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Author Topic: B&W film in MF: scan or wet print tonality the same?  (Read 5755 times)


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B&W film in MF: scan or wet print tonality the same?
« on: August 14, 2012, 12:23:06 PM »

I am a newbie in terms of the wet darkroom and even worse with digital.  Even I noticed the more beautiful tonality going from 35mm to 120mm film when printing 8x10 or 11x14 on fiber based variable paper with minimal dodging and burning.

Developing my own film, making contact sheets and printing is quite a process so I tried digital.  Using Lightroom 4, Silver FX Pro 2, a wide gamut NEC monitor with Spectranetic calibration, an Epson 3880 and Imageprint 9.  I find the process so much easier but the prints look very, very sharp; too sharp in some instances but I also miss the tonality from MF film.

Can I get back some of the film look via a hybrid workflow.  I don't mind film processing as much as trying to wet print to my satisfaction.  I would develop 120 roll film and plan on getting a dedicated film scanner such as the upcoming Plustek 120 scanner.

D E Mitchel

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Re: B&W film in MF: scan or wet print tonality the same?
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2012, 07:41:50 PM »

If you already have a medium format film camera you can send the film to a lab that will scan after developing it.  That way you can try film capture and digital print hybrid technique without needing to own a good film scanner.  Or simply send the roll film to a scanning service bureau after you develop it.   

When your scan is available you can make digital and darkroom prints of the same image. 

Also,  should you buy a home scanner you will have a benchmark scan file to compare your new scanner to what can be done by a lab.

As to buying  film scanners, there are no standards for measuring dynamic range  any more than there are for "DPI" claims.  However, both are used to sway a buyer trying to decide which scanner to purchase.  Look at any box and scan DPI will be very prominently displayed, and almost certainly the tonal range in bit-depth or millions of colors claim will be there as well.  However,  I don't know of a single flat plate scanner in the consumer price range  ( under $1000 ) that does film as well as a lab with a high quality drum scanner. 

Best wishes,



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Re: B&W film in MF: scan or wet print tonality the same?
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2012, 11:33:32 AM »

I've been doing a hybrid process for two years. I develop my 120 film in Kitchen Sink style, then scan-->print on Epson. IT is very satisfying, but I do not think I can achieve the same "feel" as wet prints. I think the shortcoming in is the scanning.

Although scanners have satisfactory detail and resolution, I don't think they have enough dynamic range. I never felt comfortable with the DR I was getting on my scanners. I used an Epson 4990 flatbed for the 120 and I used Plustek 7800 for 35mm. (All B&W, no color.) I used an Epson R2400 K3 inks printer with the ABW driver. Nice results - some wonderful prints - but I think falling short a bit in tone. I tried all the popular scanning software. They mainly differed by the complexity of their menus, not the results.

I am no expert - -and I don't want this to be considered an expert opinion. It's just a report of my outcomes with the various means I tried.

Good luck in your endeavors. It IS a lot of fun and very rewarding. I am in the process of moving to all digital, but I will probably keep one MF camera.......just in case!


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Re: B&W film in MF: scan or wet print tonality the same?
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2012, 04:14:21 PM »

  Speaking as a guy who has both a wet darkroom and nice big Epson printer, you never get the same "look" from one media to another.   They are, and always will be different, and you have to decide which "look" you like best.  There is nothing wrong with that - IMO, it's exactly the same choice as making the choice between watercolour or oil paint.  Which look do you like better?

   Now in my case, I personally find some images - at least to me, look better off the Epson, and some look better from a wet print.  Believe it or not, the topic or the subject of the photograph can dictate which medium looks best, at least to me it does.    You might find that too.   try and see for fun.  Here is an experiment you might try - do two, 8x10 prints, one wet, one from your Epson.   Don't try to make them look the same in terms of sharpness and tonality, do the opposite.  Do the best you can inside each medium.   Show them around later to your firends, family etc, and see which one peopel seem to liek best, and ask why - if they know.  It's fun.  :)

 one last thing, something I would suggest to all beginners, don't let the "fanboys" out there on the internet suck you into one more totally useless debate over which looks better.  That is like arguing which flavour of ice cream is better - vanilla or chocolate?  When I go hiking I take both my digital SLRs and my 4x5 film camera.   I use both too. 

good luck, and count yourself lucky that we are in a time when you can choose either medium.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2012, 04:24:49 PM by joneil »
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