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Multiple Scans of Black and White film compared

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Multiple Scans of B&W film compared

Looking at different scanners and their output

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Keith Cooper recently wrote a review of Epson’s V850 flatbed scanner, first announced at Photkina in September 2014.

Several people asked how it compared to the previous V750 scanner and other means of scanning film, so Keith has put together these brief notes.

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The picture to the right is from the negative discussed here. It’s a six feet wide print at an exhibition, in 2005. The image for this was scanned at 4000 ppi using Keith’s Canon FS4000 scanner, which is included in the selection below.

Film Scanning

I don’t do any film work any more, so the examples in the review were all taken a while ago. Since I don’t have other scanners I deliberately didn’t include any comparative results in the original review.

Stefan says:

Projektor are a company that prints for some of Sweden’s best photographers. We scan, colour correct, print on a bunch of different Epson printers.

More and more we do large art works in public buildings, often with silicone mounting. We also do a lot of photo books, especially in B&W, and are working closely with some printing companies that still print duotone or tritone. We also do some profiling services.

More info at:

Stefan Ohlsson of Projektor Utbildning AB (a member of the specialist digital B&W group I run on LinkedIn) is based in Sweden, providing scanning and fine art print services.

He kindly offered to scan one of my negatives with a drum scanner, Epson V750 and Imacon 949 scanner.

He noted:

  • “I did turn off all forms of sharpening in the scanner software and then did some capture sharpening in Photoshop, where I used Photokit Sharpener with the softest settings.
  • I scanned all the images as raw as possible, and then added a curve in Photoshop to get as equal a look as possible. Just one curve, nothing fancy. “

I’ve includes full 100% crops of his scans of my Ilford FP4 negative in this short article, along with one from the V850 and my old Canon FS4000 film scanner.

The images are all 1200 pixels across – much bigger than our normal page size, so open them in a new window or download to be sure to see the differences. Note too the differences in PPI settings.

Here’s the full negative I used, along with my favourite crop for printing.

Shingle Street - full negative

The film was Ilford FP4, and the shot taken on an OM2 with Zuiko 24/2.8 (nearly 30 years ago)

Epson V850

scanned with V850

As scanned for the review

Epson V750

scanned with V750

The Epson V750 scans were made with Epson’s standard film holders, with no adjustment to the film holder’s height. Just scanned them with the factory settings.

Canon FS4000

scanned with Canon FS4000

Scanned with Vuescan software at 4000 ppi

Drum scanner

scanned with drum scanner

The drum scan is made on a Heidelberg Tango scanner at a resolution of 8000 ppi. It’s oil mounted on the drum, so that the whole negative can be scanned. Stefan uses this option if they have to scan the whole negative, i.e. for Polaroid negatives.

Imacon 949

scanned with Imacon 949

The Imacon scan is made on a Imacon 949 (Hasselblad X5). Compared to the 848 or the X1, it uses a soft light, which should give a bit smoother scans with less problems with dust and scratches. Still the sharpness is sometimes a bit too much, and Stefan mentioned that this was reduced to soften the grain structure not to get an over exaggerated grain pattern.

Scanned at a resolution of 6300 ppi.


The Imacon probably has the best looking result, if I was making a large print and didn’t want to go to the trouble and expense of a drum scan.

I was pleased to see how well my old Canon FS4000 managed.

The V850 is better than the V750, but both need attention to getting optimal focus.

Please note that this is only meant as a qualitative comparison between scanners – please don’t ask for lots more technical details, since I don’t have them.

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