Just A Box At Twilight

Just A Box At Twilight

The heading image of this column is as dull a picture as you could want – a silver and black box on a cardboard carton. It has none of the snap and pizazz of a new camera or lens – none of the technical wizardry of a new studio strobe light. It’s not even hand-stitched or bespoke. And you can get it right now instead of pre-ordering it or subscribing to Kickstarter…

Don’t be fooled – at least not by me – it is really a little marvel of the photographic world. It’s an Epson scanner – your portal to the wonderful world of the negative and transparency. It may prove to be your passport back to your photographic history as well as that of your family.

I can say this confidently because I own one of the things – though not as new a model as this one. Not that you could tell from the outside – my Epson scanner over on the side bench right now looks pretty much like this one, and mine’s a decade old. It’s been working through my negatives, transparencies, and book collection for all that time, and has paid for itself time and time again.

You can get flatbed scanners from the big office-supply place that are cheaper than this one. You can also get file shredders, A4 folders and giant tins of lollies, for that matter. You can probably get reindeer or mortar shells somewhere in the place…but in the case of the flatbed scanners, you would be wasting your money in comparison to the Epson. If you need to do top-quality scanning and you have a large variety of sources that need to be dealt with, this is the one.

Consider; you may need to scan negatives or transparencies from 35mm film, 120 film, 4 x 5 sheet film, 8 x 10 sheet film, glass plates, magazines, books, newspapers, artwork, or textile surfaces. This’ll do it, and with the advantage that dedicated holders for the 35mm slides, negs, and the 120 and 4 x 5 materials are provided in the basic kit. Sure, you can make cardboard adapters for a lot of scanners that almost do it, but you won’t get the precision that this delivers – professional precision.

You’ll get a range of choices of how detailed the scanner will be – some of these choices are biased towards simplicity for quick automatic work. They still deliver what you want but reduce the number of options that you have as far as resolution and colour. Perfect for everyday scanning.

Some will be more dedicated – you end up specifying more and more details of the process.

Some – and these can be a trap for the unwary – are extremely detailed and complex. The scanner will work diligently for a long time extracting every last nuance from an image and it may ask your computer to store quite a considerable amount of data once it is completed. If you incautiously ask it to do this on a very big original you’ll think that you’ve broken it – it won’t seem to be working at all. In reality, it is doing so on practically a microscopic level.

Fortunately, most Scanning and cataloging tasks are better done with the simple or intermediate setting and these can be somewhat automated once you know where the files are going. It is the perfect apparatus for the amateur family historian who wishes to reduce the precious pictures from foul and crumbling family albums to clear digital images. There are even useful settings for colour restoration if the originals are fading. The Euclid being loaded by the shovel at twilight is an image from 1966 and needed some colour massaging to come back to life. Note the fool in the Euc not wearing his hard hat. That was a firing offence if the foreman caught you.


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