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The best digital film scanner for professional photojournalism photography

Lyubov Strauss , Mar 27, 2009; 07:39 p.m.

Would you please share your experience how you digital film images. I have hundreds of images on film, and I want to buy the scanner which works the best for my photography. I have been a news photographer for 15 years international, and I have historical photos from 1989-1995. I hope I could get a nice digital image and share with the world.
What is best professional film scanner?
You advice will be very helpful.


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Michael Axel , Mar 27, 2009; 08:07 p.m.

Lyobov, If you've been shooting 35mm, I would say you want to stick with a Nikon Coolscan V, 5000, or 9000, depending on your needs. The 9000 scans medium format as well. While I use an Epson 4490 for medium format, and find it acceptable for digital scans, I use a Canoscan dedicated scanner for 35mm (only because it was cheaper than the Nikon at the time).

Michael Ging , Mar 27, 2009; 08:46 p.m.

I agree with Michael , the Nikon Cool scan V is a great scanner for 35mm , I use a Epson 4990 for 6x6 and 4x5.

Edward Ingold , Mar 28, 2009; 12:08 a.m.

Conventional scanners, whether the Nikon Coolscan or flatbed, are incredibly slow. It can take 2 to 6 hours per roll, the lower speed only if you have an automatic roll or slide feeder. If you don't need enlargements more than 12x18, the fastest way to render your film archives is with a digital camera, closeup lens and a slide/filmstrip holder.

Peter Blaise , Mar 28, 2009; 06:50 a.m.


Ding! Edward got it.

Lyubov, you don't mention your technical target, and "professional photojournalism" and "share with the world" could be small newspaper black and white print target, or smaller-than-screen size JPG, both less than 1 megapixel contents. Tell us more specifically what you want as a result. My Minolta 40 million RGB pixel scanner is waay better than those little tiny Nikon and Canon sissies and wannabees (it's almost April, folks!), but all these dedicated, top-of-the-line 35mm film scanners may be overkill and too arduous for your specific targets.

And, quantity, do you want to convert 100% to digital accessible archive, or just scan one here and there on demand? A $99 or cheaper scanner/camera and/or adapter may be perfect. Or subcontracting to overseas labor may be the only affordable and timely solution.

How about other features? Need a printer and fax and flatbed scanner with a document feeder? A film-scanning all-in-one may be best for you.

Maybe just get started today using any cheap digicam on a tripod used as a copy stand aimed at the pictures laid out one by one on the floor, and don't worry about the film until you get some total archive system experience?

Tell us more, Lyubov.


Peter Blaise , Mar 28, 2009; 07:17 a.m.


Okay, I see that you only "need" small output for web display, but are you planning on selling master digital copies on demand, or prints of certain sizes on demand? What's your goal. My scanner may be right-on after all.

Caution, your slide show dead-ends and has no "home" button or stable menu across Very nice begining, however. How more can we help you?


Robert K , Mar 28, 2009; 09:14 a.m.

Here are my posts on a scanner's flares, and using a scanner.

On flares:

Before making a decision, check the following links. Some Nikon users reported flares in their scans, but no Minolta users had reported this problem. I own many Nikon equipment, and would have gotten a Nikon scanner if not for the flares.


This member apparently was aware of the flares:

Here's what he ended up with after buying a Nikon:


On using a scanner:

Choosing a good scanner is just the beginning, learning how to use it well is the key. Given the less than great native sw and documentations, and the lack of good tutorials/books, the learning curve can be steep. Some would get a third party and/or calibration sw. Scanning introduces another generation of degradation from film to print. Along with it come the additional steps in the workflow, such as getting the correct exposure/color/tone, maintaining sharpness, reducing noise/grain, archiving, etc. Each of these can be non-trivial if done well.

Bob Velkov , Mar 28, 2009; 09:22 a.m.

There are no flares with the Nikon, only when it was operated in extremely dusty environment and wasn't cleaned. I would only consider the Coolscan 5000ED with a roll film adapter to scan automatically or hack the regular film adapter to scan rolls. It just gives the best results with 35mm film. Combine it with Silverfast or Vuescan and get it calibrated with an IT(/Q60 target prior scanning.

Les Sarile , Mar 28, 2009; 09:48 a.m.

Lots of 35mm film - perhaps a variety of films, perhaps you kept them intact as a roll, there is no alternative to a Nikon Coolscan 5000 + roll feeder if you kept the rolls intact.

In the Can minilab scans rival other scanners? thread, you can see the comparisons I've conducted with various desktop scanners compared to a Noritsu minilab. Mini labs can be very cheap and very good but YMMV.

Using a Coolscan 5000, full res scans with ICE takes about 50 seconds per frame - about 30seconds without. The discontinued Nikon Coolscan V used to be the next fastest doubling these times while all others takes several minutes per scan - or more, with ICE. In my Film 2 Album you can review the results from mostly full res examples of various films using completely neutral unprocessed scans using the included Nikonscan. Having now scanned over 10,200 frames of various films with the Coolscan 5000 and over 3,000 frames with a other scanners I can tell you that scanning with the Coolscan 5000 can only be termed as uneventful. Compared to the Coolscan, all the others are far slower and requires user intervention frame to frame even within each roll using native or third party software.

You can consider using a DSLR with a macro lens and taking a pic of the frame of film may be faster - if you have it properly setup, but not only will you not get the resolution of a Coolscan but you will not have ICE and manipulation of the image captured from a slide will take considerably more work - more with negative capture. Below is what you can expect from a 10Mp Canon 40D, using the Canon 60mm efs on the same frame of Fuji RVP.

Click thumbnail for 3Meg full res.

Roger Smith , Mar 28, 2009; 11:42 a.m.

"There are no flares with the Nikon, only when it was operated in extremely dusty environment and wasn't cleaned."

That's not true. Despite this I'd probably recommend the LS5000 for your task, especially if you're scanning negative film.

LS 5000:
Canon FS4000US:

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