Photography

Minolta DiMAGE Scan Dual II

When I learned how to develop black-and-white film, I needed a way to make digital images of the negatives so I could share them with you on this site. I first tried my existing flatbed scanner. It did passable work with medium-format negatives, but 35mm negatives always turned out muddy with poor shadow detail. A reader not only suggested that I try a dedicated 35mm scanner, but also linked me to a used one at a good price at KEH. It’s this Minolta DiMAGE Scan Dual II. I bought it right away.

Minolta introduced this scanner in 1999. The state of the scanner art has improved slightly since then, but the Scan Dual II is still plenty useful. You have to choose patience when scanning with the Scan Dual II, as it connects to the computer using old, slow USB 1.1. It also lacks automatic dust and scratch removal, but do as I did: buy a squeeze-bulb air blaster and an anti-static brush to clean your negatives. And it scans at a maximum of 2,820 DPI, whereas modern dedicated 35mm scanners claim 7,200 DPI. (See this article, which demystifies DPI in scanning.) 2,820 DPI is good for a scan of about 3800×2600 pixels, just under 10 megapixels. That’s enough for an 8×10-inch print.

Buying any old scanner used is risky because they can be used up and worn out. KEH had refurbished mine, and offered a 180-day warranty. Risk mitigated!

The Scan Dual II came with scanning software, but it won’t run on the latest versions of Windows and MacOS. All is not lost: buy VueScan by Hamrick Software. It makes the Scan Dual II, and virtually any other old scanner, plug and play on any modern computer.

The Scan Dual II comes with holders for 35mm negatives and slides. When new, an extra-cost APS holder was available. The holders are sturdy. They come apart so you can lay in your negative or slides, and snap back together for scanning.

It took me considerable trial and error to set up VueScan to yield scans that pleased me. Here are some things I learned:

  • I turned off multi-pass scanning. My negative holders allow for a little slippage of the negative, probably from wear over the years. That slippage leads to blurry multi-pass scans.
  • VueScan offers a few film profiles, but I found that Generic Color Negative looks best — and I scan black-and-white films primarily.
  • To gain a little speed, I preview at 1,410 DPI but scan at the full 2,820 DPI.
  • VueScan never perfectly frames the images; I always have to tweak the framing after previewing but before scanning.
  • I leave VueScan’s sharpening setting off, and use Unsharp Mask as my last step in Photoshop for fine sharpening control.

The Scan Dual II supports batch scanning — it can scan an entire negative, or four mounted slides, in one go. This helps make up for the slow USB 1.1 interface, as you can press the Scan button and go do something else while you wait.

You feed the negative/slide holder in the front of the ScanDual II, and the scanner draws the entire holder in as it scans. My Scan Dual II is noisy as hell, grinding and whirring and whining as it does its job.

But have a look at the good work my Scan Dual II does. These images look as good to me as anything I ever got from the labs I used to use. I get good sharpness and detail every time.

Lucy Walker
Pentax ME SE, 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M, Fomapan 200 at EI 125, Ilford ID-11 Stock
Fat Dan's
Nikon N70, 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6D AF Nikkor, Kodak T-Max 100, HC-110 Dilution B
Corn
Konica Auto S2, Foma Fomapan 200 at EI 125, Ilford ID-11 1+1
Thing
Nikon N90s, 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor, Ilford HP5 Plus at EI 1600, HC-110 Dilution B
Kilroy's
Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK, Ilford FP4 Plus, Ilford ID-11 1+1
Tire
Unknown camera, Ultrafine Extreme 400, LegacyPro L110, Dilution B
Rocket Liquors
Minolta XD-11, 50mm f/1.7 MD Rokkor-X, Ilford FP4 Plus, Ilford ID-11 1+1

I shoot the occasional roll of expired film. I’m impressed with how well the Scan Dual and VueScan cut through the film’s base fog. Look at the good detail and tonal range I got on this image, which I shot on film 50 years expired! This scanner can’t save badly degraded film, but it will get as good of an image as is possible off the negative.

Morristown, IN
Nikon N90s, 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor, GAF 125 Versapan (expired 7/72) @ EI 80, HC-110 Dilution B

I seldom scan color film in the Scan Dual II, as I send my color film to a lab for processing and scanning. But here’s a color frame I scanned with the Scan Dual II just to try it. I had to do a fair amount of color correction in Photoshop for it to look right, but I suppose that would be true of any scanner’s output.

Abby and Amherst
Olympus OM-2n, 50mm f/3.5 Olympus Zuiko MC Auto-Macro, Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400

The Minolta DiMAGE Scan Dual II can be a relatively inexpensive way to start getting quality scans of your 35mm negatives. I’ve had great luck with mine, as you can see.

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12 thoughts on “Minolta DiMAGE Scan Dual II

  1. Ciaron says:

    The Minolta scanners are really cheap now, but are often missing the film holders. Seems like there might be a niche for 3D printed replicas!

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    For “small film” aficionados, I always recommend getting a film scanner that is designed specifically for your film. I’m a sheet film and roll film guy, but I’ve never seen a decent scanner than can do a great job on 4X5 AND 35mm, that is reasonably priced! 35mm scanners are amazingly “value priced” compared to scanners for larger film, and therefore no reason not to buy one just for 35mm if you can.

  3. P says:

    Nice review/write-up and summary of your experiences with the Scan Dual II, Jim. It didn’t take you long at all to figure out the quirks and start producing excellent scans with it. Your images speak for themselves. And I agree with you — once you ironed out the kinks, the scans you made with the little Minolta are at least the equal of most lab scans, if not superior. I’m very happy the scanner has served you well.

  4. Is this the one you spoke of being a Christmas present recently? Love that you got decent images from 50 years expired film! Some people are afraid to shoot film that’s only a year or two expired!

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