(Digital) Darkroom

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(Digital) Darkroom

I use a hybrid analog/digital process for all my work. I shoot three types of film:

  • Slide (positive) film for my ethnographic work using my M7 and EOS-3 systems. Almost exclusively Fuji Provia 100F and 400F. I have it developed locally in the field in Japan, or if it's in the U.S. I send it out to A&I Labs in Los Angeles, who are perhaps the best folks in the nation for lab work.
  • Color print film for my classic camera and street photography. Since I use a small handheld meter and shoot on the fly, I can't meter as accurate as the EOS-3. I need the extra latitude of the negative film for this, even though negative film is harder to scan and harder to render color accurately. I usually have my C-41 color film done locally at a small lab. I use the prints as proof sheets to decide which negatives to work with. I've been happy with Kodak Portra 400NC and Fuji NPH.
  • B&W print film. I've used Kodak Tri-X for the last 15 years and haven't seen a reason to switch although I've been dallying with Ilford HP5+, Fuji Acros 100 and Neopan 400 these days. I bulk-load using a Watson bulk-loader (see below). I hand develop the film in a Paterson tank using D-76, Diafine (see Dante Stella's review of Diafine or Photoslave.com (Granf Heffernan's), or HC-110 depending on my mood, the phase of the moon, and whichever chemical is nearest my hand when it goes into the darkroom closet.

I have a nice medium format color enlarger with Schneider lenses, but I haven't used it very much in the past year. It's much simpler to scan the film using my Nikon Super Coolscan 4000ED for the 35mm work, and an Epson Perfection 2450 Photo for my medium format work. I use Vuescan for all my scanning.

Everything gets scanned, archived, and catalogued (Extensis Portfolio). Bad photos are scanned at low resolution / high compression. The good photos at high resolution / low compression. I have a couple of 150 gigabyte hard drives to store them (looking for a good way to archive them, even DVD-Rs are too small now). The film goes in archival storage sleeves and into safe storage.

I do levels/contrast/sharpness adjustments in Adobe Photoshop and output to an Epson 1280 ink jet color printer. The 13x19s from this printer are gorgeous.

Why don't I go fully digital? I have an EOS-10D that I recently bought for work. It's great, but there's a big gap in features and pricing between the Canon EOS 10D and the 1D; and a SLR system is much heavier than my Leica M7 rangefinder system. I'm getting 20 megapixel quality from my Provia 100F scans, it'll take some convincing to get me to spend $8000 for a camera that will be $500 in two year's time. So I'm waiting until they have something equivalent to my EOS-3 in focusing speed and build quality at the $2000 mark. It'll eventually come and I'm patient.

I don't see giving up my classic cameras. You can simulate the grain of Tri-X digitally, but it's just a simulacrum. And the joy of using a 60 year old camera, knowing that in 60 years it'll still be working can't be beat.

Film Developing in the Twin Cities

Although I use A&I Film Labs in Los Angeles for most of my work (B&H has inexpensive pre-paid mailers for A&I), there are some local options in the Twin Cities, mostly in Minneapolis:

Pro Color
909 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Color Unlimited
1112 N 5th St
Minneapolis, MN 55411


Film Developing in Japan

The quality of film developing in Japan tends to be very high across the board. Most smaller places are using the Fuji Pictorio (aka Fuji Frontier) digital minilab. This means you can get prints from digital files quite easily and quite inexpensively (about ¥40 for a standard 4x6 or 'L' size). Camera no Kimuraya is one chain that is pretty good for consumer prints.

For professional developing, you can use Horiuchi Color which is one of the main professional labs:

Horiuchi Color

Horiuchi has branch offices all across major cities in Japan. If you're in Tokyo, you can have your film developed at the Bic Camera at the west exit of JR Shinjuku Station. Bic sends their film out to Horiuchi, has it returned the same day, charges the same price, but gives you a 10% "point" credit for purchases.

Bic Camera
Halc 2nd Floor
JR Shinjuku Station

Film Scanners

I scan my 35mm film through a Nikon CoolScan LS4000 scanner. It's an excellent scanner with fantastic shadow/highlight depth ability. It's leagues ahead of the Minolta DualScan I was using previously. The only problem with the Nikon is that the CCD has almost no depth of field. The slightest curvature of the film renders the edges fuzzy. This is very annoying to me.

Medium format scanners. There are current a number of interesting medium format flatbed type scanners on the market. I'm keeping an eye on them as I'd like to buy one soon. The most interesting appears to be the Epson F-3200 (PhotoFactory). I tried one at the Epson showroom and it had excellent sharpness and resolution, much higher than the comparison Epson 4870. Epson has recently announced the Epson 4880. I'll be buying one in January after my next move to Kyoto, so hopefully the Epson Photofactory 4800 will be out!

Scanner Name
F-3200 Photofactory (Japan)
Not yet released in USA
GT-X800 (Japan)
4880 (USA)
Place of Manufacture
Date of Manufacture
2004.8~ 2004.11~
Scanner Mechanism

Large/medium/35mm format film scanner

A4/Letter size flatbed scanner
Transparent / reflective modes
Film types

Reflective material up to:

Transparency holders for:
4x5 (1 sheet)
120/220 mf (1 strip of 6x18)
35mm film (2 strips of 6 frames)
35mm slides (2 strips of 4 slides)

Reflective material up to A4/letter size

Transparency holders for:
4x5 lf (2 sheets)
120/220 mf (3 strips of 6x12 size)
35mm film (4 strips of 6 frames)
35mm slides

Sensor Type

3200 dpi resolution
1600 x 2 staggered CCD
6 CCDs total (RRGGBB)
alpha-hyper CCD
16 bit per channel output
48 bit RGB color

4800 dpi resolution
2400 x 2 staggered CCD
6 CCDs total (RRGGBB)
alpha-hyper CCD II
6 elements in 4 group lens
16 bit per channel output
48 bit RGB color

Scanner Features

Can scan to a memory card and print directly to certain Epson printers without a computer attached. No ICE.

Digital ICE

Memory Card
CF Type I or Type II
Memory stick (duo; pro)
SD Memory card (miniSD)
xD memory card
USB 2.0
IEEE 1394
USB 1.0 for direct-connect printer
USB 2.0
IEEE 1394
Dimensions and weight

2.8 kg

6.4 kg
Retail price

Y50,000 street

Y55,000 street
Note: Using the text or images on this site in an ebay auction without permission is a violation of your ebay Terms of Service. I will report you to ebay if I discover such a violation taking place.

For more info:



Links to more information:

Digital Darkroom Monitor/Printer color calibration:

Understanding Photoshop

Film vs. Digital Debates

Digital Film Recover Programs

  Web Photoethnography.com


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