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Jeff S

Scanned bw negs vs digitally generated (M8)

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I have had times over the last few years, when I have used scanning with various dual purpose flat bed and dedicated film scanners (Nikon, Cannon and Polaroid/Artixscan). I have also been scanning in old family glass slides from the 19th century. The conclusion I came to was that scanning seems to work well on medium format and larger but I could never get results I was really happy with on 35mm. Black and white conversion of DNG's in either C1 or PS CS4, works so well, I would not dream of going back to 35mm plus scanning. 35mm scanning is however, a useful tool for recovering faded old reversal slides (Ektachrome seems to fade particularly badly). One thing I would recommend, pretty much for all scanners, is the Vuescan software. The maker, Hamrick is always responsive to any reasonable queries or suggestions.

 

Wilson

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I don't shoot digital. I both scan and wet print my 35mm film. I don't find it particularly hard to keep my negs unscratched and clean. For web posting, I takes me about 10 minutes to transform 10-20 pictures from raw scans into viewable images. This includes curves adjustments, sharpening, cropping, and dust/scratch removal. For higher quality images, I'd say I spend 1-2 minutes on a frame spotting for dust/scratches. It's really not a big time sink if have your film processing down.

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I have had times over the last few years, when I have used scanning with various dual purpose flat bed and dedicated film scanners (Nikon, Cannon and Polaroid/Artixscan). I have also been scanning in old family glass slides from the 19th century. The conclusion I came to was that scanning seems to work well on medium format and larger but I could never get results I was really happy with on 35mm. Black and white conversion of DNG's in either C1 or PS CS4, works so well, I would not dream of going back to 35mm plus scanning. 35mm scanning is however, a useful tool for recovering faded old reversal slides (Ektachrome seems to fade particularly badly). One thing I would recommend, pretty much for all scanners, is the Vuescan software. The maker, Hamrick is always responsive to any reasonable queries or suggestions.

 

Wilson

 

Yes, I use Vuescan too and it is excellent.

 

Cheers,

 

Sean

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Jaap:

 

"Great fine-art prints" vs "great digital prints" — now how's that for stacking the deck? Presumably this means that you create art with darkroom prints but not with digital prints. You'd better makes sure all the great photographers who are producing digital prints — say, Nachtwey and Moriyama for example — know that they'd better go back to darkroom prints if they want to create art.

 

—Mitch/Potomac, MD

Northern Thailand - a set on Flickr

 

I tend to a different interpretation : "fine-art print" is a typical term historically referred to chemical process, but I suppose that anyone think that "art" in itself can be achieved also via digital process... fact is that, while TAKING a pic is not so different in digtal vs. film, the processes of making "art print" from a neg and from a file (both bw, in this case) are really COMPLETELY DIFFERENT tasks: in my opinion is quite difficult that one thinks to master both at the same level... it's a work of continuous self-improvement - self-learning... lot of time expecially for an amateur: is it worth to dedicate yourself to both of them ? I think no : better to concentrate on one and try to reach a satisfactory level of excellence and control on it... that is always a starting point for the next step of improvement.

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I find it helpful to keep in mind that scanning is digital photography. With the M8 one photographs the subject and with scanning one makes a macro photograph of a piece of film. As Jaap mentions, an all optical/chemical workflow is a horse of a different color.

 

My own experience was that once I realized that I wanted to work in Photoshop rather than the darkroom (after decades doing the latter) I found that I wanted to digitally photograph the subject and not the film. YMMV of course.

 

Cheers,

 

Sean

 

Yes, I came to this same conclusion after having spent many years in the darkroom. But, my question was whether the end print...one from a digital file and one from a scanned neg (which you describe as also digital)...could look different enough to be worth the effort. Otherwise, why bother? (Some have suggested that retaining an M7 would allow me to shoot "full frame" with my lens arsenal...valid point, for now).

 

So far, I haven't gotten the impression from other posts that the "look" from these two "digital" means would be all that different (one said the print from the scanned neg looked "creamier"). And, there is disagreement on the effort required...scratches, etc.

 

I'm inclined to stick with my original assessment to go all digital as you did (although I'll miss my darkroom until I can, I hope, get good enough with this new approach).

 

Jeff

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You can of course, bypass the camera and film totally and make wonderful images directly with a scanner. Please look at this site Robert Creamer Photography of the images made by Robert Creamer, I believe the only living photographer to have a permanent exhibition in the Smithsonian. As my daughter is about to become his daughter-in-law, I was privileged to watch Bob at work just before Christmas. It was quite an experience to see what could be done with inspiration and skill but with a relatively simple piece of equipment.

 

Wilson

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And then there is the hybrid process. Film, scan, and treat like digital file. I do not care very much for that, as it introduces the disadvantages of film into the disadvantages of digital capture.

 

I find it helpful to keep in mind that scanning is digital photography. With the M8 one photographs the subject and with scanning one makes a macro photograph of a piece of film. As Jaap mentions, an all optical/chemical workflow is a horse of a different color.

 

My own experience was that once I realized that I wanted to work in Photoshop rather than the darkroom (after decades doing the latter) I found that I wanted to digitally photograph the subject and not the film. YMMV of course.

 

Cheers,

 

Sean

 

I'm happy to see two respected forumers share this reasoned, logical opinion which I also hold. A suggestion to you both though, don't dare express it over on the Film Forum

Otherwise an angry torch-bearing mob will descend on you, throw Dektol in your faces, and beat you to death with their sacred, beloved old film cameras. Sure, shooting film and then scanning it is a legitimate way to shoot if that's what you like, as is placing a piece of film inside a blackened shoebox with a pinhole in one end. That is not the issue at all. The issue is that shooting film + scanning results in a lower image quality than either film capture+wet print or digital capture+digital print unless maybe you've got a $100K drum scanner and a lot of expertise and time.

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When I was using my DMR, no matter how hard I tried, I could never get the image to look like a film image. Which is what I want.

 

Frankly, I don't care what anyone else thinks about it either. It's my hobby. It's my choice. I am very happy scanning my 35mm with my £500 Nikon scanner.

 

If digital users are happy with their super clean, grain free images, then that's fine too. I tried an M8 and just didn't like the files it produced one bit, so I gave it back.

 

No one is going to throw anything at anyone, just because someone else has made a choice about what they want to do with their photography.

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Jeff,

 

I find the combination of film [for some subjects], digital for others [Kept one of my M6's] works well for me. For digital captures, I have been using a program from DxO called Filmpack, which I believe is under $100- US, and emulates film "looks." Grain is adjustable for size, intensity, "film format," with a good many presets, which can then be modified. A number of people here use Silver FX, with which they are quite happy. I use the Pan-F preset for many of my iso 320, 640 shots, or HP5 pre-set for some, depending on subject, contrast, etc. With all its issues, I am very happy with the b&w results I get from the M8. On the other hand, if you can keep one of the M7's for a while, to see if you will return to film, it might be a good idea--or find a user M2, for example.

 

As for the issue of "art" printing--consider that some folks are now focusing on "slide shows," rather than exhibition printing, with very interesting results. Imants, a frequent poster here, has done some interesting things, with slide shows in Toronto. As for printing, while silver and carbon ink based prints look different, so do pencil drawings and etchings--who's to say which is "real" art ['though I know we'll find opinions, galore]?

 

Cheers,

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You can of course, bypass the camera and film totally and make wonderful images directly with a scanner. Please look at this site Robert Creamer Photography of the images made by Robert Creamer, I believe the only living photographer to have a permanent exhibition in the Smithsonian. As my daughter is about to become his daughter-in-law, I was privileged to watch Bob at work just before Christmas. It was quite an experience to see what could be done with inspiration and skill but with a relatively simple piece of equipment.

 

Wilson

 

Thanks, Wilson. Kind of a digital version of Man Ray! Coincidentally, I live in Baltimore and his show apparently just started here...timely post:)

Jeff

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When I was using my DMR, no matter how hard I tried, I could never get the image to look like a film image. Which is what I want.

 

Frankly, I don't care what anyone else thinks about it either. It's my hobby. It's my choice. I am very happy scanning my 35mm with my £500 Nikon scanner.

 

If digital users are happy with their super clean, grain free images, then that's fine too. I tried an M8 and just didn't like the files it produced one bit, so I gave it back.

 

No one is going to throw anything at anyone, just because someone else has made a choice about what they want to do with their photography.

 

Andy, it sure sounds like you get a dramatically different (and better for your taste..more film-like?) print from a scanned negative file than from an M8 digital file. Can you describe the differences, and perhaps some of the technique/equipment/software you use to generate these results?

Jeff

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I mainly use film and mainly scan/print rather that wet print (I don't have a darkroom).

 

I like the control which using PS allows me and I prefer to look that I get from a film image, which despite the scanning process still comes through in the end result.

 

If we accept that the film has captured the image, the colours/tones and the effect of the chosen lens, all the scanner is doing is copying that. So I disagree that scanning film is the same as taking a digital image in the first place.

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Jaap:

 

"Great fine-art prints" vs "great digital prints" — now how's that for stacking the deck? Presumably this means that you create art with darkroom prints but not with digital prints. You'd better makes sure all the great photographers who are producing digital prints — say, Nachtwey and Moriyama for example — know that they'd better go back to darkroom prints if they want to create art.

 

—Mitch/Potomac, MD

Northern Thailand - a set on Flickr

 

How is that for twisting my words? You seem to see a difference in artistic value between a great digital print and great chemical print. Well, I don't, as I tried to explain in my post. As Luigi points out " fine art print" is simply a technical term for a high-quality chemical print.

Edited by jaapv

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Guest malland
...As Luigi points out " fine art print" is simply a technical term for a high-quality chemical print.
It is no such thing: a digital print can be a "fine art print", although I must confess that the term "fine art photographer" and "fine art print" are absurd; but on this point I stand with Lawrence Durrel who, when asked for the meaning of art in an interview when he was in his swimming pool in Corfu, said, "Art is for arting, fart is for farting".

 

—Mitch/Potomac, MD

Wiang Pa Pao - a set on Flickr

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Whatever. In any case you misinterpreted my post.

Edited by jaapv

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Guest stnami

...........before photography and still to this day fine art printmaking is based on the idea of creating a master plate, a matrix. eg etching plates etc and the image is transferred to paper. A bit narrow minded in your thinking again Jaap, you gotta get out a bit more.... remember plates came before negatives that are now followed by digital

Edited by stnami

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Jeff S,

 

sell your M7s and get the M8 or M8.2. Enjoy digital M and learn to love the new process and new art.

 

If you want to shoot films down the road, buy the old m6TTL or M7, they are cheap, and will be cheaper.

 

I still have my Contax 645 and Contax N1, I don't shoot film anymore but they are worth next to nothing so I keep them for fun. If I ever want to shoot film, it will be M7 or MP as I like my M lenses and the handling of Leica. If I shoot film, the neg will be processed and scanned by lab. I have been thinking incorporate film into my work since last fall, but there are so many things going on now and it becomes a non priority.

 

move forward and thank me later.

Edited by Albert4321

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...........before photography and still to this day fine art printmaking is based on the idea of creating a master plate, a matrix. eg etching plates etc and the image is transferred to paper. A bit narrow minded in your thinking again Jaap, you gotta get out a bit more.... remember plates came before negatives that are now followed by digital

 

Very true, Imants. However, etching is slightly beyond the scope of this forum, wouldn't you say?

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sell your M7s and get the M8 or M8.2. Enjoy digital M and learn to love the new process and new art...

 

If you want to shoot films down the road, buy the old m6TTL or M7, they are cheap, and will be cheaper...

 

move forward and thank me later.

 

jeff - if like Albert all you want is something "new", then go ahead. I think you'll find that sometime in the future you'll miss film, so I recommend that you keep hold of at least one film camera, just in case. If you really find that you haven't used it after a year or so (when the excitement of the new M8 has worn off), then by all means go ahead and sell it.

Also, I'm finding that prices for Leica film cameras in good condition are not dropping at all.

 

There's nothing 'forward' about digital or 'backward' about film, only superficial, consumer-brainwashed people think in these terms.

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Guest stnami

I didn't realise that the terms matrix, master plate and etching was beyond your comprehension, etching was mentioned as one of the traditional methods of the "fine art print" as are the traditional photographic plates. Champions of photography took up the term "fine art print" in order to give photography credibility and equal standings with other fine art disciplines.

 

It could be argued that a negative is not a true matrix nor is it a master plate so the process is not fine art printing, this would also exclude digital in the process. I am happy to accept the term fine art prints in traditional printmaking and in film photography( as most do these days). Thus also accepting that fine art prints can be created from digital files as the techniques and diciplines follow one another in the spirit of creating multiple images(copies) that are the same or similar.

Edited by stnami

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