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filmscanners: Polaroid Sprintscan 120



I'm new to this list.  I just purchased a Polaroid Sprintscan 120 with the
Silverfast software.  I have some initial impressions to share and some
questions.  First, overall the scan quality is, IMHO, excellent and the
scanner is very fast.  For medium format I am scanning 6 cm x 9 cm slides
(mostly Velvia).  I am scanning into 48 bit raw files and then exporting to
Photoshop.  At 4000 dpi, this gives me files of about 660 Megabytes in 10
minutes!  If I scan at 1/2 maximum resolution, 2000 dpi, the scan time drops
to only 2 minutes or less for 6 cm x 9 cm slides, and I get an excellent 160
MB 48 bit file, which is 80 MB after reduced to 24 bit color.  Sharpness on
the scans is excellent.  35 mm scans are also very nice; 4000 dpi in 48 bit
mode in about 2 minutes.

Here are my questions/problems with the scanner that maybe someone can help
me with:

 1.  Did I make a mistake spending $300 extra for the Silverfast software?
The main reason I purchased the software was for the color calibration
module and IT8 slide, and because I'd heard so many great things about
Silverfast.  However, I find that, while the color calibration is very good,
it has some shortcomings, depending on the particular slide, with the
yellows and magentas; sometimes the yellows are overemphasized and the
magentas underemphasized, or vice versa, as compared to the original viewed
on a light table (BTW for those who have never worked with a custom ICC
profile for a scanner before, these shortcomings are quite minor, nothing
compared to color shifts you see without a custom-profiled scanner, but I'm
a perfectionist when it comes to color; fyi, I have a fully calibrated
workflow on a Mac G4 using Optical and a DTP92 to calibrate my monitor, so
the problem is not elsewhere in my workflow).  I am making raw 48 bit scans
and gamma correcting them for a 2.2 gamma in the Silverfast software, and
then exporting them to Photoshop 6 (depending on the image I am doing the 48
bit editing in either Photoshop or Silverfast HDR).  Another problem I am
noticing with my raw, profiled scans is that the blackest blacks and whitest
whites are clipped in the raw 48 bit, profile-corrected, scan.  My darkest
shadow areas never get below "20" on the Photoshop histogram and the whitest
highlighs never above "235."  I followed Ian Lyon's tutorial religiously in
calibrating the scanner with Silverfast; is losing the blackest blacks and
brightest whites a result of using a 2.2 gamma (as opposed to say 1.8
gamma)?  Is there some easy way to retrieve these more extreme values?  I
can of course increase the contrast in Silverfast HDR or Photoshop 48 bit
editing (for example by moving in sliders on the "Levels" command), but then
this has other effects as well. . . .

Back to my question about whether the Silverfast software bundle is worth
the extra $300, other than IT8 calibration, what does Silverfast off that
you can't just do in 48 bit mode in Photoshop 6.0?  What's the advantage of
learning an entirely new interface?  Am I missing something?  Moreover,
Photoshop has excellent masking tools, which Silverfast does not (while not
available in 48 bit mode, you can save a duplicate of the file to 24 bit
mode, mask in 24 bit mode, and then, reopening the 48 bit file, use the
masks created in the 24 bit mode on the 48 bit file).  To be fair,
Silverfast's automatic correction tool with manual override is a nice
feature, but is it worth $300?

2.  With one 6cm x 9 cm slides I've scanned (out of about 8 or 9 images
scanned), there is noticeable softness introduced by the bowing of the film
because the film carrier does not hold it perfectly flat.  (The  original
does not have this softness.)  Are there any tricks that people have come up
with to reduce this bowing?

BTW, for people who are thinking about bowing as a purchasing decision,
despite my pre-purchasing concerns and my one negative experience, I'm
overall pleasantly surpsied with the lack of bowiong for 6 cm x 9 cm slides.
Of the five or so cut 6 x 9 cm slides I've scanned thus far, there was
bowing softness in only one portion of the very top of one slide (covering
less than 5% of the overall area of the scan); in the other 6 x 9cm cut
slides I've scanned, I have not observed ANY bowing effect.  For film that
is still in strips (another 5 sample scans or so thus far), bowing does not
appear to have any effect at all; scan one end of the strip, then flip the
strip around before scanning the slide at the open end.

The thing I don't like about the Polaroid 120 mm holders, however, is that
they necessarily mask off a portion of the slide.  If the slide is in
landscape format, you are losing a small portion at the top and bottom of
the slide.  This is because the holder has a ledge to holder the slides, but
the ledge intrudes slightly into the image frame.  Overall the lost image
area is not horribly significant (you're probably left with the equivalent
of about 95% viewfinder coverage in a single lens reflex), but, because I
shoot a view camera with a 6 cm x 9 cm back and see 100% of the image area
on the ground glass when composing, it means that I'm not able to scan
everything I saw on the ground glass when taking the image.

3.  Dust.  It can take a lot of time to dust a 170 Megabyte 24 bit file (6
cm x 9 cm scans reduced to 3000 dpi using Photoshop's bicubic
interpolation).  I'm finding that if I take an extra couple of minutes with
a handblower before doing the scan, I can reduce dusting time to about 10
minutes per 6cm x 9 cm scan; not bad, considering that it means no digital
ICE softnening at all is introduced.  (BTW in the June '01 issue of PEI
magazine there's an excellent article on how to decrease dusting time by 1/2
or less; it really works!)  Do any of you have particular tricks or products
you use that are effective for getting dust off of slides before scanning
them?  BTW, if/when Polaroid comes out wtih a glass carrier for 120 mm film,
one problem will be 4 additional surfaces to collect dust, but no digital
ICE for reducing it.  Tradeoffs involved, as always.

Hope this helps some of you in evaluating a Sprintscan 120 purchase, and
thanks in advance for any feedback on my questions.  For those deciding
between the Sprintscan 120 and Nikon 8000ED, my overall initial feeling
about the the SS120 is that it's an excellent scanner and offers excellent
value.  Sharpness, color fidelity, and tonal reproduction (without minimal
noise, if any) are it's strong points.  I'd like it to be perfect, which
it's not.

Howard A. Slavitt
www.enaturephoto.com




 




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