can I buy a variable


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I found myself last week describing my efforts to roast coffee to a friend who’s successfully made the transition from home brewer to pro. He watched me go from a Nikon FM2 and a flatbed scanner to a Leica & Coolscan 9000 while he was on a parallel path learning to brew beer. He┬áreminded me of something that I eventually learned from photography; in any process based craft, at some point, you spend money to control variables. This is true whether that craft is photography, coffee roasting, beer brewing, or fly fishing. When you are just starting out, when the frustrations of failure are most apt to derail you, is, unfortunately, when you need to spend the most money. Before you know what you are doing, you never know if your failures are due to bad luck, poor knowledge, crappy equipment, entropy or any one of 1000 other things, so eliminating whatever variables you can becomes vital. Of course, very early on, you barely know what variables you need to control, so it’s hard to know where to spend the cash.


drinking coffee and eating pastries at All Good Things in Tribeca

It was a well timed discussion, as I’d just bought a new roaster, and by roaster, I mean a better pop corn popper. Controlling temperature with the whirly pop was proving to be difficult. Luckily, I don’t just know brewers. A correspondent in the coffee world┬ásuggested a hot air pop corn popper. Early results are promising. Since the hot air popper is either on or off, that’s one variable set aside for the moment, although I’m sure I’ll need to deal with temperature eventually. For now it’s just the bean, the time, and the sun spots, which is enough for the moment.


think safety

In other news, I’ve switched almost entirely to the glass carrier for my Coolscan. The results are so much better in terms of both resolution and tonality, that I can’t quite bring myself to post a few of the comparison frames I tried early on; if I think about the differences too long I’ll want to go back and rescan things. If you are curious, compare the corners of the full size images attached to this post against some from a few months back. Check out the difference in grain resolution. Pretty amazing, huh? What’s even more interesting is that the tonality is different. Vuescan seems to be able to calculate exposures much better with the glass carrier. I’d noticed this when scanning MF, but I’d kind of the thought it was just the extra tonal resolution available with the larger negative. Apparently that’s not the whole story.



The only downside to the glass carrier is the speed. The time scanning is the same per frame, but the operations between scans are much slower. Instead of loading up twelve frames, and hitting scan, now I’m loading up single strip, previewing manually to find the frame I want, repositioning manually etc etc etc. It’s slow. Good thing I’m not shooting as much as I was a few years ago.

What does this have to do with any of the photos in this post? Nothing.

5 Replies to “can I buy a variable”

  1. Matt – enjoyed the comments. The glass carrier intrigues me – I have a Coolscan 8000, which does a great job on 35mm, but not so much on 2 1/4 – I like to blame the open carrier and film bowing. It’s easier on the ego than thinking it might be my technique that’s the problem.

    Maybe I can find a carrier…

    All the best, Max

    1. Max, unfortunately, prices on the glass carriers have gone through the roof since I got mine. Just checked ebay and they are almost $400, which is about twice what I paid, I think. Of course, prices on the scanners themselves have doubled as well, so maybe that isn’t unexpected.

      1. Yup – I found that out when I went looking. I will obviously have to wait until after furlough time before considering that…

  2. Matt, hope you’re well. It’s been a while since I saw your pics.

    Coffee, beer, bread and photography. All about understanding and controlling/managing the variables. I roast in a pan over a camping stove – you don’t get much more variable than that, but still enjoyable when it comes out well.

    The glass carrier i interesting. I wonder if it’s easy to make your own.


    1. Mike,

      Sorry for the long delayed reply. Your comment got stuck in moderation for some reason.

      I started out roasting over a camp stove. That was a little too variable for me, but it was great fun when it worked.

      I’ve definitely seen instructions for DIY glass carriers. Seems completely possible to build on your own, and I’d imagine that the results would be similar.

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