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filmscanners: SS4000 comments

Just got a SS4000 to replace an LS-2000. After a day of use I find the
SS4000 is not as convenient as the LS-2000, but the scans are first rate! A
significant improvement over the LS-2000. Here are some observations:

- Got the unit from Micro Warehouse which charged US$100.00 more than eCost,
and took 10 days to deliver for $28.00. My cost will be US $581.00 after
rebate and including shipping. The LS-2000 was US $1700.00 when I bought it
in 1998. Micro Warehouse policy is there is a 15% restocking fee and no
return of open items. They refer open items directly to the manufacturer for
warrantee. At the point I decided to order, eCost had run out of stock. I
didn't grok Micro Warehouse's return policy until after I ordered. eCost has
since come back with a good price in stock. Drat. I haven't tried asking
Micro Warehouse to price match as their written policy shows total
disinterest in this sort of customer concern. I recommend you try elsewhere
first. (I'm done with my gripe session, now on to the scanner.)

- No edge focus issues like the LS0-2000 etc.; the SS4000 is sharp all
across the frame.

- SS4000 shows very much less grain than the LS-2000, allowing use of much
more unsharp mask. 

- SS4000 shadow performance exceeds the LS-2000 with 16x multi sampling.
Results are very good!

- SS4000 histograms are a tad compressed, unlike the LS-2000, but corrects
beautifully; superior exposure performance in spite of the Nikon's analogue
gain control (which was a very mixed bag). No problem with highlights
blowing out to get shadows.

- SS4000 color exceeds the LS-2000 in my opinion. SS4000 is a little
trickier to get good color saturation as compared to the LS-2000. But the
LS-2000 did very funky color for some reds, even when carefully color
managed. As I gain experience with the SS4000 software, I am finding minor
Photoshop levels and curves tweaks are all that's required for gorgeous
color. An Oversight when choosing this film type in Polacolor Insight had me
worried about the quality of the unit for a moment. I'm scanning Kodak Elite
Chrome (a variation of Ektacrhome 100). The Polacolor "Color Slide" film
setting is given good results.

- Dust is more of a problem for the SS4000 than the LS-2000 w/ICE, but the
LS-2000 wasn't perfect, even with ICE. Cleaning the film with a soft cloth
and canned air is effective for the SS4000.

- The SS4000 is physically faster than the Nikon, but SW processing takes
longer. Scans are quicker overall, even thought the SS4000 is 4000spi and
the LS-2000 is 2700. The SS4000 is much faster overall when compared to the
LS-2000 16x multisampling.

- The SS4000 SCSI connectors are two different types: one DB-25 and one
Centronics (and odd combination). The LS-2000 was a pair of SCSI-3 narrow
connectors, so I had to change cables. The SS4000 works fine in my long SCSI
chain (replacing the LS-2000). At first start after installation, the SS4000
logical device didn't appear on the chain, even after using SCSIProbe
utility to force a bus reset, but this problem went away after I
power-cycled the other devices on the chain.

- The SS4000 film holders are quirky, but usable. The Nikon HW is much
easier to use.

- 8 inches of clearance is required behind the SS4000 because the film
holder moves through the unit like a pipe, coming out the back.

- Polacolor Insight and Silerfast AI software are harder to use than Nikon
Scan and graceless in comparison. NikonScan V2.5.1 on Mac is the peak of
effective and attractive UI design IMHO. I miss it. A new user will find
Silverfast AI hopelessly daunting. Partly because the UI is designed for a
pre-press user and partly because pre-press users expect a bunch of stuff
that's irrelevant in a digital darkroom environment, such as support for
separations (CMYK). Both Polacolor Insight and Silverfast AI are giving nice
looking scans with a slight quality advantage to Polacolor Insight, but
likely only because I am still figuring out Silverfast. I haven't yet
profiled the scanner using Silverfast or Monaco EZ Color, so no comments on
this yet. Also haven't yet tried Vuescan yet. BTW--I'm not sure if the
following means anything, but I'll mention it anyway: The IT8 calibration
target that comes with Silverfast is different than the Kodak Q60E3. Whereas
the Kodak has a picture of a woman's face for visual skin tone assessment,
the Silverfast target has skin tone patches. I'm hoping this Silverfast IT8
is useful with Monaco EZ Color because the Q60E3 I've got is wilting.

- Multitasking the computer with the SS4000 is an issue as compared to the
LS-2000. Nikonscan 2.5.1 allowed normal response of the computer to other
programs while scanning, at the price of slower scanning in the background.
A nice trade-off. Polacolor Insight allows other work on the computer while
scanning, but foreground performance gets choppy. Silverfast AI takes over
the computer (Mac OS 9.2.1) so no other work can be done while scanning.
This is a drag. 

- Both Silverfast AI and Polacolor Insight are giving good looking scans,
but incorrect settings can give you mush, so that you might think the
scanner is crap. Do not use "raw" mode in either driver unless you have a
good reason.

- Polacolor Insight appears to have a bug when scanning in 12-bit mode:
after one successful scan, the system no longer displays/captures images,
but instead returns a gross looking noise (garbage) instead of the image.
Sometimes in the preview, though sometimes the preview is OK but the scan is
garbage. Have to quit/restart the software and sometimes power cycle the
scanner to get back to normal. 8-bit mode works OK as does Silverfast AI. I
can't determine if this is a HW or SW problem. After seeing this, I upgraded
the scanner firmware to V1.40 but the problem persists ... need to talk to
Polaroid support.

Wire Moore


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