Film Photography

First impression: Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE film scanner

My wife bought me a Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE scanner for Christmas. She had heard me lament the long scan times I was experiencing with my otherwise acceptable Minolta Scan Dual II and decided to help a film photographer out.

I scanned a strip in the Plustek from each of the last five rolls of film I shot. Holy cow, is the Plustek blazing fast compared to the Scan Dual II!

My Plustek came with SilverFast scanning software, but I didn’t install or use it. I used to use it with my old Epson flatbed and found it to be so cumbersome as to be unpleasant. I just stuck with VueScan, which recognized the Plustek instantly.

I scanned strips of Fomapan 200, T-Max 100, Kodak Max 400, Fujicolor 200, and 50-year-expired GAF 125, aka Ansco Versapan. I’ll share a scan from each roll here from the Plustek, and for black and white a scan from the Scan Dual II, and for color a scan from the lab’s scanner. The Plustek scan is always first in each pair.

This is just a quick comparison. All photos were Photoshopped to my liking at the time of scanning, and my liking does vary over time.

If you’d like to pixel peep, click any image to see it on Flickr, where you can see it at full scan size.

First, a frame I shot in my Pentax ME SE with my 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M lens on Fomapan 200 @ EI 125, developed in Ilford ID-11 stock. Right away, you can see that the Plustek captures more of the frame than the Scan Dual, as the Scan Dual scan was not cropped.

Lucy Walker
Lucy Walker

Nikon N90s, 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor, GAF 125 (Ansco Versapan) x-7/72, HC-110 B 6 minutes. These are hard to distinguish from each other at blog size. Both scanners did a great job of cutting through the base fog of this very expired film.

Morristown, IN
Morristown, IN

Nikon N70, 28-80 mm f//3.5-5.6D AF Nikkor, Kodak Max 400. The lab scan is warmer with more contrast. I could probably have Photoshopped my scan to get exactly the lab scan’s warmer look. But I’m not sure which look I like better.

Boone County Courthouse
Boone County Courthouse

Nikon N70, 28-80/3.5-5.6D AF Nikkor, Kodak TMax 100, HC110 B. Other than a slight difference in the crop, these are hard to distinguish from each other.

Video Saloon
Video Saloon

Kodak VR35 K12, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200. Once again the lab scan has stronger contrast. The colors are much more alike than in the previous color comparison. The Plustek yielded a more turquoisey hue in the vehicle than the lab did.


So far I’m happy with the Plustek. It does fine work with black and white, and yields scans much larger than the older Scan Dual — 7200 dpi vs. 2820 dpi. I didn’t use my Scan Dual for color film much as I didn’t like the look right off the scanner. The Plustek does a better job with color and now gives me the option to have my lab only develop my color film so I can scan it myself.

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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
Konica Auto S2, Foma Fomapan 200 at EI 125, Ilford ID-11 1+1
Nikon N90s, 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor, Ilford HP5 Plus at EI 1600, HC-110 Dilution B
Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK, Ilford FP4 Plus, Ilford ID-11 1+1
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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