Flat Bed Scanner or Enlarger First?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Colorado CJ, Sep 24, 2013.

  1. Colorado CJ

    Colorado CJ Member

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    Hello everyone, this is my first post here. I am a long time digital (I know, bad word around these parts :D) photographer, but I have been wanting to move to film for a while now.

    I recently picked up an RB67 medium format camera and am in the process of setting up a small darkroom.

    My question pertains to this, to share my photos online and to make them available for prints, I'm going to need to either scan my negative with a dedicated scanner, or enlarge the negatives photographically and scan them with a regular scanner.

    I am at a crossroads as I have yet to even personally develop my first roll of film (just got the supplies in today) and learning to use the enlarger to photographically "print" photos seems like it might be a steep learning curve.

    I am wondering if it would be better to buy a negative scanner first, so I can use my photos right away, or buy an enlarger first and learn the process.

    One other question I have is, which would give a better "digital" quality, a scanned negative, or a scanned enlargement? The only reason I ask this is for selling my prints online via my website.

    I'm sorry for the long winded, and probably hard to understand post. I am just excited to finally get into film photography.
     
  2. mesantacruz

    mesantacruz Subscriber

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    I think we are missing a vital part to help you further.
    When you plan on selling your photos, will you be selling a digital (inkjet) print, or a silver gelatin (darkroom/enlargement) print. If you are doing the latter picking up a flat bed scanner at your local thrift store might just be enough for these enlargements. Scanning negatives on the other hand is somewhat different.

    Keep in mind that adjustments made to the negative after scanning are harder to accomplish in the darkroom, then just scanning the darkroom enlargement which IS the final print.

    so i think you must first answer the 1st question in order to further help you.
     
  3. Colorado CJ

    Colorado CJ Member

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    Yeah, I should have stated that. My online prints are printed at Bay photo, which, depending on the customers order would either be printed on inkjet or metal printed.

    The prints I'd sell locally (the black and white ones anyway) I'd like to have photographically enlarged instead of printed.

    Kind of seems like I may need both.

    I found a great deal on an Omega D-5 XL with a Super Chromega D Dichoric II head locally, but if I bought it, I wouldn't be able to afford a negative scanner for a while.
     
  4. mesantacruz

    mesantacruz Subscriber

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    Okay, got it. Well, what i would do, i see what clientele i sell to more and focus on that group. So if online is your thing, i would indeed splurge on a negative specific scanner, given that flatbeds don't have the greatest reputation for scanning negatives (although some would disagree). The reason i say this is because bay photos metal prints are awesome, and look better the larger they are.

    Now, I'm not a business person, but the metal prints aren't cheap, and unless your selling several a month, i think you would offer the customer more bang for their buck by making fiber prints (at least from a collectors standpoint). this would also put more change in your pocket. Now, some don't enjoy the darkroom as much as others and if you don't, i wouldn't bother investing heavily in darkroom equipment. If your doing good selling digital color prints, and you'd like to add your b/w work (coming from negatives), i would stick with scanning.

    to answer the second question, you could potentially get more information from scanning enlargements, but what you want to get is grain detail when you scan b/w, which is what makes b/w so great, so your best bet, is to scan negatives, not prints.

    Now if you want to wet your feet with b/w darkroom printing, i say go for it and i definitely don't discourage it, but only you know what is financially sound for you to do at the moment. One thing you can do is get a cheaper enlarge or look on craigslist. which is where they are sometimes (more often now than before) being given away for FREE. The enlarger itself, might ease things, but what you really want is a good enlarging lens. 90mm or 105mm enlarging lens is what you need for 6x7. i personally use a 23c that got for 100 bucks, and it came with everything else needed in the darkroom.

    how large do you plan on printing in the darkroom?
     
  5. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    As far as I'm concerned, you only neeed the enlarger. Once you start printing in the dark room, you will see the difference and never want an inkjet print again.
     
  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    to get them up in the gallery on this site to share them you need ... ..
    to first, be a subscriber, unless you post them in threads, and not in the "gallery"

    you can go either way, traditional darkroom printing is a lot of fun. the only thing that comes
    close to a print magically appearing in the developer is when a wet plate is fixed,
    and magically goes from a negative to positive ...

    the hybrid route is great, for somethings, ... i have found it easier to electrify negatives than to
    electrify prints ...

    as for prints to sell ... a lot of the general public is ignorant about the subtle differences between ink ( or light jet ) and silver.
    there are ways to enlarge and print b/w on metal as well as glass and paper or anything else, it just takes effort and experience.

    in the end it is personal preference.

    good luck !
    john
     
  7. momus

    momus Member

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    I use an inexpensive scanner only for the tiny amount of online posting that I do, and for proofing 35mm negs, which are also tiny. With 120 film you can see clearly what's going on in the negative. For B&W, which is all I know, you will want to print w/ the enlarger for sure, as darkroom prints are far more archival if properly printed, and look much better, to me anyway. You could either scan the neg or the print for emailing, etc. Not much difference, since we're talking low rez. I wonder how many people develop and print color in their darkrooms these days? Not something I have any experience with, nor any desire to do.
     
  8. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

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    Another Colorado film shooter, howdy!
     
  9. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    To me it seems you already have an outlet for selling prints, via a web service.

    My suggestion is to use your digital camera and photograph your negatives via something like a slide duplicator. Lots of people do this, and it produces very good results.
    Now, it is very difficult to make a neg scan and a darkroom print to look highly similar, because photo paper has a curved tone curve, and a scanner is a linear device. They see the negative tonality differently.

    So, if you scan negatives you are not likely to get something that represents what your print is going to look like, and vice versa.

    I'd go the route of using your digital camera to photograph your negs, and then get a copy stand (very inexpensive) to photograph your prints with the same digital camera. That way you will enjoy the darkroom printing as well as being able to work with your material in the digital domain.

    Hope that helps.
     
  10. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    You might not need a scanner. If you have a DSLR, you can shoot your neg on a light box then reverse the image in photoshop. Save your money for your enlarger. Also, you can also start printing without and enlarger. All you need is a desk lamp a red light source for your safe light, a sheet of glass, print trays and tongs and a dark place with plumbing. Get a head start with printing!
     
  11. Mark_S

    Mark_S Member

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    Welcome aboard!

    A few random thoughts -

    You do not state, but I assume that you want to print in black & white. A good B&W negative has huge dynamic range - can be as much as 14 stops. Paper prints have a much smaller dynamic range - typically about 7 stops. Most scanners do not have sufficient dynamic range to capture all that you have on your B&W negatives, which is one good reason to stay with traditional techniques an print on fiber paper to sell to serious buyers. Even if you do get the negative scanned with sufficient dynamic range, a lot of the image processing software packages don't have the dynamic range to keep from losing some of your image before you even start. You can get decent results scanning a finished print - but this can be done by a service for you if you want - so no scanner should be needed.

    On the other hand, if doing colour prints, your traditional darkroom options are getting much more limited, and scanning and processing digitally might not be a bad idea.

    My personal workflow is to do everything traditionally for B&W, and for colour, I process the film in my darkroom, select the images which are good, and have those scanned, then process and print on equipment that I have at home.

    I am fortunate in being a bad enough photographer that I don't go broke having lots of transparencies scanned :smile:.

    I far prefer the time that I spend in the darkroom creating a good B&W print to the time that I spend at a computer trying to get a good colour print, which is probably why the bulk of what I do is in black & white.

    Bottom line is that I think that a scanner is not really needed.
     
  12. jetcode

    jetcode Member

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    I have a high end scanner since proofing and online portfolios are essential not to mention digital prints. I have access to Rayko in San Francisco which is a premier darkroom with ALL the goodies I could ever lust for but never really afford. I do not print optically much to warrant a dark room.
     
  13. Colorado CJ

    Colorado CJ Member

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    Thank you everyone for all your comments and recommendations. As I said, I am brand new to APUG, you guys already make me feel at home :smile:.


    With your help, I think I have a plan. I have an excellent deal on an Omega enlarger, so I think I'll get that right now. I can then enlarge my negatives and use a normal scanner for web based display. My best images I think I'll send to be drum scanned, then offer them up for either digital prints, or optically printed by me.

    My medium format camera will only be used in B&W to make processing and printing easier. I have a Nikon D600 full frame DSLR for color work, and with 14.2 stops of dynamic range, it would be hard to get color negatives to compete I think.

    I am really getting excited about setting up a darkroom! It's something I've always wanted to have, but couldn't justify cost wise until now (darkroom equipment is almost given away now days).

    I know I'll have a LOT to learn about darkroom processing, but that is all part of the fun.

    Hopefully in a few weeks I'll have some images to display here.

    Thanks again everyone!
     
  14. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    When using film, I would suggest you make a darkroom print and scan that and then replicate in digital.
     
  15. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    Darkroom! Grab an enlarger get a decent lens and I promise you, you will love it! Nothing compares with a beautiful silver gelatin print!
     
  16. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Welcome to APUG!

    For the purposes of your comparison, you should understand that scanning and digitally manipulating the scan for the purposes of making a print also involves a fairly steep learning curve.
     
  17. Paul Glover

    Paul Glover Member

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    Seconding what Matt said. I started scanning and moved to enlarging for my black and white (still scan color film, not that I do much color shooting now). It takes me at least as long to scan and work up a good end result as it is taking me to work on figuring out how best to print a negative.

    I'm finding too that I'm getting results I'm happy with in the darkroom much sooner in the learning curve than I was when scanning negatives; it took a lot of learning and refining the process before I was happy with my scans. Oftentimes I felt like I had to fight the software, which wanted to try to "help" me in ways which were decidedly not helpful. The enlarger, by contrast, just does as it's told, which has helped speed up the learning process a great deal for me.
     
  18. Nuff

    Nuff Member

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    You will be surprised what colour negative film can do. I have Pentax K5 with the same DR and it's the same sensor, just half the size. Portra 400/160 and Fuji Pro 400H/160NS spanks it when it comes to DR, especially in highlights. Try to overexpose your photo by 8 stops and see if there's anything usable :smile: Portras will handle it easy, even Ektar. DSL will blow the highlights. One way to protect the photo on DSLR is to underexpose it, but than you will spend hours post processing the photo to get it just to look right.

    If you PM me I can show you lots of examples where that is the case. I should also mention I like the colours I get from film better.
     
  19. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    Forget about scanning negatives your self. Make your silver prints and re-photograph them with your DSLR in order to have something to go on a webpage.

    Scanning negatives with a home desktop system gives all sorts of grain-aliasing and post-processing problems which you will have to overcome in order to make the scan look like a print. I suggest that you would be better off using the time to make pictures rather than learning software techniques (unless you will be selling post-processing services of course). It would be a surprise if anyone could make saleable prints within a few years, but surprises are always good. :smile: