What's the difference between a dedicated film scanner and some other scanner, like, say, a flatbed scanner?
Many flatbed scanners now offer film holders, which makes scanning film negatives and slides a simple task for the at-home user. It seems like everyday we have customers asking us about scanning, and which scanner or service is best. It is difficult to sit here and explain the differences between the types of scanners when all that really matters is the end result.
In an attempt to showcase the quality of a scan from a dedicated film scanner, and that from a high-quality flatbed scanner that offers film holders for scanning negatives and slides, we scanned some Fujifilm Superia 400 color negative print film. We took one frame and scanned it twice. Once on a dedicated Nikon 4000 ED film scanner and again with an Epson V700 flatbed scanner. The first two images are straight out of the scanners using similar, high-quality settings. And, here are the results:
Now, here is a crop taken from the two images. We think it is a good idea to get in close to see what viewing the images at 100% looks like because this is important when making prints. Especially bigger prints.
As you can see from the above images, using a dedicated film scanner makes a big difference. Looking at the sky, just above the horizon, the Nikon holds color and density, whereas the Epson does not. There is a big difference in the perception of the grass and leaves. The Nikon keeps a more natural green color, and the Epson scan looks like there was a recent drought. Where we really see a big difference, however, is the 100% crop. The Nikon retains a lot of detail in the sweater, and the Epson doesn't hold any detail.
Finally, here is the high-quality Nikon scan "jazzed" up and ready for a nice print with a little post-processing: