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help, please! how to digitize film negatives...

topic posted Sat, July 23, 2005 - 1:01 PM by  amberina
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alas, i haven't had lab access in five years or so, and have been primarily shooting digitally since then. now i am trying to pull together a portfolio and would like to use some of the film images i shot way back then (color and black and white).

is there a way to scan negatives, and then be able to manipulate the positive images in photoshop?

alternatively, if anyone has suggestions on where to find inexpensive lab use in san francisco or oakland, i'd appreciate the lead. i only need to develop/print in black and white.

any advice appreciated! thanks...
amberina
posted by:
amberina
SF Bay Area
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  • Unsu...
     
    Assuming you have 35mm negatives, there are a bunch of film scanners available, with a wide range of prices - check B&H. Don't bother with flatbed scanners with so-called negative adapters. (Different story for larger negatives.)

    Consumer-level scanners can produce excellent results although the process is a bit time consuming (you can only do one strip of 4-6 frames at a time). It's a big help if you already know which negatives you want to scan.

    Some things to look for: resolution (3000-5000 dpi), bit depth (12-16 bits per colour), and interface (new scanners should have USB2 and/or firewire but older models may have USB1 and SCSI). Some scanners have hardware support for dust/scratch detection and correction but it may not work with black and white film; some scanners try to do the same with software, with varying success. I don't know if any consumer scanners are black and white only but they should all be able to handle black and white film.

    The scanner should come with software to allow scanning negatives and converting them to positive images, either as a stand-alone application or as a TWAIN plugin for photoshop. Many people prefer to use Vuescan (google it), a third party application that has lots of profiles for different types of negatives (which should give better scans than the generic profiles you'll likely get with the scanner).

    Be aware that a 4000 dpi scan of a 35mm negative with 16 bits per colour produces an uncompressed file of about 125M! Of course you can compress to JPG to save disk space, but the in-memory size will still be large. Presumably one third that size for black and white output.
    • Re: help, please! how to digitize film negatives...

      Sun, September 18, 2005 - 7:43 PM

      How is Vuescan at dealing with color neg. masks. One thins that has frustrated me about Photoshop is I haven't figured out how to drop out the mask (orange) on color negs. Seems that there should be a standard C-41 (etc.) definition somewhere.

      I've been scanning prints from my collection to date, since all the darlroom magic has already been performed.
      • Re: help, please! how to digitize film negatives...

        Mon, September 19, 2005 - 1:11 AM
        How are you scanning? I'm using a relatively ancient Acer Scanwit 2700S and it's got "negative" settings that handle the mask automatically. There's even more than one film type to choose from and the resulting scans appear as positives.
        • Re: help, please! how to digitize film negatives...

          Sat, September 24, 2005 - 8:26 PM
          I'm using and Epson 1200-something w/ the neg adapter.

          If you've ever done color printing, you know that for a given film and paper you'll have a starting filter pack which will give you a 'ballpark' print first time. Something like that would be nice, especially since the computer doesn't respond quite the same way paper does to CC filter changes.

          I haven't found any info whatsoever anywhere.
          • Re: help, please! how to digitize film negatives...

            Sat, September 24, 2005 - 8:55 PM
            "I'm using and Epson 1200-something w/ the neg adapter.

            If you've ever done color printing, you know that for a given film and paper you'll have a starting filter pack which will give you a 'ballpark' print first time. Something like that would be nice, especially since the computer doesn't respond quite the same way paper does to CC filter changes."

            Sounds like something isn't working right, Bill. Every scanner I've ever used that scans negs has had an automatic mask removal. It *can* be done in Photoshop, as well, but it's a PITA, and why do it when the scanner should, autoomatically?

            You *should* be getting a scan that looks like the result of the starting filter pack for film/paper/darkroom work, at the worst, and often much better than that.

            You might try Vuescan if the Epson software isn't hacking it (and if it supports your scanner).

            I'd be looking for something mis-set somewhere, though, that isn't the sort of result you should be getting at all.
  • In SF: HiFi for B&W, Robyn Color for scanning and prints. The New Lab for scanning. Neither are cheap but they do it right. That saves money!
    • Re: help, please! how to digitize film negatives...

      Sun, September 18, 2005 - 4:58 AM
      I've been using Alpha CD Imaging in Menlo Park (www.alphacd.com) and have been very happy with them. I also get my film processed at NewLab and think they are great.

      I do my digital printing at Costco, the quality has been excellent and the prices are great.
      • Re: help, please! how to digitize film negatives...

        Tue, December 27, 2005 - 1:38 PM
        Thank you for posting this. I'll explore Menlo Park resource soon. I just got a new computer and I'm starting to look at how I can store/view my old photos/negatives, which have been laying in albums (hopefully protected from dust) for the past few years.

        Cheers,

        Masouma Rose <--strictly a vacation photographer
        • Re: help, please! how to digitize film negatives...

          Wed, December 28, 2005 - 7:18 PM
          Hope you got the info you needed, Amberina.

          Because I needed to scan over a thousand slides, I bought a pretty good scanner for about $500. It's an Epson Perfection 3200 PHOTO scanner. Although it isn't a dedicated slide/negative scanner, it has pretty good presets for working with these. I find I have a lot of control over how the image gets scanned. I'm a technophobe, too. It gets easier after a while.

          -Jay-
  • Re: help, please! how to digitize film negatives...

    Tue, January 10, 2006 - 11:24 PM
    thanks to all of you for your help. i've put together the digital elements of my portfolio and i'm soooo excited about them. i think that i'm going to spend some time doing an inventory of my thousands of 35mm film archives and decide which i want to archive and which i don't. then i'll figure out whether i should get them scanned someplace in sf, or buy a scanner myself. i have contact sheets printed for most of the things i want to scan, so this shouldn't be too difficult.

    to be honest, right now i'm leaning toward paying someone else to scan my negatives. i just bought a photo printer (totally worth it) but that means i have three printers in my tiny apartment. i'm getting paranoid about being wasteful--especially since i only plan on shooting digital in the future.

    thanks again for all the help. the tribe communities have been exremely helpful in the last few months in helping me consolidate my work and put together my portfolio. call me a technophobe, but i love my hands-on print portfolio soooooooo much more than anything i've posted online.

    swooon!
    (though tis so inappropriate to swoon over your own work... it's more that i'm swooning over the appropriate representation of my work and the anticipation of incorporating more of it into my portfolio.)

    amberina

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