Notes on scanning medium format 120 films

  • I’m using a Nikon 9000.
  • I want to use a RAW workflow.

The biggest PIA is frame detection. I’m scanning old B/W films, and the frame spacing is highly irregular.

  • VueScan cannot auto-detect the frames. It allows you to provide a manual frame spacing, but with irregular spacing, you need to measure each strip manually, and in same cases, there is no valid value. I’m not sure what VueScan does if no frame spacing is configured (if there is an auto-detection, or if it is just assuming a fixed value, but at any rate, it doesn’t work). Given the right frame spacing though, VueScan successfully crops out the actual image from each frame scan.
  • SilverFast, apart from having one of the worst UIs ever created and an irredeemable pricing model, also doesn’t auto-detect the frames. Though thankfully, it does have a UI tool to adjust the frame borders via repeated mouse clicks after an index scan. However, once done, it isn’t able to the crop box of the actual image within each frame. For some mysterious reason, the “find frames” menu item offers alternating choices like “6×4.5” or “35mm”, but never something useful, like 6×6.
  • NikonScan picks out the images perfectly. Alas, I don’t like it’s RAW handling.

So here’s what I ended up doing: I’m using VueScan, and I’m specifying the frame padding manually, but I’ve written a small tool to calculate the proper frame spacing value. Now, I just need to measure the spacings on a 3-frame strip (and the frame offset at the beginning), and it’ll give me a value that works for that strip. Still bothersome, but manageable.

Other settings I am using:

– Disabled Fine Scan and Multi exposure. I can’t see a difference.
– I’m scanning in color mode for now, just to be save.

Scanned film is archived in negative sleeves. I’ve put together another little program that helps me rename the files output by Vuescan so their filename indicates the sheet and strip number where the original can be found (say, 0044.3.2.jpg).

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