Introducing the 4x5 Dev/Scan Workflow

Provia 100F - Schneider 150/5.6 APO Symmar

Provia 100F - Schneider 150/5.6 APO Symmar

Large format is where it’s at. It just is. When I first saw enlargements that my peers in college were doing with their 4x5 cameras, my brain basically exploded (thus explaining my GPA). When saw my first Alec Soth show at the Minneapolis Art Institute, I knew I was hooked. There is no conventional imaging medium that even comes close. Phase One can pack as many megapickles as they want into a 6x4.5 sensor, I’ll take a sheet of 4x5 film any day of the week.

But alas, the workflow totally sucks. The cameras are a bit…finicky, to put it mildly. It’s incredibly unforgiving. We used to have this stuff called Polaroid that allowed you to at least preview your shot, but they took that away from us. And labs want you to pay $20 bucks per sheet (!!!) for them to give you an Imacon scan of your mistakes.

No thank you, I think there is a better way.

Provia 100F - Schneider 150/5.6 APO Symmar

Provia 100F - Schneider 150/5.6 APO Symmar

This summer I embarked on an editorial project for Maine the Way, shooting 4x5 portraits on Provia 100F at a couple of Maine State Prison locations. These images were going to go into publication in a large magazine, sometimes requiring double page spreads. I knew I wanted scans that represented the image the way I would have printed 4x5 in the darkroom. That means all the edge material had to be intact. Imacon scanners can’t really do this. Flatbed scanners are laborious to use and often let you down, and drum scanners are prohibitively expensive.

I decided to try something new.

Using repro techniques that rely on high resolution camera capture, Nikkor macro lenses, and a high CRI Rosco light source, I can quickly and efficiently make high resolution scans of these films that are printable up to 20x25 without up-res’ing.

And now, you can too.

These scans come in at roughly 6063x4048 pixels, which translates to about 25mp. You can hit 20x25 by printing at 240ppi, or 16x20 at 300ppi. Careful upresing will push it even further. They’re incredibly detailed, the files have enormous latitude and potential in the editing process. For C41 the color conversions are based on Fuji Frontier color science, and thus meet the industry favorite profile you have come to expect from Portra & Ektar films (Fuji films being largely extinct in sheets save for their E6 stocks).

Pre Conversion

Pre Conversion

Kodak Ektar 100 - Fujinon 90/8

Kodak Ektar 100 - Fujinon 90/8

You might say, 25mp? That’s crazy, the scans I’m used to are measured in the hundreds of megapixels. That’s true! Traditional drum scans or even properly done flatbed scans are massive, and can be printed to mural sizes. These scans are not meant to compete with a drum scan. In fact, the great thing about film is that it can always be re-scanned when you go to exhibition or a book project. These scans are meant for your day-to-day project work with large format. Whether you be an enthusiast who just wants to try an old Speed Graphic, or you are in the midst of a long term documentary project on 4x5 and you need affordable scans to proof your ideas. These scans are perfect for that.

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Inmate, Warren Facility

For this image, I lit the scene with a single strobe held over-head and behind. My inspiration was 1940s era Kodachromes of factory workers during WWII. Shooting 4x5 allowed me to instill a matter of fact visual style, that instantly gives the image the feel of a historical document.

Chamonix 45N-2 - Schneider 150/5.6 APO Symmar - Provia 100F

In fact, I might argue that they’re perfect for 95% of large format applications. If Gerhard Steidl calls you up on the phone and says “Yo Gutentag! We gotta go to press with these sweet photographic gems!” It may be time to order drum scans. Until that happens, these files will edit incredibly well, print large, and allow you to share or proof whatever you may be working on.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say, so I’ve included a couple full resolution JPGs of two scans I did while working on the project for Maine the Way. Check them out here.

4x5 Dev Scans are available now.

A new way to scan chromes

Provia 100F - Rollei Hy6 Mod 2 - 80/2.8 Xenotar - Bordered Scan

Provia 100F - Rollei Hy6 Mod 2 - 80/2.8 Xenotar - Bordered Scan

Slide film, or 'chromes' were once the undisputed champion of color photography.  Professionals stuck with chrome long after consumers had moved on to the more flexible color negative options. On the light-table, the reasons were obvious.  You get finer grain, pure color, and unrivaled contrast. Plus no need for an intermediary to view your film. It’s right there for the eye to see and understand.

For years though they've been neglected by photographers who use the hybrid film shooting workflow that labs like Northeast Photographic support.  If you have shot a roll of Velvia in the past few years and had it scanned on a Fuji Frontier or Noritsu, you may know why.  Washed out colors, noise, blown out highlights.  Just a lot of bleh! Whereas your original on the light-table remains beautiful.  What happened?  Lab scanners are incredible for negative films, they were built for this singular purpose.  Chromes were a dying medium, an afterthought.  Pros who shot it used drum scanners or dedicated desktop models only. It’s a laborious work flow, and if you’re doing drum scans, quite expensive.

That particular status quo isn't quite good enough for us, which is why we are introducing our new scanner to our chrome workflow.  Using Nikkor's best reproduction lenses, and CMOS capture technology, we are able to accurately reproduce all the detail, color, and contrast present in your slide.  So impressed have we been with our early results, that we can confidently say we think we offer the best full roll scans of E6 films in the business.  

These comparisons speak for themselves. 

Repro Scans - Leica M3 - 50mm Summilux - Kodak E100

Repro Scans - Leica M3 - 50mm Summilux - Kodak E100

Fuji Frontier

Fuji Frontier

Repro Scan - Leica M3 - 50mm Summicron Dual Range - Kodak E100

Repro Scan - Leica M3 - 50mm Summicron Dual Range - Kodak E100

Fuji Frontier

Fuji Frontier

Fuji Frontier

Fuji Frontier

Repro Scans - Leica M3 - 50mm Summilux - Kodak E100

Repro Scans - Leica M3 - 50mm Summilux - Kodak E100

It should be noted that these are from 35mm Ektachrome. Medium format looks even better. Honestly if you are shooting 120, you’ll never lust after medium format digital again.

This new way will be our standard method for scanning chromes. We can honestly say that for full roll scanning, no-one else in the business is providing this level of quality. And we’re not raising prices!

This post is not about how and when to shoot slide film, we will save that for later. This is about letting you know that if you use NP, you’re getting scans that actually bring to life the potential of your film.

We Support Open Borders

Image by Dave Waddell

Image by Dave Waddell

Cropping is for farmers, as my former professor Dan used to say.  Sadly in the hybrid workflow era cropping has become somewhat standard.  This is because the scanner technology we use is generally not designed to include those nice black borders we know and love from our favorite printed photographs.  

This was never acceptible to me.  A border is not only a great way to indicate the edge of an image, show that you did your composing in camera, and advertise the film stock or camera you may have used, it's also just simply super cool!  Those iconic Hasselblad notches are there for a reason.  You want people to know that you shot Ilford FP4+ damn it! (Not flippin HP5+, duh) 

Well as Justin Timberlake might say if he was a photographer, I am bringing sexy borders back.

Image by Dave Waddell

Image by Dave Waddell

Using the same technology that we use to make the best E6 scans in the business, we can also overscan your film frames to include the border.  This works in every format all the way up to 4x5, and it's even possible to scan to the edge of the sprocket holes in 35mm.  You will also benefit from a higher maximum resolution over a Frontier scan.

Image by Brennan McKissick

Image by Brennan McKissick

Because this is a style primarily associated with B&W images, we are starting the roll out of this service as a Monochrome only option for full rolls.  4x5 film will always be scanned with the border regardless of process type, of course. 

Image by Mark Sperry

Image by Mark Sperry

However, we aren't totally leaving color photographers out in the borderless cold.  Full border scans are available as single frame scans, and if you've processed your film at NP we will do these scans at a discounted rate.   You could think of our simple scans as your contact sheet, and your bordered scans as final prints.

Original Frontier Scan - Image by Mark Sperry

Original Frontier Scan - Image by Mark Sperry

C41 Conversion with Film Edge

C41 Conversion with Film Edge

What’s more, our conversions are based on Fuji Frontier color. We are quite pleased with the results. While not a perfect match, we actually prefer our manual conversion. 

You can order bordered scans for your B&W film right now! We’ll roll out color within a few days once we work it into the framework of our online store.

BIGGAH! (SCANS)

New large file option for Simple Scans!

MSperry400172-R1-E003.jpg

We are happy to introduce a minor change to our order form and services, with the option to upgrade your scan size! As you may know we designed the scan options around simplicity, and avoided the nickel and dime practice of charging for file size alone.  However, if you're a Simple Scan customer you may still want a bigger file, but not want to outsource your editing. Now you can just check the "Biggah Scans" box. When you do that, we will scan your rolls at the resolution generally reserved for Pro Scans.  Going up in resolution on the Fuji Frontier does more than just increase pixel count, you get a cleaner image generally.  35mm benefits the most from this resolution, and you'll really see that format bridge the gap between it and 645. You will have to pay an additional $3 dollars per roll for this service, but that's still much cheaper than Pro Scans themselves. If you want this option for some, but not all rolls on an order, just make a note of that on the order form.

On Display: Plus Ultra - Further Beyond by Micheal Gilroy

IMG_20180128_152516.jpg

During the last few weeks of 2017, Michael Gilroy (Gil) of Frontier approached me with 75 slides and negatives from his travels, which took place in the late 1980s and early 90s.  He wished to do an exhibition of his work, with many prints ranging in sizes near 20x30 and 40x50.  Knowing that the scans were intended for large scale print, we used our Fine Art scanners to create 5000ppi files from the vast majority of slides and B&W negatives.  For the color negative film, we simply used our Fuji SP-3000 at it's Pro Scan resolution.  The results? Large, beautiful prints, without a hint of pixelation! 

Slides and B&W film from the days of the Soviet Union.

Slides and B&W film from the days of the Soviet Union.

The 35mm slides were a mix of Ektachrome and Kodachrome.  They were a real treat to examine on the light table.  Kodachrome is legendary for its unique color palette and long term stability.  However, even the Ektachromes showed little, if any, signs of deterioration.  I employed techniques such as multi-exposure and multi-sampling to get the best possible file possible, which enabled a surprising amount of shadow recovery with low noise.  The resulting images showed a remarkable level of detail for a 35mm frame, with the same vivid colors you see through the loupe, with much less grain than you might expect.  

A wall of Kodachrome scans from Antarctica.

A wall of Kodachrome scans from Antarctica.

For the color negative film, I decided that the Fuji SP-3000 was the right choice.  While it's true that our Fine Art Scanners create a file that, on paper, would seem to be far superior, I know from experience that the Fuji scanner tends to interpret color in an immediately more pleasing and accurate way. The SP-3000 yields a file that is just over 19 megapixels and from my testing these enlarge very well.  The print on the wall showed rich color, fine detail, and in fact the grain pattern looked extremely close to what you see organically when the film is enlarged in the darkroom.  These files are no different from those we deliver every day to our Pro Scan clients.  It's great to know how far you can push the files.

Color negative film scanned with the Fuji SP-3000.  There was incredible detail in the wood on this one.

Color negative film scanned with the Fuji SP-3000.  There was incredible detail in the wood on this one.

As for Frontier itself, it's a fantastic space in Brunswick, Maine.  They have a theater for film screenings, a coffee shop and a restaurant.  We sat down for lunch and the meal was delicious! If you're in Maine, I highly recommend you stop by and see the show. They also have a good selection of drinks and craft beer. I got to have my personal favorite Maine beer, "Lunch" IPA by Maine Beer Co.  Yum!

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My better half in the coffee shop while we wait for our table.

My better half in the coffee shop while we wait for our table.

That's me!  ...in the maroon shirt, not with the bread.  

That's me!  ...in the maroon shirt, not with the bread.  

It was a real pleasure to help Gil make this show possible. These images are very illustrative of the reason why I love film so much.  After all those years in an archive they were ready to be scanned and printed with the latest technologies.  What's more, pigment prints have far greater stability than most traditional printing materials. What will your Lightroom gallery of .NEFs look like 30 years from now? If you can make a beautiful large format print from 30 year old slide film, imagine what you can do with the very latest emulsions like Ektar 100?  

Also, shouts to Zero Station for making the prints.

Go check it out!  And Make Real Pictures.

 

Lets Get Down to Business.

Rolleiflex 2.8E - Ektar 100

Rolleiflex 2.8E - Ektar 100

IF YOU'RE CURRENTLY A PRO SCAN CLIENT

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  Since we opened we've received a very friendly reception.  Can you believe that was just September?  You trusted us with your work and the reaction has been great!  Lots of our clients are enjoying the easy communication and feedback, which is great because we love to help shooters get the most out of film, from aesthetics to workflow.

We need to keep growing!

We are still quite far from achieving lab capacity.  That means that there are a lot of slots available for Pro Scan clients.  This is why I'm introducing another incentive to join up with Northeast and get rewarded for spreading the good word while you're at it.

Lets go over the loyalty program again

I'm really excited about the loyalty program, and here's why.  It's pretty much an open secret in the industry that when it comes to labs, not everyone is paying the same rate.  Bigger labs try to attract certain well known clients by offering them preferred rates.  The assumption being that these well known shooters will spread the word about the lab they use, generating interest.  While I understand the reasoning, it's not exactly fair.

What if preferred rates were available to all?

We operate on an alternative principal.  If you invest in Northeast Photographic, we reward you with a preferred rate that keeps getting better.  We actually recently simplified it too!  Shoot 20 rolls in a year, get 1 dollar off each roll going forward.  Get to 40 rolls, 2 dollars off.  At 60 rolls you reach tier 3, and get 3 dollars off each roll.  That means you'd be getting C41 Pro Scans at 15 dollars per roll!  Plus we don't nickel and dime you when it comes to format and scan resolution.  Why do we do this? First because we believe film should be affordable to those who want to shoot it professionally.  Second, if you're reaching preferred rate tiers it means you're keeping film alive, and the lab is growing.  Everybody wins.

Introducing the Referral Program!

You might already be a Pro Scan client, and already got the 50% off your first order deal.  You may also have achieved tier 1 or 2 of the loyalty program.  If so, thanks!  That means you're a prolific film shooter and that's great.  Well now we're introducing a new way to get a steep discount.  All you have to do is tell a friend!  If you refer a friend to our Pro Scan program, they get the standard 50% off deal, and you get 25% off your next order!  When they send in their first order indicating you as the referrer, we'll note that you have a discount coming your way.  Easy!  And again, everybody wins.

Some Housekeeping...

I just want to note that the lab is currently fulfilling orders within 5 business days or less.  The last batch of Simple Scans went out in just 3 days! 

Also, Northeast Photographic donated film processing to the annual Disposable Exposure show.   Get the low down here!

Beta Notes!

Our Beta is a real thing, here are some workflow changes we've made!

  1. Scans are now sorted into separated files by roll.
  2. Uncut rolls are now available.
  3. Slight price decrease on 4x5 E6 Dev only.
  4. Simplification of Loyalty Program.
  5. Referral Program introduction.
  6. New header image on the main page!
  7. Mini order form for local drop off!
  8. Pro Scan order form now available in public link.