Let's begin with a universal truth: scanning film fucking sucks. It's just the biggest time sink and nothing ever looks as good as you want it to and you spend hours removing dust spots and trying to color balance to your ideal for that film stock and it eventually looks sort of ok so you move on because you have 10 fucking more rolls to get through before you can finally post these damn shots on Instaflickr or whatever. (run on sentences are fun, fyi)

Let's talk about my current scanning setup. I run an Epson v500 and scan with the Better Scanning holder and ANR glass for flatness and because I can get more frames scanning at once. I cut my film into strips of 2 or 3 shots depending on the format/camera, painstakingly try to remove dust whilst wearing archival gloves to guard against fingerprints. I scan using Epson Scan at a decent resolution but nothing too crazy because I'm just seeing these shots for the first time. I can always scan at a high resolution later. It takes about 3 minutes per frame, so 6-9 minutes per strip, and I'll have about 4-5 strips. Plus the 3-5 minutes in between, which basically means that I can scan a roll of 120 in about an hour. I generally edit as I'm waiting for the next strip to scan, so that's not much of an additional time investment, fortunately.

In short, it sucks. I just don't have the time or desire to sit at my computer for 3-4 hours at a time doing scanning, since the only time I have to do that is on the weekend. That's when I want to be shooting, not stuck inside!

This is why DSLR scanning is so intriguing to me. If I can get a one shot per frame proof of each frame that is good enough for web/small prints, then I can save a ton of time, I think. I feel like shooting an entire roll of film will take 10 minutes at most when dialed in. The conversion and editing might take me 3-5 minutes per frame but once I have a workflow I should hopefully be able to automate. Moreover, if I can get some batch processing going, then I can spend 30 minutes shooting 4-5 rolls at once and then just have my computer do the batch processing while I go do something else. This is ideal but may be a pipe dream. Stay tuned, I guess.

Inspired by my man Michael Fraser's brilliant post on DSLR scanning, I decided to do some sharpness and ease of use testing. Unlike Michael, I don't really care about wringing every last bit of resolution out of my shots, I only want this to go faster. I'm looking for Good Enough, not perfect.

My testing consisted of scanning a frame with the v500 and leaving it at the Epson Scan defaults. Then I found my light table, grabbed my Epson film holder (no need for ANR glass for DSLR scanning, i think), and a tripod. Then I shot that frame using my Sony RX100 III and my wife's Nikon D610 at various apertures and focal lengths. Note: the colors will not in any way match. I literally inverted the colors and then clicked Auto Tone and Auto Color in Photoshop. ColorPerfect testing comes later. The resolution of each camera is slightly different so these aren't exactly 1 to 1 comparisons either. Results below.

Epson v500 vs. Nikon D610 - Center of frame
Epson v500 vs. Nikon D610 - Corner of frame

You can already see a big difference. I was pretty blown away. Also, it literally took me 3-4 minutes to shoot, copy the file and get it inverted. If it's time savings I want, I can already see how I can get there easily. With the notable exception of Digital ICE/dust removal, I genuinely don't see a reason to keep using the v500.

For shits and giggles, here's the Epson vs. the Sony RX100 III.

Epson v500 vs. Sony RX100 III - Center of frame
Epson v500 vs. Sony RX100 III - Corner of frame

The Sony handily beats the Epson in everything but corner sharpness (and it's close), and that's because in order to shoot in macro mode with the RX100 you have to use the widest part of the zoom lens (24mm equiv). The Zeiss glass is good but nothing's /that/ good.

Finally, the Nikon vs. the Sony

Nikon D610 vs. Sony RX100 III - Center of frame
Nikon D610 vs. Sony RX100 III - Corner of frame

So there you have it. DSLR Scanning. Pretty good stuff. My next steps are to figure out what the deal is with ColorPerfect or other programs to use for properly inverting and color grading my shots and then figuring out how to batch process/automate the workflow. Once that's all done I'll write it up in another post.