Digital Darkroom Needs : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm thinking of getting rid of my 4x5 enlarger with cold light with lens, etc. and going into digital for large format for prints. I'm wondering what I might need in computer power (I use Mac and love it) scanners, printers, etc. to get the job done, any suggestions? and yes, I have a limited budget for this. (FYI: I do alot of scanning 35mm and tranmitting images for print in my work and have the gear to get it done, anywhere) But I'm wondering about large format. Thanks for your help in advance.

-- John Miller (, August 12, 2000


To duplicate the results you'll get using your 4x5 enlarger and cold light head you will need: Most of us, of course, cannot afford the Tango drum scanner. I send my images to West Coast Imaging< /a> for scanning.

I've taken this leap myself, and plan to buy an Epson 3000 and Piezography inks soon.

-- Darron Spohn (, August 12, 2000.

Not sure what happened to the URL above. The /a should have turned it off. Go to for your scanning.

-- Darron Spohn (, August 12, 2000.

It should be possible to obtain excellent results from 4 x 5 without having to spend $70,000 on a drum scanner. I have seen sample prints produced from an Imacon Flextight Precision II scanner that were excellent and this retails for $15000 or $499 a month for a lease. As a starting point you could also try one of the consumer flatbed scanners such as the Epson 1200U Photo ($400). The results will be nowhere near the same quality but for relatively small prints, you may be surprised by the output.

Instead of several 30-40gb drives, a single 10gb drive should be sufficient provided that you have a CDRW drive to save images to.

Depending on the size of prints you produce, you could also go with an Epson 2000P ($800) or Epson 1270 ($400). Both these will produce excellent quality archival prints up to 13x19 in size.

I would agree that you should get as much memory as possible. Having said that, I work with 256mb. A 13x19 print requires a file size of 74mb and 256mb seems sufficient.

-- Edward Hattersley (, August 12, 2000.

I agree with the previous poster, that Darron is exaggerating your needs. I have a Mac G3 (225 mhz processing power) with 512 MB of RAM; it has a built in 4 Gig hard drive and I have another 8 Gig external drive and a CD writer. It's more than adequate to be working with 200 MB scans and getting excellent 20" x 30" or 30" x 40" prints. As for a scanner, for large format there's a new scanner out the Artix 1100 (there's also an Agfa branded model, I think called the "Hi D") for about $2,000. I haven't seen its output, but it's the same scanner I have (the Microtek Scanmaker 5) with a much improved DMAX. Based on the scans I get from the Scanmaker 5, which are very very good, and improving the DMAX is the one area I would most want improved, you should be able to get GREAT prints up to at least 16" x 20" for 4" x 5". By comparison, I can print great prints up to 11" x 14" on a Lightjet 5000 off of my scanner (using 6 x 9 originals), which, while not quite as nice as scans from a Tango (I have those done too), are just a step below in quality; not leagues apart. The DPI of the Artix 1100 is only 1000 dpi, but that should be more than adequate for excellent 4" x 5" scans to allow you to print up to 16" x 20" or larger at 80 dots per centimeter. Why 80 dpc? Because that's the lowest recommended resolution for getting Lightjet 5000 prints. If you have your own monitor calibrator and apply the profiles that the major labs will give you for free, you can get 16" x 20" color prints (or black and white prints) for $27 each from a Lightjet 5000. Not cheap, but well worth it for the quality IMHO. If you want black and white prints, you can get very good ones up to about 13" x 20" or so, with the Epson 1200 or other similar Epsons using special sets of black ink sets. I personally wouldn't plan on doing high quality color prints at home, unless you do a real lot, because of color calibration difficulties. Calibrating a printer is the hardest part of developing a calibrated color system; even with an expensive (over $1,000) measuring device. Calibrating your monitor and scanner is quite easy (IMHO), but you should definitely plan on spending between $400 and $600 for a hardware software monitor profiling/calibration package from the Color Partnership (they're the best, IMHO). The Artix 1100 comes with excellent scanner profiling software (at least my Microtek Scanmaker 5 did and I'm pretty sure it's the same, or slightly improved software), and even comes with a Kodak 4 x 5 IT8 calibration slide (normally the slide alone costs about $100). Many other $2,000+ scanners also come with their own profiling software. There are many other good scanners to consider as you get into the $3,000 - $4,000 price range and above; one feature I personally would be hard pressed to go without is glassless scanning; after having compared the Microtek and several other scanners in the $2,000 or less price range a year ago, I saw a significant difference between glassless scanning (like the Microtek/Artix/Agfa) and scanners that have flatbed glass interfering with the optical path. The Epsons are great printers and for black and white I believe can be calibrated relatively effectively. However, for calibrating them for color prints, you need to start getting into issues like dry down time and changes in print colors for several days after you print (before they become "archival," and all this changes depending on which ink set and paper you're using) and then pretty soon you'll be spending all of your time calibrating your printer rather than making prints. Fuji Pictography's are excellent color and black and white printers that can be calibrated easily and give photographic (or near photographic; I can't see the difference) output. They are expensive though -- for the 4000 which will do up to 12" x 18" prints they're about $10,000, I think (leasing is available), but the cost per print

-- Howard Slavitt (, August 12, 2000.

I meant to say that the cost per print on the Fuji Pictography is relatively low $1-$2 per print I think. I'm always getting cutoff when I respond using my Mac and Internet Explorer 4.5; so far the only downside I've found from using a Mac.

-- Howard Slavitt (, August 12, 2000.

Why the major change? If you are printing LF you own't get any better by going digital, just spend a lot more money. This gets you one more step removed from the process of photography.

-- Dan Smith (, August 12, 2000.

I like Howard's approach. One thing you should always ask yourself is "How much quality can I afford?" Going the flatbed scanner for LF scans is a fairly good idea, especially if you're thinking of doing at home printing on inkjets. There are many excellent scanners you can get for $2000-3000 new. The Agfa Duoscan is one (I think that's an Agfa badged Artix - Agfa has always been great with their scanner drivers and other ancilliary software which is a damn fine reason for getting an Agfa if I may say), as well as the UMAX Powerlook III.

If you are willing to out source your scanning and printing and just make image manipulations yourself, you just need to get a nice Mac with a lot of RAM (I'd go for at least 512 megs), and a good monitor (Apple's own 17 inch - the current model - is pretty good) with a color calibrator. Plug in a CD-R and you're on your way.

Be prepared to spend a lot more money on your picture making when you 'go digital'!

One other approach in 'going digital' that I'd like to point out involves making traditional black and white silver contact prints from digital internegs. Check on Dan Burkholder's book on the subject. Why would one want to do that? Well, if you're into alternative processes like platinum or gum bichromate, it's an easy way to get large contact 'internegs' made from small starting negs. The other thing is that it allows for easy dodge and burn as well as artificact removal, on screen, as well as making composites with Photoshop (which is probably a lot easier than compositing the darkroom way).

Online, Don Krehbie has a very good website on the subject (even though it deals with making digital contact prints with a Minox, the process is the same for LF). His method is one of making internegs with Epson inkjet paper.

-- K H Tan (, August 12, 2000.

I just checked for the Microtek Artixscan and the Agfa Duoscan HiD.

I suspect that they are basically the same scanner since the specs are so similar (Microtek has made many of Agfa's scanners for a long time already). The Agfa sells for $2400 and the Artixscan close to $1000 less.

-- K H Tan (, August 12, 2000.

After comparing the very high end scans as Darron mentions with the mid range and the low range, I come to the same conclusions as when comparing an 8x20 contact print with a 35mm contact print. If you want top results you have to use the right tools for the job. Yes, you can enlarge 35mm to 8x20, but you pay a price. You can get mid & low range scans & get 'nice' results. But put them head to head with scans from the top gear and there is a noticable difference, one seen as well as the difference in 35mm and large format. Darron is looking at this from the perspective of doing the job right from the beginning rather than building a brick at a time and having to constantly upgrade & replace. Quite similar to buying good LF gear rather than going cheap & having to upgrade to get top quality a little at a time. I still don't see the attraction of digital compared to the fine quality one gets from doing it all by hand in the traditional darkroom, and yes, I have photoshop, etc. and use it. But when working for quality I much prefer straight photography to digital. Getting into digital on the quality level commensurate with LF cameras will be expensive, even for mid range quality and you will be forever kicking yourself for going the cheap route. Nothing is to be gained by working with gear while constantly reminding ones self that "I should have bought something better", a sure result of buying almost anything digital. Enlarged negs I can see, with a big caveat. Look at the digital enlarged neg and see if it is any 'better' than the traditional enlarged negs. If not, what has been gained? By rights, they should be much better, with all the fine tuning and controls. But, how long will it take to be able to really manipulate the Photoshop options to get them this way, and will you really have the time to become expert at it so as to get the finest results you want?

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.netq), August 13, 2000.

But Dan, it all quite depends on what John means by 'going digital'. Sure you would get the maximum quality by drum scanning and archiving all your slides and negs onto CDROMs, but that could be cost prohibitive for him.

If money is no object to John (which he has already said it IS), he might be better off with a line scan back (or a three shot back) and not even bother with scanning negs and chromes. You get a LOT better quality with a high res straight to file digital capture than with the best film scans money can buy today (albeit with certain restrictions as to subject matter). And this is true even with a lower spec'd model like a BetterLight 4000 which costs just under $10k.

So there are many ways of going digital. As we all know, restrictions inevitably come with the size of one's bank account.

I would like to say that one need begin with the end in mind, that is, perhaps John might want to tell us what size, quality and type of output he wants, and then work backwards to find the most cost effective solution. Meanwhile, its nice to see the different opinions about how he should do this.

The so-called low end ways of going digital aren't necessarily bad really. It does all come down to what desired in the end.

-- K H Tan (, August 15, 2000.

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