Film scanner or flatbed scanner? Photo enthusiasts, please help me choose!

Oh dear, I’m driving myself nuts here.

I am hemming and hawing and wondering what I should do. I want to get a decent (I hold no hopes for professional, just decent) transparency scanner. I have tons of slides and negatives I’d like to scan. I know I can’t expect professional quality but I’d like to get maybe 5 x 8" or 8 x 10 " prints at 300 dpi. And I’d like them to look decent.

Right now I have an Epson Perfection 1650. It has a transparency adapter. It scans prints and drawings just fine for my needs, but the negative and slide scans are just OK. Some downright suck, others are decent, but still not quite “there”. They always lack some detail and the color and detail is never as good as the local “Hour Photo” type photo shop’s CDs. (I usually get those. I have them put all my pictures on CD when I get my film developed.)

So, I am trying to decide: do I keep the Perfection 1650 for my flatbed scanning needs (scanning prints, drawings, etc.) and get a “dedicated” film scanner? There’s a reasonably priced scanner from SmartDisk that sounds quite tempting. There are few reviews for it, but one Mac user gave it 4 Mac Mice. That’s good. But, it only (so far) works with Mac OS 9x, and I like using Mac OS X. But I can switch to OS 9 easily enough if it’s a good scanner and worth the bother.

Or, I can upgrade and get a better Epson Perfection scanner. The recently discontinued Epson Perfection 2450 which has some high-end features (that I may or may not need) sounds really good. Or, I can get the Epson Perfection 2400 which sounds like it’s not quite as nice as the 2450 in scanning quality.

At this point I’m leaning towards the SmartDisk film scanner. It’s small, dedicated to scanning transparencies, and I already have a flatbed scanner (the Perfection 1650) that I like, so why do I need another flatbed? But I could be wrong. What do you think? This is really bugging me. I can spend about $200 - $300. Please help me decide!

Oh, and if you know of any other scanners (flatbed w/ adapter or film scanner) that will really do OK with transparencies (and work with USB or Firewire and are Mac-compatable), please suggest them! Thanks!

I like my Epson 2450. I’ve scanned slides and both color and b/w negatives with good results. caveat: I’m not the accomplished photog that you are.

Have you had a chance to take a couple of your slides to a dealer for a real demo?

Epson scanners are at best mediocre. If you want professional results, ger professional scanners.

Generally speaking, for really impressive results, you may want to go with a dedicated slide/negative scanning solution. Although slide adapters (for regular scanners) can come in handy, you’ll have better results with a decent slide scanner. Although i haven’t personally used a SmartDisk brand film scanner, if you can see one in action and everything looks good, i would go for it.

I used a CoolScan negative/slide scanner for my photojournalism classes at University and was very pleased with the results. The results were, IMO, 200% better than anything I was able to achieve with a flatbed scanner. They are a bit pricier than you said you were wanting to spend, but I just wanted to chime in and say that they are definitely worth it if it’s at all possible.

Film scanners are certainly a lot better than flatbed scanners for your needs, but even the best ones aren’t great. I’ve stopped using them and gone back to the darkroom after too many software hassles. Only the very best ones will do a good job with slides - the problem here being that slides have a large contrast range. The number to look for is Dmax, the maximum density range the scanner can read. It’s actually a lot more important than maximum resolution, if you don’t intend to do huge enlargements. Regular amateur scanners have Dmax around 3, better ones around 3.6.

I’ve never heard of the Smartdisk, but $200-300 should get you a quality used Minolta or Canon film scanner. They may require SCSI, however.

Hi Psvensson! I just love seeing a first post from someone with actual information in it. Gives me hope for the species and all that. :slight_smile:
Anyway–I just wanted to ask how you get darkroom access? Is it related to your job, or do you have one in your home? I miss darkroom work so much, but when I called the local university to see if I could arrange access they shot me down, and I’m not quite sure where else to look…

My husband has a Nikon CoolScan and it’s definitely worth the price, and professional scanners are great, but the OP set definite budgetary limits. Within those limits, I’d still recommend the Epson as a good compromise.

I have a HP scanject 4470c and I am very pleased with it. It has an adapter for scanning slides or negatives, and has plenty of resolution. I believe I only paid around $150 for it. As for mac compatibility, I don’t know. It came with software that lets me do a lot of stuff with my photos, and they look good even on my low end printer.

Wow, thanks everyone! And OldBroad is right—I know I can’t get professional results. I just don’t have the money for it. But I just want something decent. Maybe my standards are too high, but since you all seem to be “photo enthusiasts” (like me) I really doubt that you are any less picky than I am. (We “photo enthusiasts” all want good quality in our photos, don’t we?)

And thanks Psvensson for the DMax information. That really helps. I do have some dense slides and I think that was a problem for my current Epson scanner. Oh, and I think I can get SCSI if it comes to that. I’ve got my “Mac Guru” working on a souped-up older Mac (with all sorts of upgrades so it’s fabulous) and it has SCSI. If it becomes my “dedicated scanning computer”, that’d be fine!

On the other hand, you know, I might pick up the Epson 2450 (if it’s available at the local CompUSA, which Epson’s site says it is) and if I like it, I’ll keep it. If I don’t like it, I’ll return it. I might give that a shot. So much to decide…

How much extra does your photo development place charge for scanning your slides to disk? If you went overbudget to get a really good slide scanner, and then did the scanning yourself, how many rolls would you shoot before you saved that money back?

Then again I’m still paying off a couple of thou on a visa bill because of that type of reasoning, so maybe it isn’t good advice :smiley:

Thanks again, everyone! And viking, you bring up a good point. I think I will stop having those photo CDs made up at the photo shop now. I also think I need to go to a better photo shop from now on (avoid the “One Hour” places).

So, I did it. No flies on me. And of course, I probably should have been a little less precipitous, but what’s done is done.

I spent a LONG time last night researching the Epson 2450 and was given the distinct impression that it was not being replaced with anything comparable. Nothing on Epson’s site, nothing anywhere. So today I went to CompUSA and picked it up (yes, they actually had them) since I knew they were being discontinued.

And I come home, and almost immediately discover that indeed, there is a new Epson scanner (the 3200, I think) coming out soon. But when? Where? The “announcement” was made months ago, but nothin’. So screw it. I’ve already paid for this scanner, I see that CompUSA will penalize me greatly if I return the scanner now, so it’s MINE.

But the good news is, I like it just fine. Oh sure, it could always be better, but I like it fine. I scanned some very dense (underexposed) Kodachrome slides of my dad’s, and with minimal Photoshop tweaking, they look OK. Maybe not really sharp when I look up close, but really. Just fine. And they will print out to 7 x 9" or thereabouts at 300 dpi. So that’s cool.

I think that I’ll sell my “old” Epson 1650 on eBay, and stick with this 2450. And in a year or so, get myself a dedicated film scanner if I find myself getting restless with this scanner. Or, in a year or so just sell this new one and get the best kind of scanner that I can afford.

I’m busy right now scanning negatives but I have already scanned some slides. Scanned at 2400 ppi and adjusted with Photoshop as needed.

The Luffmans of England—circa 1960. (Underexposed Kodachrome taken by my dad, badly cropped by me.)

Closeup of one of the Luffmans, at 2400 ppi, (not reduced in size). I don’t know how much sharper it would have been with a better scanner, but I suspect it’ll print out just fine.

My mom and a siamese cat, reduced in size somewhat. (Photo taken by my dad.) This is just a small portion of the slide (I cropped it radically) so I think it holds up pretty well.

I think these are pretty decent. MUCH better than my old Epson scanner. But I know it could be better. It’s certainly good enough for my web pages and I suspect it’ll print out fine too. It’ll do fine for a while.

Oh, and I found this personal review of the Epson 2450 by an obviously very knowledgable photographer, and he thought it held up pretty well. I am bookmarking his review because he had some good tips on how to get the most out of the scanner.

The AgfaScan T5000 Plus with a DMax of 3.9 and optical resolution of 5000x5000.

Just kidding :smiley:

OK, just scanned some negatives. I am satisfied. (So far.)

Catalina Island, scanned in at 2400 ppi, not corrected much with Photoshop at all, and reduced radically in size.

Catalina detail, not reduced in size at all from original 2400 ppi scan. It’s good enough for me!

Another Catalina pic, reduced in size from original scan size (2400 ppi).

The same Catalina photo, cropped severely but not reduced from original scan (2400). Oh, I’m sure it could be sharper, but I’m not too unhappy.

I hasten to add that I just pulled out any negatives I could find, willy-nilly. These are not great photos; just close at hand! :wink:

Haven’t scanned prints or sketches yet, but I assume they’ll be more than adequate.

So is it faster to scan from a negative? Or just better resolution? We have tons of photo’s that I’d love to get into digital format, but the thought of sitting down and scaning them all one by one is just too boring to think about. Also, what resolution should I scan a photo at in order to be able to have it printed and look as good as the original? If say the largest I’d want is an 8x10?