Film is the RAW file of the analog photography era. Just as you can post process your RAW files with new versions of software (for example, Lightroom), you can also do that with a film negative or positive.
The difference here is that the RAW file contains the specific info from the sensor and can be enhanced up to a point, but there is no information to add. The nature of film (the are no actual pixels), means that with a better scanner you can extract more information and eventually reach to the grain. When I started scanning my films I used the Epson V500, an affordable flatbed scanner. At a certain point when I was shooting lots of film, I invested to a dedicated film scanner, the Nikon Coolscan 9000. It was inevitable that some of my favorite images would be rescanned with the better scanner.
So, how much difference can a dedicated scanner
The crop is slight diefferent, but you can easily spot the differences between the two scanners. The higher DMAX of the Cooslcan, its ability to auto focus and the real 4000dpi resolution makes a great difference especially when you print your images. The difference is even more evident with slide film (Velvia is a tough film to scan).
Now, a crop from both scans.
The Epson scan shows more grain and the detail of course is inferior to the Coolscan.
So, I consider the Coolscan to be a very good investment and its quality really shows on large prints. Scanning is an art and it requires time to master. A more experienced user could make a better scan than mine with the V500, but at the same time the same goes for the Coolscan. Its a pity that the Coolscan cannot scan 4×5 film, and for panoramic 6×12 and 6×17 you must scan twice and stitch.
I have sent a few frames 6×17 and 4×5 film to a scanning service lab at the UK, they will be scanned with an Imacon 949 scanner, when I have the results I will post them. And of course, some day I will have to gather my best large format images to have them scanned with a drum scanner. Drum scans are expensive, so I will wait to have some really great photos that are worth to be drum scanned.
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