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.
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.
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.
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.