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Flatbed v Dedicated film scanner

One of the most frequently asked questions is, How does a flatbed scanner perform compared to a dedicated film scanner. For the purpose of this review Nikon have kindly loaned their excellent LS 9000 ED scanner, this is a £2,500 unit and I would expect it to outperform the Epson V750. We will find out!

Nikon LS9000 ED

1. Multiple film formats (120/220, 35mm, etc.)
2. 4,000 dpi true optical resolution
3. 16-bit A/D converter
4. Large-diameter new Scanner Nikkor ED lens
5. Improved rod dispersion LED illumination
6. High-speed scanning (35mm slide film: 40 seconds; 6 x 9: 185 seconds)
7. Newly-developed, high-quality 3-line CCD sensor
8. New advanced image processing algorithm for colour negative film
9. Multi-sample scanning
10. Quick AF & Quick Preview
11. High-speed IEEE 1394 interface
12. Scan Image Enhancer
13. Digital ICE4 Advanced (TM) Digital ICE Quad Advanced) with Digital ICE Professional(TM)
14. Price £2,499.99

The purpose of this experiment is to see how well the EPSON V750 performs next to the Nikon LS 9000, so lets start of with some medium format scans - I will return to 35mm later in the review.

Epson V750
Nikon LS 9000 ED
Slightly warmer scan than the Nikon
Excellent neutral tones
No USM applied - straight scan
No USM applied - straight scan
USM applied - A-200, R-2.0, T-0.0
USM applied - A-200, R-2.0, T-0.0
USM applied - A-200, R-2.0, T-0.0 and A-100, R-1.0
USM applied - A-100, R-1.0, T-0.0

The 6x6 transparency was scanned in at 4000dpi which produced a file size of 240mb, this would produce a 30 x 30 inch print at 300dpi. The original was shot on Ektachrome 100 using a Mamiya RZ fitted with a 6x6 back and a 180mm lens.

The first pair of scans show what the scanners produce as a straight scan, i.e. no colour corrections or USM applied at the scanning stage. The Epson scan has more warmth compared with the Nikon but this is easily adjusted. The next pair of scans are 100% magnified details from the centre of the image. The Nikon 9000 has produced a superb scan with good detail throughout. The Epson scan looks very soft by comparison, this softness can be a real cause for concern to anyone trying out the scanner for the first time.

The next set of scans had USM (UnSharp Masking) applied in Photoshop CS2. I used a value of Amount - 200, Radius - 2.0, Threshold - 0.0. The Epson scan has gained more detail now, but applying the same settings to the Nikon scan emphasises the film grain. The bottom right shot shows the optimum settings for the Nikon scan (A-100, R-1.0, T-0.0). The bottom Epson scan shows that applying two doses of USM can produce a better looking scan, applying an increased amount would not achieve the same result.

The bottom line on the results is that the Nikon LS 9000 ED does produce a sharper scan, but after applying USM to the Epson scans the difference is not that great and I doubt very much that under normal viewing conditions you would see the difference. However, you will see the difference in your bank balance.


November 7, 2006

© Vincent Oliver 2008
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