View Full Version : Some questions about a "digital darkroom"
I'm looking into building getting a quality film scanner and printer combo. I seem to always read things such as "that scanner is good for B&W" and "this scanner is good for color". Is there really a huge compromise when it comes to purchasing a scanner, do I need to choose B&W vs color? Also, I'm looking into purchasing a printer for everything from B&W negs, slides, and digital photos. However, I believe I've read that it is a difficult task to get a quality B&W inkjet print. How true is this? Basically, I'd like to get a good understanding of a digital darkroom and know what sort of compromises, if any, I'd have to make in purchasing certain products. I appreciate any and all advice, input, and help because I need to know for sure whether this will be a good move and investment for me.
BTW, I was looking at these products based on reviews and such that I've read about them.
Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 (original or the updated version, not sure yet)
Any input on these products is great. Thanks all! :)
I have a Minolta Scan Dual IV scanner that is inexpensive compared to other 35mm scanners, works great for me but not the best one available.
I also have an Epson 2200, it is an outstanding printer and prints black and white as well color. The trick in most current model printers is to print in "black only" mode or accept a little color shift in the print. For more information on this, google "black only printing" and read up on it. You can also buy special inkset for black and white printing, but unless you do a high volume printing it may not be practical.
some links: http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/digitalblack.html
and Clayton Jones: http://www.cjcom.net/digiprnarts.htm
One thing about buying scanners that's especially tricky for b&w is "grain aliasing" when scanning conventional b&w films.
When you scan a conventional b&w negative and then print it, the resulting print usually looks grainier than the same negative printed "wet" at the same size. Several factors go into this; one of them is the Callier effect, the same effect that makes a negative printed with a condenser enlarger look grainier than the same negative printed with a diffusion enlarger. Depending on the type of light source used, some scanners are more prone to this than others. That may be why you hear that one scanner is "good for b&w," while another is not so good.
However, this effect isn't true aliasing (which refers to any artifact that's introduced by the digitizing process rather than being present in the original signal.) What IS true aliasing is the grain enhancement effect produced by the interaction of two patterns: the random pattern of the grain structure, and the regular pattern of the scanner's CCD.
This kind of pattern interaction is familiar to most of us as moirť effect, which you can see by laying one piece of sheer fabric over another. The patterns align in some places and don't align in others, producing a larger pattern that you see as irregularly-shaped lines.
When scanning, overlaying the grain's irregular pattern and the CCD's regular pattern produces a larger pseudo-random pattern. It looks just like film grain, only magnified. And it's almost impossible to get rid of it without resorting to tricks that degrade fine details in the image.
Still, some scanners alias less than others, but there's no simple way to tell which ones (by reading spec sheets for example) -- you pretty much have to try it with the types of films you like to shoot, and see what results are acceptable for you.
Of course, if you are willing to use chromogenic b&w films instead of the traditional ones, grain aliasing is much less of a problem. Chromogenic b&ws form their image structure out of dye clouds rather than silver-salt granules; the dye clouds have blurrier, less-defined edges that don't interact as strongly with the CCD pattern, so don't produce the aliasing effect.
But if you want to keep using your traditional favorite films and make prints by scanning, you are going to be on the horns of a dilemma. Either you'll have to accept more graininess than you'd get in a traditional print, or resort to techniques to blur the grain pattern (throwing the scanner out of focus; using software filters) at the expense of fine detail.
Sorry, I know that's not what you're wanting to hear, but I've struggled with this for a long time and there it is. If you love traditional b&w, all I can suggest is that you buy your film scanner from a place that will allow you a return privilege, try it with your favorite films, and see if you can live with the results. If not, try some different models until you find one that works for you.
wow, great info on the scanning and pattern effects.
i have also struggled with this issue for the last 6 months, but don't profess to have any great knowledge about it... yet. i'm still working through the bugs and limitations of my systems, but for what it's worth, here's what i work with:
Epson 3170 flatbed scanner - seems to be above average, with good resolution, and support for 35mm and 120 film (up to 6x9)
Canon i9900 printer - the printer is absolutely fantastic printing color prints, and very good at B&W
the issues i have are these:
the inks from Canon are dye based (?) and therefore aren't going to last as long as the Epson inks. but fwiw, i get great color response and range, and the printer is fairly economical. B&W printing with the standard inks (i haven't tried any others) has been a challenge, as there is a color cast to the prints when i print in "color mode" and a loss of resolution when i print in "B&W mode". maybe i need to do some research on this Black Only printing. i've also found that, while the Canon papers are very, very nice, there aren't as many paper types/sizes as there are from Epson. most 3rd party papers i've found don't have an updated Canon i9900 profile, and end up looking average. the best i've found (other than Canon) have been Kodak Professional for color and Ilford Galerie Smooth Gloss for B&W.
the 3170 scanner is pretty good, it's fairly fast and has decent software - no ICE or Silverfast or whatever it's called. i get really good scans of my 120 film, and i print them out at 13x19 B&W and they look just as good as my wet prints. with 35mm scans, and slides specifically, is where i notice some issues. it seems that no negative or slide every scans the colors accurately. EVER. this leads to a lot of correction in PS on my part. the scanner can bulk scan 12 35mm frames at once, but for me the thumbnail/preview part of the software mis-steps about 10% of the time and doesn't find the image, or crops half of it, and always in the thumbnail preview mode (which is the only wasy to scan all 12 images as individual pics) always crops the image in on all sides too far for my tastes - just like getting a neg printed at Target, you lose 10% of the image! i've also noticed a prolem in achieving an acceptable level of sharpness in 35mm scans above ~200 dpi. maybe it's just me.
all bitching aside, i'm really happy otherwise!
If you decide on the Epson 2200 .... i would strongly recommend the Harington RIP for B&W printing ....... $50 .............. best investment i ever made !!!
No colorcasts ... and yu can use the same inks as you use for colorprints ... . I print B&W 95% ....... and these look really good using the RIP!
Thanks to all for their help, I really do appreciate it! And jlw, thank you especially for taking the time to go into such detail, it is much appreciated. I just want to know what sort of problems I can/will encounter before having to invest all the money so all the information was great! Thanks again.
I have a Nikon Coolscan ED V, and although Iím generally very pleased, it has a small drawback. When scanning strips (film not mounted in "slide frames") I get scans that are slightly out of focus around the edges. That means film grain gets a bit blurred, and in large prints that would be visible. The solution is to mount the strips in frames and thatís what I would do if the pictures were to be printed BIG.
Anyway, Iím very pleased with the scanner, for the price it makes great scans. Beats a flatbed by far.
But: if youíre going to scan 135 film and 120 film or larger I suggest a more expensive scanner. You can get OK 120 film scans with an Epson 4990 or similar, but thatís not a great choice for 135 film. So youíll have to get a film scanner for that. And buying two scanners isnít going to save you money or space... Go for a used Imacon or one of the better Nikons or Minoltas. Donít buy the Epson F3200, as it doesnít have ICE, which really is a lifesaver. Also, the resolution is 3200 ppi, a tad bit low.
My Konica Minolta Dimage Scan Elite 5400 II (to use the full absurdly long title) is an excellent piece of kit, probably the best affordable 35-only scanner on the market, and I use a flatbed (Epson 1680) for roll and sheet film.
The big problem is metamerism in printing. The only half-decent inkjet B+Ws I have ever seen have been made with a dedicated B+W printer (i.e. a mono ink set in a standard printer) -- and that's going to photokina, PMA and Focus, and writing for the photo press for a living. The best inkjets I have seen are from Cone Editions but they look completely different from wet prints: not inferior, just completely different, with charcoaly matt blacks.
Have you considered a Nova tent? A real wet darkroom in a space 110cm/42 inches square? All our printing for publication was done in one of these for a couple of years in California, then for a few months each (while moving house) in both England and France. There are pictures of the Nova in the 'Our Darkrooms' section on my web site, www.rogerandfrances.com. Go to the site, then Photoschool then Our Darkrooms.
Jumping on the bandwagon...
As some of you know I'm quite fond of monochrome (sepia-like) shots.
I'm rather pleased with my Minolta DS3 but I'm looking or a printer as well.
There's lots of talk of the Epson 2200 for B&W printing but what about monochrome printing?
I want to print in sepia tones (no B&W for me), a printer that takes seperate ink cartridges, and that can use pigment inks and "archival quality" paper.
I gather the Epson 2200 is still the printer to go for, or is it...?
RML, have a look at Lyson QuadBlack inks. I use neutral in an Epson Photo 750 dedicated to this task
You can get OK 120 film scans with an Epson 4990 or similar, but thatís not a great choice for 135 film. So youíll have to get a film scanner for that. And buying two scanners isnít going to save you money or space... Go for a used Imacon or one of the better Nikons or Minoltas. Donít buy the Epson F3200, as it doesnít have ICE, which really is a lifesaver. Also, the resolution is 3200 ppi, a tad bit low.
I too have still to decide what scanner I should buy but when I read the latest test of of the 4990 at i-photo UK i found confirmed that a flatbed still is not a solution good for all formats. it is said to be "close " to a good film scanner for 35mm film, , like a Coolscan III for example, but close does not mean really good. Even for the web presentation the film scanner is worth the invest, the scans differ quite obviuosly even on a monitor as I learned.
The F 3200 seemed to be a promising alternative first , read also this test at i-photo, but as you said without ICE not acceptable. So I am afraid there is no way out of the two-scanner dilemma., which is annoying because of costs, space and interface. :bang:
I'll be taking a peek soon, Socke. Thanks for the link!
[QUOTE=sockdaddy]the 3170 scanner is pretty good, it's fairly fast and has decent software - no ICE or Silverfast or whatever it's called
Silverfast is a scanner software, this is a program, like the programs that come with the various models of scanner that allow you to scan, and make corrections on your images. It is available as an alternative to the manufacturers software for many scanner models. Some say it has more features, and can do a better job.
Digital Ice is a dust and spot removal system that is built into some higher-end filmscanners, it requires the scanner to have an infrared channel that can be activated, and the image is scanned and the infrared channel is compared to the other channels and this procedure (done automatically) detects dust spots and scratches and attempts to supress them. (They show up more on the infrared channel). Due to needing this infrared channel, you have to choose a scanner with this feature built-in. It is not a software only thing.
Digital Ice only works for color photos and b/w chromagenic images. It does not work at all on conventional b/w silver based films. If you primarily intend to scan conventional b/w images, then Digital Ice is not needed, nor will it work. Even on color images, you may not be happy with the results if you wish to preserve maximum detail.
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