This can be easily the most expensive part of the process. When you have to digitize your pictures there are three possible ways.
AN EXTERNAL SERVICE / LAB
If you’re lucky to live near a lab that still offers a good scanning service contextually the developing of the pictures – say Costco or similar – then go for it, or at least give it a try.
On the other hand, recurring to a lab to scan your pictures in a second moment can be quite expensive. Luckily we have two more options.
A FILM SCANNER OR A DEDICATED FLATBED
If you shoot 35mm only go for a film scanner. This days even a 3200 / 4000 model is quite cheap – often under 100€ – and the quality is usually impressive.*
With medium format you’re out of luck. Film scanners capable of accepting medium format films are often quite old and almost ever dreadfully expensive. So you’re left with a dedicated flatbed scanner.
I’ve tried both of the following, and while the first you can find it under 50€ for the V700 be prepared to pay up to 500€.
- Epson 2450 Photo
- Epson V700
The V700 is undoubtedly better, but not 450€ better. And frankly the results with a flatbed are disappointing anyway. You will get (some of) the beautiful tonalities of medium format film, but not the sharpness; no, not even in the ballpark. That said, if all you want is post the pictures on Flickr this may be enough.** Take a look at the two pictures below, part of a comparison I did a while ago between the Epson V700 and the digital camera method described in the next paragraph (both unsharpened 100% crops). Now you can sharpen the Epson sample to death, but it will never get as good as the first one; simply there is not enough detail to start with.
* You may also want to try the bellows method described later if you have a digital camera with an high-resolution sensor available.
** Now a lot of people will be angry and will say that they print the pictures scanned with the V700 mural-size. Please just take a look at the full comparison I made here
A DIGITAL CAMERA WITH A MACRO LENS
If you have a digital camera and a macro lens – also a cheap but good one like the Pentax 50mm f/4 M – you can extract a ton of detail from your films, on par with a drum scan that costs 200€ a pop!
I’ve explained the process in detail here, but basically you will have to use a metal lens hood as a spacer – or just a bellow if you want to digitize only 35mm film – between the lens and the film, then shoot like you were shooting a panorama: in sections. In the computer you will then reassemble the sections and obtain the final image.
If you have a digital camera but not a macro lens you can spend as little as 30€ for a 50/3,5 Nikkor pre-ai, but even having to appositely buy, for example, a Nex 3 still will be way cheaper than having to buy a (medium / large format) scanner.
And don’t forget, the quality you’ll get from your negatives will be head and shoulder compared to an under 4.000€ device. Just check the comparison I shot between this system, an Epson V700 and a Dainippon drum scanner here.
With this post we end the “cheap bastard” film photography serie. I hope to have convinced enough people to give film a try.
Now, film or digital, happy pictures to everyone!