Negative Scanning

I have a lot of negatives and transparencies from my days of shooting film and various of them have been scanned at times either for projects or just because I wanted to have them as part of my digital library. For a long time, I have made use of a Minolta Scan Dual III film scanner. While it doesn’t appear to like modern operating systems, a few tweaks to the config files make it run with Windows 7. However, it is not a totally smooth process and the scanner has a habit of hanging at odd times which requires a lot of fiddling to recover.

When I built my latest computer, I didn’t bother to install the drivers and the box is sitting on a shelf. I was figuring I would come back to it if I needed to. Recently, I needed to scan a single strip of film and wondered whether I had an alternative. I do have a flatbed scanner that has a film scanning capability. I had previously dismissed flatbeds for film scanning since they were seen to be inferior to dedicated film scanners. However, my film scanner was pretty old and gave me mixed results and my flatbed is relatively new. Therefore, I figured I ought to give it a go.

First, the limitations. It will scan a strip of film of shots but you have to move a small device between each shot between scans. No scanning a full holder of film or slides. Big scanning jobs are therefore a lot less practical. As for the image quality, I have yet to find a way to have much control. A preview scan is done but if it comes out with a poor exposure, for example, I have yet to find a way to adjust it. The dedicated film scanner allows all sorts of tweaking. Then there is the speed. If I go for the highest resolution, the scans take many minutes for each exposure. I can wander off and do something else but, if you have more than a couple of images to scan, this is a slow and inefficient process

As for the output quality, it is a mixed bag. The scans are not too bad. Despite the lack of control, if the original is a straightforward image, it comes out okay. Large areas of a similar color such as a sky are subject to banding. I suspect this is a problem all of the time but most pronounced on large areas of one color.

So, am I going to make do or is the film scanner going to be resurrected? I think I will get it back off the shelf. The time and quality issues are sufficient to make the flatbed not helpful except for odd individual scans. It does a nice job on documents but that is it. Now I shall have to find a location for the film scanner and sort out the config files again.

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