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Photography Question 
Jenni Wheeler
 

Scanning Photos: Do-It-Yourself Vs. Paying Others


Is it more cost effective to purchase a photo scanner for negatives or to have them done by outside?


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1/16/2006 10:06:49 AM

 
Bob Fately   Jenni, I think the answer depends on how many negatives you are talking about, and what you want to do with them digitally. First, you should consider getting a film scanner rather than using a flatbed for film - while the latter can be done, the results are not as good as with film-specific models. Canon and Nikon, as well as Minolta, all make pretty good units from about $500-$1000.
The best of these scanners are capable of 4000-5000 dpi resolution (which nears the grain limit of film anyway) and pretty good dynamic range (dMax of 3.9 or 4.12). You can expect a 4000dpi scan of a 35MM frame in 8 bit color to be about 50-60 MB in size (120-140MB for 14 bit color). So space is one consideration. Of course, you could (and should) burn CDs or DVDs as multiple backups, and use high-quality long lasting blanks for this purpose (as even name brand conventional discs can fail after a few years of storage).
Time is another factor - someone will have to sit there and feed the scanner. So, if you have lots and lots of negatives and want to be able to produce high quality large output from them (I've done poster sized prints from 4000 dpi scans) then getting a film scanner would make sense. At least, you'll want to compare the costs (and time) to whatever per-negative price the service bureau will charge.
On the other hand, if your goal is to be able to produce low-resolution images for publishing on the Web or email attachments, then you won't need to scan at super-high resolutions. This may alter the formula - if the service bureau charges less for low res scans.
Black and white is another story, though - they can actually be trickier than color negs to scan properly.


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1/16/2006 10:43:25 AM

 
Michael H. Cothran   Bob's information is very thorough and accurate. No argument here. Please allow me to elaborate in another direction -
All consumer film scanners are of the CCD (Charged Coupled Devices) type. While the best of them are certainly capable of 4000 ppi resolution, their optics are not. This means that you'll get 4000 ppi, but many of those pixels are added as 'fillers' in much the same manner as Photoshop interpolation. You simply won't get 4000 ppi worth of detail.
On the other hand, not knowing your final use of the scanned images, these consumer scanners are more than enough for most photographers, and will provide you with excellent quality, even with their short comings.
However, if you want or need the very best in scanning quality, you will have to go to a drum scanner, which uses Photo Multiplier Tubes (PMT) rather than the CCD system. The results are much cleaner scans, much sharper, and maximum detail down to the grain. No fillers! File sizes are almost unlimited - it would not be out of the question to get a 200-300 MB file from a drum scan of your 35mm film. For most photographers, this would be an overkill.
The downside to drum scans is their expense. A personal drum scanner in your home could cost as much as your new Suburban. Commercial prices for individual drum scans begin about $30, and go up from there, depending on the file size you request. At Chromatics (www.chromatics.com) I pay $50 for a 300 MB drum scan from a 6x6 neg. I am thinking seriously about a high end CCD scanner instead. The drum scans are the best in quality, but somewhere along the line you have to weigh in the expense vs the quality difference.
Good luck.
Michael H. Cothran


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1/16/2006 4:44:58 PM

 
Larry Larsen   I rented a Nikon film scanner, $45.00 for the weekend. Get organized and be prepared for hours and hours of feeding film into the scanner.
Easy! Larry


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1/17/2006 12:25:48 PM

 
Larry Larsen   I rented a Nikon film scanner, $45.00 for the weekend. Get organized and be prepared for hours and hours of feeding film into the scanner.
Easy! Larry


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1/17/2006 12:25:48 PM

 
Jennifer Cresse
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/12/2005
  Awesome idea on renting! Where can you rent something like that?
I wanna scan all of my old film but my husband said he'd kill me if I bought a negative scanner.
Thanks!
Jen


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1/17/2006 1:41:59 PM

 
Larry Larsen   I would imagine that any major city has a camera store that rents equipment. It is used primarily by professional studios. In Seattle, Glazer's rents just about everything. Do a Goggle search for your location.
Larry


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1/17/2006 5:34:17 PM

 
Jennifer Cresse
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/12/2005
  Thanks!


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1/17/2006 7:01:24 PM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
cammphoto.com
  If you shoot a lot of film, a good dedicated film scanner is a worthwhile investment.
Though not as precise as drum scans, the results are acceptable by most people's standards.

Agreed,...it's time consuming to get good scans at home but cheaper in the long run than having them done by an outside party.


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1/18/2006 4:15:16 AM

 
Jenni Wheeler   Thanks so much for all the hellp! I'm having a hard time finding rental equipment, but I'm still hunting :) thanks again!
Jenni


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1/18/2006 5:53:56 AM

 
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