The Scanning Dilemma

By March 27, 2013Blog, Film

Scanning Options

A couple of weeks ago I posted some film shots HERE, my initial title for that particular post was going to be quite simply Film Heaven”. As I set about scanning the images for the post I began to feel a genuine sense of frustration. I was unable to achieve an adequate level of sharpness and in addition to this, much of the detail that was clearly evident on the film was not finding it’s way in to my scanned output. Annoyed, at the time I simply amended the title of my post to Film Heaven or Hell” and vented some of my frustration about the Canoscan 9000f.  It didn’t end there though, besides having a good moan about my scanner I began to look seriously at the options available to anyone in a similar position, options that won’t break the bank and are capable of producing good quality images.

With all that in mind I’m going to produce some posts about scanning over the coming weeks, I’ll mix these in with my other posts so we don’t get completely sidetracked and still have some images to look at, after all that is the prime purpose of this site.

After a lot of research on my part and also with huge assistance from several other sources I have shortlisted the options I will be looking at below. As I look at each option I will credit fully and in detail those individuals and companies that have helped me arrive at that conclusion.

So, after more expense and in a bid to make us happy scanners here are the contenders in no particular order – 

  • Canoscan 9000f – In the year or so that I’ve had the Canoscan 9000f I’ve had mixed results with 35mm film and a reasonable level of success with the MF scans. As I have one to hand, because it’s inexpensive and because it’s capable of scanning both 35mm and MF I’m going to give it one more chance.
  • Canoscan FS4000US – This is an old scanner, it still commands a good price and there is a very good reason for that.
  • Nikon ES-1 – I took some convincing about this option, of course it’s not a scanner but if you already own a Nikon D300s and 40mm Micro Nikkor f/2.8 then it’s very cost effective.
  • Epson V700 – I’ve seen so many good quality scans from this machine that it has to figure in my thoughts.
  • Reflecta Proscan 7200 –  Again, when someone whose opinion you respect greatly tells you he is delighted with the results of this scanner it has to figure in this feature.

I’m not going to be producing technical reviews of these scanners as they already exist on the internet. I am going to show you scans of my images and share my thoughts on workflow along with contributions from other readers of this site. I won’t be doing any rating or scoring of these solutions as I’m optimistic that from what I have already seen each is a viable option in it’s own right dependent on your specific needs and budget.

I’m going to use Silverfast wherever possible as from my experience it is the premium scanning software. 

I don’t profess to being a scanning guru, I do however like to get good results and this will be my sole aim. I will continue to give thought to the format of these posts over the coming days so if anyone has any particular ideas on this please share them.

If your reading this and your already happy with your scanner and it’s output that is great news, this is by no means a definitive list as I am restricted by both means and time.

I’d really like to get around to the Plustek Opticfilm 120 at some point but at the time of writing this I have been unable to source one. 

Cheers, Jason.


  • Andrew says:


    Looking forward to this! There is a Plustek Opticfilm 120 available for sale in Melbourne!! Not overly helpful to try it but if you can not source in NZ they are around the corner from work over here.

    I was speaking with the “salesman” about both the v700 and Plustek a few days ago. He felt the v700, given it’s versatility and work flow (can walk away and it will scan, Plustek involves some more overseeing in the process) was the better option. It also also a flatbed scanner for prints so hence the versatility aspect.

    This is very timely.

    Good luck!

    • janrzm says:

      Hey Andrew,

      Thanks for the tip off, I will just wait to hear back from them first. I’m in the US in a few months so I may buy it there, suspect it will be the cheapest place on earth to get one…….

      I guess the scanner or scanners we choose are all very specific to our own needs, in my experience of flatbeds so far the 35mm results have not been adequate, I’m hopeful the V700 will prove me wrong. Will it be as good as the dedicated 35mm scanners? well that remains to be seen.

      Be interesting to see how it all pans out.

      Cheers, Jason.

  • Looking forward to your conclusions. Thank you for generously sharing!

  • Phil says:

    Hi mate,
    I know where you’re coming from, I had the same experiences with my scanning adventures. My first one was a Plustek 7400, which gave me decent results, but not having infrared option, also lots of dust and scratches to deal with .

    I then switched to a Reflecta Proscan7200. Main reason was the infrared support and the fact that the maximal optical resolution of the scanner (around 3200 dpi) is very close to the maximal resolution you can set the scanner to (3600 dpi). This gives you quite a nice sharpness.
    The Plustek scanner has a true optical resolution of around 3000 dpi, but offers to scan at 7200 dpi. This sounds good on paper, but in reality you get an upscaled image with quite a substantial loss in sharpness.

    One word to your decision to use silverfast: I needed to buy a new version of it when I got the new scanner, this makes it a bit tricky when you evaluate various scanners. If you “only” want to look into sharpness, I would suggest you get VueScan, which I actually prefer for black and white film and also for film like Kodak Ektar.

    I’m looking forward to your experiences!

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Phil,

      Busy Easter here……

      Interested to read your comments, it does seem to be a theme with all scanner manufacturers that the actual resolution is some way short of the figures given out in specifications.

      I have Vuescan also and it works very well for B&W, especially on the FS4000US.

      Cheers, Jason.

  • James stevenson says:

    Hi Jason,

    I’ve been on a similar journey of frustration, highs and lows! Scanning film seems lke something of a dark art sometimes, with so many variables between hardware and software. I sold on my cheapo epson entry level scanner for a v700 a while ago now and on the whole I’ve been really impressed with the results.

    All the same I’ve been wondering if I’m getting the best results from it. Upgrading the software was step one, but I also see that better are selling height adjustable masks enabling precise control.

    I’ve wanted to love silverfast, I really have tried! It could be my ageing pc or poor graphics card, but I find it a bear to use; it freezes, crashes, runs at a snails pace and generally frustrates. Patience has paid off with better results but I’m still none the wiser about what resolution to scan at (go large and scale down to crystallize that detail, or just scan a small file to start with? My results have been mixed.

    I’ve been curious about using my camera as a scanner, the guys at digital rev on YouTube have done this with a 5dmk2 and a home brew setup, and achieved great results, beating the scanner and the store scans in detail, dynamic range and flexibility as you have the raw file to work with. Upgrades to silverfast allow for raw scanning and things like multipass exposure to reduce noise and increase DR, but the upgrades step up in price at quite a rate.

    I’ve thought about trying wet mount scanning with epsons fluid mounts, and also getting a macro lens for my OM-D to see whether that beats the scanner quality.

    Needless to say I’m looking forward to your post! As well as that sonnar / jupiter comparison! Was looking at some of your jupiter shots on Flickr again earlier and they’re really striking with a quality all of their own.

    Cheers! James

    • janrzm says:

      Hey James,

      I’ve just recovered your comment from spam, not sure what happened there.

      I can relate to almost everything you’ve said, Silverfast is working well for me on the iMac though. Ultimately there are going to be some trade off’s in this process I think, time spent scanning isn’t what I’d consider quality time……these scanning posts are going to take some time to complete also as I keep tinkering and can’t settle on one workflow. I am pleased to say I’m getting scans I am happy with now though.

      I keep collecting images for the J3/Sonnar comparison, it’s not forgotten.

      Cheers, Jason.

  • Ed says:

    First and foremost, nice work, and that from someone who belongs firmly in the f/64 department, should mean something. As for the Canon, nice beast, I own a 1.4 Nikon AIS and no comparison indeed, this lens is crisp where it needs to be crisp and creamy where it needs to be creamy. The Nikon is great stopped down to f/4 and firther down the road but fully open it needs a lot of postprocessing to be acceptable. Well it was like that back then, some Canon lenses where outstanding other where complete fails and well does anyone remember the 43-86 (made by Nikon indeed after someone looked firmly in business end of a large Sake bottle).

    As for scanning 35 mm, well I own a Nikon V (bought it when they were dirt cheap back in 2007)……and for 6×8 I use an Epson V750…..the Nikon runs rings around the Epson in head to head dual. It will also run rings around the Plustek and you need an Imacon to beat it (and 20.000 dollars or something of that magnitude). Only drawback, when you have to scan 400 slides invest a week or so since the Nikon is thourough but likes to take it’s time. Added bonus of the Nikon, variable light intensity that even allows a sort of HDR workflow.

    Greets, Ed.

    • janrzm says:

      Cheers Ed, I appreciate that.

      Interesting tip about the Nikon, thanks. When you factor in the age and price of the Canon it’s really right up there with anything else.

      I’d have liked the Nikon V, getting on the right side (happy) with scanning has been a bit of a challenge but I’m there now between the Reflecta and the Epson V700 it’s good enough for me. I did seriously consider an Imacon but just could not justify the expense to myself, thats some statement from me……haha

      Cheers, Jason.

  • […] Scanning done on the Canoscan 9000f with the exception of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and A Log Day which were scanned on the REFLECTA PRO 7200. You can read why I left the Canoscan 9000f HERE and the direction I’ve taken with scanning HERE […]

Leave a Reply