Finding the best way to scan film
“There must be a better way to scan film in 2021”, with a couple of years of experience working in a film lab, Brendon thought to himself. This was in a way the conclusive start to start Black Hole lab, a film lab that seeks to explore new methods that is more reliable, higher quality and more consistent than the conventional way. Without a doubt the main methods of scanning produces beautiful results and it had weather through the many changes of seasons where without a shadow of a doubt, Noritsu and Frontier reigns supreme at the forefront of the film scanning market. The consistent, reliable, and beautiful rendition of film has invoked a sense of a following of each brand.
The Anatomy of a Scanner
At the core of a scanner, it made up of three parts. Namely, an image sensor that captures the information on the film, a light source that enables the capture and a holder that can keep the film sufficiently flat and tight to make sure that the scanned copy is not distorted and allows the light to pass through the film evenly but not so tight that it can scratch and cause unwanted lasting markings on the film.
Then the question dawn upon us, what is the best and most accessible image sensor in the market right now? We then decided on using the Sony A7RIV and Hasselblad H4D as our sensor of choice. We realised that by using an independent camera instead of committing to one unit will serve us well in the long run. As image sensor technology starts to evolve, by using a digital camera as a scanner seems like a no brainer. Even if one day the 61 megapixel camera starts to feel obsolete, we can just change the camera unit, making the scanning set up extremely modular and upgradable. Another reason why we opt for the A7RIV is for the option to do pixel shift, which may push the pixel count into the 200mp region. We are not very sure whether we will ever need that level of resolving detail, but there’s no harm to have it as a possibility.
It must be said that at the beginning of the consideration, one mighty contender is the Fuji GFX100, as we thought that it would be superior in many areas to the A7RIV but we still decided to value the 35mm sensor that fits a 35mm film camera just nice compared to the hassle to sensor dimensions on the medium format beast. However, the GFX100 is still very much within our radar for a future addition to our “system”.
After having a clear device as our ‘scanner’, we need to decide what to use as our film holder and the light source for the perfect scanning setup. Throughout the months we bought a few different budget friendly film holders. One of which is the famous and highly recommended Essential Film Holder by Andrew Clifford. It does the job really well and we fully support our community to get one at home for ease of scanning.
However, as a film lab that intends to find the ultimate solution to film scanning, we decided we need something more. Gritting our teeth, we took the plunge to order the highly coveted Negative Supply Film Holder Pro Kit which the price is equivalent to a Noritsu HS-1800. We firmly believe is the superior method of scanning. Thus, we embraced DSLR scanning method. The brushed aluminium finish crafted from a single block with knobs and springs and magnets that fit the components snugly at its place coupled with the minimalist, functionalist and simplistic function of keeping the film flat, of which it does really well. It feels good, it feels right. And since we have decided to make it a professional service, we thought, why not commit to the best holder out there.
With the Negative Supply, we are able to scan large format films professionally also (Yes, this includes the likes of 4×5, 5×7 and 8×10 film sheets). This is also one of the factor that made us decide on getting the holder.
The Light Source
For the light source, we have a lot of other options to consider but we finally just went with the Negative Supply 95 CRI light source. All we can say it has served its purpose well as to providing a neutral white light for the scanning to be as accurate as possible.
As we mentioned in the first update post, The Black Hole Lab will always be a work in progress, as we grow, we yearn to seek better and more effective methods that only gives the best results. The time has dawn upon us. Stay tuned for the next update as we announce our opening times. We can’t wait to serve you guys soon!