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

al@greenspace.freeserve.co.uk wrote:

  > Did you do any direct comparisons between the SS4000+ and the Dual II
  > on this?  I've found ICE very useful on damaged film (and to reduce
  > the need for dust spotting) so I'd be hesitant to move to a scanner
  > without it, unless the starting point is that much better.
  > Certainly if the SS4000+ it really is that good in the shadows and at
  > handling dust etc, I might be able to live without ICE and jump ship!
  > All I would have to do is is find a UK
  > Polaroid stockist who would do part-exchange on the Minolta......
  > >
  > Al Bond

I've not been ignoring or sidestepping your issue, which is a dilemma
requiring some thought.

After reading your query, I spent numerous hours fooling around
within both Vuescan, and Insight and Minolta's driver software, and then
looking at results under different conditions.  For some reason I
couldn't get the more recent version of Vuescan to load an image via the
"disk" option and had to drop back to an older one (7.3 I think).

After much comparison, I've come to a few conclusions regarding the
SS4000+ versus the Minolta Dual II (however, keep in mind the Elite II
has a higher bit depth CCD) which might prove to have less noisy results.

There are three main areas where the Minolta Dual II falls down (besides
the problems with the CCD defects that seem common in some production

The first problem is that there appears to be some non-optical
sharpening that goes on, perhaps in firmware, or in the electronics.
This causes the noise levels to be more obvious, and makes unsharp
masking more difficult to apply without artifacts, and it may be
responsible for the increased grain, dust and defects that appear on
the scan.  The Minolta software does not have a sharpening option, as
Insight does.  In Insight, you can turn off all sharpening (and I do,
since I usually wish to apply that last, after any other manipulation is
accomplished).  The SS4000+ scan looks softer when this is done, but it
is not actually lack of information, but lack of grain and defects which
mainly make it look softer.  A bit (or more) of USM seems to crisp it
right up, while not bringing too much grain out.  However, using dICE on
the Minolta Scan (via Elite II version) might eliminate this problem.

The second problem, and probably the biggest problem with the Minolta
Dual II, is the Blue channel.  It has poor dynamic range. The red and
green channel are relatively similar in terms of the dynamic range to
that of the SS4000+, in fact, I'd go as far as saying the Minolta Dual
II (at least mine, which was somewhat hand picked) has a slightly
cleaner Green channel than the SS4000+ I have used when the SS4000+ scan
is sharpened to the same value as the Minolta Dual II scan as it "comes
out of the software".

But the SS4000+ has a very clean blue channel.  The Minolta Dual II has
a harsh blue channel.  It posterizes the middle tones and shadows with
yellow.  Basically, it can't handle the full dynamic range the other two
channels carry.  Looking at just the blue channel in greyscale, the
higher middle tones and highlights seem relatively smooth, but the lower
middle tones and shadows are a mess. The greyscaling just drops right
off the map in one or two large steps.  This really damages the image,
and I am beginning to suspect it might have something to do with the
"green noise" I was claiming to see.  In fact, those green shadows might
just be neutral shadows with a yellow mask of noise on them.

In terms of the dust and dirt factor, the SS4000+ has no IR channel. The
only current dust removal is in software within Insight, which provides
two levels of cleaning, but does soften the image.  Polaroid is working
on some other methods of dealing with dust removal that do not soften
the image and do not require new hardware, but I am not at liberty to
say more now.

In spite of the fact that the Polaroid tends to suppress the dust, dirt
and grain, via either lighting technique, firmware or hardware filtering
or the simple ability to remove all sharpening or unsharp masking via
software during the scan, if you tend to be a "hard sharpener" then you
will experience some dust and dirt that needs to be removed via cloning
or rubber stamping.  I keep my images fairly clean and undamaged, so it
wasn't a big issue, but you mention damaged images, so this may be a
more important factor for you.

So, for a number of reasons, I can't reply with a yes or no to your
query.  I haven't worked with the Minolta Elite II, so I don't know if
they have improved the blue channel on it or not.  I don't know what
condition your images are in, and how obsessed you might be about dust
or dirt which isn't visible on a print but can be found if you enlarge
the image enough on your screen.

I know I dislike Minolta's slide carrier and I love Polaroid's.  The
film carriers both are a pain in my view, but Minolta's wins by a nose.
I know the Polaroid feels and sounds more solid by a long shot
compared to my Dual II, which sounds like its trying to cut a hole
through its table when it loads a carrier.  The Polaroids, other than
the dusty positioning sensor problem, which I assume was redesigned on
the SS4000+, have a pretty good track record for quality control, while
I have mixed emotions over the Minoltas, which are apparently made by
Avision, a company I know very little about.

I'm sure you have personal reasons for preferring one manufacturer or
another, or can think of equally good arguments in one direction or the
other.  Personally, if the Elite II has the same blue channel response
as the Dual II, I'd sacrifice dICE for the better Blue channel on the
Polaroid, no question.  If the higher bit depth of the Elite II has
fixed this, and assuming you can find one without bad sensor elements,
the decision might be more difficult.

Keep us informed of your considerations and decision.


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