Find the best medium format film scanner

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by juldeb, Nov 8, 2004.

  1. I am considering buying my first film scanner. I have color & BW
    slides, but mostly negatives in the 135 and 120 formats. I also use
    4'x5' format, but I believe a film scanner in this latter format is
    extremly expensive, so so I will look for a format of up to 120
    Now! My collection of pictures dates more than 25 years and numbers
    more than 50000 pictures, and growing. I do not want to scan them all
    but have many to scan. I need quality, speed and reliability. would
    anyone give me some advise ?
  2. Here's two 35mm and mf dedicated filmscanners and the user groups on Yahoo.
  3. Personally, I think you cannot do better than Imacon... But even older, used models can be very expensive, and they're not particularly fast -- but the quality of the scan is simply outstanding.
  4. I have to agree with Jack. The Imacon's are outstanding if you can afford them. Otherwise, you may want to look at the Nikon Coolscan 9000.
  5. "but the quality of the scan is simply outstanding"- when you remove /disable the embedded USM that is added even if you turn off USM in the software - scans from an Imacon are in the same league as those from Nikon/Minolta film scanners. If you have a large quantity of scans to do then the lack of an effective dust/scratch removal facility weighs heavily against the Imacons.
  6. There are a number of things to consider when you want to
    make a large number of high quality scans. The best scans take
    a long time by default because of the high resolution and the
    multi-sampling you should use. Then there is the problem of
    dust and peppergrain. And finally there is the enormous time
    consumption that post-processing can take.

    I would suggest thinking about the following:

    - using several workstations with a good MF scanner (Minolta,
    Nikon, Microtek) each next to each other might be more
    interesting than buying one expensive Imacon for the same
    price. It speeds up things tremendously while you can work on
    the scans without slowing down the scanning process on the
    other machines;

    - color manage your entire workflow as to save a lot of correction
    time afterwards. Both Vuescan Pro and Silverfast provide ICC
    profiling of your scanner-to-output workflow (personally I don't
    like the UI of both these applications, but it seems you can get
    used to it for the sake of a good scan);

    - in order to save time on the peppergrain and dust issues a
    scanner with ICE would be recommended. The Imacons and
    Microteks do not have this option. Unfortunately ICE does not
    always work as advertised either, so caution is advised here too.

    Please do some close reading on my website too:
  7. If you want to include 4x5 for not much more than the price of a 120 scanner I might
    suggest an old drum scanner. My Screen 1045 cost about $2500 on ebay, and does a
    beautiful job, better than Imacons I sent out for, better than my $%^& Polaroid Sprinscan
    120, (a scanner which was the bane of my existence for a year or so.) The Screen is dead
    slow, but you can gang up an 11 x 14 area and just let it run overnight. Service and
    software for some of the old beasts can be a vexing issue--my Screen can do single scans
    on a modern OS, but will only do batch scanning on Mac OS 8.1. I'm in San Diego, not
    exactly a small town, but my nearest service provider is 3 hours away--anthing breaks
    that I can't fix and it's $500 in travel time.

    ICE is incredibly cool, but it's just not physically possible to make it work on silver-bearing
    BW film, and I'm not sure there are any dedicated film scanners with ICE for 4x5 for less
    than the price of new car.
  8. jem


    re: Imacons and Nikons:

    Even with the unsharp mask completely off, (-120 in software, apply ticked) my Imacon is easily sharper and extracts more useful detail than my nikon, has much more accurate colour, better shadow penetration, exhibit FAR less grain aliasing, and produces scans that, in a way hard to put a finger on, are significantly more three dimensional than the Nikon - and I've got years (and vast numbers of scans) or professional experience with both. People with Nikons (but not Imacons) seem to want to imagine they are as good. They are, quite simply and testably, not. Having both on your desk helps to make these tests, and make them accurately. The Nikons are good, they're just not AS good.

    The Nikon with a slide feeder and ICE has significant production benefits, but anyone that has tested them side by side and really knows what they are doing with both, will easily see the difference - differences quite visible in prints.

    The Nikon is also really mixed in its results with Kodakchromes (ICE doesn't work properly, and its dificult to achieve accurate colour even when using serious colour management) not the best choice if your collection includes many Kodakchromes.

    Imacons are seriosuly expensive, but they're very easy to get good results from. Drums - great but hard to use, and expensive and oil mounting is a serious negative on the production side.
  9. I've got a Nikon for 35 and we have an 8000 at school for med format. There is also an Imacon and I have to agree w/Jeremy. The Imacon, though slow, is superior by far. You can just compare the scans visually. They are definately better than NIkon, though the Nikon's have other endearments and do a good job as well.
  10. I now have an LS9000 and I used to use an Imacon 111 for 3 years at my old place of work (in a commercial application scanning nearly every day). I have scanned the same film side by side and the difference is slight. Maybe the newer Imacons are better? - but they are much more expensive. The lack of ICE made the Imacon a real drawback when trying to do any volume of work. I have just done 700+ medium format scans with my Nikon - I could not contemplate doing anything like this on an imacon as I would be spending too much time in PS getting rid of dust on the scans.
  11. jem


    Perhaps you had a dodgy Imacon the ideal case, middle of the road type stuff, like well and evenly exposed studio portraits, the Nikon is about 80% of the way there - but when you've got a low key landscape, for example, the Imacon shines, or a shot that relies on really fine detail.

    Anyway, if the Nikon works for you that is all that matters I guess.

    But no professional image maker I know wants a Nikon scan if they can get an Imacon...which says something perhaps. Especially if they're using negatives or kodakchrome...
  12. jem


    Incidentally I find Flextouch to be very effective, certainly the best software based D & S solution I've ever seen, and I'll certainly take the 5 minutes or so cleaning required for the easier and better results. If nothing else, I'd really struggle with the grain aliasing and the soft corners on the Nikons.

    But yes, Imacons are super expensive.
  13. "But no professional image maker I know wants a Nikon scan if they can get an Imacon" - and no one I know in the industry, including me, will have an Imacon scan if they can have a drum scan. I guess you get what you pay for. The Nikon suits me for large throughput but for ultimate quality I get a drum scan done. Thankfully now I'm capturing commercialy with 22mp digital so I don't need to scan that much anymore. I use a glass carrier with my LS9000 - no loss of definition in the corners. Nikon scan sucks with neg as it clips the highlights -it's possible to squeeze extra quality out of it with 3rd party software but it slows the whole process down.
  14. Jeremy, I am in the market and have narrowed down the choise to a new Nikon 9000 or used Imacon Photo Flextight, or Precision II. Which Imacon model are you describing in your discussion? I have little doubt that the Imacon 600 or 900 series would surpass the Nikon in quality and price. If you were in a buying mood, would you go for a used Flextight or Precision II that can be had for just a bit more than the Nikon? Finally, do you have any experience with Imacon reliability and support. Recent posts have questioned the Nikon in this regard. Many thanks.
  15. jem


    Actually, heaps of professionals will take an Imacon over a drum, and heaps of professionals bought an Imacon over drum scanners - because the final 2% difference in quality is rarely visible in print, unlike the difference between nikons and Imacons (which was my point), and because of the production benefits an Imacon offers.

    No one is denying the very very best scans come from well operated drum scanners....I'm just saying that you can barely ever see the actual differences in prints (even really large prints) in any negative way, really good drum operators are hard to find, and people in my experience hate getting back film that is grubby and soiled by the process of oil mounting. Also, drum scans are often 5 times the price or more.

    As for glass holders - Netwon's rings are more of a pain to clean than dust.

    Anyway, as I said if you like the Nikon that's fine. If you're shooting 22Mp backs now, that is even finer! I just think it's easy to see a quality difference with an Imacon and that the image makers I've met agree.

    I (personally, humbly, having tested it) think anything in the Imacon line from a Precision 2 onwards kicks anything I've seen in the Nikon line up to the 9000. I find the Imacons very easy to use (far easier to get good results from than Nikons), relatively fast from the PIII on (certainly no slower than a Nikon), and have not heard of serious quality issues - the odd inner lamp has gone I've heard (is easy and cheap to replace) but I've never had to do a thing. Had it seviced once just for the sake of it really.

    I bought the Imacon, and would again, given the same choice - also the fliexibility to do 35mm through to LF is nice. Then again, I also bought the Nikon before I bought the Imacon! I wouldn't buy the Nikon again though...
  16. Check out the Microtek 120TF, cheaper than both the Nikon and the Imacon. My feling would be it's not as good as the Imacon, but definately as good as the Nikon. Worth checking out.

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