Tim Layton Fine Art | Wet Mount Scanning vs. Dry Mount with Epson V750 Scanner

Wet Mount Scanning vs. Dry Mount with Epson V750 Scanner

May 31, 2015  •  20 Comments

I frequently use my Epson V-750 to quickly scan my films and post to the web and even create up to 22-inch prints on my Epson 3880 printer.  I have a professional lab that prints all of my retail work, but I still want the best possible scan and print that I can create, even if it is for myself, friends, and family or the occasional small print that a client may need.  I use a professional Creo scanner for my large format sheet films up to 11x14 when I need the absolute best quality and/or very large reproduction prints made. 

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I should first outline my goals and methods before sharing my results.  I mostly use 4x5 and 8x10 sheet film, either E-6 chromes or negatives (C-41 and B/W).  I want to produce the sharpest scan possible without any corrections being made by the scanner.  I want to produce a 16-bit TIFF file that is an equivalent of a RAW file in the digital realm.  I have a variety of scanning software, but I have determined that the provided Epson Scanning software produces the best RAW file as compared to the other software that I own.  I used the Epson scanning software for this test.  

I should also mention that I have used the Epson film holders, the aftermarket holders from betterscanning.com, and the Epson provided wet mounting station in addition to the new material that I tested for this article.  If you are an 8x10 large format photographer, I will share a summary at the bottom of the article providing you some tips and insights. 

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For the first test, I selected a perfectly exposed sheet of 4x5 Velvia 100 slide film.  For one scan, I used a custom mounting frame that I made.  I use a non-sticky blue painters type tape to secure the slide film to the frame and simply scanned the film at 1200 DPI.  You could also use an archival type tape that you can get from your local art store as well.  

For the second scan, I used Kami fluid and wet mounted the film to the scanner platen glass as suggested by Aztek to get a sharper scan.  

Below is a snapshot of my 4x5 and 8x10 frames that I made.  Keep in mind that this test is with 4x5 film and not 8x10.

I knew based off of some custom ANR holders that I purchased from BetterScanning.com about what thickness I needed to get.  I went shopping around town and found what I thought was a good candidate. I ended up buying a rubber dog mat that is used under their food bowls.  

I used the provided 8x10 film guide that I got with the Epson scanner and made the 8x10 frame first and then I modified that design for the 4x5 frame.  I spray painted the bottoms with flat black paint and let them dry in the sun for a day before using the following day.  You can probably see that I laid down a sheet of film on the material and traced around it and then made the cut out about 1/8" shorter on all sides so that the film would overlap and provide a way to tape the film taught across the opening.  I just use blue painters tape to secure my film that I get from my local hardware store.  You could use archival tape if you already have that on hand as well.  

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I found that one method produced a much sharper scan.  I have included the images below and a 1:1 crop from each scan below the full scene.  

Scan # 1

Scan # 1 1:1 crop

Scan # 2

Scan # 2 1:1 Crop

I think it is fairly easy to determine that scan number 1 produced the sharpest results.  

I don't want to ruin the results by disclosing which scan was via the dry method using my custom frame vs. the wet mounting method on the platen glass just yet.  

According to Aztek (via their website), a wet scan using the Epson provided wet mount kit produced inferior results when compared to wet scanning directly to the scanner platen glass.  You can visit their website and view the information for yourself.  So, as you have likely guessed, I had to see for myself and then compare my personal results to the two scans above.  

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Using the Epson provided wet mount kit, I performed a wet scan on the 4x5 sheet film.  I have included the full scene below and a 1:1 crop as I did with the above two tests.  

Scan # 3

Scan # 3 1:1 Crop


And now to disclose the methods used for each scan.  For scan # 1, I used my custom framing method for a dry scan.  For scan # 2, I used the wet mounting method directly on the scanner platen glass.  For scan # 3, I used the Epson provided wet mount kit.  

Note: if you are an 8x10 sheet film user, the dry frame that I showed you in this article will provide very acceptable results for most people.  The Epson provided wet mounting kit can't handle 8x10 sheet film.  

In my environment with my scanner, I found that my dry mounting method with my custom frame (scan # 1) produced a much sharper result than wet mounting the film directly to the platen glass as suggested by Aztek (scan #2).  I found that the wet mounted scan with the Epson provided wet mounting kit produced the sharpest scan of all three.  Keep in mind that the Epson supplied wet mounting kit will work on film sizes up to 4x5.  

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I would make the following recommendations based on my results.  If you don't want to wet mount scan then build a custom frame like I did and you will get very good results. If you want the absolute best possible scan, then wet mount on the Epson provided wet mount kit for sheet films up to 4x5.  Wet mounting also provides another benefit which cuts your time in post-production significantly by eliminating most of the spotting touch up work.  Also, negative films benefit even more than slide film, so if you are using negative film (C-41 or black and white), then wet mounting with the Epson kit is the best way to go.  If you want to wet mount 8x10 sheet films on this scanner and get the type of results that I shared with the 4x5 sheet film, then you are going to have to find an aftermarket wet mounting kit or build something yourself.  


However, you should not blindly accept my test results.  I strongly suggest that you conduct similar tests with your own scanner and let your results make your final decision.  I didn't test with the betterscanning.com frame because I have been scanning and using that setup for years.  I already knew the results that I would get.  If money is a factor, I would suggest that you make a custom mat as I described above and use that as a starting place.  If you decide to invest in holders from betterscanning.com, then you have a baseline for your own comparisons.  I found that my simple mat frames produce sharper scans in my environment.  If you want the ultimate scan then you are going to have to wet mount your films.  There are a lot of variables when performing tests like this, so don't take my word as the gospel, perform your own tests and then send me an email and let me know what you discovered.

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Brilliant guide. Thanks very much. Every thing I've read states not to mount directly on the glass as the scanner is fix focused. Its strange that Aztek reccomends it. The mounts are at least 1mm above the glass, so your film needs to be as well, because of the focus set to above the scanners glass. J. Riley Stewarts comment below about using a ruler on an incline to determine focus height is genius. Making my own mount has to be the way forward, along withnthe ruler method. Thanks again.
PaintBox Soho(non-registered)
That was a really great blog! There is so less information available on the web regarding technicalities of mounting techniques. Your blog was very insightful.. looking forward to read more pieces written by you.
J. Riley Stewart(non-registered)
I used the V700 for years before getting a drum scanner. V700 has the same mechanical specs as the V750. I made an 8x10 acrylic wet-mount holder for the V700 that sat on the scanner platen, but raised to focus height using layers of masking tape as 'feet.' Wet mount the neg(s) to the acrylic and overlay with mylar. Scan 35mm, 120, or 4x5 in multiples using this new surface.

To determine focus height, I scanned a transparent ruler placed at an incline over the platen and determined the distance from platen that resulted in sharpest focus. Then used masking tape to raise the acrylic sheet to that distance. Easier done than said. Need only do the focus calibration once (I went to this effort as I suspected my Epson holders/feet were out of calibration with my machine focussing, and I was right.) Hope this helps.
Great article! Thanks for sharing and doing all the research! I haven't started scanning my negatives and am looking to do so in the future. This was very helpful.
Tim Layton Fine Art
Hi Peter, thanks for your comments and question. Yes, I use a blue non-sticky painters tape and you can also use an archival tape that you can buy at art stores too. Stay in touch.

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