The Pakon F-135 Plus, Revisted

As you are all probably now aware, there are talented people out there who could be perceived as “fussy” about their gear, and/or film scans…

They look down their “Bourgeois noses” at emulation software, Windows XP, and capable old scanners re-purposed from drug store kiosks.

The truth of the matter is, I wouldn’t be shooting film today (in any volume whatsoever) if not for the trusty ‘ole Pakon F-135.

While there certainly are occasions where B&W scans may display posterization artifacts in certain regions, on the whole, the scans are extremely impressive for their speed and ease of acquisition.  This is even to say nothing of the fantastic colour profiling and correction which colour scanning affords.

Therefore, in an effort to prove how good (or lacking) the Pakon was, I put the following strips through the Pakon, and the “latest and greatest” Plustek Opticfilm 120.  While the F-135 Plus *only* scans at 3000×2000 (~2100 dpi) I simply could not tell the difference for web-based sizes.

In actual fact, while the whole 24 Exposure roll took under three minutes to acquire on the Pakon, the negatives on the Opticfilm took a ton of effort (cutting, positioning, dusting, pre-scanning, selecting, scanning, saving, and adjusting).  The Opticfilm files were scanned using VueScan Professional at 2600 DPI, with sharpening off.  They were processed to taste in Lightroom 6.5 to create files with dynamic range similar to the auto-generated Pakon files.

In other words (no, I did not blow them up large…) I just don’t think I could make them look better!  It simply wasn’t worth the extra time and effort I had to spend with the other scanner and software.

These are Ilford HP5+ pushed two stops to ISO 1600 on the Nikon F100, and developed in D-76.   I have not labelled them at present…see which versions you prefer.

SET ONE:

SET TWO:

SET THREE:

SET FOUR:

SET FIVE:

SET SIX:

For the last two sets, I thought to myself “Self, there just HAS to be a difference…it is a newer, higher resolution scanner, and I am scanning at a higher DPI”.  So for the third image, I turned off all image-related alterations in VueScan Pro, and rescanned.  Finally, the fourth image is scanned at 5300 DPI (the supposed optical maximum of the Opticfilm 120) using  SilverFast Professional instead.

SET SEVEN:

SET EIGHT:

So there you have it.

Draw your own conclusions–I’m not going to tell you how to live your life.

(…You won’t listen anyway).

🙂

19 thoughts on “The Pakon F-135 Plus, Revisted

  1. jkjod says:

    I could never get my Pakon to scan an entire roll at once, only 5 at a time – something I have read that sometimes is an issue while running in Parallels on a Mac. Even considering that, I couldn’t fault it.

    • mewanchuk says:

      Jordan,

      Very interesting. I run mine on Parallels as well, and have only ever had that problem using Polyester-based films (Iford PanF 50, Rollei Retro 80S, and JCH StreetPan 400). Everything else scans without flaw. None of the “experts” seem to be able to figure it out…

    • Peter | Prosophos says:

      Ahhh Jordan, thank you for proving my point with Mark.

      See Mark?… that’s what you get with hack jobs… 🙂

      Anyway, as the “fussy” person to whom you refer, I can’t argue with you. As a “film God” you have earned the right to say/do what you wish… even if it means disparaging a fellow Canadian whom you will be visiting soon.

      • mewanchuk says:

        Peter,

        I am not entirely sure Jordan was -actually- proving your point–

        If I read between the lines of his reply, I think he is really trying to say “I also think Peter is a bit of a Goofus”

        Jordan?

        🙂

      • Karim D. Ghantous says:

        As I sat back in my leather armchair, the wind outside was causing quite a stir, and the windows were letting in what little light there remained. I had just made myself a cup of hot, steaming tea, and for a moment – just a brief moment – it hypnotized me and for that brief moment my mind cleared. It cleared enough to make me ask the question: are Mark and Peter from the same country?

        Now, you see, that was my first thought, if I could put it into words. But what I meant, and what I knew I meant, was this: given that they are *in* the same country, is it also possible that they are *from* the same country? The difference is obvious, but some do not want to see this point, and thus it deserves elucidation.

        At first, I didn’t believe it, but then I realized that they have to be in different time zones. This vital clue gave me all the information I needed: a seed which would produce an oak tree. Latitude may be place, but longitude is time, and those who operate with a stretch of time between them must be ipso facto very different in manner and taste.

        But I have to test my hypothesis. I didn’t want to leave my chair, yet I had to know. Fortunately, the housekeeper had left my old PowerBook on the side table, so I reached across and grabbed it. Would it have enough power? Gong! Ah, yes. It took a few moments to boot, and as soon as I was able, I opened up a map of the Canadian Empire – an empire so mighty that it stretched between the world’s greatest oceans, reached the edge of the Arctic Circle, and faced America, fearlessly, across half of its border.

        I knew, from previous conversations at the Rio Club in Brighton, that Mark lived in Alberta, and Peter lived not far from Lake Ontario. I checked the difference in time, and – abracadabra! – I had my answer.

        The time difference between the two provinces was two hours. A big enough difference so that while Alberta slept, Ontario’s coffee machines were already running.

        This fact tempted me further yet. It had just begun to rain, and small specks of precipitation clicked on the window. I closed the computer and put it back on the side table, and then grabbed my tea mug. Still hot, I sipped it slowly, and devised a plan to make travel arrangements…

  2. jkjod says:

    Welp, that escalated quickly…

    I will say the Pakon is a fine machine, and that Peter is no Goofus (from what I can tell).

  3. jkjod says:

    Well I can’t remember Peter sending me any vintage Leica lenses in the mail, whereas Mark has.

    So I suppose, Peter is a Goofus.

  4. andygemmell says:

    Well I don’t develop nor scan my film so I’m just the lazy one sitting in corner not really caring for the Pakon or the Optic scanners.

    But I love some of these images! Especially the one with sisters sitting on the rug playing in the living room.

    I consider Mark the Head of Film Science. The professor toiling away on his numerous hypothesis….smoking his pipe from time to time.

    And yes Mark…..Peter is a Goofus…..it’s obvious isn’t it :-)!!

  5. Karim D. Ghantous says:

    I tend to be drawn to the scans which are higher contrast, although they are grainier. I think that’s because scanners are not made for silver b&w film, they’re made for colour negative film. Other films will be compromised.

    So just to be clear: in sets 3 and 4, I prefer the first images in each.

    Beautiful images, BTW. Tender yet playful.

  6. Joe shoots resurrected cameras says:

    Mark, I’m not very good at pixel peeping, so as far as identifying the scanner I may be off. Also, it seems that you switch here and there as to whether the Plustek or the Pakon is the odd-numbered image. I’ll use b-7 and b-8 for my examples. b-8 shows a greater range of tonality which I prefer, but looking 100% at the image it appears softer. I don’t know if I’m actually getting more information out of b-7 or if it’s just that b-7 has a lot of sharpening (it’s definitely grainier), but it is easier to pick out highlights in the hair and I like that. Of course that could also be part of the contrast, which overall I think is too high in b-7. In fact I noticed that most (if not all) of the scans that look sharper/grainier tend to have a greater contrast which I generally dislike, but overall, I prefer to see the grain present in these images.

    As I’ve never shot HP5 and certainly aren’t familiar with how it looks pushed to 1600 I’m uncomfortable saying with authority which is which. That said, I’ve never been wowed with the capabilities of any Plustek scanner and from what I’ve read they do inflate their statistics, I don’t know how much. For web viewing, you’re right in that either would work, and the Pakon is still the sharpest 2100dpi scanner I’ve encountered. Unless you’re printing larger than 8×10 there’s no reason to need more resolution, so really the only reason to compare the Plustek and Pakon is if you’re comparing their sharpness at max resolutions. 1800×1200 downres images prove nothing. Also I’m unsure if shooting indoors, using a wide aperture, and pushing the film, are the best ways to test the capabilities of each scanner.

    Then I reread your post and found out that all the images I’d been looking at (the earlier ones) were comparing a 2600dpi scan to 2100dpi! That’s no comparison at all. So comparing b-11 with d-12 which have the closest tonality (and I guess that b-11 is the Pakon based on the fact that the other 3 all have that same sharpened/grainier look), what I said in the first paragraph still applies. Also, if b-11 is your Pakon image then something is off with it because it looks much softer than mine.

    • mewanchuk says:

      Hi Joe,

      Thanks for all the comments. I’ll try to respond to each one of them in an organized fashion–first generally, in then in some detail in a later reply.

      To begin with, this post was certainly not meant to be a detailed or exhaustive scientific comparison. It was simply meant to demonstrate that 2600dpi (and a ton of work and effort!) was basically required to match the output and ease-of-use of the Pakon. (I picked 2600 dpi because it was the only close setting that VueScan allowed me to use for the Plustek).

      Second: I did randomize the order of the images in each set.

      Third: I shot indoors, used a wide aperture, and pushed the film because that is exactly how I shoot. I was really not interested in testing the “capabilities” per se, but rather in knowing what worked best for me, and for my work flow. I wanted to know if I was “handicapping” myself by “just” using the Pakon.

      Third: For some reason, the DNG files from the Plustek were ALWAYS too dark and contrasty when imported into LR. They all required -50 on the Contrast, and +30-40 on the shadows. They are also grainier by default, and I don’t think it is simply an issue of resolution.

      More to follow (with the “big reveal”) shortly…

      Cheers,
      Mark

      • Joe shoots resurrected cameras says:

        If your point was that the Pakon scans at the same quality in a fraction of the time, ok, point taken! And considering its output is fine for 8×10 prints, one doesn’t need anything more for 35mm as far as I’m concerned. I would still like to see what you’re getting for the Plustek’s increased resolution, if there is detail in there that it’s pulling out, that would show up in a larger print than 8×10.

        Do you turn off sharpening, noise reduction, for the Pakon? Just wondering, because that’s what makes it look a bit softer. And my Pakon scans don’t look that soft! But again looking at the two the Plustek doesn’t seem to give any more detail than the Pakon, which makes me think it must just have some sort of unsharp mask applied. I’ve always found that PSI default scans too contrasty for my taste, so it’s ironic that it’s the lowest contrast scans you have there. 😀

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