Yep, I’ve been looking at scanners again. I have plenty of scanners already. My new 11×17 scanner (it rocks), my old 8×10 scanner (it rocked for ten years but bigger is better), my Uncle’s old 8×14 scanner (which I can’t get my computer to recognize), and my 35mm slide/film scanner. I used the 35mm scanner to digitize all of my photos that I took before I entered the world of digital photography. That took a lot of time and effort but now it’s done and they are all on my new iPod Touch. Good times.

But last year I got a whole bunch of negatives of family photos from my Mom. You’d think they’d be easy to scan in since I did all of my own but they’re not. Mine were 35mm negs but my Mom shot with an old Brownie camera that used Kodak 620 film. Each negative is 2.5 x 3.5 inches. That’s much bigger than 35mm and falls into the category of medium format film.

A lot of flatbed scanners nowadays can scan film and transparencies but they don’t do a very good job of it. The focusing power and resolution of flatbeds just aren’t good enough for the relatively small size of a film negative. That’s why I bought a dedicated film scanner in the first place. They are easier to use with film and do a bang up job. But I have a consumer lever 35mm scanner (a Minolta Dimage Scan 3) and once we’re talking medium format film scanner we’re talking professional. And professional prices.

There are a couple of different companies that make (or made) medium format film scanners. The first being Nikon. They make great optics and all the reviews have been good for their scanner but it’s $2000! That’s just not going to happen for me. Plus it’s hard to find. Minolta also made made a medium format scanner. A few different models over the years but now they’ve discontinued the line. Microtek also makes a $1500 one. Also not going to happen.

Since the Minolta models were discontinued and I already had a Minolta that I liked I decided to search Ebay and see if there were any to be had. After watching for a couple of months I observed that the oldest model went for around $500. Not too bad but it used the older SCSI connecter to hook up with my computer. My old 8×10 scanner was also SCSI and I never had a problem with it but my Uncle’s old one was SCSI and I never got my computer to recognize it. I don’t want to take a $500 chance with an unreturnable scanner from Ebay.

The next Minolta model had a USB connector and went for around $800. Too expensive once again. Story of my life. The final model had a Firewire connector and was obviously the one that was in the most demand. The reviews on it were great and but the bids immediately rose to the $1500 level. I’d love to get it but, once again, it is not going to happen.

After watching prices on Ebay all through the fall I kinda gave up on the notion of a medium format film scanner. I decided to look into flatbed scanners and see if they had gotten any better at scanning film. I was on the Epson web site (my two flatbeds have been Epsons) when I discovered a something new. In the last couple of years, when I haven’t been looking, a new type of scanner was being developed. A flatbed film scanner. Not just a flatbed scanner that could could scan film as an afterthought but one designed to scan film as a primary function.

Epson’s latest model even uses some sort of liquid surface to enhance scanning. I’m not sure if I’d ever use that feature but it showed they were trying. It also cost around $750 dollars so it was still too expensive. But reading some reviews on that model eventually lead me to a less expensive ($400) Canon model. Turns out that Canon model was already old and they have an even less expensive ($200) new model. That’s a price I can’t ignore.

In all of the reviews they said that these flatbed film scanners did a good job but in no way reached the level of a dedicated film scanner. But I’ll take a good job. After all, the reviews of most flatbed scanners say they do a crappy job at film scanning. So a good job is a huge step up. And these are old family photos that I am scanning not professional images that need to be printed. For $200 I think I’m going to give the Canon a try. I’ll keep you posted.