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Say I have a negative and wish to make a large print out of it. I have two options:

  • Wet print straight from the negative
  • Scan & dry print

In terms of editing, I realise the latter allows more control over the final image. Beyond that, does the second route offer any advantages? For instance, will a high end drum scan outdo an enlarger's lens beyond a certain size?

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There is a lot to be gained and a lot to be lost by passing via a scanner rather than an enlarger.

If you have really to use a scanner (maybe you don't have a darkroom) you should make sure that you are doing your best to preserve information. This includes avoiding clipping and imposing a curve (that is, scanning directly to jpg) and making sure that you are focusing correctly.

In general, I find much easier to scan 120 film than 135 film and I recommend the use of specialized film holders (e.g. like those at betterscanning, no affiliation) and of an anti-newton ring glass which helps with curled film.

What you gain with scanning? The ability to clone away dust comes immediately to mind. Not having to struggle with colour balance if printing colour. No more washing prints.

What you lose? A silver print :-)

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If you want a copy, from a copy, from a copy... No you do not want that.

In every step you lose information.

From film to print you lose focus, you lose tones, you manipulate the contrast, you gain additional noise from the paper.

From a flatbed scanner from the paper you lose even more information.

If you have access to a drum scanner and the job is worth it, do that. If not, there are some affordable flat bed scanners with negatives support or special hardware to scan film.

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    That's like saying if we slow down to put on shoes, we lose time getting outdoors. Maybe it depends on if the house is a fire or not. :) But sometimes the loss is negligible and the gains are tremendous. Scanning offers opportunity for great editing advantages. – WayneF Aug 20 '15 at 22:55

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