So I finally got me an Epson too. It is the world amateur standard for film scanning in this current age but it’s film holders suck, as everyone knows. I needed a holder for the 4×5 film that I scan on it that didn’t suck and I didn’t want to buy one. This is what I did instead.
The Epson V700/V750 scanner is essentially the last survivor of the great scanner wars of the early 2000s. At one time Minolta, Canon, Nikon and a selection of smaller players all offered dedicated film scanners to sell to the dedicated pro amateur segment of the photo market. As these shooters went digital Epson came out with the V700/V750 flatbed with a crazy claim of 9600dpi resolution and a dedicated film scanner price. Many scoffed at the time because true film scanners were not flatbeds (the extra glass lowers what quality can be achieved and the overall design fails to control reflections the way a dedicated film scanner can). Nevertheless, it is Epson who is still able to sell a premium product to the amateur film shooter crowd and at this point they have the whole pie to themselves.
For a long time I did not want the Epson nor need it since I have one of the best of the dedicated film scanners ever sold in the mass market, the Nikon Coolscan 9000Ed. But then I started shooting 4×5 film and I needed a quality scanner. Epson were still the only game in town.
Previously, I had been making do with a cheaper scanner. Probably the cheapest scanner on the market with a full width transparency adapter — the HP G4050. It is a surprisingly decent machine for the small amount of money it costs and it has a rather ingenious film holder which holds the film by the very smallest of margins exposing most of the rebate. When scanning colour negative film it is often vital to have some of this unexposed rebate visible in the scan in order to set the colour of the “film base”. Almost every method of inverting colour negatives to a true positive image requires or works best if there is a portion of the unexposed base somewhere in the scan.
When I got my Epson set up the first thing that struck me was how much worse the holder for 4×5 film was on the Epson. Not only did it feel flimsy but it held the film with such a large margin that no rebate was visible on any of my scans. At first I figured that there was nothing to do about it since that was the design. Then, one day, I was looking at the holders and I realised that the extra margin was not used for clamping, it was just an extra “ledge”. I’ve learned in the past that you don’t ever want to get a grinding bit or Dremel anywhere near plastic because it gets very messy very fast but I had my Leatherman knife in the wardrobe which I knew to be both sharp and strong.
With a shaving motion I was fairly easily able to completely remove the ledge. Now my holders hold just as well as before but I can also get some rebate in my scans. Hooray!