Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


With BetterLight Scanning Back at Point Lobos

A review note by Uwe Steinmueller @Digital Outback Photo

Also photos by Bettina Steinmueller & Michael Collette



BetterLight for Landscape Photography


Scanning backs are kind of modified flatbed scanners attached to a camera. They dominate the art reproduction market and are often used for product shots. The resolution delivered is 6000x8000 (3x48MP, 3x as they capture all three RGB colors, Betterlight also produces a higher res back). A capture of one shot can take 35-600 seconds. This also means that all sort of movements (camera and/or subject) are the enemy of any scanning back shots. This means also that landscape photography is limited to more or less static scenes.

But if everything works fine the BetterLight back can deliver stunning detailed images. First we saw great landscape photos by Stephen Johnson that showed the potential of (miss)using the BetterLight scanning back for landscape work. Also our friend Jim Collum uses a BetterLight now for over two years (his passion just revived as the new USB unit is a lot faster and much lighter to carry). So we know what a BetterLight image can be if all works fine.

We also recently started using a modified digital InfraRed (IR) camera. The scanning back does not have it's own IR cut-off filter and needs a IR cut-off filter in front or behind the lens. But this also means that the BetterLight back can capture visual and IR at the same time if we leave the IR cut-off filter off. So we invited Mike Collette (President of BetterLight) for a session in Point Lobos. Our goal was to photograph the Old Veteran Cypress with and without the IR cut-off filter.

Mike Collette optimizing the exposure

All the equipment used by Mike (except the tripod) was in this backpack. Once the 4x5 camera was setup Mike used pre scans to optimize the tonality and perfect exposure.

WB was set using a digital gray card

Note: The bellow of his 4x5 camera leaks some IR and that is why Mike covers it with the red cloth.

All BetterLight photos are copyright Michael Collette.

Round #1: Veterans Cypress

Shot without IR cut-off filter

We think that IR photos give us an additional technique to be creative.

Note: You may realize that the IR shots has a brighter center spot. This happens with some longer lenses. Solutions:

  • For IR color shots burn the center
  • For IR B&W or false color shots you can replace the blue channel by the green or red channel

with IR cut-off filter

100% magnification (of a 6000x8000 pixel image)

Yes, the BetterLight can deliver stunning fine detail. But there also artifacts due to some movement:

Moving shrubs

Fortunately this can be fixed using some moire removal techniques:

Fixed artifacts


We provide our readers a larger crop for download (about 3.5MB). Again remember the full image is 6000x8000 pixels!

Round #2 Point Lobos Rocks

IR shot

with IR cut-off filter

good detail

Water artifacts:

moving water

Same fix as above

We provide our readers a larger crop for download (about 3MB). Again remember the full image is 6000x8000 pixels!

We think we had a good day and the BetterLight proved that you can use it for high detailed landscape shots if you carefully select more static objects and are willing to do some fixes in post processing.

Some 1Ds IR shots

We also used the chance to take a few IR shots:

Root of Old Veteran Cypress (B&U Steinmueller)

False Color Rocks (B&U Steinmueller)

We want to thank Mike Collette for the fun experience.


For more information on BetterLight check out their website.


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