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Re: filmscanners: Polaroid Sprintscan 120

First Howard, congratulations on the new scanner.

> 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
> questions.  First, overall the scan quality is, IMHO, excellent and
> scanner is very fast.  For medium format I am scanning 6 cm x 9 cm
> (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.

I would be shooting more negative film with CCD scanners.  With good
scanning and Photoshop techniques you should be able to get the best
end result with negatives.

> 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
> The main reason I purchased the software was for the color
> module and IT8 slide, and because I'd heard so many great things
> Silverfast.  However, I find that, while the color calibration is
very good,
> it has some shortcomings, depending on the particular slide, with
> yellows and magentas; sometimes the yellows are overemphasized and
> magentas underemphasized, or vice versa, as compared to the original
> on a light table (BTW for those who have never worked with a custom
> profile for a scanner before, these shortcomings are quite minor,
> 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
> 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
> whites are clipped in the raw 48 bit, profile-corrected, scan.  My
> shadow areas never get below "20" on the Photoshop histogram and the
> 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
> 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. . . .

IMO, no, you did not waste money on Silverfast and the calibration
option.  The sort of discrepencies in color you're seeing may be
attributed to any link in the chain.  You don't know that it's not
your monitor just because it's calibrated.  As the chain gets better,
smaller inaccuracies become more apparent.  That doesn't mean the
newest link in your imaging chain is the cause of them.  Your shadows
and highlights don't sound clipped to me if they're at 20 and 235.
Clipped would be values running off the histogram at 0 and 255.  It
sounds like the software is giving you slightly soft scans, which is
ideal for final correction in PS.

> Back to my question about whether the Silverfast software bundle is
> the extra $300, other than IT8 calibration, what does Silverfast off
> 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?
> 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
> mode, mask in 24 bit mode, and then, reopening the 48 bit file, use
> 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
> feature, but is it worth $300?

Personally, I only want a soft, fairly color correct hi bit scan to
import into PS for exact final correction.  IMO the main feature of
Silversoft is accurate calibration of the scanner.  That is easily
worth $300.

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

Look at the mounted film under a "point source" desk lamp (such as the
Solux Task Lamp) before loading into the scanner.  If it's bowed you
will see that easily, and then you can "tweak" it flat before

> BTW, for people who are thinking about bowing as a purchasing
> despite my pre-purchasing concerns and my one negative experience,
> overall pleasantly surpsied with the lack of bowiong for 6 cm x 9 cm
> Of the five or so cut 6 x 9 cm slides I've scanned thus far, there
> bowing softness in only one portion of the very top of one slide
> less than 5% of the overall area of the scan); in the other 6 x 9cm
> 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
> 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
> area is not horribly significant (you're probably left with the
> 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
> everything I saw on the ground glass when taking the image.

Can you file the carrier?  A time honored tradition for darkroom work.

> 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
> ICE softnening at all is introduced.  (BTW in the June '01 issue of
> 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
> you use that are effective for getting dust off of slides before
> 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
> ICE for reducing it.  Tradeoffs involved, as always.

Again, under the "task lamp" you'll see dust clearly (hold it at the
correct angle to the lamp and the dust will show up very clearly).
Then you can use "dust off" and/or a small sable brush to clear the
film of dust.  Don't build up static by working the neg too much.
After loading the film into the scanner it's unlikely additional dust
will accumulate.

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

Enjoy.  This and the new Nikon are the first generation of CCD film
scanners that are capable of results that are essentially "good
enough" for any conceivable critical use with film up to medium format

Dave King


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