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Author Topic: The Digital Dilemma  (Read 6259 times)
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« on: February 21, 2003, 01:41:45 PM »
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Not exactly a reply to your question but since my neighboring thread is on a similar topic (digital street shooters) I thought I'd add a new angle... The reason I'm moving from film to digital has to do with convenience. I'm a serious-but-not-professional photographer (I made some money at it a while ago on the commercial side, and maybe will sell some prints someday in the future) with a full time job outside of photography. I love film but can't get through the routine of developing, contacting, printing... or even developing and scanning. The appeal of digital is that I can work productively in 15-minute increments and get same-day prints. My Leica stays in its bag right now because I can't bear the thought of piling up film that I have to get through. So the question for me isn't about quality primarily -- it's about whether I'm going to get the work done at all, or not. Not sure your working conditions, but there may be points in favor of the 1Ds beyond image quality in B&W or overall. Just a thought...
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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2003, 04:08:35 PM »
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$50/roll sounds like it's on the sorta/cough side of affordable. Would have to think twice about it. But will try to price it out locally. Thanks for the suggestion.
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Dale_Cotton
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2003, 06:58:15 PM »
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Here's the thing though, I love the look and feel of my Mamiya and Hassy.
Yes, this is indeed the thing. It almost sounds as though you are contemplating jumping on the 1DS bandwagon - in fact, on the digital bandwagon - because other photographers are doing it. If your wife were brunette and all the guys you admired were marrying blonds would you pine away for a blond? ... Of course not. When head and heart give conflicting opinions my own strategy is to listen to heart. Like Sam Gamgee I know my heart has the better batting average.

Michael R. has opted for digital and for the 1DS because they fit his approach to photography. As far as I can see, M.R. is now more entranced with animal photography than landscape. He has also committed to a 19x13 print size ceiling. M.R. doesn't need to opt for rangefinder over SLR (and hasn't) - he can afford to keep both mistresses. Can these things be said for you?

Love your camera; let your love guide you; let the other chips fall where they may. I say this presuming I'm talking as one amateur to another. It's the pros who are constained to choose equipment they may not love; we're luckier.

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...possible rapid depreciation of film cameras ...
Nothing will depreciate faster than a digital camera! I guarrantee there is a team of Canon's finest engineers working overtime as I write this to make the 1DS you paid $12K for worth half that or less by this time next year. (Not so many months ago I agonized over spending $4K Cdn on a D30; now I can pick one up for $1K or less.) Depreciation only matters if you plan to sell. A Mamiya 7 is a classic with a life expectancy greater than either of our's, so why sell it? If you paid $3K for it then one day it could only be sold for $1K, that would only count as a loss if (a) you had to sell it, and ( you hadn't gotten $2K worth of use out of it.

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...spending several grand on a decent scanner...
- which will be as useful for the film you've already shot over the years as for any film to come. But don't be in a rush to buy a scanner just now; let's see what the next gen will be like first.

There seems to be the idea that just because digital is now approaching film in quality that film is obsolete. Film is a mature technology that still gets the job done. Sure it has its weaknesses compared to digital; but it has its strengths as well. Five hundred years from now a platinum print from the year 2003 will almost certainly be more valuable than a digital camera print, just as a pine writing desk from 1703 commands a much greater price than the best mass-produced desk of the past 50 years. A charcoal sketch by Monet will outsell any 1DS print you care to name, not only today but for years to come. One side of the coin says "Digital has arrived". When I turn the coin over I read "Film has not left".

Again, use the tools you love and hope they'll seduce your own personal muse into rewarding your suit. It's all any of us can do.
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Dean
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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2003, 10:45:53 AM »
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If you are concerned about film grain, you may want to check out a program called Neat Image.  I have not used it, but I have read some good reports about it.  Perhaps others who have used Neat Image will report their results here.
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schlotz
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« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2003, 07:13:43 AM »
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....I have a stack of images from my last two trips that I haven't done anything with yet. On top of that, as I said, I find it hard to scan images to the standard I want. I assume, from what I've read, that obtaining natural looking images from a 1DS is easier. I think digital would also improve my results.
Have you evaluated the pure costs? How many rolls of film do you shoot in a year? Their subsequent development costs, etc.... Just another approach to assist in determining a path to pursue.

As another pointed out, obtaining for example, a used D60 may provide an opportunity to explore more fully both the pro's and con's from your own personal point of view.

In either case, for me it is always better when I'm photographing then when I'm not.
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Chrisso
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« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2003, 02:53:48 PM »
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Dale Cotton's "simplistic" answer of using your heart over your head might save you some diasappointment and a lot of money
Just a point of order....
I appreciated Dales comments. I couldn't relate to his blonde/ brunette analogy however.
There is a BIG market in vinyl for dance music as well as for audiophiles. There is also a huge debate amongst high end studio owners and users as to the relative merits of digital technology.
Digital technology has brought high end recording to the home bedroom, it has to be said. The system I have (costing $10,000) would have been $100,000 ten years ago.
However, there is quite a substantial market in devices which put the warmth and character back in to digitally recorded audio.
Is there more warmth in film photography?
I've not seen any debate about the aesthetic qualities of film vs digital. So I presume there is no argument.
Strange because the debate has raged in both music and television (digital video vs 16 & 35mm).
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robertwatcher
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« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2003, 09:30:00 PM »
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Regarding the analogue feel and quality of film vs. digital.

1) (based on portrait prints - with landscape your demands might be higher) I regularly enlarge my 35mm negs to 16x20 and 20x24 with wet darkroom (400 ISO and even 1600 ISO to 20x24) with results that my customers are exstatic about. I struggle to get the same kind of quality from digital scans printed to 13x19 on my Epson 2200. They are satisfactory but suite my wedding work of prints under 8x10 far better.

2) I have viewed the large portrait and product shot prints from digital cameras at Vistek upstairs on the large format level, and am certainly impressed at how far the quality has come but highlights and sharp edges are very obvious to my eye. Again that isn't to say I wouldn't use or sell such a print but it comes nowhere close to the smooth tones of my wet prints from my RZ67 that I have regularly printed to 40x60 with 400 ISO film.

3) I do not like the look of my Epson 2200 prints viewed on an angle in prints that are being supplied simply as prints or are being placed in albums. I have to lacquer coat them all to hide this problem. This is the case with all photographic papers except archival matt which I use for art prints but customers would not tolerate for portraits and so I do not use for that purpose. I can come far closer to a photographic look overall with my Epson 780 and Epson professional semi-gloss paper and truly love this printer with Epson premium-gloss paper, but have concerns about the longevity of the image. In tonality though the Epson 2200 is better and more photographic like.

The reasons I use digital scanning and printing and will probably use professional digital cameras this year (I use consumer digital for casual use and highly recommend it):

* when the quality is acceptable for the intended use, I can print off my prints at home without going to a lab
* for art prints I don't have to stock expensive prints but can print them as orders come in
* repeatable dodging, burning, spotting and retouching (especially with 35mm negs)
* shooting with one type of film (instead of 2 or 3) or one digital camera and converting files to black and white, sepia, duotone, whatever I please - after the fact and after I've seen which images would best suit these techniques.
* efficient and fast delivery of digital files to commercial clients
* cost of film and processing - for me that would amount to several thousand dollars a month plus the running around to deliver and pick up the film from the lab

As you can see, my reasons have little to do with the hype that digital is receiving. At this point in time anything I can shoot and print digital I can do as good or better with traditional methods. Now that digital quality has come close for many applications - it all boils down to convenience, speed and sometimes efficiency. But if I want a certain visual quality only film can give I do not hesitate to revert to the old technology.
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John
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« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2003, 08:58:24 AM »
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Hello,

I am also in a small town with out q professional lab. This is what forced me to look at digital as a way of having a leg up on other photographers.

I first started with the Nikon 8000 scanner. I was shooting mainly MF with the idea of scanning and printing everything myself. What got in the way was the post production. It would take quite a bit of time to remove dust, scratches and colour balance. So to print a job like a Wedding and have the pictures balanced the same was pretty much impossible. Don't get me wrong it is a fantastic scanner, I have display prints 2ftx3ft and they are beautiful (printed on Epson 7500). I also have clients that used to take my slides I shot for them and have them drum scanned which I now do on my 8000.

I then saw the D1X and now use that. It is easier to use than the 8000 by far (I still use my 8000 for some jobs). Yes I agree the prints look different than a regular photo.  I find I print mostly on the 2200 which is a big improvement over the 7500 which I just use for posters. The thing is as photographers we do see a difference. I as well hate to look at the prints from the side. Clients on the other hand don't see a thing wrong with them.

There is no contest that a large print from film is the better of the two. What wins on the digital side for me is the speed and the savings on film. I find that I shoot far more for a client so they end up with more choices. I make secure pages for my clients on my website so they can choose what they want. This has helped with copyright, they are not able to copy proofs thus increasing sales.
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Erik M
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« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2003, 12:18:29 PM »
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>>Not everyone who views this site lives in North America.
Kind of irks me that people often suggest options that are only of use to US or Canadian citizens.<<


I also suggested that you might be able to have a Nikon 8000 owner make a few sample scans for you. This course of action is not limited by the country you live in, unless you have no mail system.
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John
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« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2003, 02:03:48 PM »
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Chrisso,

It was a buddy of mine that had a 3.3 MP nikon how good a digital pic eas.

I just re-read your first post. I was shooting everything on my Hasselblad (B&W) then doing everything by hand. My final prints were always on DW fibre toned. It took forever. My Clients loved the final product but they only ordered so much because of the price. B&W on the 2200 is pretty good from my point of view. My Clients though love them. Instead of just getting 1 print for the home they now can buy gifts for family.I end up saving time, material and money providing a better product in their eyes. The list is endless of pros to this new way of shooting and printing. There are still growing pains but I think it is worth it. The only thing I have upgraded is the new printer (2200) I don't feel you have to go after every new piece that comes out.

I still have my darkroom and will always want to print my own silver images. It will just be for me.
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Chrisso
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« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2003, 01:10:41 PM »
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Another 1DS post I'm afraid. I'll try and make it different.
A lot of the contributors to this site seem to be switching to the Canon. I guess it's time to jump ship on my film camera equipment before it loses half it's value. There are still one or two dilemmas which haven't been completely covered as far as I'm aware though.
I bought a Mamiya 7 about a year ago. I didn't realise what a can of worms the scanner issue was going to be. Which one was really worth buying and at what cost? I wasn't even that great at translating my images from film to computer. Then I bought an Xpan.....even fewer scanner options.
So a move to digital would solve the scanner problem and if you took into account a Mamiya 7, an Xpan and an Imacon, you're pretty much in 1DS territory.
Here's the thing though, I love the look and feel of my Mamiya and Hassy. I already own a Leica. Kind of by accident I've become a rangefinder only photographer. So if Canon came out with a digital rangefinder I'd probably be there (incidentally I'm sure I couldn't afford a digital M7-alike).
So I sold my last 35mm SLR without any tears a few years ago. Now I have the choice of spending several grand on a decent scanner, plus film costs and possible rapid depreciation of film cameras vs the 1DS plus don't forget lenses (I would be starting from scratch!) and as the Sunday Morning Photographer pointed out the other week, how good is the black & white?  Huh
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pedz
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« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2003, 03:45:39 PM »
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Reply to Alan: the local pro shop here offers "E-Z scans".  For 35mm, they are -- cough -- affordable -- sorta.  A shoot I did that consumed 10 rolls of film cost me about $500 to develop and scan.  But, at least it was "quick" turn around and I didn't have to do the scanning.  But with MF, the cost is way out of range for me.
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Erik M
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« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2003, 04:52:37 PM »
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You don't need to buy an Imacon. A Nikon 8000 for, say, 3000 (with glass carrier) will do fine. If you take out a personal loan over five years that's less than one-hundred dollars per month for your scanner. With it, you can scan your gorgeous Mamiya 7 chromes, your X-Pan film, and the film from any other MF or 35mm system you might acquire. In other words, you can keep your MF system. It is far cheaper than selling your equipment, buying a 1Ds and all the lenses you will need.

Here's a second option: a workflow idea that might help bridge the world of digital and film for you:

Continue to shoot with your film but then *only* have drum scanned--once a year--your very best images--what you would consider your exhibition quality images. Be brutal in your selection. Have you friends help, if you so wish. I think at the end of the year you'll only have a handful of images you would dare bring to a gallery owner.

While doing this, take the money you might spend on a scanner and purchase a used D30 or D60 and an 'L' series lens. This way you are doing your primary work in MF film while at the same time slowly investing in a Canon digital system.

Of course if you want a lot of your MF stuff in digital form right now, then my suggestion is of no use.
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b2martin
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« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2003, 10:26:11 AM »
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I need a scanner that will scan both 35mm and medium format.  I shoot color negatives and am very interested in a scanner that will not increase the film grain.  I have been considering the Minolta Multi Pro and Nikon 8000ED scanners, but am interested in the results of the Epson 3200 and Canon 9900F flatbed scanners.  I am concerned that the flatbed scanners may not be acceptable, but the results from the Epson 3200 look interesting.  I rank the Nikon 8000ED above the Minolta Multi Pro because I believe the Nikon has a more diffused light source and it will not enhance the film grain as much as the Minolta.   The Minolta user group on Yahoo is using diffusers above the film to improve scans, I don't believe this is necessary with the Nikon.  Does anyone know of any future scanners that may be available in the near future that will scan 35mm and medium format that I should consider before purcanse of a scanner?  I am not interested in spending more that the Nikon 8000ED or Minolta Multi Pro scanners cost.
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b2martin
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« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2003, 12:09:11 PM »
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Dean, I have used Neat Image and it does an excellent job at reducing film grain and noise, but I would like to start with a scan that has minimum grain/noise and only use Neat Image on a limited basis. At this point, I think the Nikon meets my requirements better that any of the others, but it does have a problem scanning negatives relative to clipping at 30,30,30 with the Nikon scan software.  I am not interested in paying the price for SilverFast software.  I am concerned that Nikon does not appear interested in solving this issue with their scan software. The Nikon 8000 user group on Yahoo is trying to get Nikon to resolve this issue. This is the major reason I haven't purchased the Nikon 8000.
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Chrisso
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« Reply #15 on: February 23, 2003, 03:55:58 AM »
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Some interesting replies, thanks.
Erik, your comment that a Nikon 8000 would be 'fine' doesn't tempt me too much. I have an M6 and an Xpan and I'd rather not scan images on anything other than the best - which probably means getting selected images done every now and then by my local pro lab.
Alan, you mentioned workflow. Well I thought I alluded to that in my original post. I agree with you. I have a stack of images from my last two trips that I haven't done anything with yet. On top of that, as I said, I find it hard to scan images to the standard I want. I assume, from what I've read, that obtaining natural looking images from a 1DS is easier. I think digital would also improve my results. I recently got up at 5am to photograph a hill top village in France. The conditions were very difficult. I had not realised how shadowy the buildings were going to be at dawn. The village was flanked by mountains which were snow capped. They were reflecting reds, oranges and flashes of silver, which is why I was there.
I took my light readings from the darkest points of the village and when the camera was positioned, to frame the picture how I wanted it, the light readings were 2 or 3 stops too bright.
I thought that would work, but no. Even over compensating and bracketing. Two hours and two rolls of film later and the village is too dark in every single shot. Of course with digital you can see instant results.
Finally Dale. I thought I was going to fall out with you. Your opening comments were a bit simplistic, I haven't jumped on the bandwagon, I haven't got rid of my film cameras. My reasons for contemplating converting have been carefully thought through but I'm still undecided, hence this thread.
The rest of your contribution was very interesting however and it eased my mind on a few issues and made me feel a bit more positive on the future of film cameras.
Incidentally, the same rush to digital happened about 20 years ago in the music biz (where I work). Since then everybody's been trying to make digital sound analogue. Although digital is cheaper and more convenient, the jury is very much still out as to whether it matches the warmth of analogue - whether it be tape, vinyl or electronic circuits.
I wonder if people will be paying a premium for Leica's and hassy's in 10 years time to try and recapture the magic of film. Huh
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robertwatcher
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« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2003, 08:19:42 AM »
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You may be right Chrisso concerning whether or not this outdated film technology will become vogue again in the future - there is a small resurgence of indie bands producing vinyl records again (not that I feel this will last - although it is gaining heavy support in the dance and techno scene). Many bands have moved away from digital sounds to implementing acoustic instruments - even small orchestral sections in there concerts. The slick, tight recordings that have been a necessity for the last 20 years are giving way to recordings with mistakes left in, a more natural feel aven all parts recorded live in a few takes, instead of overdubbed and engineered to death. Half of my income is derived from black and white images (an out of date technology in 1970) Why I can still purchase my beloved 8mm and Super 8mm movie film, 15 -20 years after it died as a commercial product.

The reason I found digital technology intriguing had to do with moving back to a small community, far away from a major center (so it would be costly and time consuming to continue travelling to Toronto to rent darkroom space). I have always done my own darkroom work and the costs spent on a digital darkroom would only provide me with the bare necessities of equipment for a traditional darkroom. So I invested digitally.

With all the hype, I presumed digital had come of age and is as good or better than film. This has proved to be a relative assumption. There are many areas of digital imaging (related to what I require for my business) that I have been a little disappointed in - shortcomings in both scanning and printing - even though I have what is supposed to be the best (according to the ads and hype) and current (won't be current long) equipment.

Dale Cotton's "simplistic" answer of using your heart over your head might save you some diasappointment and a  lot of money (considering what you have with the Mamiya and Hassy were the best only a few years ago and still are in my opinion). I love digital but find I have been affected too much by what others say (like most people are) and after converting totally to digital - thank goodness I didn't rid myself of all my analogue equipment - have found a happy and successful medium in using both methods, just as I always thought I was a more versatile photographer when I was capable of using all formats of camera and controlling the process from shooting to film processing and printmaking.

This reply relates only to my demands as a photographer and to the success of my photography business that's pays my rent and feeds me.
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Erik M
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« Reply #17 on: February 23, 2003, 08:24:55 PM »
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>>Erik, your comment that a Nikon 8000 would be 'fine' doesn't tempt me too much.<<


You can rent a Nikon 8000 from Samy's Camera in Los Angeles. They ship their rentals cross country. Renting and scanning yourself is the only way you will know. You might even be able to find someone on the Yahoo Nikon 8000 forum who might make a few sample scans for you. You could compare those to drum scans. Best of luck.
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Chrisso
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« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2003, 03:14:40 AM »
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Robert,
Very interesting points.
I agree with you about the speed and convenience of digital.
The argument about the ultimate edge of quality is something only a few people can see. I certainly can't. I can't really hear a difference between vinyl and CD either. It doesn't mean there isn't one though.
It may be a discussion that needs to be had by experienced photographers at some point. As I said, the debate between analogue and digital is into it's 15th year in the music world. Huh
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Chrisso
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« Reply #19 on: February 24, 2003, 11:18:45 AM »
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You can rent a Nikon 8000 from Samy's Camera in Los Angeles. They ship their rentals cross country. Renting and scanning yourself is the only way you will know.
Not everyone who views this site lives in North America.
Kind of irks me that people often suggest options that are only of use to US or Canadian citizens.

John,
Interesting points.
I agree, it takes me ages to perform acceptable scans and quite often I'm not that happy with the results. My girlfriend's cheapo Fuji digital loads up into Photshop looking useable from the get go.
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