Our Australian adventure came to an end and it was time to settle down in Belgium again. What's the first thing you would do upon your return from living abroad? We love a challenge, so how about fixing up a dead scanner?
We shoot a lot and like most high-volume shooters, we care about the quality of our scans. We've tried a lot of photo labs in our time. Some of them have given us amazing scans but most were quite disappointing. Luckily, when we discovered Melbourne's FilmNeverDie, we saw that they had a scanning membership program. This allowed us to scan our film on one of their lab scanners. This was an eye-opener. We could afford to shoot more, as we only had to pay for the cost of developing.This solved the should-we-scan-at-home? dilemma. We had all the creative control we could want.
There are a few options for those looking to scan at home. DSLR scanning is the new kid on the block. There are some amazing tools such as Negative Lab Pro and the Negative Supply film carrier system. If that isn't your cup of tea you can look into a dedicated film scanner such as the (very pricey) Pakon series or the cheaper Opticfilm scanners. And lastly there are the trusty old Epson flatbeds. Some people swear by them but we're sure you'll know the struggle of their slow workflow. Flatbeds aren't all bad though. They are great for medium and large format shooters, as they are relatively inexpensive and can scan (nearly) any format.
Working at FilmNeverDie gave us the chance to use lab-grade scanners such as the Fuji Frontier SP500 and SP3000 series. They offer amazing colour rendering and a lot of in-scanner control over the final image. A skilled operator will be able to compensate for difficult lighting conditions and incorrectly exposed negatives. As soon as we saw one pop up for sale at a reasonable price we simply had to jump on it.
And jump on it we did! We couldn't wait to get our very own SP3000. We'd be able to scan our film at lab quality from the comfort of our living room.
After a painfully long international shipping, we finally received an SP3000 scanner that we thought was working. But, as we should all know: don't trust strangers on the internet. The scanner we received was indeed an SP3000 but it was also very much dead. On closer inspection we noticed that it was absolutely caked in dust.
Fast forward to several days of uneventful emails later and our request for a partial refund had been refused. The seller was rather hard-headed and was certain we were trying to scam him. The irony wasn't lost on us there. We decided to take matters into our own hands and we slowly started to disassemble the scanner.
Our spirits sank a bit with each panel we took off. The inside somehow had even more dust in it than the outside had led us to believe. We aren't talking about the dust you'd find on an old book cover, we're talking about solid dust.
We cleared the dust and eventually things started ticking again. Most of the systems were running but there were quite a few issues still stopping us from scanning. After a weekend of technical help and a lot of swearing we finally got everything up and running. The scanner was able to talk to the imaging controller and the different film carriers and masks were registering correctly.
Our hard work paid off though. We're now enjoying our terrifyingly sharp scans and our amazing colour correction and tone control. The option to do both 120 (in various formats) and 35mm makes this an amazing scanner. If you only had to have one scanner, this would be it.
On a side note - we are now offering a high-resolution scanning service. Perfect for those that develop at home or those who are dissatisfied by the scans from your local lab. We can also scan old negatives and slides you might have laying around from your parents or grandparents. Send us a message and we'd be happy to help you out! 😉