Reviewing ScanScience for wet mounting and fluid scanning film

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.


ScanScience kit for 35 and 120

A ScanScience kit for 35mm and medium-format film. I ordered two bottles of Lumina and an extra glass plate for each format.

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.


ScanScience kit for 4x5 large format and Epson v750 Pro

A ScanSCience kit for 4x5 large format with the optional film cleaner and power pump.


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.

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13 Responses

  1. Markus Busch says:

    Great article. Great site, too. Please keep up the good work. There are not many sites out there covering film photography.

  2. Lisa says:

    Hi- You say above,

    “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.”

    Do you mean the ScanScience is superior to the Better Scanning product? That’s what the rest of your post would seem to indicate…

    I am trying to figure out which way to go for my 4×5 scans, is why I ask.


  3. Brian Goodman says:

    Hi Lisa,

    I have not had the chance to work with the Better Scanning product yet, but I understand what is being offered. ScanScience kits provide everything you need to get up and running (fluids, glass, accessories etc), including a method for finding the focus sweet spot. Better Scanning is offering a more professional approach to addressing this latter part by creating dedicated film holders that raise and lower the film plane. They are not really in competition in that at the heart of ScanScience is Lumina – a fluid option for wet scanning. With Better Scanning it is up to you to source the fluid and accessories. Not a hard thing to do, but if you believe all the characteristics of Lumina, then to the best of my knowledge you have no choice but to buy from ScanScience. The components of ScanScience are of good quality, even if the adapter is hand made. Personally, I will likely end up buying both, but right now ScanScience is everything I need and my results have been excellent.


  4. Brian Goodman says:

    Hi Markus, thank you for the encouragement. I need to use that to help me make time to post more frequently!

  5. Lisa says:

    Hi Brian- Thanks for clearing that up. Yes, it does look like the best solution is both! I had been thinking that might be the case, unfortunately for my wallet…I think I’ll start, as you did, with the ScanScience package and then add the film holder from Better Scanning, if necessary.

  6. JIN says:

    hi.. Brian..

    it’s really helpful for people who want to know about scanscience product like me..

    thanks for the review of scanscience products…

    how about showing the process of the fluid mount w/ scanscience product?

    i’m really interested in fluid mount scanning for my MF(6*6)

    if you possible, could you tell me more w/ the instruction of the scanscience product?



  7. Brian Goodman says:

    Hello Jin,

    I would be happy to share my fluid mounting workflow. We recently moved so my equipment is still in boxes. Once we are settled I will make this one of my next posts.

    Thank you for reading and commenting.


  8. JIN says:


    i’m really interested in the fluid mounting…^^

    i’ll look forward to your next post…^^


  9. Brian says:

    Scanscience ??? Is Julio dead ???? I’ve tried to phone ( mailbox full ) and then emailed 2 X and no reply. Either he is dead , awfully busy or just a lousy businessman. Anyone else have an idea where I can purchase some wet mounting supplies ?? By the time this guy gets back to me not only will film be deader than it is , but digital may be morphed into some new medium too !!!

  10. Brian Goodman says:

    It could be that the holidays got the best of him. It has been a while since I contacted him, but when I did he was prompt with replies. There are other wet mount options. Check out this page at betterscanning:

  11. Brian Goodman says:

    I can confirm Julio is alive. He responded to my email this morning. Not sure what information you are using to contact him, but it sounds to me like that would be the only reason you would not receive a quick response.

  12. Troy Barber says:

    I am curious about the Epson Perfection V750-M Pro Scanner and fluid mounting with medium format (6×7) film?

    I have two dead Nikon scanners (an LS 8000 & 9000) – and am looking into the Epson flatbed, but have yet to find any real user information or reviews from a 67 color negative workflow.

    Nikon no longer supports software for these scanners, so I’d say their days are numbered.

    Any advice is appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.

  13. Brian Goodman says:

    Hi Tory, sorry for such a delay. The spam to my blogs got overwhelming recently and I just saw this in the mix.

    As you likely know there are not many affordable high-quality options when you get into larger negatives. I went the path researching used Imacon/Hasselblad and drum scanners. The challenge is that the parts can get expensive even if you get a good deal. Additionally the units can get quite large, so you need space. I was living in Brooklyn, NY at the time so my scanner needed to not take over the room, since the room served multiple purposes. I am just now converting my garage into a studio for my wife and me, so space wouldn’t be a factor, but the upkeep cost of a drums scanner would. All that to say the Epson Perfection V750-M Pro Scanner is likely the best you can do without getting into a higher end scanner for larger format work. It all goes to what you plan to do with the scan when you are done – this seems to be the dilemma. Great clean scans take time and ideally you want to maximize the value of that time. The more expensive scanners like Imacons definitely seem to show more detail in the darker regions, but to date I have not experienced seeing something on my negative that I could not also get in my scan. If you plan to use the scan for even “large” prints, I think the Epson Perfection V750-M Pro is more than capable. To me, its better to invest in more film and even trips to capture new images than in the equipment. Film after all lasts to be used with whatever the next decade of technology brings. If you decide its worth to spend on a better bigger scanner then your negative is still there to rescan. Otherwise, the focus in my opinion should be on getting your work in print, even if it is only displayed in your home. Maybe you are a pro, in which case you already know all of this, since prints usually translate to money.

    Fluid mount scanning adds more time to the process, but the quality improvement is disproportionate to the time it takes once you get the hang of it. I do not use the fluid mount that comes with the Epson scanner. I have, but it doesn’t adjust to ensure your film is at the optimal distance from the focus point – something I love setting on my Nikon LS 9000. Anyway, I did a study figuring out this optimal distance using the Scan Science approach and the Epson provided fluid mount. I need to get my system online and finish that as a post. The Epson mount wasn’t bad, its just what it is. If you find its not right, you need to sort out how you adjust the distance with shims etc. Check out Better Scanning for what looks like a solution to this problem.

    Now, the Epson Perfection V750-M Pro comes with calibration software and targets for people doing transparency work. You get SilverFast scanning software which is something I could’nt bring myself to buy alone. I have more than one scanner which would mean two licenses and the user experience falls short. It is not hard to sort out, but it is such a mosh of stuff where most of the bells and whistles are silent. That said, it is very good software – likely the best out there, which can be humerus given its lack of overall polish.

    An alternative is Vuescan which addresses the issue of having to buy multiple versions to match different scanners. It is also relatively inexpensive, representing the best value. So even if Nikon doesn’t support their software, as long as a working driver exists it would seem to me that there are options for scanning. I love my Nikon LS 9000 and would use it for medium-format over large. That said, the Epson creates amazing scans of my larger 4×5 negatives and I suspect would do just as well with my medium format work.

    I do not work with color as much as black and white so I can’t talk to the development process interaction with my workflow. I use “local” photo processing houses to develop my negatives and then scan from there. Hopefully the information above will be helpful. If you decided one way or the other since your post, please share it. I would love to hear what you end up or ended up doing.


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