Tag Archives: Epson

Musings on film latitude and related matters

I’ve posted very little here recently, and have only added a couple of incidental items on my micro-blog.  This has two main reasons: I’ve been very busy travelling for work (Germany, Norway, England in the last four weeks), and I’ve also had quite a backlog of films to scan and process.  Concentrating on film and finding a revised routine to my workflow – now that I think I’ve understood what I’m doing with my new Epson scanner – takes time, and after various false starts, I think I’m finally getting there.  There is now, of course, a bit of a backlog of both film and digital images (I’ve not stopped photographing!), and coupled with a desire to redo the galleries here, you’ll appreciate that I’m struggling a bit…

A beautiful Rollei image, as scanned

A beautiful Rollei image, as scanned

However, this posting is tangential to all of these thoughts!  I have, partly because of the 1953 Project (and yes, there are images to go online from that, too!), occasionally been carrying the Rolleiflex with me as a ‘casual camera’.  This regularly elicits interesting conversations with complete strangers, which can be surprising and very nice.  For example, last week I was dining with a friend in London and after our meal I wanted to photograph her with the Rollei; a couple at a neighbouring table began talking to us about the camera, photography and so on… culminating in a request that I might consider photographing their wedding next year; of course, I declined!

Adobe Lightroom settings

Adobe Lightroom settings

The film I’m using for the 1953 Project is Ilford FP4Plus, which is rated at an ISO of 125.  Ilford’s website says it has ‘enormous latitude for exposure error above and below‘ this speed.  I chose it for the project partly for this reason, thinking it wouldn’t much matter if the exposure was slightly off on my portraits because I could always recover the images once they were scanned in.  I didn’t realise quite what ‘enormous’ meant to Ilford, but these images clearly show that.  The first image above is the scan from the negative (Vuescan reversed the negative for me).  I made adjustments in Lightroom, as this screen capture shows: upping the exposure by four stops, pushing the fill light and brightness up, and then reducing the contrast and clarity settings to bring the grain under control.  Aside from dust removal, these are the only changes I made to the image, revealing… Elizabeth Eva Leach, Professor of Music at Oxford University, with whom I had a stimulating lunch at the beginning of September (click on the photograph to go to her blog):

Elizabeth Eva Leach

Elizabeth Eva Leach

It’s not a great portrait, but it astonishes me that it worked at all, not just because of the film exposure issues: the café was relatively dark and I could barely see anything on the ground glass (so focusing was mostly a lucky guess), the lens was wide open at f2.8 with an exposure speed of 1/10th of a second – and yet it’s reasonably sharp despite all this!  And this isn’t a coincidence: another portrait taken under similar circumstances was just as underexposed and with similar Lightroom adjustments it came out fine too:

Another Ilford FP4Plus sample, with similar exposure settings

Another Ilford FP4Plus sample, with similar exposure settings

What I love about all this is the visceral nature of the film and the process.  For sure, I could have taken these portraits on a digital camera and bumped up the auto ISO settings – but I’m not convinced they would have looked any ‘better’ (they would have been different…).  Of course, even the process of ‘extracting’ an image from an almost entirely black square of film gives me enormous pleasure – it’s like finding a treasure!  I don’t regard myself by any means as a format fetishist, but returning to film does give me huge pleasure: my use of the Mamiya for landscapes makes me photograph with much greater consideration and precision than I used to with the digital camera, and I LOVE that.

For example, here’s a dawn image from the Mamiya taken on Velvia 50 of the Ratzeburg Küchensee in northern Germany this August.  I remember taking quite a while to compose it in order to make sure the twisted twigs were below the tree line, whereas I think with a digital camera I might have fired off a good half-dozen shots at different heights and then hoped one had worked when I was back at the computer – but here I composed slowly and carefully, got it right, and then made… two exposures (er… the first one had a misplaced graduated filter that I noticed after squeezing the cable release!).

Küchensee, Ratzeburg

Küchensee, Ratzeburg

(I’ve lightened the exposure by half a stop and added a little fill light, otherwise it’s as it came from the scanner.)

In a few weeks’ time I’m off to Assynt with Bruce Percy.  I’m really looking forward to this, and though I’ll take my Mamiya, I will mostly use the Nikon D90 so that images can be readily critiqued by Bruce and the group.  I’m keen to observe myself with this, as it were: I’m sure my recent return to film will have changed how I use the digital camera for landscapes.  Before going to Assynt, I’m also going to the Isle of Mull for a week of secluded reading – and I may just take a photograph or two whilst I’m there…

Advertisements

Working with the Epson V700 scanner

I’ve been busy scanning lots of images with the Epson V700, trying out all sorts of software settings.  The scanner comes with Epson Scan and SilverFast as the two software options.  I was gradually getting the hang of these, but was never completely satisfied with the results.  Looking at transparencies on my lightbox with a magnifying glass, I felt I saw more detail in the slides than in the scans (especially in the shadows).  My first transparencies with the medium format Mamiya were all on Fuji Provia 100F, which I was given with the Mamiya camera, but although I prefer Velvia 50, I’m sure that hasn’t been the issue here. With black and white film the results were a bit better, and I was gradually working my way through recent films and mostly liking the results, though for reasons I can’t explain, they were not always consistent.

But I think I’ve now cracked it – and this is largely due to a change of scanning software.  Yesterday I downloaded VueScan (in part on the recommendation of Tim Smalley, who bought the V700 shortly before me and from whom I’ve been learning a lot!), and the results are amazing.  Transparencies look just the way I think they should, with incredible detail in all areas, and my first scan of a black and white image has worked well too.  The interface is a bit clunky, but SilverFast is much worse (it looks as if it hasn’t changed much since Apple produced OS9!), and although I need to ensure I get to grips with all the settings, I’ll be upgrading to the full version at the beginning of the week.  The VueScan images are simply better.

Chicken house ruin, Kiesby, Schleswig-Holstein

Chicken house ruin, Kiesby, Schleswig-Holstein

For example, here’s a section of a ruined chicken house in a village in northern Germany, shot on Velvia with the Mamiya and the 80mm lens, and scanned using VueScan – the rich colours are a combination of early morning sun and Velvia doing its bonkers colour thing… believe it or not, I’ve toned down the colours a bit in Photoshop.  Even in this small jpg image, I think it’s possible to see that the shadows have considerable detail; the full size image is great.  Clicking on the image will take you to the version on RedBubble, where clicking on that version will make it appear almost full-screen.

I find it really quite surprising that the scanning software can have such a huge impact on the end result, but going by my experience of the last few weeks, VueScan is definitely the way to go with the V700.  I’m not quite there yet, but I think I’m now getting there.

Help with identifying a photo scanner for larger format film, please!

Now that I’m beginning to move towards larger film formats I need to invest in a scanner that can cope with these films.  The Canon 4400F that I have is a pretty good all-round flatbed scanner (that I occasionally used for 35mm film), but now I need something that can deal with much larger film sizes.

My film requirements at this stage are smaller medium format (specifically 6×6 and 6×4.5cm – for a Rolleiflex and a Mamiya 645), but having seen what happens to people who start down the route of larger format cameras, I want to be prepared for perhaps larger formats in the future!  Over time, films may get bigger…

I would love to get a Nikon 9000, but can’t possibly afford that.

As far as I can tell there are two flatbed scanners on Amazon of the quality that I’m after, and that are just about in my price range (well, if I don’t tell other people in my household…): the Epson V700 and V750.  The 750 can use a glass holder for mounting film, which is obviously good for ensuring the film is completely flat and in focus from edge to edge.

Do you have any thoughts on this?  If you have used either of these, or have experience of another comparable scanner, I’d love to hear from you, either in the comments below, or on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MichaelMarten.

Thank you!

[NB This posting was imported from another blog I once used, and the comments do not therefore follow the exact pattern of normal posts.]