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Good Afternoon,

 

I'm not at my computer now so it wont be later until I post some samples of the problem I'm describing.

 

Revisiting film, I've developed two rolls of Delta 100 using Illford chemicals to box specs. When I scan the negs using my Plustek 8200 and view on screen at 100%, the images are soft, lack contrast and grain, and difficult to determine where the focus point is. I enjoy the process and images alot, but am missing a alot in terms of sharpness. I have had decent results printing (digital) up to 8 x 11 inches but am not confident in going any further.

 

The negs. are moderately physically flat and I scan the images at 3600 dpi with everything in Sivlerfast 8 turned off. The TIFF image is then imported into LR5 where sharpness can be improved very slightly. I have noticed I am able to bring a decent amount out of the shadows. My thoughts are...

 

1. Camera Shake- The travel on my M6 shutter release is a little further than what I'm used to

2. Underdevelopment- Its winter in Sydney and I think the temp might be dropping during development

3. Water is hard in Sydney and I will have to use Distilled water

4. Plustek is sitting on a soft coffee table and shake is causing the problem

5. Plustek is out of focus... I really hope not

6. Leica M6 isnt focusing on anything... I really really hope not

 

I will have to revisit my work with trial and error, eliminating each of the above, but am sure there are some areas I am unaware of which you may be able to point out.

 

Many thanks in advance!!

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OK, I'll have a go, but there are so many unknown parameters.

 

Firstly, never try to get a finished scan direct from the scanner, you do want a slightly flat scan that doesn't clip either highlight or shadow detail. All contrast adjustments should be done in Lightroom or Photoshop.

 

You scanned at 3600dpi and at 100% (the size of the negative). That's good but gives you a massive file, so resize it to 8x11 at 360dpi (or whatever the native resolution of your printer is) using 'Bicubic Sharper' in Photoshop or Lightroom, and rename it so as not to change your original scan. You should now start to see the image sharper. Actual sharpening should be only be done at the final stage, after any basic post processing like dodging and burning, but as a rough guide you should be able to apply unsharp mask at levels up to 160 amount and .9 radius and see an improvement in sharpening where the grain is now defined. Those two figures are variable, sometimes you need more, sometimes less, they are just a guide suggesting a level at which you may see some improvement. This is assuming you didn't apply any sharpening at the scanning stage which you should never do.

 

If you still haven't got sharp grain look at the film flatness in the scanner. Plustek holders are quite good but with curly film I still use masking tape along the join line between the top and the bottom pieces (modellers tape by Tamiya is the best). If that works and you get some defined grain but the image itself is still soft it will be the camera technique and/or the developer chosen. If in doubt do a test using a tripod and eliminate camera shake.

 

Steve

Edited by 250swb
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If you still haven't got sharp grain look at the film flatness in the scanner. Plustek holders are quite good but with curly film I still use masking tape along the join line between the top and the bottom pieces (modellers tape by Tamiya is the best)

Steve

 

Hiya Steve,

 

(And despite your alias, I hope Belicosos you won't mind me tailing along on your thread

)

 

Would you be so kind to show us how you do that?

I've got an Epson scanner, but perhaps I can use the same technique.

My main issues with film flatness is when it curves - especially 35mm Tri-X - around the longitudinal axis. Here's an attempt to draw the film strip with numbers within the frames and the brackets indicating the type of curvature:

                  _________________________
---longitudinal-- (_1_(_2_(_3_(_4_(_5_(..._( --axis--->

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I've been using Ilford Delta100 for some time now and developing it in Ilfosol 3. I scan using a Minolta Dimage Scan Elite 5400 at a DPI of 1350 which gives a file size of 4.9MB and an output size of W 1888 pixels and H 1240 pixels.

 

Here is an example that I have just scanned. It has had no adjustments of any kind either when scanning or in Lightroom 4. I can improve the sharpness in Lightroom by moving the slider up to a setting of 40.

 

Development time was a full 5 minutes at about 21 degrees C ,which was room temperature, with a fixing time of 3 minutes. The developing solutions won't fall below room temperature if the developing tank and liquid chemicals have been kept in the same room. I keep my exposed but undeveloped film cool in the door of the fridge but allow it to warm up to room temperature before developing.

 

 

Hope that this gives you something to compare to.

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Thanks }{B

.... Like I don't know what guys on this forum are capable of !!!!!????

 

... but in all seriousness, I've attached an original with no adjustments, as well as a 100% crop. Although they are JPEG, I think it does represent my concern over sharpness.

 

Thanks Steve for your advice. I will play around with the resolution in regards to my target device. I've overlooked that aspect and have just relied too much on what the computer is telling me.

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Hiya Steve,

 

(And despite your alias, I hope Belicosos you won't mind me tailing along on your thread

)

 

Would you be so kind to show us how you do that?

I've got an Epson scanner, but perhaps I can use the same technique.

My main issues with film flatness is when it curves - especially 35mm Tri-X - around the longitudinal axis. Here's an attempt to draw the film strip with numbers within the frames and the brackets indicating the type of curvature:

                  _________________________
---longitudinal-- (_1_(_2_(_3_(_4_(_5_(..._( --axis--->

 

With my Epson V700 I use the Betterscanning anti Newton ring glass insert for the Epson holder. I holds a strip flat and adds some micro contrast to the scan.

 

Steve

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With my Epson V700 I use the Betterscanning anti Newton ring glass insert for the Epson holder. I holds a strip flat and adds some micro contrast to the scan.

 

 

That sounds great! I've got the same scanner.

 

How do you use the glass? Just placed over the film inside the 4-strip frame, instead of using the plastic fasteners?

I was under the impression that the glass inserts require liquid mounting, and wasn't keen on doing that.

Can the glass inserts be used without liquid?

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You just place the ANR glass on top of the negative strip and its weight holds them flat. Test again to check the height of the holder using the adjustable feet.

 

But the Betterscanning film holder's are much better than the Epson holder, I have one for 120, and they make a big difference to film flatness and how accurately you can calibrate the height of the holder to get maximum sharpness.

 

Steve

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Thanks Steve,

 

I considered getting the ANR glass from Betterscanning about a year ago, but had been under the impression that it was limited to liquid mounting use.

 

They seem to have only MF and LF holders for the Epson, nothing for 35mm.

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I've attached an original with no adjustments, as well as a 100% crop. Although they are JPEG, I think it does represent my concern over sharpness.

 

Belicosos,

 

Short version:

 

I don't see any problem with the posted image's resolution.

 

If you want to increase apparent sharpness in your photo, you need to increase local contrast. The image includes bright whites and deep shadows, so increasing contrast means reducing overall information. You would need to clip whites, flatten midtones, and/or clip blacks. For an experiment, try setting the black point to the darkest part of the window shadows in your crop sample; this will clip all of the original image's shadows, but I bet it'd make the buildings look much sharper.

 

Long version:

 

A 100% crop of a film scan isn't entirely comparable to a 100% crop of a digital camera's output, which I'm assuming is your point of reference. Although a 3600 dpi scan will produce about 20 million pixels, that image will likely have many different characteristics than one of the same scene captured by a 20 megapixel digital camera. Looking for sharpness in 100% crops might be more effectively thought of as trying to align a constellation of characteristics that together create an apparently sharp image.

 

Firstly, what you see at 100% magnification of a film scan is often limited by the scanner. For example, filmscanner.info reports that the 8200i needs to scan a frame at 7200 dpi and then be downsampled to achieve its maximum resolution of 3250 dpi. A straight scan at 3600 dpi, then, will look a lot like a picture that has been up-scaled for printing and then viewed at 100%--which is to say soft and blurry, even when the original image was contrasty and sharp. Operating a scanner properly requires learning to use a whole new tool; I think of SilverFast as my "Camera Raw" software, and they both require effort to learn. You're certainly on the right track to get suggestions from other people with the same scanner. Note that T-Max 100 should be able to resolve out to about 5500 dpi; I haven't found MTF curves for Ilford films, but since Delta 100 is a T-grain film like T-Max, it can probably resolve at least as much as your scanner can capture, so working to get the most possible out of your scanner will reward you with more resolution. I'll warn you, though, that trying to get all possible detail out of a piece of film is a very deep rabbit hole to go running down.

 

Secondly, film looks different from digital capture on close inspection. With film, contrast rolls off with progressively finer details, where digital sensors record the same amount of contrast almost right up to as much detail as they can resolve. So, even when comparing a film and sensor that resolve about the same amount of fine detail, the digital sensor will likely have higher contrast, and therefore appear sharper--often much sharper. However, digital sensors create false colors and lines when the subject detail exceeds the sensor's resolution, which distract from the subject's rendering, where details on film simply fade out into lower and lower contrast. Additionally, film gracefully handles high contrast, fine detail subjects, like trees against a bright sky, where a digital sensor will just clip the small limbs into white nothingness.

 

Finally, with a film scan, you want the 100% crop to look soft. If the 100% crop isn't soft, you probably have a lot more resolution there that you could capture. But if the 100% crop is somewhat soft, then you know you're at least approaching the limits of what's actually on the film and capture-able with your scanner. I edit my film scans at a much higher resolution than is necessary, using a 50% or 33% preview the way I use 100% when working with DSLR files, and only down-sample when I'm ready for final output--which then can and sometimes do look just as sharp at 100% as purely digital captures.

 

The bottom line is that 100% crops of film scans won't look like 100% crops of digital camera captures.

 

Theory aside, comparing your sample photo to Howard's, I would say that the difference comes down entirely to subject and lighting--not equipment. Howard's photo has a lot of texture lit by single point light source at an oblique angle. This creates a lot of local contrast, which is often seen as sharpness. Your photo doesn't have as much area with textured subjects, and they are lit by a diffuse light source. This, on the other hand, gives us a lot of tonality, but not contrast, and not sharpness. Mind, I think your photo works well to capture the ambiance of a public space--I like the shot--but, directly off the film, the subject doesn't serve to maximize that which we call "sharpness." Creatively adjusting the image's levels might change that, though.

 

I don't know what program you use to edit your photos, but set the black point to black out the deepest shadows from your 100% crop. This will clip out approximately the darkest third of your image, making all of that completely black. However, the remaining parts will all take on much stronger contrast, which I would expect to cast many of the scene's edges in high contrast, creating sharpness. I don't propose using this as a final edit, just as an exercise to learn about what creates the perception of what is sharp and what is not.

 

If playing around with levels gets you closer to where you want to be, but you get frustrated by not understanding how the tools are working, I would suggest making sure you are familiar with the differences between contrast in the subject, contrast as recorded on the film or sensor, and contrast as seen in the end product. It might have a steep learning curve, but I found it rewarding to climb.

 

I hope this helps. I've been contemplating writing an article about why I primarily shoot film, so I may have gone off on a tangent rather than discuss issues germane to the thread.

 

Regards,

Jon

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Belicosos,

 

Short version:

 

I don't see any problem with the posted image's resolution.

 

If you want to increase apparent sharpness in your photo, you need to increase local contrast. The image includes bright whites and deep shadows, so increasing contrast means reducing overall information. You would need to clip whites, flatten midtones, and/or clip blacks. For an experiment, try setting the black point to the darkest part of the window shadows in your crop sample; this will clip all of the original image's shadows, but I bet it'd make the buildings look much sharper.

 

 

I agree the example looks like a perfectly normal film scan straight out of the scanner.

 

But there is a much easier and neater way to increase the local contrast (micro contrast) without resorting to throwing information away with Levels or Curves. With say a typical 120mb 100% 35mm scan you would go to Unsharp Mask and instead of sharpening the image you use it to affect only the micro contrast. You do this be reversing the normal settings, so for instance set the Amount to maybe 20%, and the Radius to 300. Clearly the actual figures depend on the image and image size, but the amounts can be far more for an unsharpened film scan than a digital image, which might only need 8% for the amount and 160 for the Radius.

 

The same thing is done by using the 'Clarity' slider in ACR, or the 'Structure' slider in Silver Efex. The result of using Unsharp Mask this way is a punchier image without affecting the overall contrast which can then be manipulated with Levels etc.

 

Steve

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I'm new to scanning, having only just obtained a PlusTeck scanner myself.

After reading your post though the first thought that came to me was why not try a conventional wet print from the neg(s). Either do it yourself, or have it done, somewhere.

This would at least put your mind to rest on points 1,2,3, and 6.

Gary

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Fantastic post and big thank you JonPB and Steve. Totally different from how I was seeing things. I don't claim to completely understand your post but now realise film is a different medium I will have to approach it differently.

 

I've spent some time in a wet dark room during high school and have since only used digital and always thought of digital as a replacement. Further, I always thought of my Plustek being a replacement for my enlarger. Wrong wrong wrong.

 

I will now focus a little more on how film renders the image (lines), and how I can use that to my advantage when choosing a subject/light, as well as playing around with the shadows/highlights to focus on contrast. From there, I will then have a look at resolution for my intended purpose.

 

Big Thank You!!!

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I disagree with the statements that say that the scan looks alright for a raw scan.

IMO either the negative isn't sharp to begin with or something is not right with the scanner.

A dedicated film scanner (even a humble one like the Plustek) should produce much sharper results. The scans posted here look like 35mm scans I get from a cheap flatbed scanner (Canon). It is true that scans at max. resolution might need some additional sharpening, but the sharpness and detail of the scan presented here is unacceptable IMO.

I attached a sample scan from a consumer grade film scanner done @3600 ppi resized to match the sample above and a 100% crop. No sharpening applied during scan or post.

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I disagree with the statements that say that the scan looks alright for a raw scan.

............ No sharpening applied during scan or post.

 

I think you are confusing contrast and clipped blacks with sharpness. Visually an image will look sharper if it is more contrasty, but you should look beyond that. The previously posted scans are ideal starting points for creating a sharp looking photograph because they have all the tones without any clipping. That they are grey and lifeless when they come fresh out of the scanner is not the point because almost any post processing software, Lightroom etc. will be able to manipulate the information available from a flat grey scan much better than a scanner can produce a 'finished' image. And looking beyond the contrast in your examples I don't see anything particularly sharp anyway, they are equally 'normal'.

 

Steve

Edited by 250swb
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Those images are soft and beyond what sharpening can modify.

 

Examine the negs with a loupe for sharpness, a reversed 50 mm lens will do

 

I would keep them under a book for 2 days or until they are dead flat. Then scan again.

 

I you have no focus adjustment on the scanner, send it back for repair.

 

Again, just scan to get a good histogram with no clipping. Save adjustments for later.

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OK, I'll have a go, but there are so many unknown parameters.

 

Firstly, never try to get a finished scan direct from the scanner, you do want a slightly flat scan that doesn't clip either highlight or shadow detail. All contrast adjustments should be done in Lightroom or Photoshop.

...

 

Steve

 

Belicosos,

 

Long version:

 

A 100% crop of a film scan isn't entirely comparable to a 100% crop of a digital camera's output, which I'm assuming is your point of reference. Although a 3600 dpi scan will produce about 20 million pixels, that image will likely have many different characteristics than one of the same scene captured by a 20 megapixel digital camera. Looking for sharpness in 100% crops might be more effectively thought of as trying to align a constellation of characteristics that together create an apparently sharp image.

...

Regards,

Jon

 

Hi Moderators,

 

There is so much experience here with Jon and Steve, I wish it could be captured in a sticky - or even in the article you plan to write Jon.

 

Thankyou both,

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I have taken the liberty to show that the photograph in question isn't so far off the mark. Given we don't really know the shutter speed, the aperture used, where the focus point is, all of which affect negative sharpness, and then film curvature, scanner calibration, and this low resolution image, all of which affect scanning and post processing sharpness. All I did was adjust the local contrast, a mild burn around the edges to hold the image in the frame, a mild burn on the highlights in the middle, and gentle sharpening to suit the image size. You can now see detail in the brickwork on the right and more detail in the highlights, all of which were latent and waiting for post processing.

 

Steve

Edited by 250swb
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With say a typical 120mb 100% 35mm scan you would go to Unsharp Mask and instead of sharpening the image you use it to affect only the micro contrast. You do this be reversing the normal settings, so for instance set the Amount to maybe 20%, and the Radius to 300. Clearly the actual figures depend on the image and image size, but the amounts can be far more for an unsharpened film scan than a digital image, which might only need 8% for the amount and 160 for the Radius.

 

Steve, thanks for describing this method of increasing local contrast. I will certainly try it out. Very exciting.

 

I believe that the original negative wasn't in entirely focus; my eyes don't see a clear focus point anywhere in the image. My guess is the RF patch was aimed at the closest lamp post (not the one to the very right) or thereabouts but also that is a bit soft. I think your processing of the image shows what can be achieved with careful editing, and particularly how well adjusted contrast can give the impression of sharpness and make up for a lot.

 

Edit: Out of curiosity, would you mind showing a crop of the same part as Belicosos did? Would be interesting to compare, methinks.

 

cheers

philip

Edited by philipus
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That sounds great! I've got the same scanner.

 

How do you use the glass? Just placed over the film inside the 4-strip frame, instead of using the plastic fasteners?

I was under the impression that the glass inserts require liquid mounting, and wasn't keen on doing that.

Can the glass inserts be used without liquid?

Hi Steve

 

... as said Steve

please look at this picture (post 203) :

http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-forum/film-forum/160651-epson-v700-750-very-good-our-11.html

Best

Henry

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