Film Photography

A new (old) scanner

I’ve been unhappy with the 35mm scans my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II produces. They lack sharpness and shadow detail. I’ve done everything I can figure out in VueScan to make them better.

I’ve complained about this before, and reader P paid sharp attention. He contacted me recently to recommend a dedicated 35mm scanner he found used for a good price, refurbished, at KEH. I bought it straightaway.

It’s the Minolta DiMAGE Scan Dual II, which was manufactured in about 2003. This scanner’s maximum output is 2,820 DPI, yielding images of roughly 3680×2580 pixels. That’s nearly 10 megapixels, which is enough for anything I do with my images.

When it arrived, I quickly scanned a negative strip from a roll of Ilford Delta 400 I shot in my Olympus XA in December to make sure the scanner functioned. It did, but my scans weren’t sharp. So I tried again later with the same strip, digging into the manual and into VueScan’s settings to get focus right. I got very good sharpness that time.

I’m going to show you all four frames from both scanners. In each pair, the Scan Dual II scans are first and the CanoScan 9000F scans are second. I’ve tweaked both in Photoshop to my liking, within the limits of the scan — but the ScanDual scans didn’t need very much help. They are far better than the CanoScan scans, especially in contrast and sharpness. The contrast is apparent right off, but you need to see these scans at full size to appreciate the sharpness difference. To do that, click to see them on Flickr and then click them there to see them larger.

At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park
At McCormick's Creek State Park

Even though the Minolta is 17 years old and relies on a USB 1.0 interface, I got scans faster than I ever do from the Canon. This is in part because VueScan was able to accurately detect frames in the Minolta, and it can’t in the Canon for some reason. I have to painstakingly select each frame before scanning.

The Minolta scans are far sharper than the Canon scans straight off the scanner. No amount of Photoshopping can make the Canon scans look sharp, while a tiny bit of unsharp masking makes the Minolta scans look great.

This scanner’s native software doesn’t work with Windows 10. Fortunately, VueScan recognized this scanner instantly and was ready in seconds to make scans from it.

I kept going, this time with a strip of color film. This is Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400, shot in my Olympus OM-2n using the 50mm f/3.5 Olympus Zuiko MC Auto-Macro lens. I sent this film to Fulltone Photo for developing and scanning. My scans from the Scan Dual II are first, and Fulltone’s scans are second. I adjusted VueScan’s settings as best I could but still got rather cool scans. So I adjusted white balance and a few other settings on them in Photoshop.

The Scan Dual II scans are not far better than the Fulltone scans. I rather prefer the color Fulltone delivered — but it could be that after all these years I’m just used to the color a lab’s Noritsu scanner delivers. Now that I’m looking at these again, the ScanDual scans might have a slight magenta cast, and removing it might help. Yet these scans are acceptable for the day I might choose to develop color film at home, or wish to rescan an old color negative.

Tree tunnel
Tree tunnel in autumn
Harvested
Harvested
Harvested by the barn
Barn in the harvested field
Abby and Amherst
Abby & Amherst

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27 thoughts on “A new (old) scanner

  1. The scans from Minolta looks nice and sharp. As much as I love shooting and developing film at home, scanning is my least favorite part of the process. My 10-year old Epson V600 is slow and can be frustrating to use at times. I’m glad you’re happy with the results you got from your “new” scanner.

  2. Dan Cluley says:

    The B/W shots definitely look better with the new scanner.

    The color ones remind me why adjusting color just drives me nuts. :)

    Both versions of the 1st & last photos look good. If I saw either one I’d be fine, but show me both, and I’ll spend way too long trying to decide which one is “right”. I found that streetlamp on Steetview, and I’d say Google’s color pretty much splits the difference between your two scans

    On the other hand, I think your scan is clearly better for both of the barn shots, so overall I think you’ve got a winner there.

  3. Nice results Jim. Do you now (like I did) have an itch to re-scan ALL your 35mm shots? 😀

    For your colour scans, you could try Grain2Pixel, which is a free Photos hop plug in for inverting negatives – it’s a little like Negative Lab Pro, but not as feature rich. I’ve had some very nice results when using it.

  4. I’ve been using a Konica-Minolta DiMage scanner since the early 2000s.Most of the photos on my blog, including the two today (alifeinphotography.blogspot.com) are scans from slides made with that scanner. I use the Super B setting, which gives me a 5704×3885 (about 19×13 inches) file that enlarges extremely well. I’ve printed the photo on my 2/5/21 post at 24×36 inches, and it looks great. The original was a Fujichrome 100 slide.

    The DiMage is a slow way to go, but it’s the next best thing to a professional drum scan. Unfortunately, my DiMage is getting a little long in the tooth and I’m working on a setup to copy my slides with a digital camera fitted with extension tubes and a macro lens..

    • I’m glad to hear your experience report with your scanner! It gives me hope that mine will be a good partner for a while. They all do wear out eventually! It is a little bit risky to buy something used, especially 17 years old like mine is. But the price was right.

  5. Hi,
    that initial period with a new scanner can be a little disconcerting as you get used to it and learn all its secrets to getting great results. Looks like you’ve got a goodun :) I may be in the minority but I actually quite like scanning. Its akin to watching my first home print being made in the tray. Awesome!
    Andrew

    • I don’t love scanning. I also don’t love developing the film. But I don’t hate these things, so I keep doing them. Fortunately it didn’t take me long to figure out how to get good scans out of this scanner!

  6. Christopher May says:

    The B&W scans are worlds better. Wow! I’m curious about something I see, especially in the color shots, though. The full size version of the power line/field shot, for instance, seems to have a double image going on. The lab scan doesn’t seem to have that, so I don’t think it was camera movement during exposure. I see the same effect on a few other photos, too. Is there some way that the film could be moving during the scan?

    • The slight double effect is due to me accidentally bumping the film transport in the scanner while it was scanning. You have to blow the images up to notice it, so I decided not to rescan. This was just to test out the scanner and this is good enough for this purpose. But I have to make sure going forward that where I put the scanner isn’t susceptible to me knocking it with my elbow.

  7. The Minolta is definitely sharp with good contrast, but you’re right about the colour. There is a noticeable magenta cast to my eye. That should be fairly easy to shift if the image is important enough to you.
    Since I don’t shoot film I don’t do much image scanning, except for when I find old pictures around. I have a dedicated slide/negative scanner I use, but I don’t remember what it is or even where it is so I can say the brand and model. It’s more than 10 years old, though. I know this because I had it before we moved up here!

    • It should be easy enough for me to resolve the magenta cast going forward – that’s just a slider in Photoshop. I am still learning how to see a color image, If that makes any sense. For years I just accepted whatever I got back from the processor, or whatever my digital camera gave me. But now that I am able to scan my own color negatives, now I have to pay attention in a way that I’ve never had to pay attention before. Lots to learn!

  8. One thing I find a pain about scanning (having scanned thousands of images this year) is that I keep getting better at it. So I have to go back and redo old photos.

    Your images turned out great.

  9. My earliest scans were done with a CanoScan 8800f. They are more than adequate for the roughly 1:1 images of the proof sheet I print of every roll. But when I want to do a proper print one of these images I re-scan just that image with my digital camera setup. I do the same thing fore the very few images that I post on the internet.

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