Cheap affordable drum scanner?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by xuan_zheng|1, Feb 10, 2011.

  1. I have had done the calculation that buying a used Nikon 9000 ed isn't financially justifiable as to simply buying a used Howtek 4500.
    However, I am quite newbie at drum scanner, but don't worry, as I've reviewed the mounting process over youtube, it isn't as hard as I imagined and looked quite simple, simply applying fluid and squeeze it to ensure bubbles coming out, then seal it with some tapes for not letting fluid leaking out, that's it. As a computer science graduate, the software won't be a challenge for me either. The problem is how to choose a used drum scanner: I understand one should carefully inspect the surface of the drum.
    I have googled for quite a while and noticed several used Howtek 4500 selling for around $3000 with drum mounter and coming with software, looks like bargain to me. Any opinions?
    I mainly scan my 20 years old 35mm films(lots of them) and a few medium format of my parents', the problem with film scanner is that they ain't costing any cheaper than Howtek drum scanner. Why bother with CCD while you can get a DRUM scanner for same price?
  2. david_henderson


    You might have thought of all of this already, but before you buy a drum scanner that was built for use in labs with dedicated operators please check
    • How big and heavy it is, in terms of physically getting it to you and where to put it, and lifting it around to install it. They tend to de heavy and need a fair bit of space.
    • Where you can get a repair that will probably involve engineers visiting you rather than mailing it. How much those visits are likely to cost?
    • What the servicing requirements lmight be. Unlike consumer products drum scanners may well need a service from time to time to keep them running smoothly.
    • What sort of warranty if any is the seller offering? One significant repair might otherwise have you wishing that you'd bought a Coolscan.
  3. I ran both a Howtek and a ScanMate years ago. Both are great but there is a learning curve (especially gel mounting film on the drum). But a drum scanner will blow the doors off any CCD desktop unit in terms of quality. You ask why bother with CDD when you can get drum scan quality and its a good question. Its going to be more labor intensive and hopefully you have an old enough computer to run the older scan software (which may or may not be as user friendly as a more modern software designed for the masses). Getting it repaired? Scary. But if quality is your goal, a PMT drum is the way to go.
  4. Why bother with CCD while you can get a DRUM scanner for same price?​
    Keep us updated on how this works out. If there's a happy ending here, I'd like to pick up a similar.
    I have both a Nikon 5000 and 9000. The Flextight is not interesting; the scans are almost indistinguishable from that Coolscans. However, the few true drum scan images I have are indeed noticeably, and materially better. I've got a bunch of 135 and 6x7 Acros negatives that could surely benefit.
  5. I had plenty of time available, learning drum mounting sounds fun and I am a quick learner. I need high quality scanning as these photos are very old and have great memories of my youth. Nikon coolscan 9000 now costs at ridiculous price range and that's why I decided to go for drum.
    Currently residing in Toronto, Ontario, makes me harder to get a decent used drum scanner than most our southern neighbours, I would like to know where to look in NY state, or Michigan or any adjacent states for a cross-border shopping spree. Or anyone is selling off their used drum scanner?
    I also need to know what to look at a used drum scanner, as far as I understand, the drum must be in great round shape and one should exam for cracks on drum, whatelse am I supposed to look after?
    I had a used imac g3, or if not I had virtual machine that emulates older Mac OS, and hope it will work with older drum scanners.
  6. ETA:
    Originally I planned to get them scanned at some pro shop, but their price for drum scanning is ridiculously high, 200MB for $20, and as I understand, 200MB is only the filesize of ONE 35mm frame at 8000dpi, so far, for my 50 rolls of 35mm films, the cost would be 50*36*$20=$36000...
    I plan to sell it off immediately after finishing scanning all my films, so getting it serviced regularly isn't my concern as I have no intention to keep it any longer, simply hoping that it works until finishing all my 50 rolls and for a short supply of drum scanners here in Canada, I might able to sell it higher later.
    Or is there anyone here with a drum scanner willing to give me a help? I am willing to pay, as long as you don't charge ridiculously as those pro shops, and I am willing to travel a bit far to the states to get them done.
  7. The drum needs to be in good condition, no scratches etc. Mechanically, I have no idea how you’d know if its going to run for a day or a year.
    These folks might be helpful (at least in terms of getting supplies):
  8. Thanx for the replies.
    They were mainly C41, Kodak and Fuji negatives, the quality isn't great as most of them captured by cheap China made point&shoot. The labs back in China ain't great at processing them either. Also half of them were B&W as 30 years ago, there were no color films in China back in the 80s. My parents' photos were mainly 120 and 220 B&W if I recalled correctly, made by professional Chinese photo studios, not sure what camera they use, picture quality looks good. I also had 5 batches of Velvia and 1 roll of Kodachrome captured with high-end EOS 3+Canon pro lens, which I think deserve a good drum scan.
    I also have prints from the 80's but with NO films, back in those days, the labs in China won't return you films but only prints for market monopoly purpose.
    My situation is quite complicated as most of these films (except Kodachrome&Velvia) clearly showing aging and wish to get them scanned before their colors fading away.
  9. david_henderson


    Given what you have said about the pictures, I would question whether they need to be drum scanned. Why are you scanning them and what will you do with the scans?
    I've used drum scanning extensively to make large prints that i expect to be in an exhibition or on someone's wall. I wouldn't consider it right or necessary to maximise the scan quality of every image I want to digitise. Les Sarile's suggestion at the outset seems about right to me for most family archive or small/medium prints. What's more you'd find the learning curve to be easier and there's IMO a better chance you'd get your money back when you're done, for the Coolscan 5000 is a repairable scanner with a steady level of demand; you can send it by parcel-post, lift it easily and it should work with your computer.
    Scan quality should be driven by application requirements, not by a perception of what's best.
  10. ,,, the quality isn't great as most of them captured by cheap China made point&shoot.​
    Don't bother with drum scans for these. You will see zero improvement relative to a Nikon, or probably even a $100 flatbed scanner.
    Send these negatives out to ScanCafe as Les said. Alternatively, if you've got time on your hands, buy a Nikon. Use it. Put it back on the market when you're done. Chances are you might even fetch a higher price than the initial purchase.
  11. There are quite a few knowledgeable and helpful drum scan people at, just go into the Q and A section and ask whatever you want.
  12. Why do I need drum scanning them? For archival purpose, becoz probably I will never scan them again and their color will fade away in decades.
  13. david_henderson


    Your objective could be as well met by other types of scan, Indeed if you envisage that the needs of the future are little more than viewing on screen and the occasional proof sized print, you might even consider a flatbed which would scan the prints too. There is no merit in equipping yourself to do a job at a quality level no-one will ever see, even if that quality is there to begin with.
  14. Have a few typical negatives from the point and shoot camera drum scanned, and see if the results are worth it. A scanner can't bring out what isn't there.
  15. you probably don't understand my purpose, these films need to be preserved at its best, absolute best and squeezing out the last bit of details are necessary, the processing lab back in China ain't too great, lots of the negatives had noticeable color shift, and not to mention I had MF and 35mm velvia, kodachrome captured by eos 3+ 135mm 2L and 24mm 1.4L lens, the details are there.
  16. Xuan, I think we do understand your purpose. What people are saying is that for most of the film you need to scan, the scanner radically eclipses the quality of the film you're looking to scan. I would go so far as to say that with ANY 35mm negatives a drum scanner is money down the drain.
    Let me put it to you this way: you're buying $50,000 speakers so you can listen to your cheap Technics turntable from 1972. I guarantee you, beyond ANY chance of being wrong, that if you scan your family photos on a Coolscan with good software like Silverfast, anything you don't like about the images will be the negatives' fault. I scanned a roll of Ilford PanF+, rated at ISO 25, shot with a Nikon F5 and an 85mm f/1.4, and carefully developed by hand with Ilford Perceptol (which is a special developer for low speed films) and was able to make a good 24x36.
    And there is NO way that majority of the negatives you want to feed this thing will be anywhere near that quality.
  17. The coolscan 9000 ED now sells for $4999 only used, do you think the price is justifiable? imagine the MSRP was only $2000 for brand new.
  18. I wouldn't buy either. You want 200 mb files, but I'd be shocked if the negatives you were scanning produced any better images than 30 mb files. That 24x36 I got was from a file around 80 mb. Again, $50,000 speakers for a 1972 Technics turntable.
    Unless you're still shooting MF film (or you're being extremely conservative when you say 'a few rolls'), buying a scanner for it is more expensive, more time consuming, and frankly less intelligent than paying someone else to jerk around with it. Shoot, I still use a Hasselblad religiously, and I wouldn't buy a $5,000 scanner. I don't need to make massive prints of everything, so paying ten bucks to have my whole roll scanned, and occasisonally paying $20 for a really nice scan, makes much more sense to me - even though I shoot about a roll of 120 every week. It's all the quality I need, and unless said $5,000 scanner lasts me six years, it's still cheaper. And the best part is that I don't need to put up $5,000 all at once, or even do any of the work.
  19. Do go to the drum scanner group on Yahoo and follow the threads. You will learn a lot about drum scanning, and the "special" problems each brand seems to have... mainly computer software and interfaces.
  20. Hello, there is a respectable photo store in my city that has the 5000 ED in stock for roughly 2000 dollars, brand new with Vista compliant software:
    It's only 35 mm, but you can have this, and send the larger formats to someone.
  21. Even as a computer graduade it does not serve if you will have to deal with commercial software as you cannot adapt it to the newer Operating Systems (probably MS-Win), or there is a bug in the software, orit does not work how you'd like to. Have a look at the (currently at the frontpage of PN) thread concerning Vuescan to give an idea how you might become 'locked in''. The coolscan 8000 is working with the FOSS program Sane, so I'd go for that. The Coolscan 9000 seems to be a bit better as it has an (anti-aliasing?) filter. That's why I bought that one a few years ago. But unfortunately there is no FOSS driver, so its not supported by Sane. You also could take this opportunity with your computer skills: pick up a 9000 and develop a driver. Somebody already started to do so, but did not finish it. You can find this info on the Same forum. Though I am not experienced in driver development, I have some programming skills. I would be very pleased to collaborate in finishing a driver for the Nikon 9000 if you'd go for that way. The 9000 is a phantastic scanner, worth while to have a serious look at it.
  22. I agree $4000 is much too high for the 9000 ED. You will need a bit of patience when a better offer appears on the Internet. There is currently an auction of a Nikon 9000 ED at Fleebay. I really wonder if it will exceed $2300.
  23. The Nikon 9000 ed on ebay already exceeded $4000 mark, and it's a 2nd hand. So far looks like no substitution for a film scanner. Damn, I now willing to pay over 10k $ for a drum scanner and sell it off after finishing using it. most likely I can sell the drum scanner at the same price as I bought.
  24. I am referring to auction number 220736467073 at Its highest offer so far is US $2.025,00
  25. Xuan,
    If you do decide to pickup a used drum scanner, in addition to looking for "crazing" (the cracked glazed surface that will ruin a scan), you also want to see how easy it is to change the bulbs and the belts in the scanner. If possible, have the current owner, or the vendor, show you the scanner in action. As many others have said, getting updated software to work with current operating systems is often a challenge. As mentioned in another posting, Aztek, in Southern California, is a good place to pick up a used drum scanner, get service, and they also sell the supplies you will need to perform the scans and maintain your scanner.
    I disagree, yet not entirely, to using a flatbed for film scanning. A flatbed scanner, will almost always create a very "blocky" scan. Sorry, that's my technical term for a scan that destroys information hidden in the shadows and the highlights. If you learn the software's RAW mode, you may be able to get a better scan. As far as flatbed scanners go, you'd be lucky to get anything better than 2700-3200ppi of optical resolution even if the scanner claims 6400ppi. Most of the flatbed scanners on the market do not contain the focus-ability of the Nikon film scanners and drum scanners, and most have a glass tray in the way that just gives dust a few more surfaces to rest upon, but there is one exception.
    The Microtek M1/M1 Pro which uses Microtek's proprietary, glassless scan process is that exception. The Microtek ArtixScan line of scanners typically have better optics and the flatbed version of these scanners come with two scan beds - one for reflective material (with glass), and another for film (glassless). I have found that the M1 can produce scans that compare very well to the Nikon and Minolta scans, and surprisingly, they're still being sold between $600 - $850 (US$). The benefit to a scanner such as the M1, is that it is multi-format ready. You can scan film strips, slides, medium format, 4x5s, and larger using the various trays that come with the unit.
    Since I've used all the scanners mentioned above, plus a few more, I will say that the Nikon scanners are the best for bulk scans of 35mm and APS film. If it wasn't for the crappy software that Nikon shipped with the scanners, I'd say these scanners were almost perfect! If you have a relatively small collection of film to be scanned, and you have a bit of time on your hands, I would pick up a new or used Minolta Scan Multi-Pro or a Microtek ArtixScan flatbed scanner. Both of these scanners do 35mm filmstrips and slides and medium format film, but the Microtek will do more. All of these scanners have focus and multi-sampling features which makes all of them a good crop to pick from. Only the Microtek Artixscan M1/M1 Pro is currently on the market.
    If perfection is the only way to go, you have the money to spend, don't mind paying $25 per roll of tape, and you don't mind dousing your fingers with highly flammable oil-stripping chemicals, then a drum scanner may still be the way to go. You will be able to mount multiple frames, after some practice, and you will get scans that contain the smoothest gradation of colors and shades from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights, with very little grain aliasing. It is possible to get updated software that works with current operating systems, at least if you choose an Aztek/Howtek scanner (I don't know about the even more expensive Tango scanners).
    Seems there are still many choices available...even if they are getting rarer.
  26. How much does Howtek 8000 worth? I have seen a used Howtek 8000 somewhere coming with mounting station+drums+software selling for $8000USD, is it a good deal?
    btw, the seller(a company selling image equipments) would like me to pay in wire transfer if I was located outside of north america, is this usual? of coz I live in N.A and can pay by VISA, but it makes me wondering why this company only accepts wire transfer if I am outside of the continent.
  27. Ok, updates:
    I had a vendor selling a used Howtek D4000 pro drum scanner at my city, how much does it worth now? What do I must pay attention to when shopping this model?
    btw, I can't find such model anywhere, nor does it have any specifications. Is it newer or older than howtek 8000?
  28. forgot to mention the accessories.
    It comes with 4 drums, mounting station and fluid accessories. The interface is scsi-2, will it work with windows vista/xp with Silverfast?
  29. seems I've got too many questions to spare, hehe.
    One more question, I got Silverfast Ai for epson (bundled), will it work with the Howtek D4000?
  30. @Xuan: Howtek is supported by the folks at Aztek in Southern California. Check them out at - they will be able to answer most of your questions regarding the scanner. Silverfast AI for Epson will not work on the Howtek. Silverfast writes software specific to each scanner. They do not offer a cross-platform or universal software package.
  31. Ok, today I went to the owner who's selling this D4000 drum scanner. His main work is doing poster design and stuff.
    After booting up the machine, the machine threw a code F702 error, and I found out it's an indication of driving belts error mostly... The owner agreed to lower the price.
    The f702 error code thingy, could it be something else bad? such as the driving motor? The Aztek website stated that it's a code for drum speed error and 90% of the time, the belt is the culprit.
    As I touched the belt, it seems to be not super tight (never saw a real working belt, just my guess), but can still spin the the drum.
    The owner claimed that he hasn't used it for 8 years, and about to sell them without bothering to order belts from aztek.
    Also, regarding the drums he offers me, 4 of them, I have checked the surface with my led torch light a bit. It seems have no cracks, but not smooth as I imagined, it seems that there are very small&dense fine lines all over the drum, they can only be seen with a bright light source directly casted onto them. I supposed it's normal since they weren't made of glasses pe se?
    The owner has all sorts of cleaning fluids, moutning station, and a super old mac computers with polaris, but the computer seems to not be able to connect both keyboard&mouse at the sametime, wonder how he managed to scan his films before...
    Is there something fishy about this machine? or it's safe to take a bet? The price is under $500 for the whole thing.
    Thank you
  32. more updates:
    The seller is a completely fraud as it turned out.
    He refused to reply my email and my phone as I insisted to replace the belt before making decision to purchase. The machine must have more serious problems than it seemed, and no doubt he was playing hard at innocence to sell this crap for $500.

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