How do I choose a film scanner?

Discussion in 'Scanners' started by John, Oct 25, 2005.

  1. John

    John Guest

    I've decided to scan my thousands of 35mm negatives and slides. The
    largest they will usually be be is 640x480, occasionally 800x600. if
    they do get printed, the largest I print is 8x10.

    Now, how do I choose a scanner? Obviously it should be USB 2.0 due to
    its universal ease of use. I never use APS film.

    Resolution. How do I decide how much resolution I need. I don't want to
    purchase more scanner than I need.

    Brands. Brand names only? Any brands to avoid?

    John, Oct 25, 2005
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  2. John

    Peter Chant Guest

    Why on earth would you want to scan at those tiny resolutions? Personally
    I'd want to go a bit higher as a minimum.

    Well, if you want 8x10 max with printing at 300dpi (proper pixels not ink
    jet ones) that would be 2400x3000 resolution. I suspect nearly all
    scanners are capable of this. Look at Dmax values, the range of tones the
    scanner can deal with. I find with mine that there are dark tones on
    slides that my scanner cannot handle. This seams to translate into
    excessively grainy skys when dealing with negs.

    I'm happy with my long in the tooth Acer Scanwitt but it does have
    limitations, but then its old.
    Peter Chant, Oct 25, 2005
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  3. John

    Peter Chant Guest

    John wrote:

    BTW, if you are going to post the same item to several newsgroups then it
    does make sense to cross post, provided there is a legitimate reason for
    posting in each of the groups. Posting the same article separately to and and presumably several
    others does not make much sense.

    It is also worth noting that this item is probally off topic for both of the
    above newsgroups.

    Peter Chant, Oct 25, 2005
  4. John

    John Guest

    I always see others crossposting and getting flamed for it. So, I
    decided to keep my questions answered by avoiding the distracting
    flames that cross posters suffer.

    Who knew...
    Thanks for the advice!
    John, Oct 25, 2005
  5. John

    Rod Smith Guest

    Most film scanners will give much higher resolutions than this as their
    minimums (see below).
    I agree with all of Peter's comments here. In particular, 300 dpi on the
    print is a good rule of thumb for the minimum resolution. To get the
    2400x3000 resolution Peter mentions, you'd need a scanner capable of 2540
    dpi. 2400 dpi models are fairly common, and skimping by that margin
    probably won't cause big problems; or you could go for 2700 dpi or higher.
    As a general rule, of course, the higher the resolution the more expensive
    the scanner. Some very low-end models do less than 2400 dpi. Also, not
    that some scanner manufacturers quote "interpolated" resolutions, which
    means that the software takes a lower-resolution scan and "fakes" a
    higher-resolution image. Be sure the resolution figure you're seeing in an
    ad is for a *TRUE* hardware resolution.

    More than brands there's technology. Broadly speaking there are two
    classes of film scanners: Dedicated film scanners and flatbed scanners
    with transparency/film capabilities. Dedicated film scanners can ONLY scan
    film (slides or negatives); they're designed with this purpose in mind.
    Flatbed scanners with film capabilities can scan regular paper documents
    but have a light source in the lid so that they can also scan slides or
    negatives. As such, flatbed scanners typically offer lower resolutions and
    fewer features than the dedicated film models, at least from a film
    scanning perspective. They also often produce slightly blurrier scans.
    Dedicated film scanners are typically more expensive than flatbed scanners
    with film capabilities. These are gross generalizations, though;
    top-of-the-line flatbed scanners with film capabilities will beat out
    bottom-of-the-line or old dedicated film scanners. A few
    bottom-of-the-line dedicated film scanners are also designed like flatbed
    scanners, but with small "beds" that work only with film. I've got a Web
    page with a scan of a sample photo done with three film scanners (plus a
    couple of flatbed scans of a print) that you might find informative:

    Of course, the results apply only to the specific scanners I tested, so
    don't try to apply them too broadly. Still, it should give you some idea
    of some of the differences you might see between scanners.

    Another feature you might want to consider is infrared (IR) dust and
    scratch removal. This is usually marketed as "digital ICE," which is the
    trade name for the combination of the IR channel with software support in
    the scanner software, but software that's not technically ICE can use the
    IR channel in much the same way. (The shareware VueScan, for instance, can
    use the IR channel for dust/scratch removal.) This feature is particularly
    handy with old slides and negatives. It's useless with conventional B&W
    films, though, and it works poorly with Kodachrome slides. It's been
    common on high-end dedicated film scanners for a while now, and is slowly
    working its way down the product lines. Few flatbed scanners support it,
    but I believe one or two now do (I don't recall which ones, though).

    As to specific brands and models, I very much like my Minolta DiMAGE Scan
    Elite 5400, but it's probably more than you need. (It does 5400 dpi and is
    pretty much a top-of-the-line consumer-level scanner.) Minolta and Nikon
    have been duking it out for king of the consumer scanner market. Other
    brands certainly have capable products, though, so I wouldn't count them
    out. There's no specific brand I'd recommend avoiding.
    Rod Smith, Oct 25, 2005
  6. I agree its off topic never the less we can be patient and answer
    his question, can we not?

    To the OP you probably want a dedicated film scanner and probably just
    a 35mm one correct? Well Nikon and KonicaMinolta make good ones in that

    The Nikons offer batch scanning, which if you just want a visual record
    makes sense. Also the scanner can do outstanding scans on an image by
    image basis. Nikon Coolscans range from 575-1,000

    Konica-Minolta range from 300-575,...give or take on these two brands.
    Gregory Blank, Oct 25, 2005
  7. I would send them to a service bureau with a fast scanner
    and a bulk feeder.

    I have an old scanner that takes about 5 minutes / slide for
    a decent scan -> 5,000 slides * 5 minutes => ~400 hours (== 10 weeks
    (== 2 1/2 months)) of sitting in front of the scanner.
    Oh, hell, put them on a flat bed and scan at 300 - 600 dpi. You
    can fit 20 slides or 35 negatives on a 'page'.
    What sort of quality are you looking for:

    480 pix / 8" = 60 pix/inch;
    common wisdom is you need 300 pix/inch when you print;
    300dpi on an 8x10 means a 2400 x 3600 dpi scan of the negative;
    see first sentence above.

    With a 640x480 scan your max print size is 2 1/8" x 1 5/8".
    If it were me, the interface would be the _last_ of my considerations.
    I would choose on D-Max, _real_ resolution, dust removal (ICE), does it
    work with Kodachrome, stack feeder/unattended operation, time/scan, $$$ ...
    I don't think anybody else does, either.
    Most any modern scanner will do a sort-of acceptable job at
    producing a 2400x3600 scan - that's 8.6 Mpix/scan, btw. 5,000
    scans x 8.6 Mpix = 43 Gbytes, so look for scan software that
    does a whole lot of compression on the fly.
    I didn't know there were any 'off brands' in scanners ...
    JC Penny's Penncraft, K-Mart 'Focal', Cambron?

    Konica/Minolta and Nikon would be safe bets. There are plenty
    of others.
    Nicholas O. Lindan, Oct 25, 2005
  8. John

    John Guest

    Thank you everyone for all the on-target information. You all made a
    tough decision a lot easier!
    John, Oct 25, 2005
  9. John

    Mike Guest

    You can't scan at 800x600 and get a quality 8x10 print.

    If you aren't interested in the best quality scans, I would get a flatbed
    like the Epson 4990. You can put several strips of negatives on the glass
    and scan them all.

    If you want a print, rescan individually at a higher resolution.
    Mike, Oct 25, 2005
  10. John

    Rod Smith Guest

    Cross-posting is posting a single message to multiple groups. Although
    some people object to this in all cases, I don't see why. Assuming it's
    non-spam and is actually on-topic for all the groups, it does no real
    harm; the message consumes no extra bandwidth or storage space on servers,
    and the vast majority of mail readers display it only once, so even if you
    read multiple groups to which a message was posted, you'll see it only

    The alternative, to which Peter Chant objected, was multi-posting, in
    which a single message is posted multiple times to multiple groups.
    Multi-posting results in wasted network bandwidth, wasted storage space on
    servers, and wasted time of readers who see the same message (the title,
    at least, and maybe the whole message) in multiple groups. I don't know of
    anybody who's knowledgeable in newsgroup protocols and etiquette who
    advocates multi-posting as an alternative to cross-posting. Unfortunately,
    those who jump down the throats of cross-posters often leave the
    cross-posters thinking that multi-posting is preferable, but it's not.

    As a general rule, if you must post to multiple groups, cross-post. If you
    find yourself cross-posting to more than two or three groups, chances are
    you're posting too broadly; the message is most likely on-topic in only a
    subset of groups. THAT is really the harm in cross-posting, because it
    wastes the time of those who read the groups in which the post is
    off-topic. Unfortunately, in which groups a given post is on-topic is
    often a judgement call.
    Rod Smith, Oct 26, 2005
  11. John

    Peter Chant Guest

    Well, I had a ago as have several others. It was just a friendly hint, not
    a flame. :)
    Peter Chant, Oct 26, 2005
  12. Not taken as such by me -take care.
    Gregory Blank, Oct 26, 2005
  13. John

    Matt Clara Guest

    The Acer ScanWit is a well kept secret. I used one for years, finally
    replacing it with an 8000ED, and was surprised to find only a marginal
    quality improvement. Most of that is in the tools available. The Acer has
    very good dynamic range and very little noise in the shadows. I think today
    it's made by BenQ, and I can't speak to its quality under the new ownership,
    though it looks unchanged: My acer eventually
    started adding dust flecks in to my images, and I couldn't clean them out,
    even though I took it apart and cleaned it carefully. It might just be

    To the OP, keep in mind scanning several thousand images on a dedicated film
    scanner is going to take a very long time. At 25 seconds per scan (the Benq
    claim), 1000 images would take 17+ days (round the clock) to scan, and that
    doesn't include setup time, so you could probably safely double that.
    Matt Clara, Oct 30, 2005
  14. John

    Matt Clara Guest

    Sorry, my math sucks. Make that 6.95 hours, which you could safely double
    to 14 hours of labor, which isn't too bad, really.
    Personally, I'd only scan those that are real keepers, and I'd do it at high

    How the hell did I come up with 17 days? I don't know.
    Matt Clara, Oct 30, 2005
  15. John

    Stewy Guest

    Scanning is REALLY time consuming and tedious - it's marginally more
    interesting than watching paint dry, but not much.

    Consider the first session as your most productive, after that the scan
    sessions will get shorter or actually longer as you wander away from the
    pooter during the scan. Whatever timescale you're thinking of multiply
    by a factor of 10 - unless of course, you hire a high-end scanner by the
    A 25 second scan is very optimistic (unless it's 110 size film) - 1
    minute or 75 seconds is probably more accurate.
    Stewy, Nov 5, 2005
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