The Sleeping Giant's Sea Lion

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Shoot a roll of ilford color process B&W. Take to Walgreens. Receive CD (and negatives). Import to Aperture, crop a bit, and ask for an 8x10. Get a warning that there's not enough pixels to make a good print, maybe.

Look at 'info' for the original import; 1215x1800.

Is this impoverished? Do I need to find better scanning technology than Walgreens?

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2  
Check the fine print, and you'll probably find you got exactly what you paid for. Yes, 2 Mpix is quite low resolution for a 35mm negative, but did they promise more? They probably use a fast scanner to keep the cost down and it has low resolution. The real problem is that you bought a service without checking exactly what it was supposed to provide. You can certainly get better scans, but they will likely cost more than what you paid too. I don't see a problem here other than you made a poor purchase choice for what you wanted. –  Olin Lathrop Dec 10 '12 at 15:04
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I'm not complaining that I didn't get what I paid for. I'm trying to work out a reasonably cost and time-effective means of facilitating my daughter's wish to work with B&W film. Thanks for all the help. –  bmargulies Dec 10 '12 at 16:37
    
The difficulty is that scanning negatives/slides is becoming a thing for professionals, and professionals often will only scan the good shots, since a professional quality locally done scan is at least a dollar each. –  smackfu Dec 10 '12 at 17:01
    
Purists would say that if she wants to work with film, finish the process in the chemical world (i.e., make prints directly from the negatives) instead of scanning the negatives. Pragmatists would say skip the film entirely, shoot digital and look into any of the many available plugins for Photoshop and other programs that simulate film. –  Blrfl Dec 10 '12 at 17:20
    
Reasonably cost- and time-effective: Scan all negatives cheaply at low resolution, pick the winners, and re-scan the few winners professionally. –  j-g-faustus Dec 10 '12 at 19:55

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

That is around 2 megapixel. A 35mm negative has at least 6 megapixel of information, so you are not getting a good scan.

The scanned image is barely enough to make a print that size. You should have it scanned at a higher resolution to have a bit of latitude.

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6 Mpix is actually pretty low for a 35mm frame. Let's say the scan should support at least 50 lines/mm, which is well within many films and decent quality lenses. That amounts to 100 pixels/mm, which is 8.6 Mpix over the 36x24mm area of a 35mm frame. With good lenses, you'll still be throwing out information even at that rate. –  Olin Lathrop Dec 10 '12 at 18:17

That's obviously very low — both too low to be useful at beyond 4×6 prints, and much lower than technology allows.

I had the same thing happen at a local camera / photo shop, and when I complained, they explained, in the most condescending way possible, that that resolution was completely fine for "all normal uses", and that if I wanted higher-resolution (for some crazy reason), I could pay about 4× for professional scans. I assume all of this was to protect their profit-making business of making prints. Not surprisingly, that store is out of business now.

I tell this anecdote not (just) to complain, but because I'm not surprised to see similar or worse from a place where photography isn't even their main business. I notice that Walgreens only has one price for scans from negatives, so I wouldn't even bother checking if they have a higher-quality option. I'd take your business elsewhere — but check their options and pricing first.

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Is a low-resolution scan of B&W negatives expected from a drugstore?

Yes, it is a drugstore and not a photography store.

Is this impoverished?

Yes, 1215x1800 is a low resolution.

Do I need to find better scanning technology than Walgreens?

I do not know, that is dependent upon your needs.

I recently had a batch of 35mm color negatives scanned and received JPGs at 4187x2776 which is a much higher resolution than the scans you received from Walgreens.

If you require a higher resolution I recommend you shop around. I chose ScanCafe and for me it took about two months for them to turn around 600+ color negatives at around $.28 a negative. I feel it was worth the money and time as the scans are of high quality and I can comfortably crop and edit them for use in print and the web.

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