Scanner vs Digital Camera

In my iPad-post from some days ago I promised to compare my Plustek Opticfilm 8100 Scanner to the act of digitizing the negatives with my Fuji X-E1 and a gorgeous Takumar 50mm f:4 macro lens. The film was Stephen Dowling’s excellent Kosmo Foto Mono film, in fact a rebranded Fomapan 100 film in a gorgeous packaging. Perhaps a rehash of an existing film but if this makes people take up film photography… why not!

Well, here are the results, and these are some of the first shots with my freshly CLA’d Spotmatic.

This is the digitized version, very nice detail, fine structures and the grain of the Kosmo Foto 100 film, in fact a rebranded Fomapan 100 film is very nice.

The scanned version seems a tiny bit mushy in the grain, not really the same resolution as the snapped version. I prefer the first one.

So let’s get a bit farther away from the subjects and compare a new couple on photos.

Again the results are very close. Really close! But I still prefer the first one that comes out of the Fuji. Sorry Plustek, you lose again.

Again the resolution seem a bit better, sharper, crisper… Not a big deal, but it’s noticeable.

And first of all, it took me a bit over one hour to scan the roll and just about 7 minutes to digitize it.

And my setup is still not very sophisticated. OK, I got the macro lens, so I’m better off than the first time. But then again I still have no repro stand so I have to use my cheap (as in Amazon Cheapest Chinese Stuff) tripod and a 2 second self timer. I darkened the room and masked the light pad with some paper. Still light getting through, potentially lowering the quality.

And then I could take 2 photos of a bit over half the negatives and stitch them together, virtually doubling the resolution and still be faster than with the scanner. And then again the Fuji is ‘only’ a 16 Megapixel camera…. imagine with a 20-something full frame rig! But then I’d be out of a big lot of money…. not, film is still my priority!

On to the next pair! Some of the oldest parts of the fortifications of Luxembourg City, still going strong! The resolution is great in the Fuji’s file tones are nicely balanced…

On the other hand, The Plustek, no big surprise again, shows a tiny bit less crispyness.

Again nothing extreme, just noticeable!

Let’s take a look at a last pair. Yep, total trash! But again nice detail, fine resolution down to the grain level for the digitized version…

And a tad less of it in the scanned one.

Now you will say why does he not simply use that darn Fuji and make photos?

OK, I like film and if I could I would build a nice darkroom and make my prints. But I don’t have the space and the time for that. Unfortunately. And I can’t monopolize the bathroom for hours… So I have settled for second best, scanning!

Scanning with a film scanner or a camera is in fact the same. Producing a digital file from a negative. This still lets me enjoy those lovely cameras and lenses and gives me the excitement of all the limitations that film imposes. And at the same time I can show you my work, I can print the photos out and even have a zine or book made.

Not a perfect world but it’s the one I’m in!Perhaps the best example for the resolution of my setup and the fine grain of this film…

By the way I did all this on the iPad. I’m slowly beginning to set up a rather quick workflow on that thing. Still some awkward things to get right, some workarounds to find and some apps to install and I’ll be up and running.

Thanks for being here!

19 thoughts on “Scanner vs Digital Camera

  1. Very interesting Frank. I have seen this, but assumed that one needed a mega-dollar digital setup to make it work. Your results look good to me. Thanks for sharing.

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    • I like MacGyvering a lot. Make do with the stuff you have around and see where it gets you… sometimes you’re surprised as I was when I saw the ‘scans’.

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  2. Frank, a useful comparison I’m sure for many. If I still shot film I would explore the DSLR scanning route, I used to hate using a flatbed scanner, even though it was a dedicated film scanner (CanoScan 9000 I think).

    Check out Doug Anderson’s recent post about his set up, it sounds similar to you but you might be able to exchange tips and hone further – https://merefilmphoto.com/2018/04/21/workflow-overview/

    I would say that for every pair of photographs above I prefer the fist one. Just seems to be more contrast and the second image looks more greys than b/w and a little washed out almost. Perfectly usable, but when the digital scanning set up is so much quicker too it seems a no brainer to pursue.

    On the iPad front, ironically whilst I bought mine maybe six months ago to try to replace my ageing MacBook, now I’ve restored the latter I do the vast majority of online work (ie sorting out photos, viewing photos and writing) on it again. The iPad is fine for browsing photos but when the MacBook has a bigger screen it seems like a step down. And for sorting photos and typing it’s massively easier.

    I’ve also resurrected my wife’s old HP laptop as a ChromeBook, which is surprisingly pleasurable to use and I would reach for that ahead of the iPad, again for the bigger screen and proper keyboard.

    So I’m now considering whether I need the iPad at all! I may even look for a slightly smaller and more portable PC laptop and give it the ChromeBook makeover as an eventual replacement for my MacBook.

    iPads are amazing devices, but essentially they still feel like a smartphone with a big screen, and touchscreen still, for me, is far more fiddly than a dedicated keyboard and trackpad, especially when you’re familiar with keyboard shortcuts and multi fingered gestures. Ha, on the trackpad I mean!

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  3. frank, they look more or less, same, i like those analog files better, but what matters is the content…what you actually captured…flower, trash can, fortification, railing…

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  4. Hi Frank, Your results are much like mine when I compared scanning with a Plustek 8100 and digitizing with a Fuji X-E2. Both were perfectly acceptable. I just liked the look of the prints from my Fuji images better. And I don’t think that comparison was influenced by the Fuji being orders of magnitude faster. I am now digitizing with a Fuji X-T20 but, honestly, for the 8×10 and 8×12 prints that I make I can’t see a difference from the X-E2 results.

    But all of my own film work these days is black & white. I briefly tried digitizing color negatives with the Fuji setup but gave up getting even marginally acceptable results. That’s why I am keeping the Plustek 8100. From time to time friends and relatives unearth old color negatives and want me to make prints. Have you tried digitizing color negatives. (It just occurred to me that I should try some color slides. They might actually work.)

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    • Color slides should work OK but I have not tried yet. Just as color negatives.

      The problem seems to be to get a neutral color balance. Perhaps I will have to set white balance to the LED panel I use, then shoot raw and ‘develop’ in Vuescan to get the color right.

      I’ll try that in the next days and post some stuff…

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  5. Interesting article! I’ve always felt they were close as you’ve shown here. I find the digital camera route is much faster. Frank you’ve been busy! Great postings!!

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      • Ha! I’m not surprised. I tried to tell myself the scanner is better but with the right setup there’s very little difference as you’ve shown. Of course if I could get my hands on one of those drum scanners but nobody’s got cash for that stuff! Keep up the great work Frank.

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