Contrasty scans on an Epson 4870 flatbed.

Ralph Turner

Well-Known Member
This is not a thorough comparison, but may be of interest to some (disclaimer - as mentioned before, I’m no expert with b+w, so these are just my relatively novice observations). The latest roll out of my Ensign folder resulted in some decidedly contrasty negs (part over exposure, part slight over development, I suspect) although most of my efforts so far with caffenol have been slightly on the contrasty side. I don’t often scan film on my flatbed these days, but I thought I’d pop these negs through it for a change. This particular neg was a fair bit over exposed (all exposures on this roll were guesstimated). The first pic was with the scanner set to b+w neg mode. I’ve tried to normalise the shadow to mid tone range, but the highlights are badly blown. Pic two was with the scanner set to transparency mode, then inverted in post. Here the the scanner has coped far better with the highlights, with the full range of tones. Unfortunately, the brightest areas do show a fair bit of scanner noise. This could possibly be reduced with modest noise reduction. The last pic is from my camera scanning rig. Luckily the Fuji coped no problem, rendering the highlight areas cleanly (it also makes the flatbed scan look a little muddy, but that could be down to my editing - both the flatbed scans needed some fairly extreme tonal adjustments).

A few thoughts I’ve had on this are:

  1. The Epson Scan software limits the brightness range that is seen when scanning in b+w negative mode (probably sufficient for most normally devved negs) so can’t cope so well with contrasty negs.
  2. Using Epson Scan in transparency mode broadens that range to cater for the greater contrast of slides, but pays a noise penalty which would normally be seen as noise in the shadow areas of slides.
  3. From what I understand, caffenol naturally tends towards high contrast and I’ve probably been over developing with it slightly all along (something that’s slipped under the radar a little until now - I’ve been using the recommended parameters from the caffenol cookbook without changing anything so far (to be fair they do say that the time they suggest is just a starting point so maybe I could have considered this before).
  4. The likely reason I’ve not refined the dev time before now is that the images I get using my camera scanning rig are so accommodating of a wide tonal range, I rarely if ever have any issues in this regard, getting some superb end results after editing.
So, although I’ve likely not achieved an ideal development regimen from a traditional darkroom point of view, how much does really it matter? I’m not likely to go back to silver prints, the hybrid workflow suiting my purposes well.

I hope all this makes some sense 🤓.


  • IMG_4552.jpeg
    915.8 KB · Views: 3