Scanning the Originals

Many photographers who previously had worked only with traditional photography have now switched to digital printing. This requires them to scan all their color transparencies and negatives. And here again, digital provides some simple and fresh solutions. Confronted with the exceptional length of panoramic negatives, all that is needed is to find a scanner with a window large enough to project through. Up to around five inches in length (e.g., 6 X 12) the choice is wide-ranging; beyond this, the options are more limited.

The choice of a scanner depends on the film size and scan quality desired. Two important criteria are maximum resolution and depth analysis (often called D-max). Traditional panoramas often being of a larger size than 35 mm, it is more important to choose a scanner that offers a higher depth analysis than high resolution, since, as is the case with an enlarger, the larger the film is, the less it will need to be enlarged. Here, I need to add that as it is now possible to print very large photographs on roll paper, this requires that the machine scan at least 1600 dpi for a 5 cm X 12 cm color transparency, and even higher for, say, 24mm X 66mm. For example, a color transparency of the latter format, intended to be printed 20" X 36" at 220 dpi, would need to be scanned at around 2900 dpi.

Photo by Macduff Everton.

With its transparent 12 cm X 12 cm window, this flatbed scanner can scan panoramic color transparencies measuring up to 12 cm. For this, I have made a 5 cm X 12 cm frame, which is the format size of my transparencies. The frame also lifts them up slightly, avoiding Newton rings.

Imacon scanners are known for the quality of their scans. They can also scan originals up to seven inches (18 cm) long, thus can scan color transparencies taken with a 6 X 17 camera.

Up to 2-3/4 inches long (e.g., Hasselblad XPan, Noblex 135, Horizon 202), the film can be scanned with either film or flatbed scanners equipped with a transparent back. Film scanners have a justified reputation for being better in quality. Their D-max is truly superior, and the resolutions they propose are not unrealistic (as opposed those indicated by the cheapest flatbed scanners). But since things evolve quickly with regard to digital equipment, I do not wish to enter into a possibly fruitless discussion here. No sooner is a book published than the available equipment has already evolved past it; so instead, I will simply encourage you to study the market well, prior to making a purchase. Minolta (Dimage Multipro) and Nikon (8000 and 9000) make film scanners up to 3-1/2 inches long whose reputations speaks for themselves, and the Epson Perfection series remains a safe bet for those seeking relatively inexpensive flatbed scanners.

With films up to about five inches long, usually it is possible to use a flatbed scanner. And as long as the scanner remains nonprofessional, the price will be noticeably lower than with larger-format scanners like the superb Danish Imacon series (e.g., 646, 848). These more expensive models accept films up to seven inches long, even with the bottom-of-the-line version. Flatbed scanners for the general public have also made so much progress that they are now starting to make high-quality scans as well, even with fairly large negatives.

Imacon scanners are known for the quality of their scans. They can also scan originals up to seven inches (18 cm) long, thus can scan color transparencies taken with a 6 X 17 camera.

For films longer than seven inches, which includes film from rotational cameras, no solution exists apart from professional labs that have either flatbed scanners with very large surface areas or rotating film-scanners. Also, the work will often be subcontracted outside, so here you will be further prevented from doing the scans yourself - but the results will be irreproachable.

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