Scanning & Post-processing

City Hall, Hexar RF, ZM Biogon 35, HP5@320, Tmax Dev

City Hall, Columbus, IN | Hexar RF, ZM Biogon 35, HP5@320, Tmax Dev

Last week I wrote that I’m standardizing on one lens, one film, and one process until I learn something. The something to be learned is scanning and post-processing. I’ve always approached scanning like it was that part of the imaging chain represented by a cloud labeled magic. This approached demanded a processing regime geared towards producing low contrast negatives with well controlled highlights. For the most part it works, but I’m looking for improvements.
I chose HP5@320 in Tmax Dev at 68F for 6 mins because it’s produced some great photos for me, but it’s also resulted in some scans that were miserable failures. I’m hoping to trying to get the percentage of miserable failures downs and maybe make the great photos even better. Sticking to one lens is just for the sake on wanton asceticism.

With the film stock and process set, that leaves me free to experiment with various scanning and post processing techniques. I’ll be giving VueScan another look, and I’ll be investigating Colin’s work with ColorNeg. I’ll also be looking at improving my Photoshop skills (Did you know that the curves tool can be used to draw something other than an S curve; who’d have guessed?). Lightzone will also get another look, as I’m not sure that I approached it the right way initially. And if my old ScanDual IV happens to die anytime soon, I guess I’ll be looking at other scanners as well.

Garden Walkway, Hexar RF, ZM Biogon 35, HP5@320, Tmax Dev

Garden Walkway, Columbus, IN | Hexar RF, ZM Biogon 35, HP5@320, Tmax Dev

When I’m done with all this, I might well go back to what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years, but I’m hoping I’ll have learned enough to deal with some of the problematic scans that come up on every roll. Along the way, it’s fairly likely that some of the images may not look quite right. I’m not quite starting over again, but it’s something near to that, so there’s likely to be some false starts. You’ve been warned.

6 Replies to “Scanning & Post-processing”

  1. Hi Matt,
    I find your project really useful, but I think you should get a 16 bit scanner to start with, however…

    Take a look at this:
    http://www.filmlives.net/community/viewtopic.php?t=594&sid=fc3bba0ae1a0cd3fa6e9a90ff60ed4c8

    Generally speaking, I find HP5 or Tri-X harder to scan than modern films, but it would be nice to find out what works for you. I am trying out Neopan 400 now – will get some results for comparison against Delta 400 this week. Definitely, what I’ve got so far from Neopan 1600 was not good, it is just too contrasty and blocks the highlights. Since you are in the States, watch out for the new TMY film, Kodak said it will be smashing…

  2. According the Konica Minolta website, the scandualIV does have a 16bit AD, so I don’t think that’s an issue.

    The linked article is interesting, I attempted something similar with the scandual’s own software at one point, but I gave up for reasons I can’t remember. Might be worth going back to.

  3. Matt,
    Maybe it’s still too soon to have reached any conclusions, but what have you come up w/ so far? I’m looking to dig out the Mamiya again after a couple of years of working w/ the Linhof Tech 4, and feeling I’m ready to try some more spontaneous b&w. I’d be curious to hear how this project is progressing.

  4. Kent,

    I think the biggest discovery is that my scanner is actually capturing a everything, particularly when I use 16 bit linear mode. The curve it was drawing just wasn’t very appealing. Applying a curve that looks a bit like a plateu seems to work better. This pulls the highlights down while keeping the shadows fairly open. Then you can draw the standard S curve over it if you want.

    Matt

  5. hey Matt, if ur having trouble getting enough out of ur highlights and shadows try setting up ur scanner for positives instead of negatives and then adjust the levels how you want afterwards in whatever program u use. Its been really helpful for me and this is the only way i scan b/w negs now. u probably already know this though.
    enjoy shooting. hey if u want to try medium format on the cheap and don’t mind a large camera check out the pentax 645, it rocks, and u can get them under 300 on KEH. has built in autoexposure and a huge viewfinder.
    -josh

  6. Josh, I’ve been playing around with the positives method and also scanning in 16bit linear which seems like the same thing.

    I’d kind of forgotten about the Pentax 645, although I did use one once briefly. The VF was indeed huge. In general, a lot of MF gear is dirt cheap these days.

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