Let’s talk scanners and scan sizing!

The journey of my Frontier SP3000.

Prior to starting Brooktree Film Lab, I would always have my film developed and scanned using the “Frontier” option, even though I wasn’t exactly sure what it entailed. I just knew that I preferred the colors and detail produced by the Frontier scanner.

When I founded Brooktree Film Lab, I knew that I needed to get one of these scanners for my clients. If you want to learn more about my journey to import, set up, and use the Frontier scanner at Brooktree Film Lab, please check out my detailed post below.

If you’re more interested in the specifics and comparisons of the different scanning options (web size, large, extra large), click HERE for a thorough write-up on that topic.

To fully understand the part that a scanner plays in the look and feel of your film let me give you a bit of history on the Frontier SP3000 scanner. Fujifilm manufactured these scanners to be part of a “mini-lab” set up that connected directly to a printer. The Frontier would simply scan the film and then send it to the printer to be printed. No digital files in sight.

As time went on and digital files became more standard the SP3000’s of the world were put away or even disassembled to make room for printers that worked from digital image files instead. However the history of the Frontier doesn’t end there…

With the help of a specific computer program (and dedicated 2nd computer tower) Frontier scanners could send their scans to this “PIC” (photo imaging controller) instead of a printer, and it would convert that “print” into a digital file for us to post on our Instagram feeds!

This new found use of the scanner helped surge the popularity back into the mainstream and lead to a dramatic rise in use (and price) of these scanners!

Thailand or bust.

Fast forward a bit to today and the SP3000 can be quite an elusive machine. The people that use them typically don’t want to sell, and when they do it is normally because something is broken or un-repairable.

Luckily I have made several friends in the film-developing community and one was able to put me in touch with an incredible man in Thailand who would be able to help me get the scanner of my dreams.

Making arrangements for my own scanner to be delivered was not an easy task, and I genuinely learned quite a bit about the processes of international freight cargo shipping along the way. But a few long months later my freshly refurbished SP3000 was loaded into the bed of my truck.

A few hundred miles of very stressful driving later I arrived home and was able to crack open the pallet that kept my scanner safe on its Pacific Ocean flight. Unloading the scanner wasn’t easy, and it took a few neighbors help to get this 350lbs machine up a flight of stairs.

Once we reached my office I was hit with the unfortunate reality of doorways. Not all are built equal.

The scanner was about an inch and half to wide to fit through the door, and due to the location and size of the thing there was no amount of rotating or angle that would let us get it through the door. But before I took out a hacksaw to carve away at our homes doorway I thought of another idea, why don’t we take the plastic shield off of the scanner. That will give us just enough room to get it through the door way!

After the painstaking process of removing the plastic surround and maneuvering the scanner through the doorway I was finally able to get up and running. Or so I thought.

Computer issues abound!

Getting the scanner set up wasn’t too bad, the amazing seller in Thailand pre-installed everything that I would need to get up and running that very same day. And for about 48hrs it worked perfectly, then for some reason the computer refused to boot.

These scanners are based on fairly old technology. The computers that run them are even older. The Toshiba computer that controlled the scanner and acted as the brains for the whole operation had a catastrophic failure and was essentially fried.

Some very frantic messages to Thailand and lots of late nights helped me get a new computer unit secured. The only issue was that I was going to need to install the scanning software on it myself, and that it isn’t as straight forward as putting in a disc.

After a few nights of staying up until 1am (1pm Thailand time) we were finally able to get the scanner and computers (yes there are two remember) all talking to each other and working correctly!

And that is where we are today. Thankfully the scanner, and new computers, are all working flawlessly and are pumping out scan after scan for you wonderful photographers all over the country!

Let’s talk scanning details.

With the scanner fully functional it was time to figure out how I wanted to set up my scanning options for deliverables. I needed to balance the time that it takes to scan each frame, the amount of effort the machine has to preform per scan, and the file hosting costs associated with larger file sizes.

I want to start out and say that there is no right or wrong way to set these up, and I followed the advice of other labs out there on how to price my scans, while bringing down the costs as much as I could.

The first thing that I was able to do was negate the file hosting costs. As a full time wedding photographer I am sending client galleries that are in the tens of gigabytes and therefore already have a delivery service that offers unlimited storage for me. Which means that I am able to pass those saving, even if they’re not huge, onto you.

One of the biggest wear and tears on these machines is the image processing controllers and the sensor/light box that actually illuminate and the sensor that digitizes the film. Without going into crazy high detail here (most of which is over my head anyway) the higher the resolution scan the harder the scanner works, and the more wear is placed on these components. The cost of eventual replacement and maintenance of these parts is the driving factor in scanning costs.

The other big factor of cost is time spent scanning. A web size scan of a frame takes about half of the time to scan than an extra large frame. Multiplying that by 36 frames per roll and there is a substantial time difference between the two.

These factors (and others) are what play a major role in the price that I charge, but it is a balancing act. If I charge to much for a base service (development and web size scans) then I may push people away, but undercharge and I might not be able to afford to stay open or be able to regularly maintain my equipment.

So what are the difference in scan sizes?

Being clear and open with my clients has always been my number one priority. I don’t want a single photographer out there to feel like I have not given them all the information that I can. Which is why I want to show exact differences between the three scanning sizes offered at Brooktree Film Lab.

I purchased a 35mm strip of slide film that has a test chart on it and scanned it at the three different resolution sizes that I offer.

Click to see the full size image and zoom in to compare detail between the scan types.

And here are the un-cropped versions of the three options:

Web Size

Large

Extra Large

Our scan sizes are tailored to fit a variety of needs and budgets with three different options. Here are some real world examples of the different uses for each scan size.

  • Web size scans (approx. 2MP) are perfect for sharing to social media or printing up to a 5×7.
  • Large scans (approx. 6MP) allow room to crop your image and are perfect to print up to an 8×10.
  • Extra large scans (approx. 20MP) will allow you to have the maximum resolution possible from our scanner and can be printed 12×18 and above, they also allow the most flexibility when it comes to cropping your images.

Here are approximate resolutions for the most popular formats:

35mm web size: 1024 x 1527

645 web size: 1024 x 1493

67 web size: 1024 x 1280

35mm large: 2008 x 3012

645 large: 2400 x 3265

67 large: 2400 x 3000

35mm extra large: 3602 x 5398

645 extra large: 3591 x 4902

67 extra large: 3591 x 4488

I hope that you enjoyed reading a bit about how I came to own this incredible film scanning machine, and the pain that I went through to get it to its current state.

Film photography has always been more about the journey than the destination for me, but I am so genuinely excited to see where Brooktree Film Lab is able to go in the future. I am investing a majority of my time, finances, and mental energy into creating something special here, and I would love for you to be a part of it!

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