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Author Topic: Advice on Pentax 645 N II + Hasselblad Flextight X-1 Scanner Combination  (Read 681 times)

pentaxitin

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Hello all...

I own a Pentax 645Z with a good set of DFA, FA and A-series lenses. I do feel a need to have a spare Pentax MF body. I also sometimes feel the need to shoot with film for the sake of deriving the joy of photography of the good old days. Importantly, I have access to a Hasselblad X-1 film scanner.

With the 645Z as the workhorse, I was wondering if I could use the Pentax 645 N II as the spare body to shoot film (Ektachrome/ Fujichrome Velvia). Combined with the X-1, perhaps I could get results which are at least as good as 645Z. The high running cost of films would be offset by the low cost of a Pentax 645 N II. Also, buying another 645Z would be prohibitively expensive. I wish to use the Pentax 645 N II (with FA35mm f 3.5 or DFA 28-45) mainly for landscapes in Kenya in August this year, while the 645Z remains attached to the 400mm telephoto. I do not wish to exchange lenses from one camera to the other, if I could help it.


My question is: How will a 6 cm X 4.5 cm colour transparency scanned at highest 6300 dpi resolution by the Hasselblad X-1 be compared to the same image captured by a 645Z or a 645D, all other things being equal? Also, what will be the effective resolution of such an image from scan of the colour transparency in mega pixels?


Finally, a used 645D could be available at about 1000 USD more than a used 645 N II and is a tempting proposition particularly if I restrict it to landscapes in available light. So should I rather go for a 645D than a 645 N II? Or are there some compelling value propositions with shooting transparency film with the 645 N II which the 645D (or maybe even the 645Z) cannot match?


I would be thankful for advice/ comments by members.
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Dan Wells

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I've never used a Hasselblad/Imacon Flextight (of any variety, let alone the newer X1), so I don't know how much difference a really good scanner makes, compared to a merely good scanner - but I've scanned quite a bit of medium format film with a Super Coolscan 9000 (long reputed to be the best scanner short of a Flextight), and I've had scans made on the $10,000+ flatbeds (I think it was a Fuji). Compared to either of those, I'd rather have a good Fuji (matters because Fujinon lenses are excellent) 24 MP APS-C file than a scan from anything short of 6x9 cm.

Your 645Z is producing a file that is the rough equivalent of scanned 4x5" film at low ISO, or at least my Nikon Z7 is, and the Z7 image sensor (24x36mm, 46 MP, but new-generation BSI CMOS) is a very close competitor of the older 50 MP CMOS sensor in the 645Z.

Unless the Flextight is extracting massively more detail than the Coolscan, which was showing film grain at full magnification, the race between 645 film and MF digital isn't even close. The Flextight will be lucky to get the overall image quality of a 24 MP APS-C digital capture (let alone >24 MP 24x36mm or medium format digital). Of course, there are really funky films that will get more than that (Tech Pan)...
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Dan Wells

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Lensrentals (and probably others) will happily rent you a second 645Z for your trip. Another option, if you wanted a second camera permanently, would to buy a used Nikon D800 or D800e (or a Pentax K1, which will share batteries and a lot of operating philosophy with your 645Z). Of course you'd need different lenses, but that 36 MP sensor will far out-do any scanned film short of 4x5"!

The 645D would be competitive with the 36 MP cameras at base ISO, but it'll fall apart by ISO 400 - the K1 will happily keep shooting as high as your 645Z will - it's the same sensor generation, so anything that meets your standards on the 645Z probably will on the K1 as well.
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pentaxitin

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Lensrentals (and probably others) will happily rent you a second 645Z for your trip. Another option, if you wanted a second camera permanently, would to buy a used Nikon D800 or D800e (or a Pentax K1, which will share batteries and a lot of operating philosophy with your 645Z). Of course you'd need different lenses, but that 36 MP sensor will far out-do any scanned film short of 4x5"!

The 645D would be competitive with the 36 MP cameras at base ISO, but it'll fall apart by ISO 400 - the K1 will happily keep shooting as high as your 645Z will - it's the same sensor generation, so anything that meets your standards on the 645Z probably will on the K1 as well.


Thanks Dan for the important inputs.
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Craig Magee

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From years of experience using flextight scanners, once you spend a little bit of time with it you can get fantastic results. The only thing that's likely to beat one is a well done drum scan, and that's mostly down to the smoothing of the grain.

The color system is much better than the coolscan from my experience, not the the Nikon's is that bad actually last time I used one, but the Flexcolor software does a better job in my opinion, cleaner and more crystalline.

For reference you'll max out at 4000dpi on 6x4.5 with the dedicated holder, though it's not the nicest to use. I normally use the 6x7 holder which gives you 3200dpi. Can't remember what the final file size from 645 but you're looking at 450mb 16bit RGB Tiff from 6x7, so I guess around 300mb with the 4000dpi holder.

The great advantage I see of the system is the raw file format it uses, allows you to do one full Res scan then come back and tweak the file as you like, make changes without needing to make another scan. I always tell my students to scan raw and take home to edit as the software is free from Hasselblads site.

So if you want to shoot film and have access to an x1 I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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pentaxitin

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Thank you Craig
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Joe Towner

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Used prices on a 645z is around $3k right now, so it would be cheaper to purchase & flip upon your return.  I would actually backup and discuss what you are looking to do with the longer focal length - 315mm isn't that long.  The 645 N II can't use the 28-45mm lens as it's a crop, digital only lens.  You'd actually be better with the N paired with the 400mm lens.  I would hope you were planning to shoot off a few rolls of film before leaving on the trip, as it's a completely different workflow that you may not want on a trip like this.

If you want something longer for wildlife, I'd go with a current Sony/Panasonic/Fuji crop body with a 100-400 lens, the versatility & longer reach would be much more usable. Yes, it's not the same beautiful file, but it'll get you there optically rather than by cropping.
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Doug Peterson

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From years of experience using flextight scanners, once you spend a little bit of time with it you can get fantastic results. The only thing that's likely to beat one is a well done drum scan, and that's mostly down to the smoothing of the grain.

The OP should absolutely use the X1 since he already has access to it, so it would be free for him to use. But to say that "the only thing that's likely to beat [the X1] is a well done drum scan" is many years out of date. The X1 was a great scanner for its time, but it is quite easily outperformed by modern film scanning systems like our DT Film Scanning Kit.

Doug Peterson

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My question is: How will a 6 cm X 4.5 cm colour transparency scanned at highest 6300 dpi resolution by the Hasselblad X-1 be compared to the same image captured by a 645Z or a 645D, all other things being equal? Also, what will be the effective resolution of such an image from scan of the colour transparency in mega pixels?

There are quite a few reasons you might want to shoot 645 film. Nostalgia, a preference for creating a physical asset, the forced-delayed gratification, the price (at least, if shooting relatively low volume, and if you already have access to a scanner), the simplicity of having someone else do your color science, reduced power/battery requirements on long trips. I'm not saying any of those reasons especially vibe with me personally, but they are all logical reasons that might apply to someone. 

Resolution is no longer one of those reasons.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2019, 12:05:56 pm by Doug Peterson »
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pentaxitin

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Thank you Joe & Doug for your valid points. I guess it is a choice which would get dictated by what I really wish to do. Shoot film for the joy of it and also to put the dormant X1 to good use, or forget it all and settle for a decent used 645D (and be happy that I have a digital camera whose CCD supposedly has an analogue feel :-)

Difficult choice indeed. I hope to make a rational decision in a while. 
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Craig Magee

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The OP should absolutely use the X1 since he already has access to it, so it would be free for him to use. But to say that "the only thing that's likely to beat [the X1] is a well done drum scan" is many years out of date. The X1 was a great scanner for its time, but it is quite easily outperformed by modern film scanning systems like our DT Film Scanning Kit.

True, it's a bit of clichéd comment  ;D
Not had a chance to try that Phase one solution yet, looks interesting though. Had some good results with my own A7r iii DIY version I've been using to catalogue thousands of 35mm and 6x7 frames for someone.
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Joe Towner

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Difficult choice indeed. I hope to make a rational decision in a while.

Cameras have no rational decisions ;) It's all about feel & opinion & some crazy ideas.  Rational they are not.  ;D
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pentaxitin

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True, it's a bit of clichéd comment  ;D
Not had a chance to try that Phase one solution yet, looks interesting though. Had some good results with my own A7r iii DIY version I've been using to catalogue thousands of 35mm and 6x7 frames for someone.

What is the DIY version you are using? Can you please elaborate?
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pentaxitin

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Cameras have no rational decisions ;) It's all about feel & opinion & some crazy ideas.  Rational they are not.  ;D

I agree Dave. But once one starts getting deeper into the long term financial aspects, particularly when your means are not infinite, somehow clarity emerges and you make a decision. It is another matter that such a decision may not make you happy  ::)
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Doug Peterson

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True, it's a bit of clichéd comment  ;D
Not had a chance to try that Phase one solution yet, looks interesting though. Had some good results with my own A7r iii DIY version I've been using to catalogue thousands of 35mm and 6x7 frames for someone.

Pardon the correction, but the DT Film Scanning Kit is not a "Phase One solution"; the conception, design, implementation, sales, and support are entirely by Digital Transitions. While a Phase One back on a DT RCam or a Phase One iXG camera are our preferred cameras to combine with a DT Film Scanning Kit, it is also commonly paired with a small-format camera when budget is constrained. As your own experience shows a small-format camera can do a nice job of scanning film, especially if the volume is on the lower side ("thousands" constitutes low volume in this context; Disney, for example, is scanning several million pieces of film using our system) and if the quality requirements are "as good as, or better than, legacy film scanning technology like flatbeds" rather than "preservation-grade" or "as good as, or better than, a well-tuned drum scanner" which calls for a higher-end and more purpose-built camera to be used).

By the way, if you're spending time cataloging thousands of pieces of film for someone you might enjoy our online class Digitization 101 - Intro to Modern Digitization which approaches the topic of "scanning" in a post-scanner era.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2019, 09:09:19 am by Doug Peterson »
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ryanearl

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It would be interesting to see direct comparisons between drum scanning and the DT scanning kit.  I think larger formats like 6x7 or 6x9 are worth exploring over the Pentax 645 film cameras.  You can find a Fuji 6x9 in the $600 range with a lens attached. 

I owned a Scanmate 5000 until last year and felt it to produced better scans than the X1.  I had regular rental access to the X1.   If using positive film like Provia the Scanmate 5000 produced really accurate scans.  Wet scanning helps with dust too.  My X1 scans were a mess with dust.  I use the Pentax 645D and a used Epson 11880 for my commercial workflow and thinking about going to the Z with prices dropping.

I feel like I was getting more detail, along with more pixels, with the Mamiya 7 6x7 negative and the drum scan over the Pentax 645D, but spotting dust is a pain and often lead to rescanning several times to try and get it clear for the print size I wanted.
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Craig Magee

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What is the DIY version you are using? Can you please elaborate?

It's basically a Sony A7r III using either a P645 120mm or 75mm
Copy stand
Led lightbox
Some film guides made from mount board, pretty basic but they are just there to get each frame in roughly the same spot.

Works surprisingly well, we've even used the results a couple of times for some books and magazines.
Using lightroom for the cataloging and rough batch conversion.
Photoshop for conversions we might want a more serious use out of.

Keeping the film flat is a little tricky with this method, but doesn't matter to much for the cataloging.
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pentaxitin

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Thank you Craig
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