Scanner upgrade from Nikon Super CoolScan 9000 & Epson v600

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by shlshl, Apr 18, 2017.

  1. Hello,
    I'm in the market for replacing my very old scanners and would love to hear some advice on this. Currently I'm using the Epson flatbed for quick scans, and the Nikon for 35mm negative scans as well as priority medium formats. For large prints I send my negative out for Imacon scans. Obviously I would prefer something equivalent to the Imacon but that's out of my budget. I would rather have one scanner, so I'm wondering if there is another flatbed scanner of higher quality that can be recommended. Any thoughts would be much appreciated. Thank you!
  2. The 9000 is the best there is, short of a Flextight or a drum scanner, or a few very rare critters like the Screen Cezanne. No consumer flatbed, like an Epson V800/850 will beat a 9000, especially with the glass holder.
  3. If you have the skills to create a quality scan out of a 9000 and then apply quality post processing to it, including sharpening, you should find the scans equal an Imacon. The Imacon does a lot of sharpening behind the scenes by default so you have to sharpen the 9000's scans to get more of an apples to apples comparison. You need to move up to a drum scanner to take the next step.

  4. Thank you Wogears and Doug. Although the thought of getting something new was exciting for a moment, it seems like a good idea to keep my current set up after your comments. I guess I'll just have to take proper time to hone my "skills" to create better scans with my Nikon. :)
  5. There are fundamental differences between flatbed scanners, a Nikon scanner, Hasselblad Flextight and a drum scanner.

    Flatbed scanners hold the film on a glass surface, usually with a holder which maintains a space to avoid Newton's Rings. The sensor is a line array on a bar which traverses the length of the bed. In inexpensive scanners, the image is formed by a row of micro lenses near the sensor. These image overlap, reducing the effective resolution to about half the "optical" resolution defined by the sensor. Better scanners use a single lens for imaging, sometimes with focusing ability. However the path is convoluted using mirrors to keep the mechanism compact, and resolution suffers as a result.

    The image path in a Nikon scanner places several mirrors between the negative and the lens in order to make the system more compact. Besides potential degradation of the image, these mirrors tend to collect dust, which has the effect of smearing detail and reducing contrast. The film is held reasonably flat by the edges, but you need a glass holder for the best results. The sensor is a line array with three rows of RGB cells, and the film is moved past the lens. You can use all three rows for a faster scan, or a single row for better resolution and less banding. The effective resolution is very close to the theoretical 4000 dpi. I have seen figures on the order of 3800, which is far better than any flatbed, and about twice what you need for color film and scenes with a normal contrast range.

    A Flextight scanner holds the film in a curved holder, which eliminates cupping and curl without the use of glass. The light is on one side of the film and the lens and sensor on the other, without any intervening surfaces. This is similar to the operation of a Scitex scanner used in commercial operations. A Scitex scanner looks like a big flatbed, but uses a direct light path like a Flextight, rather than multiple mirrors of a consumer flatbed.

    A drum scanner holds the film on a rotating glass drum, usually taped to the surface with an optical fluid between film and glass. The light is on the inside of the drum, which is rotated as a lens on the outside focuses the image of a single point on a sensor array. The resolution can be adjusted by the rate of traverse of the lens.

    It should be clear that each of these methods has the potential to exceed the quality of the previous ones, with a geometric increase in cost and effort.
    shlshl likes this.
  6. Interesting info, but I think there's only one mirror between negative and lens in a Nikon scanner. It definitely does get dusty and needs to be cleaned periodically.
  7. "The light is on the inside of the drum, which is rotated as a lens on the outside focuses the image of a single point on a sensor array."
    - Single point? No. It's a spot, and as such limits the true resolution of a drumscan. I've seen silly claims of many thousand PPI for drumscans; and yet the film grain or dye-clouds remain barely resolved. Not worth the cost for such antiquated technology IMHO, since drumscan design has barely moved on for 50 years. It's still basically a focussed filament lamp, a phonograph motor and a photomultiplier tube all cobbled together round a glass tube.

    Most flatbed scanner designs use no more than one surface-silvered mirror, and the same type of 3-line RGB filtered CCD sensor as used in a dedicated filmscanner. It's poor lens quality and lack of care in their focus setup that lets them down, not a reflex light path.

    As stated above, there's nothing particularly convoluted about the image path in a Nikon Coolscan. Nor does a surface mirror necessarily degrade image quality.
  8. Yes, and a lens is a few lumps of glass, bound together in a tube and cobbled to the front of a camera. You have a creative way of simplifying technology ;)

    It's hard to see inside a Nikon film scanner, but I'm not certain it is a front-surface mirror, and it definitely gets dusty and is hard to clean, resulting in flare. The sensor array is inaccessible for cleaning without major disassembly. Dust on the sensor leads to banding, which is notoriously hard to remove.

    Resolution of a drum scanner can easily be adjusted with a diaphragm or slit. The details are omitted from simplified, "Rodeo" style diagrams.
  9. There's a few resources on the web for instructions on cleaning and repairing Nikon scanners. I bought one a few weeks ago that wasn't working for $100. After a little maintenance work it's as good as new. Anyway, "hard" and "easy" are relative terms. Having never had one apart before it took me a couple of hours to disassemble it, lubricate the rails, clean the mirror and the lens, then put it back together again. It's definitely a front-surface mirror and there's definitely only one. It can be replaced for $20 if you damage it while cleaning. Having done it once, I could probably clean the mirror again in 30 to 45 minutes. So I suppose it's moderately more difficult than pulling apart a flat-bed scanner to clean the glass, but not that much harder.
  10. Just to clarify, the Nikon I have is the LS-8000. Other models may be different.

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