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(Velvia, because it’s my favourite film, at the moment, but this applies to any film)

I’ve written a few other articles about my recent forays into film photography, coming from the perspective of someone deeply immersed in the digital world. One was about my transitions from film, to digital, and back again, and the other was about my entry into the world of medium format film photography, when I acquired a Mamiya RZ67.

Some 120 Kodak Ektar 100

Shooting film has been really fun and interesting for me, as I described in those previous articles, but one thing that has been bugging me is how much I rely on the lab, and how much it costs to:

a) buy film

b) get it developed

c) get it scanned

Film might be low-cost up-front, compared to digital, because you can get an old film camera for as low as 25 bucks if you want, but the other costs add up. While I do love the folks at the fantastic ABC Photo, it doesn’t feel sustainable to have them scan all my stuff all the time. Their service is impeccable, and they’re very friendly, but it’s just too high a cost for me at the moment. So I bought a film scanner. Specifically the Epson Perfection V550.

New Epson Perfection V550

I’ll be completely honest: the reason I bought the V550 wasn’t because I read a million reviews and decided it was the best one… it was simply because it was relatively cheap and available at the Best Buy near my apartment. I had done some reading on flatbed scanners and came to the conclusion that they generally aren’t great at scanning film. Even the ones that are built specifically for that purpose. Even the fancier ones like the V700.

The way the online film photography communities talk about it, only fancy drum scanners, or dedicated film scanners like the Nikon CoolScan 9000 are worth it. But they cost many thousands of dollars, and I’m on a tight budget.

So here is my plan: the V550 will definitely be fine to get my film shots scanned for purposes like Instagram or Facebook posts, especially since both services compress images so heavily.

This shot from my Mamiya RZ67 was scanned with my new Epson Perfection V550.

Doing the scanning myself will also let me check the quality of each shot, and depending on how they look, they might make it up to my photography site and be made available for prints like this image. Then, if I find images that I’m particularly happy with and want to make a large print with, I’ll take the film back to ABC Photo and have them do a nice, high-resolution scan of the particular frame I would like.

I calculated that getting all my film scanned, even at a low resolution, had cost me as much as buying a cheap film scanner already, so I think this is the right way forward for me, and probably a good idea for anyone who sees themselves doing a significant amount of film shooting and can’t afford a fancy scanner.

If you’d like to support my photography, check out my photography website. Maybe you’ll find a print you’d like!