Scan negatives or the photos?

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Caduceus
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Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by Caduceus » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:29 pm

I have both the negatives and the photos of a historic wedding I'd like to scan. I understand that the negatives are the original and contain more information, but after getting the first roll back (as a test) yesterday from the lab, the negatives scans have different kinds of defects, since they are very old (from the 1970s). Sometimes it's a bluish tint, sometimes there are pink highlights in the hair and faces, sometimes there are brown spots (like chickenpox) throughout the photo if you zoom in.

The scans of the photos don't have the same problems, although they are a little faded.

So, should I still go ahead and send the rest of my negatives for scanning and then "repair" them one day, or do I just scan the photos?

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Watty
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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by Watty » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:37 pm

What are you going to use them for?

If you are just making additional prints that are no larger than the printed photos those should be fine. If they are faded that can usually be easily corected with software. If you want to make large prints that will go on the wall then I would try to use the negatives if they have not degraded too much.

Can you see the "chickenpox" when you look at the negative?
Caduceus wrote:since they are very old (from the 1970s)
:shock:

Caduceus
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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by Caduceus » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:53 pm

I do want to enlarge some of these photos to be framed, eventually.

What I don't understand is that the negatives scans produce files that have a size of 18 MB per frame, whereas the scan of the photo produces a file with a size of 300 MB (at 1200 dpi TIFF). Even at 600 dpi, the file size of the scan of the photo is only slightly less than 100 MB. So, if the negative scan is less than 10% the size of the photo scan, how can the negative have "more" information than the photo? Or am I completely misunderstanding something?

Caduceus
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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by Caduceus » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:55 pm

Watty wrote: Can you see the "chickenpox" when you look at the negative?
No. They only appear during the scan itself. They are really tiny though, so perhaps I can't see them on the negative without using a magnifying glass.
Caduceus wrote:since they are very old (from the 1970s)
:shock:[/quote]

:D Do you mean that the negatives are not old? Or that they are very old?

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nisiprius
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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by nisiprius » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:06 pm

Caduceus wrote:I do want to enlarge some of these photos to be framed, eventually.

What I don't understand is that the negatives scans produce files that have a size of 18 MB per frame, whereas the scan of the photo produces a file with a size of 300 MB (at 1200 dpi TIFF). Even at 600 dpi, the file size of the scan of the photo is only slightly less than 100 MB. So, if the negative scan is less than 10% the size of the photo scan, how can the negative have "more" information than the photo? Or am I completely misunderstanding something?
"Empty magnification." In pre-digital optics, "empty magnification" means enlarging the size of a blurry image without revealing any new details.

A print is a magnified copy of a negative, so it can't possibly have more information in it than the negative. Because the enlarger lens can't be perfect or perfectly in focus, and because the eyes in a color print diffuse a little bit, the print usually has less information in it.

Because the scanner is scanning a slightly blurry image at high resolution, most pixels in the scan are almost the same as the ones next to them. Because each is almost the same, they give you almost no new information. You could sample at much lower resolution, and the high-res measurements you get are virtually the same as what you'd get by interpolating between the low-res measurements.

If I'm right, then I would predict that if you convert both the negative and the print scans to .jpg format with the same "quality" setting, the compressed .jpg files will be almost the same size; the scans from the print will be much more compressible than the scans from the negative.

In effect, the print scans are wasting a lot of data on near-repetition of almost identical values.
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mmcmonster
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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by mmcmonster » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:22 pm

Caduceus wrote:
Watty wrote: Can you see the "chickenpox" when you look at the negative?
No. They only appear during the scan itself. They are really tiny though, so perhaps I can't see them on the negative without using a magnifying glass.
Those chickenpox are not actually a problem, I think. It's likely a Moire effect (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moir%C3%A9_pattern) and dissappears when you zoom in on the picture. It also won't show up in prints.

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Watty
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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by Watty » Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:41 pm

:D Do you mean that the negatives are not old? Or that they are very old?[/quote]

Not as old as me, :D
Caduceus wrote:I do want to enlarge some of these photos to be framed, eventually.

What I don't understand is that the negatives scans produce files that have a size of 18 MB per frame, whereas the scan of the photo produces a file with a size of 300 MB (at 1200 dpi TIFF). Even at 600 dpi, the file size of the scan of the photo is only slightly less than 100 MB. So, if the negative scan is less than 10% the size of the photo scan, how can the negative have "more" information than the photo? Or am I completely misunderstanding something?
One thing you are missing is the number of square inches in the negative or photo that was scanned. A 35mm negative is a bit larger than a square inch, an 8X10 photo has 800 square inches.

I would try cropping an image from the scanned negative and then just printing a small part of it as an 4x6 which would be very inexpensive. For example if it is a picture of a couple you could print just one face if that is about the size that you want the final print to be to get an idea of how good an image you will have. Try to view it from about four feet or more so see what it will look like when you are looking at it in the real world, if you look at it when it is six inches from your face that is not a realistic distance.

If you don't have any photo editing software you can download a free open source one called GIMP and use that edit the photo with. You can Google something like "gimp restore old photo" to find videos and tuturials how to restore photographs.

mmcmonster
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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by mmcmonster » Sun Jul 16, 2017 7:25 pm

Negatives have a very large resolution (dpi - dots per square inch). On the other hand, printed pictures have a relatively low dpi.

If you take an old photo and scan it in, you can't 'get' a higher resolution than what the photo was printed at. (ie: a cheap photo may be printed at 300dpi. Using a flatbed scanner and scanning it in at 1200dpi or higher will give you a bigger file but no better a picture than the 300dpi of the photo you are scanning.)

On the other hand, negatives have a fairly high resolution. You could presumably scan the negatives in at 1200 or even 9600 dpi and get a lot of "usable" dpi. (Some websites say to scan a negative with at least 4800 dpi scanner.)

BTW, you shouldn't scan in a picture with a scanner at more than the optical resolution of the scanner. Most scanners with give two resolutions. An optical resolution and a much higher digital resolution.

Short answer: scan in the negatives and be prepared to prepare each image a bit (in your image processing application of choice (ie: gimp, adobe photoshop)) before printing it out.

inbox788
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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by inbox788 » Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:01 pm

Good question, and intuitively I think the answer is the negatives, but haven't compared, and depends on your equipment, which I assume will be different for the two. Now if you took the negatives and made 8x10 or larger prints and scanned the big print, it might be the optimal solution, especially if you don't have a quality negative scanner. But most likely the whole point of scanning is so you don't have to print things out.

VaR
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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by VaR » Mon Jul 17, 2017 1:12 am

How were the negative and the print photo each scanned? You said about the negatives "first roll back (as a test) yesterday from the lab" - which lab did you have do the scan? Did you have the option to specify things like dust removal or color correction? What format were the 18MB files that you received? Also, if they were not jpg, do you know the color depth? What is the image size? Do you happen to know what the ISO of the original film was? It will usually say on the border of the negative strip.

With the print, did you have that professionally scanned as well?

I agree with the others that the negative should contain more information than the prints, unless it has been damaged in storage or handling.

Caduceus
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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by Caduceus » Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:43 am

VaR wrote:How were the negative and the print photo each scanned? Did you have the option to specify things like dust removal or color correction? What format were the 18MB files that you received? Also, if they were not jpg, do you know the color depth? What is the image size? Do you happen to know what the ISO of the original film was? It will usually say on the border of the negative strip.

With the print, did you have that professionally scanned as well?
The negative was scanned with specifications of 16-base resolution (I was told it was around 3000 x 2000 dpi), with output format in TIFF, file size per frame about 18 MB. The photo was scanned at a resolution of 1200 dpi, with output format in TIFF, with the file size (for a 4 x 6 photo) being about 80 MB. Some of the larger photos (10 x 8) scanned at resolution of 1200 dpi, output in TIFF, had file sizes of about 300 MB.

Yes, both the photos and negatives were professionally scanned at the same lab. The negatives were scanned using a commercial Noritsu scanner and the photos using an Epson scanner. I don't know the models of the scanners. Dust removal is apparently compulsory because of their workflow. They use something called ICE (I think), that removes dust from the product. I asked for very little color correction unless the scan was completely off (e.g. some were totally blue) so that I could have something as close to the "original" scan as possible as master copy.

My goal is to eventually hire someone to touch-up the photos, enlarge them (at least 12 x 8, possibly larger) and then frame them.

Given all this information, what is your recommendation? Thanks!

p.s. I don't know what color depth means. I will have to ask them.

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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by obgraham » Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:40 pm

I think >mmcmonster< a couple of posts ago has it right.

Think of it a different way:
You started with, say a 35mm negative.
Then, for the sake of discussion, you made an 8 x 10 enlargement as a print. But it doesn't have any picture information that was not on the original negative.

Now you scan the negative, at, say 3000 by 2000. File size as you stated, about 18meg.
Then scan the print at the same resolution. Now you'll get a massive file, as your total "dots" in each direction are almost 10 times higher.

But this huge file has no more picture information than the one from the negative.

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Watty
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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by Watty » Mon Jul 17, 2017 1:06 pm

Caduceus wrote:I do want to enlarge some of these photos to be framed, eventually.
It might be better to just give a good photo lab the prints and the negatives and ask them to figure it out and do everything including giving you the prints and the finished image on a CD.

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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by Nowizard » Mon Jul 17, 2017 1:42 pm

There are many details that could be discussed, but to cut to the chase, the best option is to scan with a person who does this professionally. You will have to make choices about the resolution, but unless you have thousands of negatives, it would be worth the price. My father was a professional photographer who left approximately 16,000 negatives dating from the 1930's forward that had both historical and commercial value. Scans are infinitely better. A key assumption is that the negatives are in excellent condition. If you do this, have them put on an archival disc. Typical discs last 10-15 years with regular handling, but archival discs will be around for your heirs. They are about $15, and one disc should certainly handle a very large wedding. By the way, to scan 16,000 negatives in higher resolution costs more than $30,000, even with substantial discounts for volume. If you want to go all-out use someone with a drum scanner rather than a flatbed. You can also purchase a flatbed scanner for $500 that is the equivalent of the best scanners of 20 years ago costing thousands of dollars, just somewhat slower.

Tim

Caduceus
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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by Caduceus » Tue Jul 18, 2017 10:49 am

Nowizard wrote:There are many details that could be discussed, but to cut to the chase, the best option is to scan with a person who does this professionally.

Tim
I am definitely doing this for the negatives as they seem tough to work with, but I have been thinking of buying a scanner for the photos. Do you think there's any benefit to having a professional scan old photos for me instead of doing it myself, assuming we are both using the same scanner? It doesn't seem like rocket science to me, but I might be wrong.

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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by iamlucky13 » Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:49 pm

Caduceus wrote:Do you think there's any benefit to having a professional scan old photos for me instead of doing it myself, assuming we are both using the same scanner? It doesn't seem like rocket science to me, but I might be wrong.
I've had difficulty in the few I've scanned just using a consumer scanners with getting the whites white, the blacks black, and everything in-between proportionately and tonally where it should be. The included software doesn't give enough control to get everything perfect, even though its good enough for most people - perhaps you, as well. Resolution is not a problem though. I don't know if one of the nicer scanners might include software that gives you enough control to get accurate colors and contrast. To a degree, this can be tweaked in a photo editing program after scanning, but not perfectly. The scans are not bad. Mainly I'm just picky.

You'll need to figure out what good enough for you is, and if you have a scanner, trying it for yourself is an obvious place to start. Even most professional services are going to generally be providing a slightly better approximation of "good enough" than home scanners, and their judgement on when to correct things like color balance might be different from yours, for example.

Near-perfect fidelity to an original scene actually is rocket science. I can send you scientific papers written by NASA on how they do it, but that's a rabbit hole no sane lay person should go down. It goes beyond things we haven't even started talking about, like monitor calibration.
Caduceus wrote:What I don't understand is that the negatives scans produce files that have a size of 18 MB per frame, whereas the scan of the photo produces a file with a size of 300 MB (at 1200 dpi TIFF). Even at 600 dpi, the file size of the scan of the photo is only slightly less than 100 MB. So, if the negative scan is less than 10% the size of the photo scan, how can the negative have "more" information than the photo? Or am I completely misunderstanding something?
300 MB is the amount of information in the digital file, not in the photo itself. 1200 dpi for a printed photo is over-sampling, making a lot of the data practically redundant. That's not really a problem as long as you have a way to store all that data. For an 8 x 10, that 115 megapixels.

In contrast, you're scanning the negatives at equivalent to 6 megapixels. The might be a adequate or a bit low, depending on the negatives and intended use of the scan. It's pretty common to scan negatives at 4000 dpi, which for a 35mm negative is 3800 x 5600, or 21 megapixels.
Nowizard wrote:If you do this, have them put on an archival disc. Typical discs last 10-15 years with regular handling, but archival discs will be around for your heirs. They are about $15, and one disc should certainly handle a very large wedding.
Best life also comes from keeping them stored in dry environment, with stable temperatures, and away from direct sunlight. And you should have at least one other copy somewhere else, even if it's just the hard drive of your computer.

For what it's worth though, the CD's I burned back in college to avoid having originals stolen out of my car, where they have been for over a decade now, still play fine. A car is hypothetically a horrible place for CD longevity. These were single-write discs, not rewritable discs.

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Re: Scan negatives or the photos?

Post by Nowizard » Sat Jul 22, 2017 10:12 pm

The primary charges for scanning are the time involved and the quality of the scanner. Assuming you have standard size negatives, it is not a rocket scientist job to scan yourself. Since our negatives have historical and monetary value, we used a professional person. He told me that a $500 scanner today is as good as one that cost him $50,000 well over a decade ago, but not as fast.

Tim

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