Thanks to the collapse of film photography as a mass-market phenomenon, development of new film scanner technology has essentially ceased (outside of the motion picture industry where development continues but the products are professional tools priced like cars and houses). Since many photographers own capable DSLRs with modern sensors it has become popular to use one’s existing digital camera in preference to a dedicated film scanner. Whilst this sounds sensible results are often disheartentingly disappointing. Why should this be and what can be done?
This is just a short post to tell you stuff that old skool film photographers know in their sleep but that new users of film might be genuinely perplexed by. 35mm film is pretty straightforward because it comes in a light-proof canister, that you rewind back into when you are done, and you simply take it back out again. Medium format is a little different.
Take 2 On Disentangling Colour Negative Film and ICC Profiles
Or, the longest titled blog post I have yet made.
In my previous post Scanning Colour Negative Film Using ICC Profiles I discussed my experiences in using ICC profiles in conjunction with negative film scanning. This lead to a lot of questions and much more research.
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…
Consistent Colour For Negative Film Scans
Not happy with all-over-the-map colour from negative film scans? If you have not already familiarised yourself with my introduction to scanning colour negative film I am more than happy to wait until you have read Scanning Colour Negative Film 101, Scanning Colour Negative Film 102 and Scanning Colour Negative Film 103?
All done? Then read on…
Scanning Colour Negative Film 102
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.
Colour Negative Film Scanning 101
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.
I know there are a few guides out there for home processing, some of which were instrumental in helping me get over my fears. All of these other guides seemed to be a little incomplete and that lack of detail made me wait longer than I should have before taking the plunge. In reality, it’s EASY to do your film at home. Let me show you!
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.
Lomography BelAir X 6-12
My first roll processed and scanned from my new Lomography BelAir X 6-12 puts me in the position to share some notes about the camera that you won’t find elsewhere.