Fine Art Imaging: A Review of the Rencay Scan Back and Other Reproduction Options

Rencay SuperFineArt Scan Back system set up at CyberCopy

CyberCopy is proud to announce the purchase of the first Rencay SuperFineArt Scan Back in the United States. Manufactured in Germany, this type of high-resolution scanner is used by select museums, libraries, cultural heritage organizations, galleries, photographers, and fine artists for reproduction and preservation of rare art, maps, documents, glass plates, books, and dimensional objects. I will go through commonly asked questions, but if you have more please contact me directly at CyberCopy. I would be happy to help.

What is the Rencay SuperFine Art Scan Back?

Rencay SuperFineArt Scan Back

The Rencay SuperFineArt Scan Back is equipment that is attached to a professional 4 x 5 camera to create the highest resolution scanning results possible: 26,000 x 16,000 (2.3 GB) Maximum Resolution (48-bit RGB File) Output Size at 300 ppi 86.7" x 53.3". It is used by artists to scan their original art for reproduction and by art collectors for art preservation. There are four types of cameras in the RENCAY series: SuperFineArt, Archive, Foto8, and Foto4 with a variety of capabilities. The SuperFineArt model has maximum resolution capabilities.

What are the largest and smallest areas that can be captured by the Rencay SuperFineArt Scan Back?

For fine art, we can scan up to 10 ft. x 5 ft. and as small as a post card, 3 in. x 5 in. or even smaller. Technically there are no practical limits on the size of the original for two or three-dimensional artwork.

Large Painting

How does the Rencay Scan Back work?

The Rencay Scan Back is a digital scanning sensor attached to the back of a professional 4x5 camera and illuminated with continuous light sources designed for art reproduction. Once the setup is complete it looks like a camera, but is actually a scanner. The art is safely handled as is placed on the wall, laid down on a flat surface, or simply identified (if it is a mural). An experienced visual artist conducts a “pre-scan,” which looks like a picture is being taken, but actually the computer software locates the art area and identifies the complexity of the image. Next, an estimate of actual scanning time is calculated and the operator adjusts the image and re-calibrates certain areas for color precision and lighting. When the final scan is created, the operator edits the digital image further until it mirrors the original exactly.

How is the Rencay SuperFine Art Scan Back technology unique?

The Rencay SuperFineArt Scan Back offers the highest resolution available, captures the broadest range of image types and sizes, requires very little maintenance, and is transportable. Using a three-scan RGB process, it is the only fine art scanner that can scan a 48-bit image file, that is 416 megapixels (16,000 x 26,000 pixels) without interpolation. Most digital cameras use the RGB color filter patterns on the sensors, such as the Bayer Filter Mosaic. A Rencay Scan Back uses three rows of light-sensitive photodiodes each covered by a red, green, or blue color filter, making the entire row sensitive to only one primary color at a time leading to a more accurate color.

Bayer Filter Mosaic

Rencay 3-Scan RGB Process
Why is Rencay Scan Back not more widely used?

Like most specialized photographic equipment, the Rencay Scan Back is expensive, requires a skilled operator, and demands a dedicated amount of space for installation. With a Rencay Scan Back it is necessary to invest in a camera solely for the purpose of high resolution imaging. Typically, photographers select cameras that will allow them versatility to photograph a variety of subject matter even if it may sacrifice some image quality and file size.

How does the Rencay Scan Back compare to other technologies of its kind?

Scan Back Cameras

The only other Scan Back system in the United States is the Better Light Digital Camera Insert, which is no longer in business. Rencay stepped in to fill the place of Better Light and developed a higher resolution Scan Back technology. The Rencay SuperFineArt model scans enhanced maximum resolution of 16,000 x 26,000 pixels at 300 dpi for a 48 bit RGB file.

Rencay Scan Back

Better Light Digital Camera Insert

DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) Cameras

Canon 5DS and 5DS RMark II

DSLR cameras (i.e. Nikon, Canon, etc.) are often used by professional photographers for editorial, sports, and fashion photography. They are also used for copying books, slides, photos, and documents less than 8 ½ x 11 inches or for website use. Larger images are scanned in sections and then stitched together in the editing process. Interpolation of the color data and file size limit these cameras from being adequate tools for art reproduction. DSLR cameras can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a several thousand dollars, and are available in resolutions of up to 53 megapixels.

Medium Format Cameras

Hasselblad H5D-200c

Medium Format Cameras (i.e. Phase One, Hasselblad, Sinar) are similar to cameras that used a 120 size roll film prior to the digital age. The sensors are twice the size of DSLR Cameras and use the same Bayer pattern sensor design. Medium format cameras are costly and require the use of expensive electronic lenses and lighting equipment. Some of these cameras have a special mechanical system that moves the sensor for a series of 4,6, or more exposures to provide pure “non-interpolated” color data and larger file sizes. Phase One offers a 100 megapixel “single-shot back”, Sinar offers a 16-shot back that produces 192-megapixel files, and Hasselblad offers a 6-shot back to accommodate a 200-megapixel file.

Fixed Photographic Scanning Units

Cruse Synchron Scanner

Some institutions and companies that are imaging high volumes often turn to a self-contained, semi-automated system such as the Cruse Scanner. It is very expensive and takes a large amount of area because of the movable platform where the art rests. The scanner uses a tri-linear RGB sensor and has a stationary camera system and fixed lighting that illuminates a small capture area while the art is moved during the scan. Common issues with the Cruse Scanner include high cost of purchasing the scanner, expensive maintenance program, limitation of art size, focus issues, and low color quality.

Large Flatbed Scanners

Large Flatbed Scanners

Literally like a very large desktop scanner, the artwork is laid onto the glass surface and the art is scanned. If the artwork is larger than the glass plate, multiple scans will be needed and stitched together on the computer. Most large flatbed scanners use a tri-linear RGB sensor producing color quality that is non-interpolated. However, flatbed scanners use florescent lamps are not able to capture a high-quality light spectrum or produce accurate colors.

Roller Transport Large Format Scanners

Roller Transport Large Format Scanner

Technologies vary, but the limitations of this type of scanner for artwork is the danger it presents in passing fragile documents or artwork through a roller system. There is always the chance that dust or dirt can be carried through the system or the original could be damaged. Rigid artwork cannot be scanned on most of these devices.

Fine Art Scanning Technology Table

The Fine Art Scanning Technology Table represents the main category options in art reproduction and the information presented is based on leading equipment in that particular field. The Better Light Scan Back is listed next to the Rencay Scan Back for comparison purposes even though they both fall in the “Scan Back” technology category.

Technology TypeMaximum Size of Original ArtworkNative Resolution @100% (48-bit RGB File) Output Size @ 300 ppiMegapixel Rating at Native / Maximum ResolutionMaximum Resolution (48-bit RGB File) Output Size @ 300 ppiSafe Handling Level for ArtworkScans 3D ArtworkCaptured Color Data
Rencay SuperFineArt Scan BackUnlimited — (Restricted only by photographic environment)13000 x 8000 pixels (595 MB) 43" x 26.7"104 /416 Megapixels26000 x 16000 (2.3 GB) 86.7" x 53.3"SAFE — Art positioned on copy board or easel.YESTri-Linear RGB Sensor Non-Interpolated, Pure RGB Color Data.
Better Light Super8K-HS Scan BackUnlimited — (Restricted only by photographic environment)10600 x 8000 pixels (488 MB) 35.5" x 26.7"84.8 / 192 Megapixels15990 x 12000 pixels (1.1 GB) 53" x 40"SAFE — Art positioned on copy board or easel.YESTri-Linear RGB Sensor Non-Interpolated, Pure RGB Color Data.
DSLR — (35mm Format Single-Lens Reflex)Unlimited — (Restricted only by photographic environment)8688 x 5792 pixels (294 MB) 29.5" x 19"50.3 MegapixelsN/ASAFE — Art positioned on copy board or easel.YESCMOS Bayer Pattern. Interpolated color data.
Medium Format (6 x 4.5 cm) – Single ShotUnlimited — (Restricted only by photographic environment)11608 x 8708 pixels (578 MB) 38.6" x 29"101 MegapixelsN/ASAFE — Art positioned on copy board or easel.YESCMOS Bayer Pattern. Interpolated color data.
Medium Format (6 x 4.5 cm) – Multi-ShotUnlimited — (Restricted only by photographic environment)8272 x 6200 pixels (293 MB) 27" x 20"50 / 205 Megapixels16544 x 12400 pixels (1.1 GB) 55" x 40"SAFE — Art positioned on copy board or easel.YESCMOS Bayer Pattern Six-shot Microstep. Pure RGB Color Data.
Fixed Photographic Scanning Systems98" x 59" – Depending on Brand & Model9800 x 5900 pixels (330 MB) 32.7" x 19.7"58 / 336 Megapixels24000 x 14000 pixels (1.88 GB) 80" x 46.7"Artwork travels under camera and lighting. Art depth up to 4.5".LIMITEDTri-Linear RGB Sensor Non-Interpolated, Pure RGB Color Data.
Large Flatbed Scanners24" x 36" Depending on Brand & Model14400 x 9600 pixels 400 dpi / 24 bit Output (791 MB) 48" x 32"N/A28800 x 19200 800 dpi / 24 bit output (3.09 GB) 96" x 64"Art in contact with glass platenNOTri-Linear RGB Sensor Non-Interpolated, Pure RGB Color Data.
Roller-Transport Large Format ScannersUp to 54" wide and any length depending on Brand & Model508 dpiN/A9600 dpiTravels through roller system. Limited thickness. Not for fragile artwork.NOLinear RGB+ Gray Sensor Native Resolution is Non-Interpolated Color Data.

Article by Angelica Krupitsky,
Business Development Manager at CyberCopy
Bachelor in Fine Arts in Studio Art from University of South Carolina and Master in Business Administration from Hawaii Pacific University