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[filmscanners] Re: Finally, I can talk about the SS4000+ (LONG)

  • To: lexa@www.lexa.ru
  • Subject: [filmscanners] Re: Finally, I can talk about the SS4000+ (LONG)
  • From: "" <Bobgoldstein@aol.com>
  • Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2002 16:18:36 EST
  • Unsubscribe: mailto:listserver@halftone.co.uk

Is there a new version of Insight that will work with the former SS4000?
Is it out of Beta yet? I have tried to look for Insight updates on the
Polaroid site, but I seem to lack the roadmap for finding them.

On 2/6/02 2:05 AM, filmscanners@halftone.co.uk said:

>From:  artistic-1@shaw.ca (Arthur Entlich)
>Sender:    filmscanners_owner@halftone.co.uk
>Reply-to:  filmscanners@halftone.co.uk
>To:    bobgoldstein@aol.com
>Some of you might have noticed that I haven't been complaining much
>about my film scanner lately.  Those same people probably know I'm not
>easy to please...
>So, did my Minolta Dual II suddenly get fixed, or was it replaced with a
>new one that worked "like butter"?
>No such luck.
>What did happen is that over the last few months I have had what I can
>honestly call "the pleasure" of testing the new Polaroid SS4000+
>scanner. In spite of the "storm", Polaroid has been pretty busy
>working on new projects like the SS4000+. new versions of Insight, and
>other goodies, ignoring any "doom and gloom" being reported about their
>I was under non-disclosure until now to discuss the unit while
>Polaroid was busy working out a few minor bugs in the software and
>firmware, which, as far as I can determine, are now eradicated.
>Since I have never had a SS4000 I cannot directly compare it.  But I can
>compare it to the other film scanner I have owned, so here's the rundown.
>The SS4000+ I had, came in what appears to be the same shell as the
>SS4000. I don't know yet if the production units will look like that or
>not, since I've yet to see them on "the street".
>As anyone who has been reading this forum knows, the SCSI interfacing is
>gone from the SS4000+.  This unit has both USB and firewire.  My
>pre-production unit came with a firewire card included, but I don't know
>if that is standard packaging. Unfortunately, since my computer is
>running WIN 98SE, I was told I should use USB v1.1, which is slower than
>the firewire.
>The first thing I noticed, is the unit is pretty large and substantial.
>I guess I'd call it "solid".  After seeing and feeling the heft of the
>SS4000+, the HP S-10, S-20 and Minolta Dual II I've used previously seem
>somewhat like toys.
>My computer system subscribes to the concept of the "if anything can
>possibly go wrong during installation, it will" theory, so I was
>expecting problems on installation of the unit and the software
>(Insight).  I have very rarely installed new software, let alone a
>hardware peripheral without some disaster, be it a lock-up and partial
>install leading up to 3 days of hair pulling while my computer lay in
>pieces on the floor while I'm on the phone with tech support.  So, I was
>nervous about this, especially since I already had another film scanner
>on the other USB port and this was a "beta" unit.
>Well, I was in for a pleasant surprise.  The SS4000+ installed without
>any glitches at all.  It just installed the software, and became one of
>the TWAIN devices available to me in Photoshop, Insight worked as stand
>alone software as well, and the scanner hardware was recognized by the
>computer OS.
>Time to scan...  Insight came with sketchy help files, being in beta at
>the time, and I have to admit I was scratching my head a couple of
>times, but that's been improved upon in newer versions.  My policy with
>film scanner drivers has always been to only use them to capture the
>image and then send it on to Photoshop for the real work.  And indeed,
>that's how I started my workflow with the SS4000+.  But, as I let my
>hair down, I began to appreciate the easy layout of Insight, and let the
>natural flow take over, and I found myself using more of the features in
>it before sending the file over to Photoshop.
>Now, Insight is "no Photoshop" but it is actually amazing how many
>features it does have built in.  In fact, if you only need to get a good
>scan off the film, and don't need to do cut and paste, or compositing or
>design, you can get a perfectly good result with just Insight.  It has
>many of the same image adjusting options that are in Photoshop, like
>brightness, contrast, color balance, curves (with a histogram),
>sharpening, and even resampling options for the output file.
>The trickiest part of using Insight is its reliance on film profiles.
>You could avoid this by sending a "raw" scan to something like Photoshop
>and playing with color balance and curves, but I found it easier to use
>the profiles within Insight, which provide a starting point to adjust
>from. Transparencies were relatively simple because you aren't dealing
>with dye coupler masks that make negative color film orange, so you have
>a few basic profiles for transparencies; Slide, Kodachrome, and
>underexposed slide.  With negatives its a bit more tricky because you
>have to select a profile, and Polaroid doesn't have one for every film
>made.  Sometimes you have to guess at what film profile will work best
>for your film type.  The good thing is that this function is a software
>matter done after the pre-scan, so you can quickly see what affect the
>profile has on the image, and you can run through them until you find
>the best one for the film you are working with.
>The hardware is basically a large shoebox shaped case.  It has only one
>button, a big orange one that turns the scanner on, and two LEDS that
>tell you its status.  There is a good sized panel in the front that has
>a slot to allow the carriers in, and which "floats" independently from
>the rest of the front, so that the carrier position can be raised or
>lowered for focusing.  There is also a slot in the back of the unit to
>allow the carrier to pass through partially during scans.  The unit
>makes a series of different sounds depending upon the function
>activated.  Overall, it is both quieter and faster than the other
>scanners I have owned.
>The slide carrier takes 4 mounted 35mm slides, the film carrier takes up
>to six frames of unmounted 35mm film.  The slide carrier is very easy to
>work with, the film carrier was, at least for me, awkward.  It
>could be made quicker to use, in my opinion.  If you are doing
>"production scans" best to have at least two carriers at hand so you can
>load one while scanning the other.
>Prescans are very quick, and are large so you can really see what
>you are looking at.  Some prescans on other film scanners I've had are
>very small or such low resolution that they are difficult to determine
>what one is looking at.
>Scan Quality: Well, this is what its really all about, I suppose.  No
>matter how nice the software is, or how pretty the box the scanner
>comes in, if the scans are no good, what's the point?
>The scan quality from the SS4000+ was amazing.  Since the SS4000+ seems
>to recalibrate before each scan, I didn't see any streaking, or "lazy
>sensors", and believe me, after the problems I had with other
>scanners, I was looking for problems.  I looked for color fringing, or
>images out of registration, but there was none.  Then I looked for the
>usual party of "noisemakers" in the shadows of slides.  Nope.  I tried
>playing with levels in Photoshop to force some stuff hidden in the
>shadows to show itself.  It wasn't until I ended up with an image that
>was beyond recognition that I was able to make anything approaching
>"noise" show up.
>Basically, this scanner does not create noise in shadows, under any
>normal scanning conditions.  The next thing I looked at was the
>gradients and grain.  Now, I know that many claim that scanners in the
>2400 to 2700 dpi range amplify grain, and that may explain what I'm
>about to write.  I think the thing that most amazed me was how grainless
>most scans from the SS4000+ of my slides were, compared to the other
>scanners I have used.  As a result of the exaggerated grain my others
>scanners have exhibited, I got into the habit of being very judicious
>with using unsharp masking, because it usually made the grain that much
>more apparent.
>Well, with the SS4000+ at 4000 dpi, my scans could handle pretty much
>any level of unsharp masking I threw at them without showing grain.  At
>first, I suspected Polaroid had defocused the unit to reduce grain, but
>this isn't the case.  The sharpness of the image was certainly there.  I
>think it has something to do with the lighting design.  Both
>dust/dirt/defects and grain get suppressed without sacrificing sharpness
>(the unit has auto focus, by the way, and it seems to do a good job of it).
>My Minolta Dual II is sharper than my previous HP S-10 and S-20, BUT,
>I've had to put up with pretty serious increases in the amount of grain,
>dust and dirt that shows up on the scans. Again, I suspect it is the
>lighting used.  The SS4000+ seems to take advantage of the lighting
>design to maintain the image sharpness while leaving behind the parts
>that don't really add to the image.  And while the scans do require some
>unsharp masking, as do all scans, getting them up to the original
>definition, adds no noise or defects.  In fact, I was able to
>push the USM (unsharp masking) to the point where the image was looking
>sharper than the original and still didn't exhibit noise or distracting
>Since depth of field issues often come up in regard to film scanners, I
>can tell you I saw no softness on the edges of any slides I scanned
>unless it was there on the source slide to begin with.
>You need to have a goodly amount of hard drive or other storage space
>available because the scans are about 56 megs (in 8 bit color) or 112
>megs (in 16 bit color), depending on how you wish to capture them.
>Although I did not get a chance to use Silverfast with the SS4000+ (I
>had a beta version available, but didn't have the time) it should be
>available for the SS4000+ now or in the near future.  I believe it
>allows for multipass scanning, although I don't know if you'd see much
>advantage since the scanner is already so noiseless.
>Since the SS4000+ has a higher bit depth than the SS4000, it should, in
>theory, have a better dynamic range than the later.  Others have
>mentioned that the SS4000 is pretty much noiseless in shadows, so I
>guess the SS4000+ is just quieter still.  Lastly, the one sent to me
>didn't come with a cleaning brush, so I assume the problem with dust
>getting in the carrier positioning sensor has been resolved, as well.
>Is the SS4000+ "magic"?  No.  I still struggled somewhat to get decent
>scans from my older negatives which are grainy or fading, and although
>it is considerably faster than the other scanners I've worked
>with, for production use, it would be nice to have an automated slide
>feeder.  But, it is the best film scanner I have used, by quite a
>distance. If it is in your price range, it will certainly save you some
>headaches that other scanners serve up.
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>Subject: [filmscanners] Finally, I can talk about the SS4000+ (LONG)

Bob Goldstein  408/253-4489

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