Print File negative sleeves

Print File is a Floridian company that makes what we believe to be the finest negative sleeves in the world. They make numerous sizes: for example, for years we have stored all our 35mm negatives in their 35-7BXW, 7 strips of 6 negatives. We are willing to accept oversize pages in order to get a whole film into one sleeve: if you have 7 strips of 5 (another option) then you have to discard at least one frame of a 36-exposure film.

120 and 35mm

We put very little information on our sleeves because the sleeve accession number refers us directly to Roger's processing notebook.

We initially chose Print File partly for ease of use and partly for the archival excellence. Then, a few years ago, we found another use for them: making scanned 'contact sheets'.


Any flatbed scanner with a full-format transparency hood will do, but with most, if you want all the 35mm images in full, you have to scan the sheet in two bites and stitch the two halves together in Photoshop or something similar (it's rarely a problem with 120). Alternatively, if it's just an aide-memoire to what is on the film, you can do as we have in the picture on the right and resign yourself to losing the ends of the strips. Then you can scan the whole thing at once.

Unlike a proper 'wet' contact sheet, image resolution is too low to make any useful assessment of sharpness, but our feeling is that you should be able to take focus for granted, so it's really for spotting composition and subject matter, and helping you find the negative sheet with a given image in it.


Rollei Scanfilm


Although we use this technique much more for black and white than for colour, we used this ScanFilm sheet simply because it looked prettier -- though you can see the red fogging (blue in the negative, of course) that you get on the leader of Scanfilm if you load it under anything but the most subdued lighting. Because we used a red pen to mark the data section at the top of the sheet (white matte plastic that takes most media), it came out cyan when the negatives were rendered as positives.


Practically, the limiting factor for resolution is file size -- scanning a whole sheet of negs at (say) 600 dpi, let alone 1200 dpi, eats up an enormous amount of file space -- but another consideration is that while Print File sleeves are more than adequate for 'contact sheets', they are not perfectly optically clear and we'd not like to scan for repro through the sleeve.

Generally, if we print out the 'contacts' at all, we do so on A3 or A3+ paper, near enough 12x17 inch. But often we just check them on the screen: of course, you can just zoom in on a single frame if you like.

One other useful thing you can do with these 'contacts' is electronically crop out a single image and apply the usual image manipulation tools electronically: contrast, dodging, burning. Because of the tiny file sizes (we normally save as fairly low-quality JPEGs) everything happens pretty much instantaneously. You can then use this as a guide to real processing, whether in the darkroom or on the computer with a high-resolution scan.

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© 2007 Roger W. Hicks