Product Review: Variable Height Mounting Station Variable Height Mounting Station makes custom film holders for Agfa, Canon, Epson,and Microtek scanners. Specifically, film is mounted to the ANR glass (Anti- Newton Ring) of the Variable Height Mounting Station wet OR dry, and the position of the film/holder is perfectly fine-tuned to each individual scanner for optimized and highest quality scans. For comparison, my film is “snapped” into the stock Epson film holder supplied with my Epson V700, and the holder and scan quality are both marginal at best when compared to the BetterScanning product:

    * the Epson holder plastic flexes (allowing for less-than-perfectly-flat film while in the holder);
    * while in the Epson holder, the film is supported only at the edges, permitting the possibility of ‘gravity sag’;
    * the stock Epson V700 4×5″ film holder is simply NOT TUNED to the scanner’s sharpest focus.
    * the stock Epson 4×5″ film holder CROPS all four sides of your negs/chromes (including image area!), as the film edges are covered by the “frame” of the Epson holder. If you’re like me and compose your images “to the edges” in-camera, then you don’t want a film holder to trim your image area! Let me make this cropping choice, Epson!

Please note that this is not an exhaustive review, and I’m not going to provide any scientific or numerical data beyond the visual: the scans speak for themselves. I have been using the Epson V700 and BetterScanning Variable Height Mounting Station for almost a year, and I’m consistently amazed at the quality gap between these holders. See for yourself…

I posted the photograph (just above, at left) on this blog on December 22. You’re seeing the full image here, with the crops below taken from various parts it. Please note that the cropped samples below are raw scans with basic Levels adjustment (Photoshop) and NO sharpening. The film was dry-mounted to the Variable Height Mounting Station, and the scans were made with identical settings and resolution.

50% resolution crop

LEFT: Here’s a 50% resolution crop taken from the lower left corner. I don’t think I need to say much. Striking, huh?

25% resolution crop

RIGHT: Here’s a 25% resolution crop taken from the lower right corner. Interestingly, even at higher magnification, the difference in quality is fairly slight here, which leads me to believe that my Epson holder may in fact be warped or may hold the film far from perfectly flat.

25% resolution crop

25% resolution crop

LEFT: Here’s a 25% resolution crop taken from near the center of the image. Once again, I don’t think I need to say much.

RIGHT: And finally, here’s one also from near the center, this time at 100% resolution. Again, I say STRIKING!

To my way of thinking, the Epson film holder issue is a typical Epson problem. They make great printers and inks, but Epson papers are under-developed and behind the pack; they make a great black and white printing RIP (Advanced Black & White AKA “ABW”) but it’s not been fully developed (after this many years in production, you’d think you could save and recall ABW settings by now); they make great flatbed scanners (especially for the price), but the film holders are not well conceived and not well-tuned to the scanners for which they’re fit. It’s easy enough to use third-party papers and another RIP, but until the BetterScanning Variable Height Mounting Station came along, one had to live with imperfect Epson film holders and marginal scans or outsource drum scans.

Epson flatbed scanners have always made very capable enlargements up to 11×14″ or maybe even 16×20″, but beyond that, the scan resolution appeared to fall apart. With the BetterScanning Variable Height Mounting Station, even bigger enlargements are possible. I’ll refrain from stating the maximum possible enlagement, since we all have very different ideas of “acceptable” detail and sharpness (“A variable height holder will not turn your scanner into an expensive dedicated film scanner but it will help you obtain all of the potential resolution your particular scanner offers”). However, I’ll still argue that for the most critical output at the largest sizes, nothing will outperform a quality drum scan.

The Variable Height Mounting Station is available for the following Epson flatbed scanners: 1680; 2450; 3170; 3200; 4180; 4490; 4870; 4990; V500; V700; V750. The wet-mount-only holder is only $85, while the wet/dry holder is $120. If you are serious about your scanning, this is a nominal investment to make for a major scanning upgrade. Please note that I do not have any affiliation or business interests with the company, nor was I given a free Variable Height Mounting Station or paid for my review – I’m simply an enthusiastic user. How could I not be?

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

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Digital Printing Insights #7: Media Type Settings


the Media Type selection

Exactly what does the Media Type (or Paper Type in non-Epson drivers) setting control? Most importantly and critically, it determines the amount of ink coverage (or ink density) that the paper will receive (in addition to: drying time between printer head passes; paper thickness; platen gap, and many other variables). The Media Type selection is not something to be taken lightly – the quality of your prints depends greatly upon having made the right selection.

So you’ve got a new inkjet paper that you really like, but it’s made by a third-party vendor (not the same manufacturer as your printer). Naturally, the Epson printer driver Media Type selector (click the image at left for a larger view) does NOT include a media selection for your new inkjet paper since it is non-Epson. So how do you know what media type to choose? Check first with your paper manufacturer’s website. Most not only provide free printer profiles for their papers (more on this below), but they also share other technical specifics; including what media selection should be used in conjunction with their paper. What if they do not suggest a media selection or provide profiles for your printer? Time to start printing and testing! Select the most appropriate match to your media type (for instance, select Matte Paper if you’re printing to a matte paper), and make test prints with each of the specific media choices available under Matte Paper. Allow sufficient time for drying (I suggest 12-24 hours), and carefully analyze the subsequent prints. You’re looking for the most dense ink coverage you can get without any ink bleeding; that is, the inks are not running or bleeding into white border of the paper. The prints should be smooth and ink dots should not be visible to the naked eye. Once you determine which media type gets you there, record it and stick with this setting each time you print.

Now you’ve got your media type dialed in, but the paper manufacturer does not provide a printer profile for you to use. No worries! I create very high-quality and low-cost custom printer/paper profiles and getting one is very easy and fast. Please visit for more information and to order. Please be sure to read the testimonials of my many happy print-making clients.

Thanks for tuning in! If you have any suggestions for future editions of Digital Printing Insights, please let me know!

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website

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