In which our hero regales us with the tale of how he decided to purchase a scanner. Or: Are you sure you're getting every shot off that roll of film you bring to your local lab?
I’d been bringing rolls of film to my local Walgreens for a few months and hadn’t really given it much thought. I got negatives and a disc. The clerk would look at me funny and make sure I didn’t want any prints. I would assure them I only wanted the negatives and the disc. They would protest a bit longer and I would further assure them that I, in fact, knew what I wanted.
With this particular roll, I decided to employ the Get More out of Your Diana Mini! tipster. This was the first time I tried it and as what usually happens on first tries, it didn’t work out exactly as planned. Towards the end of the roll my shots started to overlap, like I was trying to go panoramic. Anticipating some sort of mishap, I informed the girl behind the counter that the camera I was using didn’t take typical shots. This one would have square images and if she could, would she mind making sure that each shot was scanned. I let her know that I understood that if she had to charge me past the initial 24 exposures, it was fine. So, that evening I went and picked up my items and excitedly brought them home to peruse on my computer. The following were the images on my disc. Only one is missing. It is a completely blank frame. The only changes I made were to size them down for ease of view on the internet.
After going through the pictures on the disc a few times, I realized something: some of my shots just weren’t there. In fact, in some of the shots you can see where there is obviously another frame that turned out but just wasn’t scanned. I sat there a while and pondered my actions of the previous day. It wasn’t like this was an old roll of film. I shot it in it’s entirety the day prior. I’d followed all the proper rules of exposure and was certain that I should have more shots. So, I pulled out my negatives and held them up to my LCD monitor. Sure enough, there were a number of images missing on the disc. Though it was a negative, it seemed that these images should have turned out just fine.
At this point, I made the conscious decision to find a scanner so I could do it myself. For a few days I did my research and decided upon the Epson Perfection 4490. It’s not exactly the newest, shiniest model on the market, but it does what I need it to do. Also, it was cheap. Before shipping I paid $120. I know some might argue that that is still a bit of money to shell out all at once. But I did some math and came to this: I was paying $3 per disc when I got my film developed. I’d have to get 40 rolls of film developed in order to cover the cost of the scanner. This, I’m sure I can do. However, my wife is a photographer. She has numerous rolls of film from college that she wants to digitize. So she decided we could go half and half (halvsies) and it would be a fair deal. I agreed, so now I only have to get 20 rolls of film developed to break even on my end. Just 20 rolls? Even 40 seems entirely too easy a task.
But the real deal-breaker comes in doing the task myself. The following images are from the same roll of film, but I controlled exactly how it would be scanned.
I could finish here, but as it happens I was permitted behind the counter at my local Walgreens when a different clerk was working. Awaiting my scanner’s delivery, I had shot another roll of film. I brought it up to be developed and was prepared to get only the negatives. However, the gentleman behind the counter, Jim, informed me that picture discs were only .99 cents this week. I decided I wanted to see them right away as it was my first roll of DIY redscale film. So, again, as I had with the previous clerk, I let Jim know that my camera shot in an odd format, square, and that the shots would be relatively close together. But then, Jim surprised me and replied that if I was just getting negatives it would only take him about 15 minutes to run the roll and I was welcome to come back and go through the images shot by shot with him to get the pictures I wanted scanned.
This was exciting. I’d never gotten to experience this before. I remembered sending film off as a kid and it being this big to-do when my film got in. So I went back beaming like I was on a field trip. Jim showed me the machine that they used for scanning. It was this big ordeal with very specific proprietary software. What Jim informed me of was that they only got the 6 frames on the screen and when he proceeded to the next page (6 frames), he couldn’t go back. So we went through and centered up each shot for that roll as best as could be done with the constraints at hand.
“But, how’s it all different?” a man in the back asked.
With the Epson I’m able to frame each shot as I want to. So, I can frame out exactly what I want in each image. This may sound tedious, but you can frame out each shot and then mass scan them. With the mask provided with the scanner, it’s not unheard of to get a dozen shots scanned at a time. Control is the key here, though. I’m sort of a control freak and I like that I can get each and every shot off of my roll of film. I don’t like having to rely on someone else to do it for me, as sometimes people can let you down.
So, give it a shot. If you’re as interested in analogue photography as I am, the investment in a decent scanner should pay for itself in no time. You’ll get the shots you want and in the long run, end up saving money. Also, if you’ve got a camera that shoots past the sprockets, a personal scanner will allow you to get the most out of the film. I’m eyeing a Sprocket Rocket before the month is out. Happy shooting!