Enlarger or Scan to PhotoShop?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by SilverGlow, Nov 11, 2008.

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  1. SilverGlow

    SilverGlow Member

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    I love making black & white pictures with film. I love to develop them at home. I love B&W film for the qualities it provides.

    I am at a fork in the road however.

    Should I buy an enlarger and all the required tanks and equipment, or should I buy a good film scanner and do the post processing in the dry darkroom?

    What are the pros and cons? What do I get and lose?

    In the end I want excellent quality.

    Anyone that can be objective, I invite an answer from you.

    If it matters, I shoot all my color in digital, and all my B&W with 35mm film.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    First, I will assume you would use a excellent (and expensive) scanner. The answer then depends on the print you want and to some extent on the negative. It may also depend on how much time and experience you have. Some manipulations are much easier to do in Photoshop than in the darkroom, but the reverse is also true. Some things are only practical in Photoshop unless you have very extensive darkroom experience and special supplies and equipment. The darkroom is generally more fun, and it is a bit cheaper. The learning curve (for ordinary work) is about the same in difficulty for either, but the techniques are quite different. The resulting prints also look quite different, and your choice may well depend on which look you like better. You have a somewhat wider range of surfaces for digital printing, and that may be a factor, too. For prints that require some manipulation (but not all that much), digital printing may be somewhat faster (but not all that much). Scanning negatives at high resolution is a slow process, and the resulting files are very large. Storage for these files is a major consideration. Scanned negatives also usually need considerable spotting. That is easy in Photoshop, but it is tedious. For large prints from reasonably large negatives, enlargements are usually a bit sharper. Modern digital printers do an excellent job, and I use that method for most of my color prints (despite improvements, black and white is still not as good as darkroom prints). But the darkroom has certain advantages, and it is much better for people who think in those terms.
     
  3. SilverGlow

    SilverGlow Member

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    Nworth, thanks for the great help!

    I should add that I already have PhotoShop CS3, several terabytes of external available storage, so the infrastructure needed on the digital side is already there. Except for the expensive scanner. So that part of the equation is not really a tipping point.

    Now how does grain look from a scanned B&W image?

    I seem to lean toward scanning, but worry that the "look" of true B&W printing will be lost, and if that is the case, then it seems the use of B&W film to capture the picture is lost too? And if this is the case, then why do some folks insist on shooting with film then scan the negatives? It seems doing this will offset the look film can provide...or am I wrong?

    Thanks!
     
  4. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    If you want crappy inkjets, go with scanning. If you want beautiful silver prints, then do it properly and set up a real darkroom.
     
  5. aparat

    aparat Member

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    I have used using the Nikon 9000 scanner. It is capable of scanning BW and chromogenic film beautifully. The grain looks nice, provided the film is properly developed. I use Vuescan and scan as linear TIFFs (so-called "RAW" files). Then I "develop" these in Photoshop with ColorNeg. I get truly beautiful (and huge) 16-bit files. You can now get prints on fiber paper from your digital files. They look and feel excellent.

    Recently, I sold some Nikon lenses to get funds for a darkroom. For the price of two AIS lenses, I set up a really nice darkroom with a Beseler 23cIII enlarger and Schneider lenses. Now, I have a lot of learning to do. However, I have already gotten some really nice results. I am going to sell my Nikon scanner. I like the wet process much more than the hybrid workflow.

    I would suggest a simple solution to your dilemma. Go out with a DSLR and a film camera. Shoot the same scene with each. Convert your digital file to BW with Photoshop. Send your BW film and your digital file to A&I (or a local pro lab) and ask them to make a fiber print of your digital file, the scanned film file, and a traditional optical print of the same frame. Then you will be able to compare the results yourself. Otherwise, you will only be able to rely on other people's opinions.
     
  6. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Guys this is a topic for Hybrid or any other non traditional photography forum.
     
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