I’m using Epson Perfection V700 Photo scanner to get film negatives (and occasional positives) into digital format. V700 is a mid-range scanner marketed for serious amateurs and semi-professionals. It’s a flatbed scanner but it has the ability to scan film from 135 to large format.
I’ve had it only for 6 months so I have still lot to learn. So far I’ve focused on getting the colors and tones right with the bundled SilverFast SE software (for Mac OS X) but now it’s time to get the frames as close to perfect as possible. I’ve seen hundreds of high quality scans done with V700 and other models and I want to get there too.
The film holders are usually the first thing you want to pay attention to when improving the quality of the scans. And usually the default film holders are generally lousy. You can buy 3rd party film holders online but before I spend another 100 euros I want to find out if the flimsy Epson film holders can be better. The sharpness of the scans can improve significantly if you are able to find the sweet spot of the scanner.
The V700 film holders come with height adjusters. The height adjusters are located on the bottom side of the holders and they adjust the distance between the film surface and the scanner’s glass. They have an arrow printed on them.
The height adjusters are attached on the slots on the film holders. By default, the arrows on the height adjusters are pointing at the O signs on the film holders. With default height adjusters you have three options: keep them pointing at O sign, turn them around to point at + sign, or ditch them.
With the default setting (O sign), the distance from the film to the glass is 3mm. When the height adjusters are turned around (+ sign), the distance increases to 3.5mm. Without the height adjusters the distance is 2.5mm.
All my scans with V700 have been done with default 3mm setting. I did a quick test with 135 film to see how the height adjusters affect on the image sharpness. The lowest height gave the softest (worst) results and in my opinion the best results were achieved with the 3.5mm setting. The difference between 3mm and 3.5mm is small but existing. Here’s a 100% crop comparison between 3mm (on the left) and 3.5mm (on the right), click to enlarge. The biggest difference is on the right side of the cropped area.
Here are two resized example photos scanned with all three options, click to enlarge. It is almost impossible to see the difference in small size. It’s more obvious in the black and white example. The first example is scanned without the height adjusters (2.5mm), the second with default setting (3mm) and the third with raised setting (3.5mm). No automatic (or manual) sharpening is applied.
I think I’ll scan with 3.5mm setting in the future but “better results” are probably mostly psychological.