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Whats The "Best" 35mm Scanner for Home Use ?

Jon Kobeck , Feb 03, 2010; 08:08 p.m.

Last year I bought a Nkon Coolscan ED Scanner for my 35mm work. I no longer own that or any scanner. I want to get back into scanning and I want to know if the Coolscan is still considered the best for home work on 35mm film. I use an Epson 3800 to print and I like to print large 17 x 25. thanks


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JDM von Weinberg , Feb 03, 2010; 08:30 p.m.

The best is probably some truly professional slide scanner, if price is no object.
The Nikon scanners are good. The current crop of high-end Canoscans are good, especially if you're doing larger negatives.
More info on what you're scanning (only 35mm or different formats), how much you want to spend, etc. Would be good. 17x25 (inches?) is big, and suggests you need scans that are at the very least 4000 ppi and probably bigger would be better. I don't think that the scans from the flatbed film scanners are actually as high image quality as the 4000 ppi scans from dedicated film scanners, but they can produce very large files.

Time is another variable, some very good scanners are also very slow scanners.... This may work if you are only doing a few scans, but can be a real bottleneck if you're doing hundreds or thousands of slides, for example. I did thousands on a slow scanner and I would gladly pay $8-10,000 rather than do that again.

Jon Kobeck , Feb 03, 2010; 08:35 p.m.

I was just looking at ebay for some options on the coolscan. Right now I am only shooting 35mm, but possibly might want to do medium format later. It looks like the coolscan 9000 would be great for 35mm and med format, yes?
It seems those are about $2000.00 new.
the scanner I owned before for a short time was the V ED but I bought it used.

Edward Ingold , Feb 03, 2010; 09:47 p.m.

I have an LS-4000 and LS-8000, but I suspect these observations would be valid for the LS-5000 vs the LS-9000 as well. The newer scanners are faster, have a higher DMax and are 16 bit vs 14 bit. They seem to be the same optically and mechanically, and take the same accessories.

The LS-8000 does nearly as well with 35mm as the LS-4000, but is slower to load. The LS-8000 holds two strips of 6 or less of 35mm film, and you must be careful to support the ends of the first and last frame unless the film is absolutely flat. That may require you to turn the film around for the last frame. The LS-5000 holds the film flatter and can take a whole roll (40 frames) at once. Typically I scan the entire roll before cutting it into strips. This saves a LOT of time.

The light in the LS-8000 is somewhat more diffuse than in the LS-5000. This does not seem to affect sharpness, but greatly reduces the effect of scratches and dust. I seldom need to spot negatives scanned in the LS-8000 (using ICE, of course).

It is absolutely necessary to use a glass holder with roll film if you want scans to be consistently sharp from corner to corner. There is probably a way to use the non-rotating holder with 35mm film too, but I haven't tried it. There is also a rotating holder, which allows fine adjustments to the film alignment. However, you must use coded masks (optional with the non-rotating holder) and can scan only one frame at a time. I see no justifiable need for the rotating feature. You can easily align film by tapping the edge of the holder, then scan multiple frames before reloading.

Jon Kobeck , Feb 03, 2010; 10:12 p.m.

I also notice the coolscan 9000 is sold out everywhere online

Mendel Leisk , Feb 03, 2010; 10:27 p.m.

I have the Minolta Scan Elite 5400 (first version) and the Nikon Coolscan V, both out of production now. The V is obviously second fiddle to the 5000 (which is still in production), but in the same "ballpark".

Anyway, of my two scanners, I'd vote for the 5400, for ultimate quality. But the V is faster (and the 5000 faster yet). It also to seems to work better with Vuescan when scanning color negatives, for color balance. But the 5400's more diffuse light source is much less likely to find each-and-every scratch, delivers better (negative) highlight detail, and is higher resolution. OTOH, the 5400's depth of focus is much more finicky than the V's. The 5400's OEM software is useable, whereas I've yet to fathom NIkonScan, and really lost interest, just run the V with Vuescan.

So for me, there is no clear winner. This is not that uncommon in my experience: competing products invariably have strengths and weaknesses.

Yoshio Tanaka , Feb 04, 2010; 01:35 a.m.


As far as I know, there has been very little development in the scanner area. I use a Nikon LS-4000 and believe that it is very good. As Mendel observes the Scan Elite 5400 is also a very capable scanner. Software also makes a difference and while I have tried many iterations of softwares (vuescan since 7.x silverfast) I keep going back to just the Nikon twain drivers and driving the negative scan in the positive area within Photoshop (inverting and post processing later with actions)

arugments about which of the two (Nikon vs Minolta) go on, but either is good. If you wish to have automated feeds (I do) then the Minolta will not provide that. There are sites showing you how to convert an SA-21 to be able to handle 40 image strips in batch and one can easily fabricate a system to deal with the film each end. This again is helpful for doing more than one or two frames at a time.

This page is a good start.

Robert Lee , Feb 04, 2010; 01:47 a.m.

I use an Epson 3800 to print and I like to print large 17 x 25.

Wow, that's really pushing 135. I don't normally print larger than 6x9 myself.

In any case, the Nikon 5000 is still the best of what can be bought new. It's leagues better than the higher end consumer flatbeds. At the print sizes you mention, the image quality difference will immediately noticeable and obvious.

Robert K , Feb 04, 2010; 08:58 a.m.

I have posted the following several times here about scanner flares and usage. Some links may be old and broken.
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.

Robin Smith , Feb 04, 2010; 11:33 a.m.


I think for 35mm you will find that 17 x 25 is unlikely to be very good. A neg worthy of 16 x 20 inch treatment was rare in the conventional darkroom. I find with Velvia 50 I can manage a 13X19 but it needs careful treatment. I have the Canoscan 4000FS which is basically like the Coolscan but has been discontinued. It is very sharp, but like the Nikons suffers from blooming (flare) on occasion. The Nikons are the only dedicated film scanners of any real quality left for the amateur unless you are buying second hand when the Canon and the Minoltas may be available. The Hasselblad ones are beyond most people's price range.

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