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filmscanners: Scanner Comparisons

My two cents.

The scanner comparisons just posted by Lawrence Smith 
seem to have sent the armchair quarterbacks into a tizzy.

Not unlike a set of scans (Leafscan vs. Nikon 8000) that 
were discussed to death on this list just a couple of 
weeks ago.

To me, these comparisons say more about how similar the 
scanners are than how different.

And I can easily believe that all three of these scanners -- 
Leaf 45, SprintScan 120, and 8000 ED -- are pretty much in 
the same league.  I've worked with two of these three.

It makes little sense to analyze to death subtle tonal 
differences, especially when viewing JPGs from a web page.
Any of these can be easily caused by minor changes in 
scanner-driver settings.  The default behavior of the two 
scanners (in terms of tonality) could easily account for 
any and all such changes.

Bear in mind that the quality of your scans has a lot to 
do with *you* -- assuming that the driver software has at 
least a minimal, common, and necessary set of controls.

I recently was sent a pair of JPGs comparing a SprintScan 4000 
scan and one done on a Scitex Everfast (a $30K machine, or 
at the very least, way out of my price range.)  The fellow who 
sent me the scans was rather determined that the SS 4000 scan 
was markedly inferior in both resolution and dynamic range.

With ten minutes of mask-making and curve-drawing in Photoshop, 
I was able to restore much of the detail to the blown-out 
highlights in the SS 4000 scan.  I guess a few years of 
experience (working with less-than-perfect imaging gear) 
has taught me how to avoid some of the common pitfalls.

Oddly enough (and pleasantly enough) -- with each new 
generation of scanner I buy, the gear improves to the 
point where some of the cool tricks I've learned become 

Guess what I'm saying is: don't fret the tools too much.
These discussions tend to degenerate into Ford-Chevy, 
Canon-Nikon arguments.  Unfortunately, some things that 
really matter aren't known at this time:  how long will 
each of these machines last?  How will the service be, 
when you need it?  How will the units behave on really 
trashy input -- curved media, scratched media, dense 
images, thin images, too contrasty, etc.

And there are other aspects (of both scanners) that can 
be known now, but aren't revealed by sample scans on a web 
page -- the quality and usability of the software, the 
quality of the mechanics, the documentation, etc.

Many moons ago as part of a "Traveling Portfolio" I was 
truly honored when a pro photographer opined that my 
prints appeared to have been drum scanned -- when in fact 
they'd been scanned on Microtek (!!) and/or Polaroid 
desktop film scanners.

Why did I swap scanner brands this time around?  Let's 
just say I went with the Devil I Don't Know.

rafe b.


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