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Drum Scans vs Kodak IQSmart-3

Steve Elliott , Jan 10, 2007; 03:48 a.m.

I would appreciate any feedback regarding scan results, particularly involving small (35mm) and or MF negs or positives from the now Kodak IQSmart-3 ( CREO), flatbed scanner. I asked the Kodak Rep today for a list of commercial users and any contact numbers I could use but she only offered to scan some of my work to demonstrate quality levels. I notice West Coast Imaging now has one. I`m looking for some unbiased opinions. Regards Steve.


Ellis Vener , Jan 10, 2007; 09:00 a.m.

Bruce Watson , Jan 10, 2007; 12:09 p.m.

You can't get an "unbiased opinion." Everyone comes to something as subjective as "scan quality" with a bias. That said, my personal bias is toward drum scanning, since I own and operate a drum scanner.

There are some fundamental differences in technologies between a drum scanner and a professional flatbed like the IQSmart-3. The primary difference is that drum scanners use PMTs to scan one pixel at a time and flatbeds use CCD arrays to scan an entire line of pixels at a time.

Another difference is that drum scanners light the film differently than flatbeds. Drum scanners use a small columnated light source whose size is determined by an aperture. Use of a lighting "spot" with PMTs results in very high sharpness and potentially very high resolution (depending on what aperture you are using of course). Flatbeds on the other hand light up at least the entire scanning line at one time. This results in more light scatter which tends to decrease sharpness and cap resolution. This is one of the reasons that CCD scans need the application of some amount of unsharp mask (or some other sharpening method) while PMT scans often do not.

Next, drum scanners typically fluid mount the film to an acrylic drum. This has a couple of effects on its own. First, pulling the film tight against the drum forces the entire film to be in the exact plane of focus. There is no sagging or moving during the scan. Second, the mounting fluid fills in any imperfections in the film -- both sides. This results in a scan that is very noticeably smoother, with the side effect of appearing to be less grainy. While you can also fluid mount on most professional flat bed scanners (and should), fluid mounting on a flatbed doesn't allow you to pull the film tight around a curved drum. In other words, you can't locate the film in the plane of focus as well as you can with a drum.

Given all this, the operator still makes or breaks the scan. A poorly trained, tired, or unmotivated operator can negate much technological advantage.

In the end, this is a subjective question. It depends on what you value, the quality of your film, the image, how big of an enlargement you have to make, etc...

The only way to decide IMHO is to get some film scanned both ways, make prints from the different scan files, compare the prints side by side, and make your choice.

Anthony R , Jan 10, 2007; 12:26 p.m.

Having been a drum scanner operator and having scanned and worked on images from both a drum scanner and the IQSmart-3, I must say that I abhor the scans made from the Creo/ Kodak. In many ways, negatives especially, I'd rather use a Nikon 9000 than the Creo. I've not seen a good scan from them other than demos - real life, with trained operators, calibrations, etc. = not good results, most especially for the price.

Steve Elliott , Jan 10, 2007; 12:45 p.m.

Thank-you, Ellis, Bruce, and Anthony. Steve

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