I’ve switched almost completely from using a compact digital camera to using a film camera this year. I scan my 35 mm negatives with a low-end flatbed scanner, namely Epson Perfection 2480 Photo. It is possible to obtain reasonable results using that cheap device, but it’s not easy. I’ve been learning a lot during the process and I’d like to share my experience in the posts here, perhaps it helps someone.
First, what can one expect?
As for the scanner dynamic range, I think it’s sufficient for scanning amateur print films, I haven’t observed any problems in this area.
As for the scanner resolution, Epson claims something about 2400 dpi regarding that scanner. I’d say such numbers are pure marketing crap nowadays for two reasons: 1. it’s not defined what the number means; 2. whatever it’s supposed to mean it has probably little to do with reality, i.e. the real scanner resolution. According to internet rumours and my own observations, such as down and upsampling scanned pictures and comparing scans with prints, I estimate the actual scanner resolution performance is very roughly around 1000 ppi. That means the spatial information the scanner is able to capture from a standard 35 mm film field is present in a picture of a minimum size of about 1500×1000 pixels.
So in theory the scanner should be sufficient for both my primary target medium, a 1280×1024 computer screen, and my secondary media, occasional prints not larger than A4. In practice it’s not that easy but more on this next time.
Wouldn’t it be worth to buy a better scanner? I don’t have any experience with current more expensive scanners, but from what I’ve read and seen on the net, I think they provide somewhat better results with significantly higher comfort for much more money. Higher Epson flatbed scanners such as 4×90 or V7x0 produce better results and offer hardware features for dust removal, but increase in the device cost is significantly higher than increase in the resulting scan quality. Low-end “4000 dpi” dedicated film scanners give even better results for even more money. Drum scanners produce much better scans than Epson 2480 for 100 times more money. Basically it’s your choice whether you invest much more money into better scanning hardware producing good results or much more time into scanning process using a cheap scanner producing acceptable results. Or whether you buy a good digital camera equipment and get rid of scanning entirely.