ScanCafe Medium Format Black and White Negative Scanning

by Mike McEvoy on February 15, 2010


Several months ago I wrote a review of ScanCafe’s scanning services entitled “ScanCafe – Great Photo, Negative and Slide Scans.” I was impressed with their service, quality and prices. One drawback I found with the service was the absence of an option for medium format black and white negatives. It took ScanCafe a little time but they finally expanded their service offering and added black and white medium format scanning to their mix.

Initial ScanCafe Experience

My first experience with ScanCafe was with a batch of 35mm color negatives that I sent to them for scanning. The results were quite good – great quality at an excellent price. The processing took several weeks but I wasn’t in a rush and for the price I was willing to wait a bit longer. In my post at the time I noted my desire for a scanning service for medium format black and white negatives. A few months ago ScanCafe addressed that hole in their service roster.

So it was with great pleasure that I made my first order for medium format black and white negative scanning services. My initial order consisted of 180 black and white negatives from photos that my father had shot on his Voigtlander medium format camera in the 1950’s. After several weeks I received the results back from ScanCafe on four DVDs and I am quite pleased to say the least. It was a real treat to view a number of old family images which I had never seen before.

Scan Testing Process – Or Not!

For the sake of clarity I must admit that I am not anywhere close to being an expert photographer. So I won’t present any detailed test results from the scanned negatives or any comparison between scanned images and actual photo prints. However I can say the images I received looked outstanding on a 22” monitor and even with cropping and zooming, the images retained their sharpness. They contained an enormous amount of detail and dynamic range.

Medium Format Black and White Scanning Service Details

The base cost for a standard high resolution JPG scan is $.99 which is very competitive. ScanCafe offers a standard scan resolution of 3,000 dpi plus they also offer their Pro Resolution option of 4,000 dpi for about $.10 per scan. I opted for the 3,000 dpi resolution and for their Pro Library option which delivers a TIFF raw scan with no processing as well as a JPEG processed image of each negative. The Pro Library option added $.24 per scan.

The high scanning resolution and the large size of the actual negatives generated some sizable image files. The JPG files ranged in size from 6MB to 11MB. The TIFF format files were much larger ranging from 60MB to over 165MB. The final scans of my 180 medium format negatives came back on 4 DVDs due to the amount of data from the large file sizes. Given the size of the image files it’s good to have a computer with at least moderate horsepower, a good graphics adapter and a fair amount of RAM for viewing and editing. The large files can make your photo editing software work a lot more than it’s used to.

Ready for the Next Batch Of Negatives

Total cost for my 180 medium format black and white negatives came to $375 including shipping, the Pro Library option and an extra set of DVDs. I’m quite please with the scan results, the service and the cost. There is always a little apprehension in sending my irreplaceable negatives off into the unknown but ScanCafe has done a good job of helping me overcome those fears. Their status update emails provide good communication at each step of the process. I’ll be sending in my next batch of negatives in the very near future.



graphic design service February 17, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Haven’t used ScanCafe myself, but I’ve heard it mentioned all the time on Scott Bourne’s Photofocus podcast. From the way he and Rick tell it from their own experiences, they do excellent work, for what it’s worth.

SteveH February 20, 2010 at 7:54 am

I have a bunch of ones from my grandmother and grandfather, which are of a similar age and possibly a little older. It would be neat to transfer them all to digital format, but I don’t have a scanner and this looks like an affordable option. I know she has a ton of negatives, probably many that aren’t even around as pictures anymore, so this would be a really cool project….
.-= SteveH´s last blog ..Lift Chairs: A Guide to What to Look For =-.

reno movers February 24, 2010 at 9:54 am

This is a great service. Definitely something I should look into. Great way to inventory many old photos of mine.

pittsburgh moving companies March 11, 2010 at 9:31 am

Do you keep all the photos in the tiff file format when they are put on the DVDs?

Sydney Web Design July 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm

I think you can setup tiff format or jpg or even png format… I have one… but is a bit “cheaper” that the ones in the market. Bought it in Fed and now 6 months later they are twice as good and 3 times more affordable. Go and figure…

Mike McEvoy July 28, 2010 at 6:17 pm

@Matt — Thanks for stopping by. Yes, technology marches on, things get faster and cheaper. At least, most things do. Have you tried Scan Cafe for medium format scans?

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