The Sunlit Smile – Part II

TheSunlitSmile-1B

That’s right…the same image.

But this time, scanned on the ‘ole Epson 750.

Yesterday’s post was scanned on the Pacific Image PF120 Pro.

There isn’t a lot of information out there on the scanner itself–Some representative scans from a few individuals who have taken the plunge–but certainly not much in the way of reviews.

Interestingly, my (extensive) research on the subject seems to indicate that the PF120 is actually the same unit as the Braun FS-120, which is actually the same as the Reflecta MF-5000.  Neither of the latter two have been available in North America up until now; The Braun is apparently “coming soon” (according to B&H) but hasn’t shipped just yet.

Recently, I had a chance to purchase the PF120 Pro at a discount, and decided to give it a whirl.

Spoiler alert: There are issues.

With any of these variants (due to the design of the 120 film holder) you can only scan two frames at once, and then have to actually flip the strip itself around and re-scan to get the third frame.  Not a huge, huge deal…but certainly an issue if you plan to do any sort of volume.

Furthermore, the scanner itself makes a hideous grinding noise at the end of every pre-scan.  I am not sure if it is a “feature” or a problem with the hardware I received, but the included software package–CyberViewX (???)–cannot seem to scan the frame as marked, so I wonder whether the transport mechanism has somehow “slipped a cog”.  As a result, the included software is basically unusable (no loss, really…) forcing a return to VueScan Professional (To answer the question: I don’t have a license for Silverfast 8 for this particular scanner).

As far as the scans themselves go, they are good, but simply not stunning.  Flatness of the film in the holder is good, which seems to be the key.  The scanner has a reported maximum resolution of 3200DPI, and apparently produces just that in independent testing (at least the Braun variant does…).  I have had some detail markedly improved in some photos, but on other occasions (when the film is really flat…) the Epson seems to also produce a startling result.  On the whole, either option requires some color adjustment after scanning, with the edge for accuracy going to the Pacific Image.  (Much more work is required where the Epson is concerned, with a definite green bias to the resulting images).

I have attached representative scans, with isolated 100% crops.  These were scanned at 3200DPI using Vuescan, and manually tweaked somewhat in post using Lightroom.

Comparison-1

Comparison-2

In most cases, I would have to give the edge to the PF120 where detail is concerned (especially shadow detail…) but the real question is: Is dedicated MF scanning worth the extra effort and expense that any of these variants offer?

This particular unit is going back for the issues that I previously mentioned; I haven’t yet decided whether to re-take the plunge.  My bias at this point is to “make due” with the Epson, and let the experts do the scanning when required.

Anyone out there with experience to add?

All the best,

Mark

4 thoughts on “The Sunlit Smile – Part II

  1. Karim D. Ghantous (@kdghantous) says:

    The Epson scan looks better. Warmer tones. The FP120 leaves a slight magenta tint. I suppose you can easily fix this by scanning a reference frame and creating a profile from that.

    There’s a puzzle about the way people use the Epson scanners. They say that because they don’t automatically focus, you have to figure out the best height for the film holders. The problem is that CCD scanners have a large DOF and you should not need to be so precise (and therefore, the film doesn’t have to be perfectly flat). So I’d like to hear from you on that.

    With either scanner, I’d like to see multiple passes and the frames put through a frame averaging function, such as ImageMagick. I suspect there won’t be any improvement but it would be interesting to confirm.

    • mewanchuk says:

      Karim,

      I’m surprised to hear you say you prefer the Epson–I thought you’d be firmly in the PF camp. As for the flatness, it actually does make a big difference with the Epson: The betterscanning holders with ZNR glass provide better results, but are definitely more finicky to use.

      All the best, M.

      >

  2. Chris says:

    That’s an interesting comparison. Although the extra resolution of the PF120 is very evident, the Epson seems to scan high enough to match the resolution of the film *image* even if the PF120 can go beyond that to match the resolution of the film *grain*.

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