Getting from analog to digital

For digital image capture, each flavor of CCD offers an arguably different end result. This might be most notable when we are talking about equipment that is less mainstream such as Sigma’s Foveon image sensor or the medium format digital backs. In the analog world we are shooting on film and it clearly is part of the overall recipe in creating an image. For film shooters, there is one more step to consider if the destination is not a wet lab print, the scanner.

Scanner research began the minute I purchased my Mamiya. I knew I could get the local mini-lab work done, but it would cost and the result would not be very high quality. To really get the benefits of shooting film, a great scanner is required.

Drum scans are expensive. I am sure the quality is great, but I can’t justify spending the money on such high quality scans if I am not also making some money with my craft. This also means buying a drum scanner is out, even if its used. First, I live in a coop apartment where a drum scanner could fit, but it would have to also serve the role of sculpture. Second, from what I could read, they are extremely expensive to repair.

Flatbed scanners seem to be an option, certainly for those that shoot larger than medium-format. I even considered the Epson Perfection v750-M Pro as a relatively affordable high-quality machine. Almost all the forum posts I read said it was great, but not as satisfying as a dedicated film scanner.

Nikon Coolscan 9000 ED is almost the only game in town for medium-format film scanning. They fetch $500 over list on Ebay, because they are hard to come by. From what I can gather, the other scanners in the Nikon line are well liked. Buying this model means there is the Nikon service and support available to keep the unit humming. Relatively speaking, this will be far cheaper than drum scanner service and for those that are trying to find the older Minolta scanners, it means actually having a product that is not discontinued. This scanner is almost twice the price of the Epson, but is much cheaper than the other alternatives.

If you are looking at the Nikon 9000ED then you have done a search on Ebay for used Imacon scanners. Imacon was purchased by Hasselblad a while back and are considered the best of the best. Unfortunately they cost as much as cars. Even ten year old models run over $3000 USD. I guess if money was no object then I would either have enough room for a drum scanner or a new Hasselblad scanner. Either way, today, these options are too rich for my blood.

Net: Nikon Coolscan 9000 ED is the highest quality, supported film scanner at the $2000 price point. Do not spend a lot of time debating flatbed vs. dedicated. I have seen images from the Nikon compared to the Imacon, where folks debate the differences. No one debates the Epson v750M Pro against either. It is a great scanner – I believe that – but it is not a fair comparison.

This post is tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply