June 2006 Archives
June 22, 2006

Scanning Xpan films with Nikon Coolscan 9000 and FH-869GR film holder

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Matt-Davis hike at Mount Tamalpais, California

I returned the Epson V750-M Pro scanner and got instead a Nikon Coolscan 9000 scanner with the Nikon FH-869GR 120/220 rotating film glass holder. This holder uses two pieces of glass to keep the film flat, by sandwiching the film in between. In my tests I didn't notice any loss in image resolution, contrast or shift in the color balance compared to scanning the same slide in the regular film strip holder.

The film holder can hold 120 and 220 frames, but for smaller frames it uses a set of black masks to cover the unused portion of the glass. This helps with the proper exposure of the film, as it keeps light out in the unused portion of the frame. The masks are also cleverly done, as they have on one side a set of punches that uniquely identify the mask and its cut frame. As soon as you insert into the scanner the glass holder with a film strip and such a mask, the scanner reads those punches and communicates the information to the scan application. This way Nikon Scan automatically recognizes the size of the frame you intend to scan, and adjusts the crop frame accordingly. Pretty nifty!

One problem I did find with the glass holder is that on some frames I could clearly see Newton rings. I tried cleaning up the glass using a Pec*Pad wipe and Eclipse cleaning solution. This helped with some rings, but not with all of them. Luckily this was a problem for me with only one frame out of several I scanned.

Save for the Newton rings problem, scanning Xpan film strips in the Coolscan 9000 is very easy with the FH-869GR holder. In fact it appears to be the only way to scan Xpan film strips with the Coolscan 9000. The regular film strip holder that comes with the scanner has plastic tabs between the 35mm frames. My guess is that even if you cut them, the scanner will refuse to scan more than 36mm in length.

The only problem with the FH-869GR holder is that you cannot batch scan multiple frames. The glass opening is for exactly one frame, even if 3 uncut Xpan frames can fit in the holder. Oh well...

Posted by ovidiu at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |
June 21, 2006

Google Picasa for the Web

Google

Google released Picasa for the Web. It's a pretty cool web application which lets you update pictures from your Picasa application (Windows only unfortunately).

I've uploaded some shots on Picasa web, check them out if you're interested.

Posted by ovidiu at 10:34 PM | Comments (2) |
June 12, 2006

Quick review: Nikon Coolscan 5000 vs Epson V750-M

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In the previous post I was observing that scanning slide film on Epson V750-M doesn't live up to the high expectations I had. Scanning some of the Xpan slides produced fairly low quality images that I wasn't satisfied with. So I started out by producing a more rigurous test between the Nikon Coolscan 5000 and the long awaited Epson V750-M.

To illustrate the difference between the Nikon Coolscan 5000 film scanner and the Epson V750-M flatbed scanner, I scanned a Schneider SMPTE RP-40 test slide (from Adorama) - click on image to see a larger size:

Schneider SMPTE RP-40 test slide

I zoomed on the center portion, which displays a series of lines, very small and hard to discern on a lightbox with a 10x loupe. Here is how the slide appears on the two scanners, with different settings.

Nikon Coolscan 5000, 4000dpi, 16 bit depth, color space grayscale, 1x multiple sample scanning:
Nikon Coolscan 5000, 4000dpi, 1x multisample

Nikon Coolscan 5000, 4000dpi, 16 bit depth, color space grayscale, 4x multiple sample scanning:
Nikon Coolscan 5000, 4000dpi, 4x multisample

Epson V750-M, 4000dpi, 16 bit depth, color space grayscale, mounted slide placed in mounted slide film holder:
Epson V750-M, 4000dpi, slide in mounted film holder

Epson V750-M, 6400 dpi, sampled down to 4000dpi, 16 bit depth, color space grayscale, mounted slide placed in mounted slide film holder:
Epson V750-M, 6400 dpi, sampled down to 4000dpi, slide in mounted slide film holder

Epson V750-M, 6400 dpi, sampled down to 4000dpi, 16 bit depth, color space grayscale, mounted slide placed directly on the glass surface:
Epson V750-M, 6400 dpi, sampled down to 4000dpi, slide on the glass surface

Epson V750-M, 4000dpi, 16 bit depth, color space grayscale, mounted slide placed in mounted slide holder raised 1mm:
Epson V750-M, 4000dpi, slide in mounted slide holder raised 1mm

As you can see from the images above, the Nikon scanner has a much better contrast, as well as much better resolution. The scanner has a builtin focusing mechanism, which by default is set to automatic, but one can adjust it manually in the software. When set to 4x, Coolscan's multisampling facility provides a much sharper image - this works by scanning the slide 4 times and combining the images. In practice the scanning time increases only slightly.

The Epson scanner's high resolution doesn't appear to make any difference in the quality of the image. Several people, including Fazal Majid in a comment on my previous post, suggested scanning with the mounted slide film raised approx 1mm. I did this experiment by placing the slide holder on few paper sheets stacked up to be 1mm in height, as measured with a digital caliper. As you can see from the picture above, this doesn't increase the quality of the picture. Update: Fazal pointed to Vincent Oliver's review and how the tab can be reversed to achieve the same height increase. The obtained scanned image is essentially the same as the one above.

In terms of quality there is no doubt in my mind the Coolscan is the clear winner.

Posted by ovidiu at 01:06 AM | Comments (2) |
June 11, 2006

Epson V750-M doesn't live up to expectations

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I patiently waited for the Epson V750-M scanner to hit the market, so I can scan my Xpan slides. I got it last week from B&H and ran some scans on them.

The package contains a bunch of software goodies in it. It has the Silverfast AI version 6, Adobe Photoshop Elements 3, Epson Scan, and Monaco EZ Color for calibration. It does not have a printed manual however, which was a surprise to me since the number of accessories and options is quite high. I usually don't resort to the manual unless I have no choice, and this time I really felt the need. After looking more carefully into what was installed on the computer, I did find an HTML version of the manual installed in the same directory with Epson Scan.

The first thing I did was to calibrate the scanner using targets from Wolf Faust. Then I scanned some slides made with the Xpan, using the 45mm lens with the center filter attached. The camera was placed on a tripod, so the image should have been as sharp as possible. I used the provided strip film holder, the film was not mounted. This film holder looks quite wobbly, and the film doesn't stay completely flat.

The results were quite unsharp. I scanned the slide using Silverfast, VueScan and Epson Scan, all gave pretty much the same result. On the film holder, the film strip doesn't stay flat on the glass of the scanner, but rather it's raised few millimeters above it. Taking it out of the film holder and laying it directly on the glass doesn't improve the situation either.

Unlike on my Nikon Coolscan 5000, the software doesn't have any option to adjust the focus of the scanner's internal lens. My guess is that this contributes quite a bit to the lack of sharpness in the final image. Epson provides some additional plastic tabs that can be used to replace the existing ones in the film holders. This solution however seems like a cheap way of fixing a fundamental problem.

The result is that I'm not satisfied with the results of the scanner, and I'll be returning it. I'm seriously thinking of getting the Nikon Coolscan 9000 with the FH-869GR film holder.

Posted by ovidiu at 05:12 PM | Comments (6) |
 
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