Film scanner vs flatbed scanner. Which to buy ?

Discussion in 'Scanners' started by Radu, Aug 14, 2005.

  1. Radu

    Radu Guest


    I'm currently looking for a scanner for my negatives. I do not plan to spend
    a lot of money on this, though. On B&H I see for instance

    Canon CanoScan 8400F, 3200 x 6400 dpi, Letter Size, Flatbed Scanner at ~140$

    Pacific Image Prime-Film 1800S (Silver), 1800 dpi, 35mm, Film Scanner at
    ~140$ as well

    My question is - why would one but the film scanner (at 1800 dpi) instead of
    the flatbed (3200x6400) which can also be used for documents, etc, thus
    being so much more useful ? Obviously, I'm missing an important thing here,
    because otherwise there would be no such film scanner on the market. So...
    please tell me - what's the advantage of using a dedicated film scanner
    instead of the more versatile and apparently capable flatbed ?

    PS. I know next to nothing on film scanners, so please bear with me :)))

    Thank you.
    Radu, Aug 14, 2005
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  2. Radu

    grolschie Guest

    For scanning film or slides, forget flatbeds. If you can get a good
    Nikon or Canon film scanner on eBay you will not look back. The 1800s is
    not that great. Even the HP S20 I scored for $50 scans at 2400dpi. The
    recent Nikon and Canons scan at about 4000dpi but also have digital ICE
    which removes dust and scratches.

    grolschie, Aug 14, 2005
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  3. Radu

    Rob Novak Guest

    Well, the example you gave isn't the greatest. The main reason one
    uses a film scanner is that flatbed scanners really don't do that
    great a job scanning 35mm film. The biggest complaints with flatbeds
    are lighting and focus. Flatbed arrays have their focus point fixed
    at the surface of the glass platen. When using a filmstrip or slide
    holder, the film sits off the glass by a few millimeters, which is
    enough to prevent you from getting a really sharp scan. Also, the
    light sources used by flatbeds for transparency scanning can be weak
    and/or uneven.

    A good dedicated film scanner is designed purely for scanning film
    stock well. It will autofocus on each frame, have a bright and
    consistent light source, provide accurate film handling, and so forth.
    I can tell you from direct experience that the film units are a) much
    faster to use when scanning from film than a flatbed, and b) give far
    superior results. The Pacific Imaging unit you give as an example is
    a very, very basic one. I've used one before, and as a film scanner,
    it barely qualifies.

    The question is this - are you going to want to do serious work with
    your scanned photos, or is this a casual endeavor? If the former,
    you'll want a real film scanner - starting off with the Minolta Scan
    Dual IV (3200dpi) at $230 is not a bad place to be.
    Rob Novak, Aug 14, 2005
  4. Radu

    birdman Guest

    Unless you are a dedicated/advanced amateur the truth is that while
    dedicated film scanners are clearly better for scanning film I guarantee you
    will be happy with the results from a good quality flatbed scanner with a
    transparency adapter.
    I would strongly recommend that you look into scanners with a minimum
    resolution of 2400 dpi. I personally recommend the the Epson 4180: it is an
    excellent flatbed scanner and yields results that, while not technically as
    accurate, generally compare favorably with scans from my dedicated film
    scanner at equivalent dpi settings for 35mm film.
    The quality of scans you can get from a good quality flatbed/transparency
    scanner far exceeds what you will get from commercial photofinishers.
    Two tip:s you may need to flatten your film on the scanning plate by putting
    a piece of glass over the film in its carrier in order to achieve sharpest
    results. And never scan 35mm materials on a flat bed scanner at less than
    If you want to scan 35mm film materials realize you have to do so at a
    minimum of 2400dpi on a flatbed scanner. Most scanners have software that
    will get rid of the orange mask of color negative film and most scanners
    include some kind of photomanipulation program, like Photoshop Elementss.
    birdman, Aug 14, 2005
  5. Radu

    Dave Guest

    Seconded. I used to have a Nikon Coolscan film scanner. The rollers
    which pulled strips of film in started to slip after a while. Now, for
    a quarter of the 600UKP I paid for it, I'm actually getting better
    results with the Epson 4180.

    2220 hi-resolution photos especially Edinburgh
    * No advertisements *
    * délété david to use email address *
    Dave, Aug 14, 2005
  6. Radu

    Radu Guest

    Thank you all for your advice. I now know more. You have been very kind
    explaining it to me.

    PS. It is a casual enedavour, as Rob says - I don't plan to spend a lot on
    this - I simply want to scan some negatives and some prints, mainly for
    archiving purposes - I'd better spend some more on my next video camera,
    instead. In this case, I think I'll go up to 200$, for the best flatbed I
    can find for the money.

    Thanks again.
    Radu, Aug 15, 2005
  7. Radu

    Radu Guest

    Just one more question please - now that I remember to ask ! :)))

    Why would one scan the tiny 35mm negative instead of first printing it at a
    good lab and then scanning the 5x7 photo ? Wouldn't it be better ?

    Thank you.
    Radu, Aug 15, 2005
  8. Radu

    Rob Novak Guest


    The film's as good as the picture's ever going to look. Paper is a
    lower-fidelity medium. Don't believe me? Loup a slide and then look
    at a good print of the same frame. The film's got greater contrast
    and greater saturation. Someone described it to me this way once: The
    film is a good CD recording of a live performance. Prints are a
    cassette recording of that CD, made on a slightly warbly deck.
    Rob Novak, Aug 15, 2005
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