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Railfan Technology > Scanning 120-size (actually, 116-size) B&W negatives

Date: 02/18/17 13:47
Scanning 120-size (actually, 116-size) B&W negatives
Author: donstrack

More lessons learned along the journey of scanning old B&W negatives. I was recently given about a hundred or so negatives previously owned by Gordon Cardall, who passed away last October. Gordon was a motorman for Bamberger here in Utah from when he was 15 in 1942, until they stopped running passenger trains in 1952. He had the sad honor of operating the last Bamberger passenger train. He then took a job as a Bamberger bus driver, until that service also shut down in 1959. He was an avid railfan his entire life. He started taking rail photos at about the time he started with the Bamberger, and these photos are a real treasure.

Most of Gordon's photos are 116/616 size (4-1/4 x 2-1/2) and I have been fiddling with the best method of scanning them. I own an Epson V700 flatbed scanner, and tried simply laying the negatives on the glass. But that resulted in what are called Newton rings. Visits to several photo scanning forums suggested making my own "mask" to keep the negative off the glass surface.

Using the new mask and Epson's OEM software resulted in images that were out of focus, so I tried VueScan, with very satisfactory results. VueScan has its own driver for the Epson scanner, and although the negatives are sitting about .060 inch above the glass, they are in perfect focus. Much better than using Epson's own scanning sotware. My mask is made from thin corrugated paperboard, about 0.60 thick, and which came with one of the railroad calendars hanging on my walls.

The photo itself is one of Gordon's favorite locomotives. Bamberger #503, ex Great Northern #503, which Bamberger bought in 1942. In fact among the photos in Gordon's collection are his photos of GN #503 and #502, sitting newly arrived at Bamberger's North Salt Lake shops.

1) VueScan. The large bell atop the locomotive is my point of reference for focus.

2) Epson Scan.

The more I use VueScan, the more it truly impresses me, especially in the past six months or so.

Don Strack

Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 02/26/17 13:23 by donstrack.

Date: 02/18/17 13:56
Re: Scanning 120-size B&W negatives
Author: refarkas

Both rare (the photo) and well done (the image).

Date: 02/18/17 15:33
Re: Scanning 120-size B&W negatives
Author: Chooch

Help me out, is that Diesel or Electric? I see what appears to be a  power lead over the locomotive but no pickup pole. Sounds like you have a treasure of pictures. Thanks for posting.

Hatboro, PA

Date: 02/18/17 17:05
Re: Scanning 120-size B&W negatives
Author: trainjunkie

Don, glad you are getting good results with the V700 and Vuescan. I never could but I did discover that adjusting the height of the film holder to match the fixed focus point each individual V700 has was the key. I now use a aftermarket film holder that is easy to calibrate.


Date: 02/19/17 06:54
Re: Scanning 120-size B&W negatives
Author: Frisco1522

I have a V700 and have all sizes of negatives which I scan, from 35MM up to 5x7.   Not long after I got it, I asked the company I was retired from to make me some negative holders.  They used a plastic like opaque material and routed out the size openings that I would need for 120,616 and PC size.  I made a sandwich of two of the pieces and used HD clear tape as a hinge.  The distance off the glass is the same as Epson's holders.  They have worked fine for me.
On the larger than PC negs I do put them on the glass and use the "film guide" setting on Epson software.  If you lay them on the glass with the emulsion UP you will get newton's rings.  If you put the emulsion DOWN, I've found that you won't.  Then you can reverse the image in your editing software.
I'm very happy with the scanner and their software.   I've never used Vuescan, so don't know what the difference is.

Date: 02/22/17 12:01
Re: Scanning 120-size B&W negatives
Author: fbe

Emulsion side down scanning will eliminate the Newton rings. Then use the software to reverse the image.

Those locomotives did not come from the electrified AC mainline out of Wenatchee, WA. They are from one of the DC interurban lines in the Spokane, WA area. One of the lines was the SC&P which was the Spokane, Coeur deAlene and Palouse. I can't think of the other line off hand.

Nice photos to share.

Date: 02/22/17 13:27
Re: Scanning 120-size B&W negatives
Author: donstrack

I ordered the MF (medium format) film holder from Better Scanning, but in his confirmation email he asked if I was actually scanning 116 size instead of 120 size. He was nice enough to cancel my order when I told I had ordered his holder hoping to make it work. He does not make a holder for 116-size film, but may in the future.


I received still more Gordon Cardall negatives on Monday, and they are all 116-size.

I tried emulsion side down, but the scanned image has a lot more contrast (deep black shadows under the car bodies, and very bright highlights in the sky).

"fbe" What do you do for negatives that don't lay flat?

Date: 02/22/17 14:25
Re: Scanning 120-size (actually, 116-size) B&W negatives
Author: donstrack

After doing some comparing scans, I'll be using a mask I have fabricated. It is made from a 15x19 heavy-duty 'No Parking' sign I bought at Home Depot. It is 0.65 inch white styrene, and cost only $2.99. I cut the sign down to the needed 8-7/8 x 11-1/2 to fit the scanner bed. Like the Film Area Guide that comes with the Epson scanner, I allow 1/2 inch at the top for the scanner to orient itself. I saw the idea on a photography forum, suggesting such large heavy-duty signs as a cheap source of sheet plastic. I made three 2-1/2 x 4-1/4 openings using the score-and-snap method I have used in my modeling to make window openings in building sides. Since I no longer have plastic cement, I tape the pieces back together using tape on both sides.

Scans using the mask are in better focus, and have a better range of highlights and shadows. VueScan has its own drivers for the scanners it supports, and does its own focus after a preview.

I simply tape the corners of the negatives to the mask using small bits of blue masking tape. To minimize handling, I'll figure out a sleeve for the negatives that don't lay flat. Using the factory edge of a clear sheet protector as the hinge, cutting three sides to the needed size seems to work, taping it over the opening on the mask, with a bit of overlap clearance at the top to allow for the edge of the negative.

Date: 02/22/17 15:54
Re: Scanning 120-size (actually, 116-size) B&W negatives
Author: donstrack

And now, after spending most of the day making a special mask to scan 116-size film on my Epson V700 scanner, I find this special adapter made specifically for 116/616 film on an Epson scanner.


I have previously purchased this company's adapter for my many rolls of 110-size family negatives, and it works great.

The big difference is that with my home-made mask, I can preview three negatives at a time.

Don Strack

Date: 03/02/17 18:06
Re: Scanning 120-size (actually, 116-size) B&W negatives
Author: desertjack

I have consistently better results scanning with my Epson flatbed and any software than my Plustek dedicated slide scanner and any software.  So much for Shutterbug magazine and their "so-called" reviews.  The Plustek scanner is now an overpriced doorstop.  Did I mention their software is klunky?

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