Circle of Scanner Confusion... : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

My low-res Umax 1200U, with trans adapter and Photoshop 6, certainly has its problems with capturing shadow details in my 4X5 transparacies. Hopefully without spending many thousands of dollars, what scanner ungrade should I consider? Is it only judged upon dpi? The 1200U is only 600X1200, and there are many only slightly more expensive scanners ($250-$400) that are good are they? Are there any scanners around $800 that are even better. Ideally, I would shoot 4X5 in negs for my lab-produced gallery stuff, and 120 film in transparancies for my self-scanning/printing of archival prints(11X14) on soon-to-be-purchased Epson 2000P printer(upgraded from my 870). T

-- Gary Albertson (, May 26, 2001


Gary, I have experienced similar problems when scanning 35mm and 120 images even at 2400 x 1200 ppi on an Epson 610 flatbed scanner with a lightbox for illumination. The problem lies in the scanner's 'bit' not the resolution. Some images scan in great whilst others defy all manner of 'tweaking'.

My answer is to make some contact prints and scan those in on your flatbed scanner.



-- Clive Kenyon (, May 26, 2001.

Here are two flatbed possibilities to consider: (1) Canon just came out with a new flatbed, that scans to 2400 x 4800 (i.e. 2400 optical dpi), and supposedly has a built in film adapter, -- I think the retail price is about $500; (2) Artix Scan has a 1000 dpi scanner that has 3.7 DMAX; street price is below $1,500. I have the predecessor to the Artix Scan, the Scanmaker 5 (aka Agfa Duoscan), and, although the DMAX is not as good, it's a very good scanner for 6 cm x 9 cm (my overwhelming use) and should be even better for 4 x 5. It has a separate, glassless, film tray, so it really is akin to a film scanner. What's nice about the Artix/Microtek/Agfa's (all made by Microtek -- Artix is the higher end brand name; Agfa's are OEM products made by Microtek) is the film holders keep the film very flat for certain sizes -- 4 x 5 and 6 x 9 cm included (but not other medium format sizes). Myself, I've got my eye on either the new Nikon or Polaroid medium format 4000 dpi scanners, but that's because I need bigger scans.

-- Howard Slavitt (, May 26, 2001.

I agree with Howard. The DMAX is the answer to shadow details, and not the resolution. A flatbed scanner with 3.7 should provide you with very good shadow detail, as long as the information is in the origional transparency.

-- William Levitt (, May 27, 2001.

I had the ArtixScan 1100 Howard mentioned above. The unit had some HW problems where it wouldn't always startup and do anything, but sometimes would work fine. I did manage to do several 4x5 1000 dpi scans with the system before returning it. I know there is no universal standard for measuring DMax, but I'd guess the Microtek claim of 3.9 is highly suspect in my opinion. There seemed to be quite a bit of noise in the shadows or the shadows just block-up. I did a comparison scan on an Imacon Flextight of a transparency with a high contrast range. There was no comparison in terms of recorded DMax, range and color accuracy (yes I had color calibrated the 1100). I know it's not fair to compare two scanners which differ in price by 10X+, but Microtek was making claims that it was comparable within the limits of being only 1000 dpi. Needless to say, I didn't replace it with another Microtek unit.

I've ended up getting an Epson Expression 1680. They claim a DMax of 3.6, and it does up to 1600 optical dpi. I'd suggest the versions which come bundled with SilverFast. The Epson twain driver isn't that good. My test case transparency scanned *much* better than the ArtixScan, but still not as good as the Imacon (I consider the Imacon good, not great, and certainly not worth 10X+ the price for my needs). So far, I'm happy with the 1680. The only thing I'm wanting to test further is the actual optical resolution. It seems w/o USM, my Epson scans aren't as sharp as my Imacon scans. I know this is reasonable given the nature of the two scanners, but I just want to quantify it.

-- Larry Huppert (, May 29, 2001.

I believe that either George DeWolfe is or has written an article for one of the recent publication on the Epson 1680 scanner. I am told that for LF negatives it does a very admirable job. Especially when wet mounting the negs to the glass with Kami mounting fluid and mylar.

In his article he compares the 1680 scans to Drum scans. Seems to me that without spending thousand of dollars, the 1680 and wet mounting is the wqay to go. The nice thing about Kami Moundting Fluid (KMF) is that it evaporates very quickly due to a high flash point of around 90F. That means no messy cleanup or the scanner or the negative/positive.


"Wakan Tankan Nici Un" (May the Great Spirit walk with you)

-- Mike Kravit (, May 29, 2001.

Where can I get this KMF(Kami Mounting Fluid)? Is it available at places like CompUSA? james

-- james (, May 29, 2001.


Your message is very interesting. I often wondered about using Kami mounting fluid on a flatbed, but never had access to KMF, nor the guts to put fluid on my own flat bed. It usually only takes 5 to 10 minutes in Photoshop to clean up the dust on a scan, but doing away with this step, and getting (possibly) sharper scans would be great! At first glance the Microtek approach of having the media slot inside the scanner seems to be a good idea, but I'd be concerned that the slot also provides an easy way for dust and dirt to reach the inside of the scanner without an easy way of cleaning it out.

The Epson 4x5 holder is OK, fairly easy to use, and seems to hold the film flat enough for most uses. Beyond this holder, I strongly dislike the 120/220 roll film and 35mm strip holders. The roll film holder is a generic 6 x atleast 17 design. Given the span, it does a poor job of holding the film flat. I've made my own 6x9 holder out of museum board. I was considering checking out the Imacon holders (great design!) or the newer Umax metal/rubber holders (which might be too thick) as an alternative to the Epson holders.

The other nice thing about the Epson 1680 is that it's very fast. About 3 minutes for a high res scan. The scanner is also instantly ready to scan which is unlike the Microtek which had about a 2 minute warm-up time prior to scanning. The Imacon seems to take about 15 minutes for an equivalent size scan during which time your film is gathering dust while waiting to be sucked into the machine.

-- Larry Huppert (, May 30, 2001.

I purchase Kami Mounting fluid (KMF) from a local distributor in Ft. Lauderdale. I believe you can also buy it from some of the national distributors. One in particular is IT (Image Technologies)

-- Mike Kravit (, May 31, 2001.

I also found a local supplier (Boston area) for Kami SMF 2001. It's D. M. Products in Rockland, MA (south of Boston).

-- Larry Huppert (, June 05, 2001.

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