Some notes on ScanScience Fluid Mounting

I had experimented in the past with using denatured alcohol to wet-mount 4×5 negatives onto glass to scan them out to the edges; and ever since, I have wondered if I should be wet-mounting all my negatives.  So I decided to give ScanScience a try.  It was a mixed experience.
• Scanner:  Epson Perfection 4870
• Negative:  6×9 Kodak Portra 160 NC
• Raw scan at 4800dpi with VueScan Pro
• Processed with SilverFast HDR using auto color settings and exposure +1.0.  No sharpening or other manipulation was used.


PROS:

Wet mounting does add a small amount of apparent sharpness and local contrast.  But the effect is small compared to the amount of work it takes.  Here are the scans of a small detail of the negative.  Each negative holder, both dry and wet, was shimmed for maximum sharpness.  Shimming improved the dry scan a little; the difference would have been greater had I not done it, and this is the main difference between what I did and what I have seen others report.  The first is a regular dry scan using the Epson holder; the second was wet-mounted using the ScanScience kit, below the glass following the instructions.


dry wet
dry scan at 4800dpi same, wet scanned with ScanScience


dry  wet

Note that the entire negative, scanned at 4800dpi, would result in a 300ppi print of something like 56×36 inches.  To the right are the same images, reduced to approximately print size.  The difference is there, but subtle.  Resampling was bicubic; no other sharpening was applied.


CONS:

Opening the box and unwrapping the kit was something of a surprise.  Be advised that the holders and masks are handmade out of thin cardboard and tape.  I could deal with this, but the quality was not as good as it could be; the edges were ragged in places and had to be cleaned up.  Worse, the opening in the medium format holder was about 1mm too short for the glass carrier to fit into completely, leaving it sticking up on one end.  I had to shave the inside of the holder with an x-acto knife to get the glass to fit.  Also troubling, the opening in the lower level of the holder was about 2mm too narrow; it cut off at least a mm of the actual image area on the top and bottom.

I was hoping that dust would be less visible in the wet scans.  It turns out quite the opposite, as you can see from the scans above.  To be fair, I was using a static-free brush, and not the recommended compressed air; but the brush is what I always use for the dry scans.

The Lumina fluid left a very fine white residue when it dried.  It didn’t seem to be that big a deal; but a brief rinse of the negatives after scanning might be a good idea.  According to the material data safety sheet at parrotcolor.com, the mystery fluid is paraffin petroleum distillate, or mineral oil.  [Another Lumina fluid MSDS, originally the only one I found, is available at ecolabmsds.ca; this one is made of ethoxydiglycol.]


CONCLUSION:

I hate to say it, but I don’t think that wet mounting is worth the trouble and mess, at least for scanning medium or large format with my humble Epson 4870.  The advantages are mostly evident at the “pixel-peeping” level.  And I had expected the ScanScience hardware to be more professionally made.  Just my two bits . . . .


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