In this episode we will embark on a journey into the depths of colour management and go where no colour negative film-shooting photographer has gone before. Well, I bet they have but I can’t find anything else like it on the internet…
In Scanning Colour Negative Film 101 we learned how to scan a piece of colour negative film in Nikon Scan using the standard negative mode as well as how to get a full range gamma 1.0 positive scan that we can use to do our own positive inversion with. Continue reading to start exploring how to do this in three progressively more complex but powerful ways. Because we are dealing only with processing the inversion of the positive scan the techniques discussed here are equally applicable for positive scans obtained via any scanner or software, even so-called “DSLR” scans. For DSLR scans, however, there are some special considerations that we will touch on in the third installment.
So you want to scan negative film? Well, it’s not too hard to be happy if you don’t look too far. I spent my first several years just using the “negative” mode on Nikon Scan with my Nikon Coolscan 9000ED and I was very happy. Nikon Scan does a very good and artistically satisfying job, in my opinion. It is all well and good until you want some control over the process. Let’s say, you don’t like the clipping point where your brights get cut off. Let’s say you end up with a colour cast in the shadows or across the whole image. Let’s say the shadows are crushed. What can you do? Well, nothing, my friend. Nothing unless you take over.
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 Nikon Coolscan 9000ED scanner is an excellent scanner. The included holders are of a very good standard and many extremely useful and high quality optional holders are available. None of them, however, are cheap.
I have been scanning happily for many years with my Coolscan 9000 ED and never seen the need for glass scanning. For the most part I use high quality film that is not difficult to make lie flat and my only medium format camera until recently was a 6×4.5 model that I never used anything but Fuji and Kodak film in. Nevertheless I had ordered some glass insets some time back from Focal Point — mostly out of curiosity. In my limited testing the gains were modest and the extra effort significant so they mostly stayed in the box.
In the past six months my camera stable grew to include two medium format folders: the new Lomography X 6-12 6×12 camera and a beautiful German Agfa Record III 6×9 folder with the high quality Solinar lens. All of a sudden I was having significant challenges with film flatness. Try as I might I could not get the flatness I needed out of Nikon’s “tension” holder.
The product offered by Focal Point for the 9000 is a pair of glass inserts that fit in the standard FH-869S film holder. The standard way of doing this is to make a sandwhich with the AN glass on top facing the “shiny” side of the film and the standard glass on the bottom in contact with the emulsion side of the film. Since the shiny side is usually the side that has bad Newton Ring problems this is meant to work well. However, in my experience with the films I shoot (and maybe the climate I’m in) I often find that the emulsion side is smooth enough to give rings and I invariably only find these later when I’m editing. These problems disuaded me until my new cameras prodded me to solve the problem.