Once you decide to try wet scanning you will be presented with differing points of view and the divide will continue to grow. Most will agree that wet mounting or fluid scanning yields better results. How you achieve these results is where deliberation and confusion set in.
The back story
On your search for the best scan quality you will run across Doug Fisher over at Better Scanning. He makes a variable height mounting system that addresses focus plane issues found in flatbed scanners. While you visit his site encouraging yourself to buy his product you will also find his DIY wet mounting on the cheap page, where apparently for $60 you can be up and running.
Along the way it is impossible to overlook Julio Fernandez at ScanScience. At the core of his product line is Lumina scanning fluid, around which various kits are assembled to help get the best from your scanner. He sells a variety of other cleaners and equipment to deliver a one stop shop experience. You quickly find that $60 is not what you are spending. Nothing Julio is selling inhibits also buying Doug Fisher’s variable mounting system, likely the ultimate setup for flatbeds.
My primary scanner for medium-format and smaller is the Nikon Coolscan 9000. It is a fantastic machine offering among other things, a variable focus lens which means even if there was such a thing as Doug Fisher’s variable height mounting system, it would be a waste on a Nikon Coolscan 9000. As part of your scan, the Nikon Coolscan 9000 will either auto-focus or allow you to select the focus point. This is the scanner I was using almost exclusively at the end of 2009 and my wet scanning adventure led me to try ScanScience.
Earlier in the year I picked up an Epson Perfection V750-M Pro to scan my large format photography. This is where I would be excited to try the Better Scanning system. As you will see, it is clearly superior to the variable focus solution from ScanScience.
Opening the box
I live in Brooklyn, New York USA. ScanScience ships from Orangeville, Ontario Canada. Having purchased twice I know for certain it takes longer than all the estimates suggest. Likely the shipment sits in customs and with all the heightened security gets delayed on its ground journey. So, by the time you get your ScanScience kit you are delighted because you forgot when it was supposed to arrive.
Opening the box the first time informs you of three key things.
- First, all the items scream exactness. The thin scientific glass, precut overlays and the careful packaging all speak to the time dedicated to sourcing and assembling the kit.
- Second, some of the products you purchased you could have found elsewhere, possibly for cheaper, for example, the lint-free gloves or the squeegee. For that matter, you could probably buy all of it if you knew what you were looking for.
- Third, the Lumina fluid is the star of the show – standing out as the one product you won’t buy somewhere else. Second place goes to the ultra-thin beveled-edge scientific glass.
Everything is perfectly assembled and while obviously hand crafted is appreciated and valued.
My second order to supply the Epson Perfection V750-M Pro was a similar experience. The biggest difference in the kit was the solution to the variable height mounting solution which is a set of “shims” to raise or lower the film plane. I actually own a micrometer so finding and assembling the various shims wouldn’t have been too challenging, but it would take time and that I have little of. What is more, I have trouble seeing a remarkable difference between many of the adjustments in height. I have used the default Epson dry adapter, Epson’s wet scanning tray and ScanScience shims and while I have settled on a height, it was a challenging activity worthy of its own post.
In practice it takes some time to get the proper technique in assembling clean and bubble free wet mounts. That said this is probably true for most setups.
While there is no obvious deception, initially you have the feeling like you overpaid for the “kit”. I mean the kit comes with Bounty sheets. It says so. So, what is the surprise when you get a wad of towel paper? Similarly, the microfiber cloth, what did you expect? At the end of the day, you are paying for shopping services, because while you could have purchased these things on your own, it takes time to conceive and assemble a kit. If you do not know what you are looking for, ScanScience delivers the single point of purchase experience. Technically anyone could source the components, but why? You pay with time or money, so get over the fact that you could have done it on your own and focus on the fact that you didn’t have to. More importantly, the items that matter are really of excellent quality – clearly demonstrating someone who knows more than you did their job.
I haven’t used other wet mounting fluids but Lumina seems to do the trick. If you buy into the safety claims, Lumina is a better substance to be working with. It goes on wet like an oil and stays with you throughout the scan. When you disassemble the mount it will evaporate. You film usually dries unaffected and while this could be true for the glass and overlays, I clean everything between mounts.
If you are using a Nikon Coolscan 9000 you will have to modify your film holder. ScanScience does not offer instructions on how to do it, so it is DIY activity. You can see how I did it in a previous post.
As you start working through your technique you will find that dust is everywhere. You need compressed air or an anti-static brush or both. I use the tried and true Staticmaster brush and Pec-Pad wipes.
You need a clean and flat work area. I use a quarter-inch glass plate, but look forward to using a nicer larger light box. Consider what you have as the distance between a perfect mount and your scanner is filled with dust.
ScanScience offers a solid service and high-quality products. The kits and digital manual get you up and running quickly. Julio is quick to offer help and support as you work through your purchasing decisions and mounting technique. Remarkable results are possible.
If you are the kind of person that happily assembles the DIY kit for projects then get only the items you don’t think you can easily source on your own. If you are happy to pay for this kind of service, know that you will. The resulting quality of my wet mount scans is worth every penny. I would definitely buy from ScanScience again.
If I missed something in this review or simply didn’t answer your burning question, ask! There was nothing worse than searching and not finding an answer. I’ll tell you what I know and share my experiences.