Slide scanners

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by steven_jewett, Dec 14, 2014.

  1. I've been doing research on slide scanners for my mom for a Christmas present. She has roughly 4000 35mm slides to scan (not sure what kind or if they're all color, B&W, or a mix), and despite my repeatedly warning her that it will take forever in both learning how to do it and actually doing it, she insists that's fine. So the question then becomes what scanner to get. She isn't too worried about quality, and we figure once they're scanned any she does want done in higher quality can be sent to a service. So I'm trying to figure out the best scanner for under several hundred dollars. She also wants to be able to scan photos, which means if I were to get a dedicated scanner I would still have to get a flatbed, though not necessarily a high-end one, so the combined cost might still be less than a nice (i.e. V700/V750) flatbed for everything.
    Here are my options based off my research:
    Epson V700/V750: DMAX of 4.0, good resolution, able to do everything but also much more expensive and more reliant on proper slide placement etc for the best results
    Pacific Image PrimeFilm 7200u (Reflecta ProScan 7200): DMAX of 3.8, better resolution, easier to use but unable to do multiple scans at once, much cheaper
    Pacific Image PrimeFilm XE (Reflecta ProScan 10T): DMAX of 3.9, best resolution, slightly more than 7200u but still much cheaper than Epson
    I was initially considering the Epson V600, but due to its low DMAX (my understanding is this is a critical spec for slides) I've ruled it out.
    Unfortunately, while everyone agrees that dedicated film scanners are better than flatbeds, they are always talking about film scanners that cost 2x as much or more, and they are talking about film, not slides. I'm trying to determine which of these is the best option for what she is trying to do, bearing in mind as well that she doesn't intend to print the photos, just have them for computer viewing and emailing primarily. Any she might want to print she could send to a service. I have no problem spending up to the cost of the Epsons if it's worth it for improved quality, or if it would be significantly easier for her in being able to load up several slides at once and walk away, but if the cheaper ones will work just as well or better due to being dedicated to the job, I'd rather save the money and just buy a cheaper flat bed to accompany it and still likely come out ahead. Additionally, I'd rather avoid buying an Epson due to their somewhat questionable reliability and terrible customer service, as I don't believe in rewarding companies for that. So all else being equal, I'd much rather spend my money elsewhere. I'm leaning toward the XE, as it's slightly better than the 7200u but still relatively cheap.
    Besides cost and scan quality, another consideration is ease of use or, more accurately, quality without having to be a pro. IOW, I'm not only interested in the comparative capabilities of these scanners, but how they do with an amateur at the wheel. So even though one might be ultimately capable of better quality scans, if that's only with an in-depth knowledge of how to tweak everything whereas without that knowledge and time the scans are no better or even worse than what a different scanner will do with limited user intervention, then I would lean toward the latter.
    I would say in order of importance, I'm looking for: ease of use, scan quality, speed (ability to do batches, scan speed), then price.
    Another thing to mention is she is running an old, slow computer, still on XP with probably 4GB or less of RAM (pretty sure it's 32-bit XP). If need be, I can let her have my old laptop with an i7 and 8GB RAM running Win 7 Ultimate x64.
    Until about a week and a half ago, this was a world unknown to me, and I know nothing about film/slides/etc, so I appreciate any and all help you can provide.
  2. I've got the Reflecta ProScan 7200; I cannot talk for the others. I'm using it for old slides, and while it is a manual process, it is really very doable. The slide-holder is easy and simple, so the only "nuisance" is manually forwarding them. Scanning is relatively quick (but still slow - it is slow on any scanner, really).
    Dmax is an important factor with slides, and more of an issue too than it is for negatives. With slides, I do hit the maximum dynamic range of scanner (especially with badly exposed slides - it becomes pretty labour-intensive to get something decent out of those). So if it is all about slides, than this specification does seriously matter, and I would certainly try to get a real-world good estimate on what the Epsons can deliver.
    The software provided standard with Pacific Images/Reflecta is quite easy to use, but not very good. I'm using VueScan instead, which takes a bit of a learning curve, but it runs on pretty much every operating system out there and gets good results. The driver for the scanner and VueScan both should work on Windows XP. The bigger problem with an old system could be drive space (full quality TIFF file of each slide is around 105MB) and USB speed: you really want USB2.0 on your system, else things will become excessively slow.
    If I'd be shopping today, I'd get the newer XE/10T instead - from the one review out there, it does not seem miles better, but it has a tad more resolution which is never a bad thing.
  3. I scanned about 1800 slides, and that took me well over a year, an hour or two most evenings. I used a Minolta Scan Elite 5400; it is one of a very short list capable of doing a decent job, imho. I also have a Nikon Coolscan V (stripped down, somewhat cheaper version of the 5000); it is a decent scanner, with some caveats. Comments on the two scanners:

    Minolta Scan Elite 5400:

    Scanning DPI: 5400 pixels per inch. This is extremely high, will resolve grain.

    Focus: versatile, several methods available. Focus is achieved by moving the film transport relative to the lens. One downside though: the depth of focus is abysmally short, you have to be very careful, and still compromise; it is very difficult to achieve corner to corner sharpness.

    Speed: about 6 minutes per scan, with ICE and Grain Dissolver active. Both Firewire and USB cables are supplied. Firewire is slightly slower, but less impacted if you are simultaneously running other programs, say Photoshop.

    ICE: A proprietary defect detection and deletion system, employing software and infrared detection. The 5400's supplied software has it, it is moderately effective. Third party software such as Vuescan can use the infrared detection with it's cleaning algorithms. In my experience it's only marginally effective.

    Grain Dissolver: This is a frosted glass pane that can be moved into the scanner's light path. The light source is relatively diffuse, and the GD further diffuses it. This is very effective at reducing the rendering of film defects, coupled with ICE.

    Nikon Coolscan 5000 or V:
    Scanning DPI: 4000 pixels per inch. A good level, on the cusp of resolving grain
    Focus: Fast and effective, about 50 % greater depth of focus, comparing to the 5400

    Speed: About 3 minutes per scan

    Light Source: Highly directional. For me this is the main downside of the 5000 and V scanners. The scanner is MERCILESS in resolving film defects. Also, if you have Kodachrome slides, it is highly problematic: the color layers show strange edge artifacts with this scanner.
    Vuescan: This is a third party software, that can run both scanners, and many others. A lifetime license is maybe $90? Or maybe a bit more now? Haven't checked lately. Absolutely a must, get it.
    That said, the software supplied by the scanner can be effective too. With the 5400 I ended up using both: the scanner's software to capture the intitial data, due to it's effective ICE, in a raw, gamma 1.0 format. Then Vuescan to produce finished images from that data.
    With my Nikon I only used Vuescan.
    Photoshop: This is more-or-less a necessity. The bulk of my time was not spent scanning, rather in the cleaning of the scans. Even with ICE, the scans are far from clean. Depending on how finicky you are, this can be a sink hole of time.

    Final thoughts:
    When I started thinking about scanning, and this started with my black and white neg's, then the slides, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I started out on my black and white, with a 2820 dpi Minolta Dimage Dual II scanner, scanned the lot without much thought, a process that took about 8 months. And THEN I started looking at my technique, and started to realize the various shortcomings to my technique. Then I purchased Vuescan, went through a learning curve with it, and SCANNED THEM ALL AGAIN.
    Photoshop cleaning techniques do not come easy, need to be learned. Necessity was definitely the mother of invention.
    I'm more or less finished my 1800 slides now, though I've found a few loose slides, tighly rolled in a film cannister, and a few stray packs of slides. Really should get to them....
    And then there's the color negatives: I'm planning to do them with the V, running it with Vuescan. Got started a few years back, but have been stalling, lol.
    Oh just a final comment: all the scanners I mentioned above are out-of-production. I'm sceptical of any flatbed to do a decent job. Love to be proved wrong, though. ;)
  4. Steven, this is not truly going to answer your questions, but is more of an opinion. You say your Mom is wanting to do this. I cannot help but feel she just does not realize the scope of the project. Does she have ANY life at all? As has already been stated, and as you are predicting, scanning is practically an art, and at the very least a skill that takes some real time and dedication to learn to do properly. Assuming your mom goes through all the hardware / software learning curve, there is the time factor. She may think it fun at first, but as time goes on, and on, and it becomes an albatross around her neck having to sit and do this for hours on end for months on end, ... well, it may end up an unfinished project, or YOU may end up having to take it over.
    I had a Nikon Coolscan 9000 running with my old Apple laptop that still supported the Nikon software. I had no where near 4000 slides, but did have a relatively large amount of negatives that I THOUGHT I was going to scan. I just could not put my life on hold to do it, and the negatives remained unscanned.
    Here is what I suggest you talk to your mom about. Think very seriously about using a service, such as Scan Cafe to do this for you. These places exist for a reason. I have had scans done through them, and the results were excellent.
    Another thing to consider. Lets say you do spend all the time, effort, and money to do this yourself and assuming all the slides actually get scanned. Unless she is still shooting film, then the scan equipment sits around gathering dust.
    This gets to my final point. In my opinion, the only reason to have a good scanner and work to achieve the skill do do good scanning is if you are STILL using film. If you "scan as you go" it is not a bad process to have in place. Shoot, either develop yourself or have the film developed, then do your own scanning at that time. But getting into scanning with the intent of archiving a massive collection of negatives / slides and nothing more just seems to not be worth it to me. Use a scan service, save yourself lots of headaches, and don't take away precious time in your and your mom's life doing this.
    Just my opinion, based on experience. By the way, I sold my Nikon scanner, and really don't miss it at all.
  5. She isn't too worried about quality, and we figure once they're scanned any she does want done in higher quality can be sent to a service.​
    Since you are scanning the slides to catalog them and use the scans as a digital proof sheet, either the Epson V550 or the Epson V600 will be more than good enough (I have the V600). I think the V600 can do more slides at one time and is slightly more expensive. Both are around $200 give or take. An added advantage of the V600 or V550 is when the slides are scanned, your mother will have a scanner than can scan documents, i.e. paper, and coupled with her printer becomes a copier.
    The Epson Scan software is relatively easy to learn to use.
  6. If I can be allowed a terrible pun, I'd like to parrot what Steve's saying. It is a big undertaking, steep learning curve. A scanning service might be a good compromise.
  7. david_henderson


    Hmm 4000 slides sent to a service that's going to be pretty much guaranteed to do them well is going to cost a lot. Otherwise if you use a cheap service like Scancafe , from what I've read on here you pretty much have to reckon on rejecting some which leaves you with the task of buying a scanner to fill in the gaps.
    My own philosophy ( and I have a lot of colour slides) has been to scan as the need for a scan becomes apparent. If I haven't got a scan for an image that I've never had accepted by a stock agency, never fancied putting up online, have never needed to email, use in a self-published book, send to a friend or whatever, then it really doesn't matter much. Scanning isn't my idea of fun, and if I know that there's a purpose in making a scan the pain seems a bit less.
  8. Have you looked at PrimeFilm XA ? It has specs similar to XE and more Dmax. I'd stay away from the flatbeds....ur, unless you're dealing with medium or large format. The scanner that can do this quickly (and well) is not supported and maintenance is either difficult to obtain or doesn't exist.
    You can get a good book on scanning, arm yourself with patience....and go for it. Those frames that are exceptional can be ran via drum scan (pro services) and eventually hung on the wall. My 2 centavos.
  9. Tell you the truth, if I had to scan about 4000 slides I would go with the Prime Film XA not only is it automatic it has slightly better Dmax especially when it comes to slides. The XE is a nice scanner just dreadfully slow for that type of volume.
  10. I gave up scanning my slides after 2 carousels worth. I do use my scanner but as Steve mentioned above because I still shoot film and want to "see" it, or post it on the internet or print it. I use a V600 but think the V700 does a better job from what I've seen from others. V700 also scans more slides at one setup. Slides are pretty dirty too even when you try to blow the dust off and brush them. Does she intend to spot them after the scan, a huge procedure to do right? If she uses the scanner's spot software, they are only so-so and won't work on Kodachromes or B/W. Plus the scan time goes up logarithmically.
    Since she's not interested in great quality and intends to send the good ones to a service for good scans, I'd recommend she do that in the first place. Pick out the ones that are "good" and send to a service and forget the rest. I don't want to be critical, but about 90% of most people's slides are duplicates or just so-so. How many pictures of Aunt Harriet and Uncle Louie do you want to look at? Do you really need six angles of view of Michelangelo's David? Anyway, who's going to look at 4000 scanned slides? I realize I'm talking logic against emotion. But if you do get her a scanner, you could always go back to film photography and join the rest of us film Luddites!
    You can see some V600 scans on my FLickr for whatever it's worth.
  11. I have a V700 and I had a CS400 bought off a pro used but it broke. For the record certainly the V700 doesn't compare to the CS. If you want to get the real sharpness, able to see the texture things that are in focus. Even a 1080 wallpaper you will notice the difference after you seen what a CS can do. On the other hand - if you size it to 1024x768 for Facebook even when I tried I cannot tell the 2 apart.
    So for non quality perfection. I would just go with a flatbed because they are new and has a warranty and much cheaper.
    Personally for me, I intend to shoot medium format so the scanner is going to be crazy expensive so for me I am just going to drum scan the odd one when I do a print - outsourced. I also don't have warranty issues to worry about - as they are not available new now. Unless I can afford a Imacon.
    One time the lab gave me a Photo CD by mistake. The V700 gives me a sharper image than the Photo CD. That would been the operator thou cos the grain was smoothed out a lot to my eyes.
    But yeah if you had scratches on your negs like light ones. The CS picks them all up. The V700 - you cannot even see any of the scratches.
    With the V700 if you plan on using ICE to get rid of dust and scratches etc. Take a very long time. Question yourself do you need that or not. I mean if it is going to be v casual quality. From memory it might take least 30mins every load - that is 4 strips of film.
  12. Besides my film scanning, my wife is scanning old prints on a flatbed. I helped in setting up Vuescan parameters, saved a few of Vuescan's "options" files (initializing files), for the various categories, and gave her a few tips. We output Vuescan Raw files first, then run jpegs from them. We've got maybe 1500 images done thus. So far haven't bother with cleaning them, for the most part. They are what they are.
  13. Here's another random thought from a guy who scans regularly.
    Take all your pictures, and segregate them into priority stacks: A / B / C. Make sure each stack is about the same size.
    Take Stack A. Sort it again into two stacks: #1s and #2s.
    Sort the #1s in rough priority order. Scan the #1s.
    Then think really hard about whether the #2s are even worth it, having scanned the #1s.
    I never scan my #2s.
    By doing this, you prioritize your time based on the quality of the shots. You get to learn how much effort is required. There should be a point of diminishing returns, where your effort to scan the next slide is no longer worth it. By using this method, you at least get scanned the best stuff before your patience wears out.
  14. Nikon + adapter for 50 slides. Put 50 slides in the adapter and walk away.
  15. My reaction is that she will never do it. I agree with Brad - they will have to be sorted and the worthwhile ones only scanned. Then I'd send them out to a service. Scanning generally is not for amateurs.
    Have you considered a slide duplicating arrangement using a DSLR? Cheap attachments are pouring out of China as any ebay search will show you. With a reasonable DSLR this is probably the easiest way of doing it. The quality will be pretty good and it can be done easily with processing as usual using the raw or JPG output from the camera. As long as you have a good bright light source this will work very well.
  16. The level of dedication you would have to have to scan 4000 slides well is very high. By the time I set up the scanner and scan a slide and then fix it in photoshop (spotting and so on which the scanners handle fairly well) I'm often taking 3-4 minutes a slide. It will wear you down. On the other hand, if you have some skills you can get much better results than some automatic system can or will.
    Definitely it's worth putting the slides on a light box and segregating them in order of desire say on a scale of 1-10 where 1 are the ones you want most. Work on those first and keep going till you've torn all your hair out and are calling the suicide prevention hotline more than once per day and when you stop you will at least have done the ones that are the most important to you.
  17. @ Mendel Leisk

    Hard drive space shouldn't be an issue. I'm also giving them an old 500GB external hard drive, and if necessary, can either provide more or they can buy something. Space is cheap these days. I'm fairly certain her computer has USB 2, but if not it can either be added or that will be another reason to just give her my old laptop with 2 & 3 on it.

    @ Steve Parrott, Mendel Leisk, et al

    I've mentioned over and over that this is an enormous undertaking, and she is insistent that it won't be an issue. Even if she just works on it here and there and it takes a few years, I think that's fine for her. And believe me, I will not have to take it over, that's not going to happen. It would cost about $1,000 to have them done professionally, which I think is worth it and would be more than willing to pay. I tried to convince her to go that route, but she doesn't want to do it, I think mainly because of the risk of losing them (and likely partly because she doesn't want to spend that kind of money, nor does she want me to, you know how parents are). So that's why I say even if she does them herself then has to have some done professionally, even if half or more, that would be fine. Because even if something were to happen to them then at least she would have something. I agree with everything you said, but after multiple talks with her, having it done by a service is not going to happen.

    @ Leszek Vogt & Harry Joseph

    As far as I can tell, the XA only does batch scanning on negatives, not slides. The higher Dmax is nice, though. I hadn't run across that one.

    @ Robin Smith

    I've considered the DSLR approach, but there are a few issues. The main one is cost, as she doesn't have a DSLR, and it would be several hundred dollars minimum for a decent one with a decent lens. Another problem is that I have read varying opinions on the quality of this approach.

    After all the comments reemphasizing what I already knew, I'm thinking that while the XT or XA or V700/750 might be better, perhaps I shouldn't spend too much simply because there's a decent chance this will not be a long-lived project. But then again, she's already dont a fair amount of scanning on an old scanner they borrowed from my dad's work, so it's not like she's completely in the dark on what to expect.
  18. Have you looked at slide copier attachments for a DSLR?

    They are both less expensive (starting at $60) and much faster (several slides per minute) than using a scanner.
  19. Another problem is that I have read varying opinions on the quality of this approach.​
    You can read varying comments about slide scanners too, particularly flat beds.

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