Alternative Way To Scan 8x10 film on an Epson V700 Scanner

Fig 01. 8x10 Black & White Negative

UPDATE : Wednesday 11th March 2015

Quite a lot of people have been asking for a holder as they do not have the tools to make it out of aluminium and I have been asked if I could make additional holders. The problem is I do not have enough hours in the day to machine up parts due to a full time job and doing my own practice so I have been thinking of another way of making a basic film holder.

The solution I have come up with is to use 1500 microns card which can be laminated or varnished so the magic tape can be removed without fuss. 1500 micron card can be sourced anywhere and it is exactly 1.5mm thick perfect for making an 8x10 film holder and can be cut with a craft knife, the card is cheap so when one holder starts to become damaged it can be replaced with ease. If the film holder is card I would temporary fix it to the scanner with strong but removable tape to keep the film flat.

If you can source 1500 microns card which is black on one side it will save you time and money spraying it black which we need on the side of the film holder that placed on top of the scanner glass bed.

Another tip of the day for scanning 8x10 film is to work with the natural bend in the film and before attaching it to the film holder make sure the bend faces away from the scanner bed. This makes the fixing of the film using magic easier s you do not have to tension the film as we are using the inherent tension in the film from the very slight bend. To tape the film to the holder stick top edge first, then side edges followed by the bottom edge. I have just scanned 50 8x10 b&w and colour negatives this way and they all came out prefect.

I will make a video this Easter to add to this post to show the whole process.

Thank you



The previous article continues below

The other week at Photokina 2014 Epson released two new scanners, the Epson V800 and V850 pro which put a big smile on my face as it was good to see continued development and support from Epson for film digitalisation. The main upgrade that came with these updated models was better film holders and the use of LED illumination, the lens, resolution and the Dmax remain the same. On the back of this good news I thought I share a simple method I have been using over the past year to scan 8x10 film on an Epson V700 and V750 that produces excellent results with no newton rings issues that are usually the bane of glass flat bed scanners.

Fig 02. Epson 8x10 Film Holder

Epson provides a very flimsy film guide [fig 02] for 8x10 film scanning and to use it you directly place your film onto the glass platter, this results in serious newton rings on the scanned image rendering the finished scan unusable as the newton rings can look like massive finger prints across your image. To overcome newton rings one has to create a gap between the film and scanner glass, Epson does provide proper raised film holders but only for 35mm, 120mm and 4x5 film, for 8x10 film we have to devise our own film holder that lifts the film off the glass.

Fig 03. Custom Made 1.5mm Aluminium Film Holder

When you scan 8x10 film on the Epson V700 scanner the bottom lens is used, the top lens is used for smaller film sizes. The gap between the scanner glass and the top of the film support is critical, too little a gap and the film may come into contact with the glass and too much of a gap the lens will not correctly focus on the film. With this in mind I sourced three sheets of aluminium with differing thicknesses ranging from 1mm, 1.5mm and 2mm so I could see which thickness gave me the optimum focus and structural strength.

Using Epson's 8x10 film guide as a template I sightly increased the boarder of the guide so I could attached the film to the top of the film support with magic tape. The most important element in the design of the film support is the gap at the top which is required by the scanner during the initial calibration and if it is not cut out the scanner will not work [see fig 05]. To cut the aluminium I used a 8mm drill bit to bore holes at each of the internal corners, this allowed access for the jigsaw fitted with a metal blade to cut out the internal rectangle, I finished off the cut with a metal file and 600 grit abrasive paper which gave a straight, clean and smooth edge. When cutting the aluminium sheet I used an off cut of plywood to support it as I did not want to bend or deform the aluminium sheet as this will create focusing issues later, the film support needs to be perfectly flat.

The under side of the film supports were sprayed matt black [fig 03], I am not sure if this makes a massive difference but I played safe and copied Epson's film holders. I left the top of the aluminium support uncoated but I buffed it with fine wire wool as I needed a good surface for the magic tape to adhere to and secure the film during scanning.

After quite a few test scans I decided the 1.5mm thick aluminium sheet was best which gave excellent sharp scans and was strong and stable enough for repeated use, the 1mm aluminium was too thin with the film sometimes relaxed onto the scanner glass and was not stable, the 2mm aluminium was too thick leading to a slight loss in focus and sharpness when compared to the 1.5mm film support, it was quite surprising how much a difference 0.5mm made.

The final useful addition I made to the film support was to draw corner guides with a black marker pen [fig 04] so I could align the negative perfectly square to the scanner and they also gave me a visual reference in making sure the film overlapped the film holder and was properly supported before applying the magic tape.

Fig 04. Film Holder Placed Into Position

Fig 05. Film Holder Held In Position With Gaffer Tape - Right Image Shows Gap Required For Scanner Calibration

I used gaffer tape [fig 05] to secure the film holder into the scanner, the tape can be removed quickly and if there is any residue left by the tape a bit of lighter fuel on a cloth will remove it. When fixing the holder remember to leave the top gap uncovered as this is used to calibrate the scanner.

Fig 06. Film Notches Placed In Top Right Corner

I locate the film onto the film support with the notches placed in the top right corner [fig 06] as this seems to give me the best results especially with colour colour negative film and also the negative is scanned in the correct way round does not have to be flipped in post production. depending on what film stock you are using you may want to experiment with the notches in the top left corner.

Fig 07. Magic Tape Used To Secure Film To Holder

To secure the film to the holder I use magic tape [fig 07], it does an excellent job and it is quick and easy to apply and remove from the film leaving no residue. The method I use to tape the film in place is as follows

  1. Check scanner glass and negative are clean and free of dust and hair
  2. Align the film using corner reference marks
  3. Tape down the top short edge first
  4. Next tape bottom edge but first just tack two points onto the film and lift the film and pull towards yourself putting the film under tension and then tape down securely.
  5. Now the film is under tension tape down the remaining edges

If you are experienced in handling 8x10 film this will be straight forward procedure but if you are new to large format this may be daunting so try with some sheets of paper or plastic film first until you are happy with the method.

I do not use gloves when I tape the film in place as you cannot handle the tape, again the more experience you gain handling film by the edges you will not find this an issue. The benefit of using 8x10 film is it is quite stiff and with practice you will get it as tight as a drum on the scanner support with little deflection in the surface.

Fig 08. Scanning Film Film : Screen Grab Of Epson Scanner Software

Fig 09. Detailed View Of Scanner Settings

I have used quite a few third party scanning applications in the past but I have settled on Epson's own software to do my 8x10 film scanning, it is not cutting edge but I find it suits my needs. When I scan film I am after a digital negative, a negative that is not unlike a RAW camera file, it can look flat and boring on first sight but what I am after is the full dynamic tonal range, gradual tonal gradients and no clipping in the blacks or whites.

My typical workflow is as follows [fig 09]

  1. Set document type to Film (with Film Area Guide)
  2. Set film type - B&W or colour negative
  3. Set Image Type - 16-bit for greyscale, for colour I used 24 rather than 48 bit as the file size can be over a 1000 mb which can be a killer in post production with little gain at print output
  4. Adjustments - everything is turned off, no auto adjustments, no sharpening or de-dust filters
  5. Preview the film
  6. The final stage is to open up the manual adjustment levels and move the black, mid tone and highlight pointers until there is no clipping in the black and white areas, shadows reveal detail and there is a subtle tonal range and gradient across the image and proceed to scan and save the file as a TIFF uncompressed.

Fig 10. Lightroom Screen Grab - Original File Left, Adjusted File Right

Fig 11. Detail: Lightroom Screen Grab - Original File Left, Adjusted File Right

After the film has been scanned I take it first into PhotoShop to remove any marks and dust but I do not alter the image, I leave a my master digital file unadjusted. To adjust the photograph I use Lightroom [fig 10] as its workflow is non-destructive and I can control and adjust the contrast, sharpest and dynamic tonal range until I am happy with the image without damaging it. 

I have made large 120 x 100 cm digital archival prints on a HP Z3200 from scans made using the Epson V700 scanner with my bespoke film support and the results are excellent. If you have a Epson V700 scanner and enjoy working with 8x10 film it might be worth spending a morning making a film support yourself and see if this process works for you.

Film Holder Dimensions - click on image for large version