas, or even the occasional photo book. I do all those myself, but it’s not the same thing. My coffee table books are always there to be browsed through, with the best chosen photos inside them. The prints I hang can always be seen. The people who buys prints, they enjoy them as they do in the room of their choice. What I am talking about is the undiscovered treasure that the rest of your photos will be to your family members and the people who love you: The ones you didn’t share. The ones you shared online that got a zillion “likes” but were forgotten about 3 days later. The shots you thought were mistakes and the ones you took of other family members that they don’t even remember you taking. The photos of places you loved and sights you enjoyed and that picture you took of your feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

At 12¢ per print (more or less) it’s a no-brainer to just take stock at the end of each year and have some 4×6′s made to throw in a box and put in the back of closet or drawer, the same way our parents and grandparents did back in the day after having rolls of film developed. Think of it as your analogue backup. And one that your children and grandchildren may one day appreciate.-

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And my dad (white shirt) with his army buddies in Okinawa in 1966
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Nov 272012
 

 

I Shoot Digital Film by Ofri Wolfus

Hi Steve, how’s everything doing? The other day, while scanning some negatives, it suddenly hit me. I was shooting Digital Film. I immediately thought this might be of interest to your readers, and so decided to write this article. It’s a bit technical but I think understanding these things can really improve one’s work.

In the rest of this article I’d like to discuss what Digital Film is (other than a term I made up :) ), and how anyone can take advantage of it. However, in order to truly understand the idea let’s first understand how digital photography works.

From the moment we press the shutter button of our digital camera, to the point we have a finished photograph, the following three steps usually take place:

1. The sensor inside the camera captures the light hitting it, producing a bunch of digital data.

2. The camera’s firmware then creates a JPEG and/or RAW files. It usually does some processing on the data generated in the first step along the way.

3. We take the image files our camera produced to our computer, and then we apply further modifications to the image until we have a finished file.

Now lets zoom in a bit, and understand what happens in each of the above steps. Firstly, I bet a lot of people are unaware of it but our fancy digital sensors are actually *analog*. Yes, you’re reading this right. The part which converts light to electricity, the thing of which actual pixels are made of and where the magic really happens, is actually an analog device ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge-coupled_device ). Once light hits this analog device it generates electric voltage, which is an analog signal. This analog signal is then passed through an analog amplifier which then effectively boosts the ISO and adds noise. Finally, the signal is fed to a digitizer and then, and only then, our photo becomes digital. Another little known fact is that a digital sensor has a single sensitivity to light. Increasing the ISO in the camera simply increases the amount of analog signal amplification, but the sensor’s sensitivity to light remains unchanged.

At this point lets stop for a second and look back at what we have. Surprisingly, this mechanism is extremely similar to how we work with film. First, we expose the film to light. Then we develop the film, at which point we can push process it, effectively increasing its ISO and adding “noise”. Finally we pick our scanner and digitize the analog data captured on the film. Have you ever noticed this similarity before? :)

Anyhow, lets continue with our process. Once we got the digitized data from our sensor, our camera starts to process this data. First, it applies some noise reduction in order to compensate for the noise generated by the analog amplifier (higher ISO). Then two things can happen – either the camera applies further processing and creates a JPEG, or it leaves the data as is and saves a RAW file. Conceptually however, creating a JPEG is just letting the camera automatically perform the tasks we’d be manually performing on the RAW file, so let’s assume our camera is set to produce RAWs. Again, this resembles the scanning process very much. We can set our scanner to produce RAW files or JPEGs.

Finally, we have our RAW files in our computer. Usually, we’ll apply the following processing in any particular order: color balancing, sharpening, further noise reduction, any kind of color manipulation (saturation, contrast, etc) and so on. Obviously, we’ll do this kind of processing to any type of RAW file, regardless of its origin – be it a digital camera or film.

Now ladies and gentlemen, you know what Digital Film is. It’s both a workflow and a state of mind. You’ve probably been doing it yourself already but perhaps didn’t fully realize the potential, so lets explore it a bit further. When working with digital cameras there are certain techniques that are common. We may also apply them to Digital Film in order to produce really interesting results. Before that however, I’d like to point out two key differences between the “pure” digital workflow and the digital film workflow.

First of all, when film is your origin you actually have the analog data at hand. The equivalent in a digital camera would be to record the electric voltage generated by the sensor to some intermediate media, and postpone its digitization to a later point. Obviously, separating the digitization stage leaves the maximum theoretical resolution fixed, but the actual sampled resolution highly depends on your digitizer (scanner). Conceptually, imagine you had a digital camera that produced huge RAW files. They were so huge that your computer was unable to open them as is. Instead, in order to be able work with them, it automatically scaled them down. If you had a better computer it could scale them down less, and let you work with a file that’s closer to the original. At the time of this writing, this is the state of film scanners (digitizers). They’re not advanced enough to fully extract the details in all film formats.

The second key difference is color. Every digital sensor has its own unique color signature. It’s the way the sensor converts light to a color image. Film however, has a much stronger signature, and each film type has a different one. Conceptually, it’s as if the digital sensor could apply saturation, contrast, color balance, etc before the analog amplifier that increases the ISO. If we had that, each digital camera would produce a very different look, much like different film stocks have completely different looks.

Finally, let’s see how we can exploit this difference in color rendition for our use. For many digital shooters, myself included, pressing the shutter is when we set the framing, composition and exposure. We then have a rough idea of what the final image should look like but we postpone all color modification to RAW processing. Taking this state of mind and applying it to film is simply fascinating. First of all, in my experience, RAW files from scanned film have much more latitude to work with. Second, we get to work with very interesting base colors. When opening RAW files from a digital camera one usually gets dull and flat colors. With film RAWs however, the film’s unique look is already baked in. Saturation, contrast and color balance are already “in the pixels”.

Another neat idea is to think of film RAWs as digital without NR and sharpening applied. Some tools have magical noise reduction abilities and are able to almost completely remove the grain of low ISO films. This then produces files that look digital in their cleanness, but retain the unique film look. Neat Image is one such tool. With low ISO films that have very fine grain, and high enough resolution scans it’s able to completely remove the grain without affecting the sharpness. That said, since grain size is fixed but scan resolution is not, different scan resolutions require different noise reduction techniques.

The last technique I found about lately, and became hooked, is to add film filters such as Alien Skin Exposure and Nik Color/Silver Efex to the scanned film. These can combine with the unique rendering of the emulsion and turn out spectacular colors that I’m unable to get in any other way. Converting color scans to B/W using some B/W “film” filter also produces a very unique look.

Pretty much any digital workflow can be adapted to film this way if you take a moment to understand where it fits in the different processing stages. However, there’s one thing you need to be aware of. Excessively modifying film RAWs will kill the unique film look. You’ll easily end up with a file that looks like it’s “completely digital”. Obviously this isn’t a bad thing, just something to keep in mind. Basically, like with any other effect, don’t overdo it :)

In conclusion, my personal belief is that neither film nor digital is better. To my eyes they are quite similar in the technical concept, but greatly vary in execution. Each medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. They are, in fact, completing each other if you get your workflow right and are not afraid of exploring new things.

Some Examples

So far I processed less than 10 rolls using the ideas described above, but here’s my flickr set with the shots I like so far http://www.flickr.com/photos/ofriwolfus/sets/72157632100772083 On each shot I tried to explain the methods I used for processing, though I’m quite new to film and its processing in general. This is turning into a really fun way of shooting for me, and I hope for others too.

Kodak Ektar 100 scanned with Plustek OpticFilm 7600i. Simply reduced any noise/grain with Neat Image, balanced color in Photoshop and applied unsharp mask. I tried to make it as clean as digital but retain the Ektar look.

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Me and my GF, shot on Kodak T-Max 3200 and scanned with Plustek OpticFilm 7600i. Tint added with Alien Skin Exposure, contrast was adjusted a bit in Photoshop from the RAW scan.

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Shot on Fuji Provia 400x pushed to 1600. Scanned with Plustek OpticFilm 7600i, but this time I used the proper color space for the file. It was then passed through Neat Image to clean up the grain, then further processed in Photoshop for color balance, sharpening and some curves.

Cheers,

Ofri

Nov 112012
 

Using a DSLR to scan Negative film by Stefan Schmidt

Hi again folks! This is a follow-up article about how I’m using my Canon Eos 5D MkII to shoot backlit slides instead of using an ordinary flatbed scanner. (See previous article HERE) Now I will show you how I go about “scanning” my negative films using the film holder from the flatbed scanner and the light box I nailed together. Shooting the negatives is only half of the story though, the second half is actually developing the negatives to positive pictures and getting a decent result in the end. I have experimented a lot and I will share my workflow with you. That being said, I do not guarantee that my way is the “right” way. I just hope to get you all going!

The Rig:

For those of you who did not read my first article, here is a picture to show you my setup. I have a piece of MDF-board with a slide-projector at one end, a lamp-cover act as a diffuser and finally I have my “box” with the glass from an A4-photoframe inserted into it. In the lower left corner of the picture I have included an image of how the box look when I shoot slides. The white elastic band that is used to keep the slides from falling off the wooden strip is not used when shooting negatives, I just pull it down under the strip.

I use the same settings as for slides, ISO 320 , halogen light WB, Aperture priority and I set the aperture to 4,5. Finally I use a 2 second self-timer and after each shot I have a 2 sec preview. If the negatives have really high contrast like flash-exposures I venture into the menu and reduce contrast but typically I have all settings in there set to neutral. You may notice that I have a lot of small wooden strips and what not under my camera in this shot. That is because my box was designed (yes it’s ugly as hell but I use that word anyway) to be used for slides. The frame holding the negatives are wider in all directions and that makes the negatives end up higher than the slides. That is also why I needed to put a higher piece of wood behind the camera to keep it aligned. Finally I also put some of these strips of wood under the MDF-board in order to raise the end where I sit shooting just a little bit. This way the large film-holder will not topple down on the lens hood. Keep it simple.

You shot the negatives, now it’s time to enter the darkroom and get developing!

Let’s start with Photoshop. I myself use CS5 and by now you will have lots of pictures looking like this in bridge:

When I open a picture the RAW-converter will start. Before I choose to open the picture in photoshop I look at the histogram to see if there is a “burnout” in the black or white end of it. If there is I use exposure to adjust the curves to my liking. I also want the RGB curves to stretch out over as much of the Histogram as possible and I choose this setting for the picture in this example:

When the picture is opened it will still be negative. Press Ctrl + I to invert it (or CMD + I on a mac) and do not panic when it looks like crap! The colors are way out of sync. It will look something like this:

To start fixing this I usually add an adjustment layer with levels in the adjustments tab on the right. Clicking on the adjustment layer open up the ADJUSTMENTS panel and as standard it allows you to set levels for all three RGB-colors at once. Now however, you do not want to do that. You will need to click on the drop down menu and set the levels for Red Green and Blue.

Photoshop has an advantage over Capture one in that it seem to be programmed to “sync” the color-channels and that enables you to get a fairly good result pretty quickly. In the screenshot below you can see an estimation of how the picture is turning out better and better as I go through the channels and trim their levels. At the far left of the image is the altogether blue picture that looks just terrible after I inverted the negative. Notice how tuning each channel increase the quality of the picture. When the final, blue, channel is adjusted the far right of the picture looks pretty natural and we are on our way to get a nice picture.

Please also notice that by moving the middle “handle” under each channels diagram you can fine-tune the color balance of each channel. Now all that remains are repairing the scratches that is evident from the film itself, cropping and maybe reducing some noise with the filter “Despeckle”. Of course this can be tedious to do with each picture, that’s why I try it out on one picture and when I’m satisfied I go to the HISTORY-panel and click on the top action that is opening the picture. Then I click the ACTIONS tab and in that panel I click the icon next to the waste bin to “Create a new action”. I name the macro I’m about to record “Kodak negatives 100 iso”, for example, and redo the steps above on the channels adding the despeckle-filter and maybe even the crop. When I’m finished I stop recording, load up another set of pictures and apply the macro onto each of them. That saves a ton of work!

As different films have a different character and base color I have built myself a small library of actions for different brands and iso. Very handy to have.

In this example I had a small blue tone that was hard to get rid of, I finally solved that by adding a warm standard photo filter on a new adjustment layer and that hit the spot! I am mostly using levels but there is an adjustment layer using curves and that works just as well but I had to choose what I believe to be the easiest way to go about this for the article. I would also like to point out that Photoshop remembers that there is a negative picture as a foundation for the final picture and many tools can go haywire. In those cases, save your picture as a TIFF and load that copy into Photoshop again and you will be all set. No more misbehavior.

Developing negatives using Capture One

I’m not going to cover this in detail as the general idea is the same, I open my picture and after inverting it I begin to work the channels the same way as in Photoshop. (That is partly why I showed that method.) The trick is to invert the picture as Capture One Pro do not have a command or tool for it. I do this by going to the level-tool:

I then pull the black handle to the right and the white handle to the left and the picture is inverted! I am pretty sure you can do the same thing in lightroom but I have not tried it. Your levels-tool will now look like this:

Now you’re ready to work those individual Red Green and Blue channels in the levels-tool. Please note that Capture One really turns on it’s head a little when working with negatives like this. After inverting the picture all controls for adjusting light or color is inverted as well. For example, if you increase the light in the image it will turn darker! Just as it does in an old-school darkroom. The more you exposed the photo paper, the darker it got when it was developed. Call me crazy but I actually get a little nostalgic when my computer all of a sudden behaves like my old analog darkroom. (Except for the smell.)

Some of you will not enjoy this ;) and will therefore be better off by saving your picture as a TIFF as I mentioned above. When you work on that TIFF you will have no problem.

I create development recipes to apply on many pictures in Capture One and they make batch-developing a bunch of images super easy.

Examples of developed pictures from negatives.

As my article comes to an end I would like to show you a few pictures I developed from my negatives.

 

 That’s me in the middle of the picture above, it was taken 1988 in the Swedish alps. Below is a picture of my wife from around the same time. Kodak film above, Agfa below.

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This is shot in Halle Hunneberg in 1989 just before sunset. I was there looking for elk but I did not see any. The film is 200 iso kodak and the negative was somewhat underexposed.

If you have read this far I salute you! Well done! i realize this article got a bit long however I tried to shorten it. I hope this will inspire you people out there to dig out your old favorite negatives and give it a go yourself!

With my best regards

Stefan Schmidt

 

 

Oct 292012
 

The other way to scan positive slides, or, why I kept my big SLR.

By Stefan Schmidt

Recently I was asked by my father if I was interested in having his slides from when I was young since he never watched them and was thinking about throwing them out. In truth it was his wife who triggered the question since she had found out that he already had dumped two paperbags worth of slides in a container. “Of course!”, I said. And before I knew it I had two big boxes of slides delivered to my basement.

An idea began to form in my mind that I should do a book on my parents as a gift to them and my siblings. Obviously I needed to scan the pictures, but how? As it would happen a friend of mine recently had bought a Canon 9000F flatbed-scanner planning to do much the same thing as me. He graciously let me borrow it to scan the slides.

I installed the software, brought out the oldest magazine with slides and started scanning. The positives were mounted in glass frames and somehow there was a lot of dust between the glass and the film itself. Also there seemed to be small droplets of moisture or rather, fat, on the inside of the glass. I scanned in maximum resolution to TIFF and was really disappointed with the result. Not only did each slide take about nine (!) minutes to scan, the actual focus was off as well. It turned out that the scanner could not focus above the surface of the scanners glass. Meaning that it was the dirty glass in the slides frame that got sharp, making all the dust appear “perfectly”. Also, the picture got very pale colors and a really bad contrast. This simply would not do!

This is an example scanned in 4800 dpi. It’s my father on a vacation 1965 on Sicilian. I was born in 1966…

I was so very disappointed and my plan for a book seemed to vanish into thin air. In disgust I just stopped looking through the slides for several months. Instead I enjoyed taking photos with my spanking new OM-D and had a blast with it. Inspiration crept back again until one weekend when I realised that I had shot all through the summer with only my OM-D. The Canon 5D MkII and it’s lenses had been untouched for nearly four months and I started to debate with myself whether or not to sell it all off. I was so pleased with my Olympus.

Then it hit me! I had a full sensor 21 Mpixel camera and a 100mm macro f2,8 that shot 1:1 magnification, surely I must be able to use that! I realized that some things would be very important to make this work:

1. I needed to make sure that the slide and the camera was placed horizontally and vertically correct and in parallel to each other.

2. I wanted a good source of light.

3. The light needed to be soft, diffused.

I ran down into the basement, took an A4 photo frame and stole the glass from it. (Yes I know, I’m impulsive when inspiration strikes…) I then went into the workshop and quickly nailed together a box from a board of tree. I put the glass from the frame into the box fixating it with wooden pegs and a wooden strip across the glass.

Next I took a piece of spare MDF-board and placed the camera at one end focusing almost as close as possible with my macro 100 mm to be able to measure the distance to where the box should be positioned. I used a square tool to draw 90 degree lines across the MDFboard to be able to fasten the box in parallel to the wooden fixtures I use to place my camera correctly. Behind the box I put a milky white plastic cover from our basement lamps as a diffuser. A Leitz slide projector at the other end of the MDFboard was my light source. I measured how high up on the glass the slide needed to be and put a small wooden strip across the glass to put the slide upon. The slide wanted to topple over and fall off so I added an elastic band across the glass, by the top of the slide, as well.

O’boy, was I exited to see if it worked!

I set the ISO to 320 since I find that this is the best base-iso for the MkII. I set the aperture to F 4,5 in apperture-mode. I set white balance to halogen (warm lamp). I set the self timer to 2 seconds. Finally I set the camera to show each taken picture for 2 seconds after each shot in order to see if I would need to re-shoot it with any exposure compensation. As always I shoot with RAW.

Deciding to shoot the same pictures as before I went for the picture of my dad. I used live view to be able to position the slide correctly and AF-ON to fine tune the focus. Then I shot the first exposure.

I was stunned! Just watching the 2 second preview I could see I was really on to something here, and when I zoomed into the picture it was so sharp that I cold see the actual grain of the film! Amazing! This is the sample from that shoot. Notice the difference in sharpness, contrast and color. Even though the resolution is lower than that of the scanned file above. Another amazing effect is that nearly all of the dust and speckles above are out of focus here and most of it is not even visible.

Frankly, I’m amazed that it turned out so well! When I developed this in capture one pro 6 i did not alter exposure or colors. I did not crop it either because I wanted to show that I get a piece of the frame in the picture when I shoot the slides. This is by design since I saw that there was a difference in thickness and size between old glass frames and Kodachrome paper frames etc.

Below is a picture from my first tests in daylight when I fixed my Lightbox in relation to the camera on the MDF-board. It was easier to do the measurements i daylight. Also I wanted to know if daylight provided even better color. It did not. When test shooting I had to cut out some black plastic and nail it to the box to block light from the sides to illuminate the slides from the wrong direction. Obviously I have no use for it in my basement but the picture gives a fair view of how my setup looks.

I would like to point out that shooting slides this way works best in a dark room. If there is surrounding light, scratches in the film or dust will be more visible. Also dust can be both white and dark if the slide is photographed in full daylight making a bit more tricky to clone away.

Here are som pictured from Venezuela that I “camerascanned” for a friend of mine ( he with the scanner by the way). I thank him for letting me mail them to you. Below are three pictures from Fuji Velvia 50. The pictures are very clean and sharp! They were taken 1997 during a two month trek and only a minimum of work was required on the raw-files (cropping obviously but also bringing back some details in the shadows because slides can have very hard contrast and dark shadows). My friend lugged his Nikon F3 with a winder and four lenses up and down the trails during those two months, along with 30 rolls of film, that is some seriously heavy gear.

 

By now I have shot over 20 magazines with slides and it takes me about 30 minutes to “scan” two magazines with 36 slides each. Compare that to around nine minutes for each if I should use the canon scanner. I hope that this is something that you, or some of the readers of your brilliant blog will have use for. It sure has inspired me! Now I don’t feel like selling my 5D MkII just yet. It has also inspired me to dig out my old Contax 167 and shoot some film knowing I that have a way to bring pictures with the character of the film into my computer.

Slides are easy to start photographing this way. Color negatives and black and white negatives works extremely well too but that is an article in itself. Especially when it comes to “processing” the negatives to get a picture on-screen that looks good. As always, thank you Steve, for running such an inspiring site. You make people want to contribute and share their experiences and that is a great thing in itself!

With my best regards

Stefan Schmidt

Apr 262010
 

Happy Monday to all! But is there such a thing as a Happy Monday?!?!

Still been shooting film with a little digital thrown in but yes, I love my Leica MP :) After a few days with it I can say that it is the nicest rangefinder I have shot with in regards to feel and use. Beautiful. I have also been surprised at the amount of email I have been getting telling me to keep shooting and talking about film! I guess these days most sites only concentrate on the ever changing world of digital but I have found that there are quite a few of you out there who either love shooting film or at least want to try it out.

The cool thing is that shooting film can almost be like digital but while giving you the soul and quality of analog. How so? Well, by SCANNING your film into your computer! It’s easy and it’s SLOW but it can be fun and rewarding as well. Sure, a digital M9 will give you crazy smooth files and high resolution but I have actually been preferring the look of film these days! After a while, looking at thousands and thousands of perfect and smooth digital files can get boring. So many digital images these days have no feeling, no soul. For some reason with film it seems easier to catch a “moment”. Call me nuts, call me crazy but so far that is what I have been seeing. The M9 is still my favorite digital ever though :)

I always like to compare the film/digital difference to the look of video and film. Ever notice that when you shoot a home movie with a camcorder your video looks WAY different than a movie that was shot on film? It’s not only about resolution, dynamic range, and color, but also about frame rate. Even if you freeze a frame of a movie shot on film and then took a frame from your video shot on a camcorder you can see that your camcorder frame looks generic and lifeless, while the film looks rich and has feeling. It’s almost the same thing with film and digital photos. Film has its own look and digital has its own look. Is one better than the other? Well, yes and no. Digital will give you amazing detail and really smooth files. The Leica M9 is king here. If its all about resolution and sharpness then the M9 is your camera unless you need a DSLR.

BUT, film has a special quality that is different. Sure, it has more grain and yes it is true that it’s not as sharp. Keep in mind I am only talking about 35mm film, not medium format. That will come later :) But 35mm film can provide you with memories that “feel” good. I really do not know how to describe it but everything from the way you shoot with a film camera (especially a manual focus Leica or Leica equivalent) to the final result…it’s all part of the film experience. Film slows me down. I am more careful with what I shoot (most of the time) and it may take me days to get through a roll of 36 exposures. With an M9 I may shoot 100 frames every day but end up having 98 of those images being absolute garbage.

It can be an enlightening experience shooting only a film camera with one lens for a while. It opens your brain more and helps your creativity. I thought that I would be running back to digital by now but I have been bitten and smitten by the film bug and see no end in sight. I still enjoy digital but for my personal shooting it’s all film right now. For the website testing and reviews and any other “jobs” it will be both film and digital. It’s very nice to have both in my bag.

STEVE! YOU SAID THIS WAS ABOUT SCANNING!!!

Oops! Got a bit off track there, sorry! Onto the scanner!

Today I wanted to put up a video showing you guys how I scan my film. It’s not the greatest production in the world but it should give you an idea of how to scan film using one of these Epson flatbed scanners. I have had about 30-40 requests for info on how to scan film, so the 2 part video is a but further down the page. I am using the Epson V700 scanner here and it can be found AT B&H RIGHT NOW at a reduced price of $472. This is about $50-$60 cheaper than I paid just 2 weeks ago. WOW. At $472, this is a screaming deal.

The Epson V700 is an attractive scanner but pretty massive on your desk!

The V700 is a very nice upgrade from the V500 and comes with Epson Scan software as well as Silverfast SE, which I prefer in a HUGE way. If you want to go whole hog and get the best flatbed package you can get then Epson offers the V750 Pro which has coatings on the glass to help improve the quality AND it comes with the upgraded Silverfast AI which is great software and better than the SE version included with the V700. The V750 is $650 right now which is also a deal! I wish these prices were in effect two weeks ago as i would have bought the V750 instead just for the software.

The V700 is what I have though and I have to say that it is one hell of a scanner for the money. At $472, you will not find a better film scanner NEW. Using silverfast I have been getting GREAT results. One thing though is that while these scanners advertise 6400DPI I would not recommend scanning at 6400. I have spent the last two weeks scanning at all resolutions and experimenting with all of the settings. I have found that scanning at 2400 is the best bet with the V700. Anything higher and you just get bloated files that will not bring you better results. The image will get softer at higher DPI.

Here are the features of the V700:

Get professional quality results from virtually any photographic original with the Epson Perfection V700 Photo Scanner. With groundbreaking 6400 dpi resolution, this powerful scanner consistently delivers precision color and detail, whether scanning slides, negatives, or medium format film.

With a 4.0 Dmax, the V700 offers exceptional image quality, excellent shadow area detail, and remarkable tonal range. But the Epson Perfection V700 Photo goes one step further. With its Dual Lens System, this innovative product automatically selects from 2 lenses for the desired scan resolution, topping out at a remarkable 6400 dpi. It has a 8.5 x 11.7″ general scanning area, with a 8 x 10″ transparency area. The transparency adapter is built in to the lid of the flatbed.

With its Digital ICE Technologies, you can easily remove dust and scratches from film, and many types of surface defects from prints, minimizing costly retouching. The convenient included film holders let you batch scan multiple slides and negatives to increase productivity. Epson also includes the popular Adobe Photoshop Elements software.

Dual Lens System

Optimize each scan with the exclusive Dual Lens System from Epson which automatically selects from two lenses for desired scan resolution

Professional Quality Scans

The Epson Perfection V700 Photo scanner delivers unparalleled performance with 6400 dpi optical resolution. You’ll also achieve remarkable tonal range and greater shadow detail because the scanner provides a 4.0 Dmax. There’s an 8 x 10″ transparency scanning area, with the adapter built-in to the lid.

Automated Dust and Scratch Removal

The Epson Perfection V700 Photo scanner remove dust and scratches from film and many types of surface defects from prints minimizing costly and time consuming retouching thanks to the included Digital ICE Technologies

Batch Scanning Capability

Improve your overall productivity by using the Batch Scan feature – scan multiple slides, negatives and medium-format film. The included film holders further makes it easy to achieve greater productivity.

The Video

In the video below I show you how I load the scanner with 35mm film and then take you directly t o the software showing you a scan with Epson Scan as well as Silverfast SE. It is in two parts!

EPSON V700 – PART 1

EPSON V700 – PART 2


Here is the image I scanned in the video, both versions with a crop. You can see how much sharper Silverfast SE scans compared to the Epson Scan. Both were set to normal sharpening.

Here is the frame from the video. Look at the crops below. One from Silverfast SE and one from Epson Scan. WOW.

You can see why I am sticking with Silverfast for my scanning needs!

Here is the box that the V700 comes in along with a shot of the slide holder. You get a 35mm film holder, a slide holder and a Medium Format film holder. This scanner will scan all types of film.

As mentioned in the video, it’s so easy to shoot film and scan it. When you shoot a roll just take it up to your local drugstore and tell them you want the negatives only! This should only cost you a couple of dollars compared to $15 for prints and negatives. You can also tell them not to cut the negs so you can cut them yourself at home in to 6 frames each, perfect for the V700 or V750 scanner.

I hope you have enjoyed this rant AND video on scanning. Hopefully it shows how easy, but also how time consuming scanning can be. That is the only negative…the time it takes to scan but if you do use Epson Scan or Silverfast SE you can do a batch scan and set it and forget it! Come back later when all files are scanned and ready. So it really does not have to be that time consuming after all if you do it that way. Anyway, to those who are trying out film for the first time have fun with it and try different films for different looks! That is another beauty if film but I’ll save that for a future article :)

These scanners have some instant rebates going on over at B&H Photo right now and you get can some great deals. Here are links to the V500 at $160.99, the V700 at $462 and V750 Pro at $659. You have to add them to your cart to see the lower prices.

Here are a few other images that I have recently scanned using this scanner:

THIS ONE IS FULL SIZE! SCANNED AT 3200 DPI. This has no more detail than the 2400DPI version but you can get large files if you want them :) Click image for 5MB file.

Below…MP – Ilford XP2 – 50 Cron at F2

M6 – 50 Summitar – F2

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