B&W negative scanner

greenspun.com : LUSENET : B&W Photo: Alternative Process : One Thread

What is the best film scanner for the B&W negatives?

-- Alain Desgreniers (samdesgreniers@icrdl.net), January 01, 2001


I don't know that there is a single best scanner. It is important to find one with the greatest possible density range--some will only go to a D of 3, but the closer to 4 the better. I personally have a Microtek Scanmaker 4, which scans prints or negatives at a resolution of 600 dpi. This is good enough for web work. I could use it to make digital negatives from my medium or large format work, but it doesn't have the resolution necessary for critical work from 35mm negatives or slides. My scanner is nearly 2 years old, and there are a lot more options available now.

-- Ed Buffaloe (edb@unblinkingeye.com), January 04, 2001.

you'll be hard pushed to find a CCD scanner that has a true dynamic range much in excess of 3.2D. Even the very best and most up-to-date CCD sensor arrays only have a quoted dynamic range of 3.7, and most scanners that are on the market today are designs that were originated at least 2 or 3 years ago, when CCD technology was inferior.
I wouldn't worry about this though. A properly exposed and developed B&W negative shouldn't have a Dmax much greater than 3.0D.
Don't worry about digital ICE either, since it just doesn't work with silver-based B&W film.
In fact, B&W film is a great leveller of film scanners, and any of the more reputable makes will give virtually identical results from B&W negatives. Your only decision, basically, is how much you want to spend. If you're only interested in 35mm format there's a whole range of scanners to choose from. At the bottom end there's the Acer Scanwit which gives 2700dpi resolution, and more than sufficient quality, at about $300, to the Polaroid SS4000t, with its 4000dpi resolution, at about $1000. Both of the Nikon scanners are over-priced and have no advantage for B&W use.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), January 10, 2001.

I have a Nikon Coolscan LS3 and can confirm scanning silver B&W negs is difficult.

The instruction manuals that come with the unit are egregiously bad, in that they give no explanation of the functions or meaning of such terms as colour space, RGB vs CMYK etc.. :Nothing! Zip! Nada! Bupkis! etc. They also do not tell the user that to scan B&W negs, one must turn off the color manager in a complex sequence of moves, then make sure the Digital ICE is off. It took me 2 hours with a Nikon distributor's technician to find this out. Even he did not know how to do it nor what the various terms meant. Nikon deserves to be thrashed MERCILESSLY for the lack of data with these expensive machines.

Once the right buttons are clicked, there is a usable B&W scan, in which the grain of Tri X or HP5 becomes evident before the digital artifacts, which means at least an 11 x 14 print, IF your printer is good enough to do something with it and not degrade the image.

Scanning of C-41 chromogenic negs is a snap, and further impetus for me to switch over completely to these films for 35mm work. In these scans, the pixelation comes in before the grain does. With the advent of FUJI Provia 100 slide film, I shoot a lot more of that and convert a colour scan into greyscale, then incer to a negative for beautifull "toned" B&W prints from my otherwise mediocre Cannon BJC 6000. On watercolour or parchment paper, these look beautiful!(I will get an Epson 2000 soon.)

These machines were not designed to do serious B&W scans, or at least this is not explained by the manufacturer.

Low D Max can be compensated for in software, with only a minor degradation in overall quality.


-- richard ilomaki (richard.ilomaki@fmglobal.com), January 23, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ