I‘ve already made a post about my new scanner on my blog site where I explain that after years of wanting to scan my 35mm slides and negative films, last month I was finally motivated to do something about it, and after research, I ordered a Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai scanner from Ted’s Cameras at Chadstone. Years ago, in fact back in the last century, I did buy a Nikon LS-1000 35mm slide and film scanner. It was very expensive in itself, but I also had to buy a SCSI card and have it fitted inside my computer, and a SCSI cable. However, it did a great job as you can see at this page on JT’s Web Site (my first website). On that page you can see the best scan I could get with my Epson flatbed scanner for Amiga scanning a print. If you click on “Click here” you will see the same image where the negative was scanned with the Nikon film scanner. Unfortunately, the scanning rigmarole and time for each slide or negative took so long that I soon grew tired of doing it, especially as in those days I had little free time to do it.
Computers don’t last forever, so when I upgraded to a computer without SCSI, but with USB, eventually I got the urge to scan slides and film again and bought a CanoScan FS 4000 US. Once again, this dedicated scanner produced excellent results, and I still have A4 and A3 prints from scans it made today; but once again it was so slow at scanning that I found it impracticable to use.
A couple of years ago I bought a small $69.95 USB powered Kaiser Baas PhotoMaker slide and film scanner. It did a reasonable job for the price, but it was trial and error to locate the slide or negative in the scanner. It got three reviews at Product Review which averaged 1.7 out of 5 stars.
My experience with the Nikon and CanoScan dedicated slide and negative film scanners convinced me of the value of using a good dedicated scanner, but because of the time it took for those scanners to warm up and make each scan, I found them very slow and frustrating to use. Over the years, from time to time I’ve made inquiries about modern day scanners, but I couldn’t find anything that aroused my interest.
However, last month, as I wrote before, I became motivated and after extensive research, I decided upon the Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai scanner. You can read about the scanner model here, and read about the included SilverFast Ai Studio 8 software supplied free with the scanner here. The software sells for €299 when sold separately – A$380 at current exchange rates.
I did consider other scanners, including the Reflecta scanner range and the Epson Perfection V700 Photo flatbed scanner (the Epson Perfection V750-M Pro doesn’t seem to be available in Australia). They all seem good, but I chose the Plustek because it had the full SilverFast Ai Studio 8 software (not a trial or lite version), and importantly for me, the Plustek is small and light, and fits into my home and work environment easily, and I haven’t had to make any of the changes I would have to make if I bought a flatbed scanner.
You now have my background in film and slide scanning, and reasons for choosing the Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai scanner. So I will now show you how it has work out so far, and you can judge for yourself.
Here is the result of my latest IT8 Calibration Target slide scan supplied with the SilverFast Ai Studio 8 software.
The bar code at bottom of the slide is read by the software when calibrating, and downloads the latest reference file for my particular scanner. This scan had a calibration result of Delta E = 0.9 which is well below the limit of the human eye being able to detect any difference between the original slide and the scan. I have also had results of Delta E = 0.8 quite often.
When scanning the provided slide to calibrate the scanner, I have to click on the IT8 icon and not the Scan icon. This starts a process that overlays the scan with a rectangle covering each of the 264 colour patches and 28 grayscale patches. The value of each patch is measured by the scanner software and compared to the values of the equivalent patch in the reference file. The variations are averaged to give the average Delta E. All this is done in seconds by the software.
Getting a scan of a slide that is so accurate to the original is only the start. The software can correct many problems with the original slide, and further improvements can be made in Photoshop. The software can be used as a stand-alone program or a Photoshop plugin.
My father took the above Kodachrome slide with his Nicca 35mm camera – a Japanese copy of the Leica. The photo shows Mount Gambier (the actual mount with the tower at the top) and the Valley Lake. The whole area in the photo is an extinct volcano, as is the nearby Blue Lake. The Silverfast software has a special setting for scanning Kodachrome slides.
Dad also used the Nicca to take the above Kodachrome photo of his 1960 Humber Super Snipe when I went home at the Christmas-New Year holidays, in either 1961 or 1962. That’s me in the front passenger seat looking back at my father and his camera. In the rear seat are Tom Georgeson (a British actor, born in Liverpool), my Canadian born cousin Heccy (Hectorine) and my mother. The number plate of the car is SA 9284 – which is the number (not the plate) my father had from his very first car (or utility), possibly in the 1930’s. The photo was taken on an afternoon drive from Mount Gambier. I thought the photo was taken at Carpenter’s Rocks, but it might have been at the cliff tops at Cape Northumberland near Port Macdonnell. What has me confused it that Mount Schank (another inactive volcano) can be seen on the horizon, and I don’t know if it can be seen from Carpenter’s Rocks. It’s on the left when driving from Mount Gambier to Port Macdonnell, and about half way on the 18 mile drive.
The above image was scanned from a 35mm slide I took in 1964 of the Beatles waving to the crowds below from the balcony of the Adelaide Town Hall. Upon their arrival at Adelaide airport they were driven to the Town Hall for an official welcome and reception by the Lord Mayor.
I might be wrong about this, but I understand it to be the first time the Beatles had got this type of huge public reception and welcome by the Lord Mayor anywhere in the world.
This shows the top Nikon camera I had for a while in the 1970’s. I loved it (for me at the time it was a bit like owning a Rolls Royce), and I have no idea why I sold it, but perhaps I needed the money at the time. I think I took the photo with my old Asahi Pentax. I know it was taken in my lounge room in Adelaide on a small portable table with a large sheet of green card (from a newsagent or art supplies shop) as the background. I have another slide which shows the setup. I think I took the photo with natural light from the large and long lounge room window.
Some readers might find this post while doing a Google search to find out more about the scanner, and want to read what I think about the scanner so far, bearing in mind that I have not yet had it for two weeks.
So far, I’ve found the time taken for preview scans and final scans is not an issue. It’s the preparation after the preview scan that takes some time to adjust the scan to my liking, and try to improve upon the original slide (or negative). I’ve sometimes had trouble adjusting the frame, but I’m sure this is due to my inexperience. For example, I’ve put portrait slides into the slide tray in a portrait orientation, and haven’t been able to get the software to frame the whole image. I only realised last night that because the slide tray windows are landscape, all slides must be placed in the tray in landscape position. After the preview scan is made the scan can be rotated as desired (CC or CCW). I’ve read that it’s a long learning curve, and I believe it.
At this stage of my learning, I’ve had some truly amazing results because or colour cast removal. One slide which is rather faded after 45 years or so came up in rich vibrant colours with a single click on the Auto CCR icon (Automatic optimization and Colour Cast Removal). However, I have found some slides where I have not been able, at this stage of my training, to overcome problems in the original slide, such as too much contrast.
The Nikon photo above is the first slide I’ve scanned so far where I think the scan doesn’t look as good as the original slide when held to the light. Bear in mind that the photo is one of many I took of the Nikon in what could be called a studio situation with the background (a white card would have been better) and with the camera I took the photos with mounted on a tripod. The slide looks much sharper than the scan. The scan was made at 225 ppi and this produced an image over 3900 pixels wide. Perhaps I should make a scan at, say, 2400 ppi and see if it makes a difference. It’s a learning curve.
Lynda.com has a video training course about SilverFast Studio 8. I also bought a very comprehensive PDF eBook from the LaserSoft Imaging site. Here is a page from an Appendix about Calibration: