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Good Equipment and Great Equipment | by Doha Sam
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Good Equipment and Great Equipment

Just sharing a little demo that I ended up unintentionally making.


A while back I loaded up my BelAir X 6-12 with some Fuji Astia 100F. This is 100 ISO slide film. It was a while before I shot it and by the time I did I assumed it was loaded with the Kodak Portra 800 I usually shoot. Now, I normally overexpose that film so I had the camera ISO set at 200 but I was additionally using my home-made aperture plate that gives me about f22 so the real shooting ISO would have been about 400. In other words, I was shooting everything about two stops underexposed.


When I came to do the processing this roll ended up being the first roll of film I ever did E6 processing on. I knew my chemistry was past date but I figured I needed to start by following the instructions to the letter. I ended up with my film underdeveloped. Judging by how dark the edge lettering ended up I'm guessing I lost another two stops.


Do you want to know what slide film underexposed by four stops looks like? See above. It looks totally black. You can only see the faintest of images if you shine a particularly bright light through it (like a bare light bulb).


I normally scan my 6x12 film on the V700 because the Coolscan will only scan frames of 6x9 and this means I need to scan the image in two sections and stitch. I have learned quite a bit about scanning over the years and I threw everything at this scan. With the settings I used in Vuescan the scan took nearly two hours for one frame (manual exposure set up around 40 when normal scan exposure is about 1, heavy masking of the surrounding flatbed, multisampling). The top picture shows the result. An astoundingly complete picture of the scene out of an utterly black piece of film. However, I could see that the shadowed sections around the foreground tree were lost in a sea of muddy black and brown. The V700's optical system had hit the wall.


Knowing the superior light control and optics of my Coolscan I was curious how much more I could get out of it. The scan you see above represents seven hours for the single frame. Again, I did the best job masking the holder that I could. I expected th 9000 to outperform the V700 but the margin of victory I did not expect. What the Coolscan 9000 pulled out of that black piece of film is not just good considering the difficulties. It is a reasonably good scan full stop. As you will see when I post the full image even the grain is reasonably well controlled. And how the scanner managed to autofocus on this dark dark image I'll never know.


The difference between good equipment and great equipment can be slim in normal use. But great images seldom come out of normal situations.

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Taken on July 10, 2013