When Nikon stopped production on their Coolscan 9000, I thought we'd never see another dedicated medium format scanner. I could have kicked myself for not buying one, but at the time, I wasn't ready to shell out $2,000. Now, several years after production ended, the same scanner, used, is selling on auction sites for well over $3,000! I understand it's a great scanner, but no way.
So I was excited to find out that Plustek came out with its own medium format scanner, the OpticFilm 120, for the same selling price as the original Coolscan 9000 when it was available retail. Initially, I held off purchasing one, wanting first to read every review I could find. There were some early production problems, during which time Plustek actually stopped production for many months. Rather than put me off, I was impressed that a company cared enough about its customers and product to do this, so I waited it out until production resumed. The Opticfilm 120 begain showing up again in late September of this year. I waited a little longer and heard good feedback from people who bought these newer releases. Then, once I heard that Vuescan was supporting this scanner, I ordered one and was not disappointed.
The image above is one of my first scans, made from an Ilford Delta Pro 400, 6x6 negative. I will post more as I continue mining my archive.
Here is another one,this one in RGB mode with a slight tone, same film info, also made with the Bronica and scanned using the OpticFilm 120:
This next one is a color slide converted to a sepia tone. This was scanned with one of the first versions of Vuescan to support the OpticFilm 120. The IR dust and scratch removal set at medium had little effect. This issue may have been addressed by now, but I have not yet updated the software. Note that Vuescan is frequetly updated and tweaked. One of the great time-saving features of using Vuescan is that you do not have to preview the entire holder to scan one image - you just set the frame number in the software and then get a quick preview of just that frame. Another great feature (there are many) is that you can use one instance of Vuescan for every one of your scanners, whereas Silverfast is tied to an individual make and model. You can even save your scans as raw files along with the IR channel, so you can return to process and tweak your images later before outputting the final tiff or jpeg files.
And this next one is an Ektachrome slide scanned with the Silverfast application that ships with the scanner:
My photographic process is slow. Sometimes I use digital cameras, but I mostly use film. Best practices dictate that film should be processed as soon as possible after being exposed, but I rarely can do that. Sometimes it takes me several years to catch up, and then more time to edit, scan or print the photos I like.
A few years ago, I got excited about making digital contact sheets on my Epson 4990 flatbed, but I got tired of the tedium involved to then pick out and make low-res prints of the best frames. Plus, the results were nowhere near as good as what I could get from a Nikon Coolscan, so I went back to lightbox editing and carefully choosing which frames I would scan.
I've heard photographers derided as "artistes" for printing their photos with black borders, but when I have full-frame images, I like to see them that way. If an image needs cropping, I'll crop, but most often, I won't. I have an old filed out negative carrier for the Coolscan that allows me to do this. This tree image is full frame because I composed it that way and would not want to crop even a sliver away from it.
I use many black and white films: Kodak T-MAX, Tri-X, Kodak chromegenic, Ilford HP5, HP4, XP2, Fuji Acros. Acros and T-MAX 100 are my favorites. I love the smooth tonal range and fine grain of these films. This image is on T-MAX 100 processed in D-76 1:1. I used an OM2n camera to make it, though I don't remember what lens. Some photographers keep detailed notes on lenses, lens stops, focal lengths, exposure times, etc. I don't. Life passes by the camera too quickly for that.
Here is the same image in sepia. I like the warmpth and the extra depth that sepia gives to the shadows.
For this image, there is no right or wrong. One person might prefer the graphic look of a straight black and white rendition, while another might be drawn to sepia's warm tones. One might look better in print, while the other might look better on screen.
It's all about interpretation and personal taste.
Color or black and white?
I did crop this image of trees in Bar Harbor, Maine, because it had too much bald sky and too little foreground. Full frame, it was OK, but nothing exciting.
The image was made on slide film at a high altitude, so it has an overall bluish cast. The weak shades of green were particularly uninviting to me. I've worked with this image many times since I first made it, almost 40 years ago. It never quite worked for me until I tried it in sepia.
Repeated reexamination and experiementation with your images will train and strengthen your photographer's eye. Putting something away for a while - even for years - allows you to return to it with a fresh frame of mind. Best practice is to process your film as soon as possible after exposure, but I've had film sit around for months and even years before I could process it. It never stopped me from getting the image I wanted.
Photograph a tree
A great photographer I once worked with said, "If you want to be a photographer, take a picture of a tree." It's still excellent advice. At the very least, you'll learn to appreciate them.
While you're looking at trees, don't forget to look at the ground.
Say hello to a horse
Everyone likes some attention.
Balance is everywhere. Take time to and notice it.
Look for patterns
Pay attention to shadows and work with them. Patterns create drama in this black and white photo.