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Thinking about going digital



I'm computer and photography literate to some extent, but I'm a total novice in combining them both. So there are some beginner questions. (Since current digicams don't satisfy my claims, I'd like to keep my superb Contax G2 gear and scan the 35mm film.)

1) What about quality of home done digital darkroom work? When I know what I'm doing, is there a considerable loss compared to average minilab results?

2) Should the final prints always be done by a service bureau / lab on conventional photographic paper (after scanning and editing on my own)? What about today's inkjet printers in comparison?

3) Is it possible to do the photoshop (color-) work with a TFT notebook display?

4) Perhaps it's easier to deal with slide-film rather than negatives? (There should be no or at least fewer changes necessary in the "digital color mixing box")?

5) Is it a must to use photoshop? From my today's point of view the most important application will be cropping down pictures (whithout using scissors).

6) What semi-professional film scanner do you recommend to the hypercritical photoG?

Any help with anyone of the points would be welcome.

Hi Till,

I am a digital novice too. I never did my own darkroom-work. I was always relying on the service of professional labs. I am shooting on slide film only, mainly Velvia and Provia 100F.

Since my preferred lab went out of business last autumn, I had to look for a new one. So I made some test prints with always the same slide in 3 different pro labs in Frankfurt/Germany. Each digital print costs over 16 Euro for 20 cm x 30 cm. I did also manual prints in 2 labs for over 35 Euro each.

To say it in one phrase: I was disappointed, to say the least. The quality was really bad. Even after complaining and redoing, it was only slightly better. One lab made even a digi-print without mentioning it and trying to sell it as a manual dark room print. All the labs are specifically for pros. So there should be normally the quality a Contax user would expect, especially for that price.

After these results, I thought in this quality level I can do it also on my own. If you compare prices for top 135 scanners as the Nikon 4000 and the prices for each print in the lab this investment gets fast on a break even….

So I purchased a Nikon Super Coolscan 4000 ED and the printer Epson Stylus Photo 1290, which goes up to A3+. I think the number for the Epson is different in the US. Why this combinations? Because all the professionals I asked advised me to buy it. Nobody recommended a Canon, although the new Canon was not on the market at that time. For this I opened a specific thread, look at “scanners”. I use a notebook with 14’’ TFT, which is really not professional, but I do not yet want to invest also in expensive screens, calibration systems etc.

Until now I made just a few scans/prints so far, I have not had enough time and to do it really in quantity. My first impressions: you need to learn Photoshop seriously. Basically the same effort as you would start with the traditional darkroom work as a novice. You can make wonders with that software.

The results are impressive. First of all, all prints are better then my test-prints with the pro-lab. Even with A3, you will almost not see any resolution problems from very near (< 20cm viewing distance). I even did not have to make many corrections, just playing around (I did not know how to do that anyway).

What are the drivers for a better result? If you want to have the maximum quality, you need the right mixture between the film you are using, the paper for the printer, calibration of your screen with the printer output and experience in how to adjust in photoshop to have this or that effect.

What others told me, who know more about these things: The weakest spot in the chain is the paper, not the scanner. So you get better results if you would adjust the whole production chain for a decent drum scanner – some (not all) of them have higher resolutions then my Nikon Scanner - and a Fuji Frontier print out on their specific paper.

I have never tried that, because the results with my equipment have already been very impressive and I think I should first learn more about photoshop before modifying other variables, which I can not control. But this would be my next step if I find the limitations of my current equipment. Photshop is industry standard and I do not think that there is any software out there with more capabilities. Nikon software 3.1 is great, especially the dust removal (ICE). You can scan the slides directly via Nikon Scan 3.1 into Photoshop.

Others told me slide film would be better to scan than negative film. Do not ask me why. I shoot slides anyway and it will be difficult to get these great projections on paper. Fuji in Germany told me to use Fuji Provia 100F or 400F, because they are designed specifically for scanning purpuses. The Velvia is to thick for easy scanning and you will also get problems in the darker area of your pictures with it. This reflects also my own experiences.

I think learning by doing is here the main point. And of course the Q&A in this Forum

Hope that helps a little bit.

I have similar questions and concerns as Till. I would like to scan and print from black and white negatives especially. I know very little about scanners, printers and software for my purpose. I have some familiarity with flatbed scanning, however, my HP Starjet 5p scanner is limited to prints only.

I'm quite willing to develop my own black and white negatives but I would like to avoid the wet darkroom for prints. Can anyone recommend some good books that address the needs I have? Also, if anyone has any suggestions for specific scanners and printers that I might investigate, that too, would be appreciated. Thanks,
Hi Dennis look up this website www.scannertips.com
it will give you some info on scanner information.
if you need more information do email me as i have
some experience working scanner slides using slide scanner and as well as using flatbed scanner.
I am an Advertising Art Director/Creative Director, and own my own photo company on the side. I see, and am involved with, digital
imaging up to my eyeballs everyday.
Here are a few things to consider: assuming you have a computer with enough juice to drive all this stuff, and you have USB ports on it to plug in the extra equipment:

GET PhotoShop immediately. P/S Elements to start with is okay, but you'll quickly outgrow it. If you have the money, get the new PhotoShop 7. It has some amazing new tools specifically for photography retouching. The P/S learning curve is a hairy-scarey one, but well worth it.

Next, a 4000dpi scanner like the Nikon, Canon
Minolta or Polaroid. You'll need it for 35mm.

The home printer is a matter of projected use. If you are going to make 7X10s on down to family album size take a look at a Dye Sub printer. The output is very much like a regular print from a photo lab. For B&W or larger size prints you have to investigate an ink jet printer.
For this, were I you, I'd go for the new Epson 2200 mere weeks away from delivery.

One last piece of advice, get a little digital camera like a Canon digital elf, and experiment with digital input to your computer and working on the images with PhotoShop.
These usually come bundled with a basic PhotoShop program.

I've never uploaded an image on this forum, but I'll try to show you a scanned 35mm from a Contax N1 w/24-85 Zeiss lens.

Hope this helps, and feel free to e-mail me with any questions.
Well, the up-load size requirement makes this just about a useless exercise.
..within the the next couple of days, there will be a totally new desigend photo-upload section at Contaxinfo.com. This will allow also bigger file size - if my webhoster is making it possible...

That would be most excellent. In order to at least show off some of the abilities of these cameras and lenses it sure would help to increase the size of posted images somewhat. I often upload on the hoto.net site to great sucess. Hope you can achieve about that size up-load.

Great site by the way. Keep up the good work, we Contax lovers have to stick together.