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Minolta Dimage Scan Multi PRO Scanner Test Review
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COMPARISONS WITH OTHER SCANNERS

Polaroid Sprintscan 120
Imacon
Nikon Coolscan LS-4000
Nikon Super Coolscan LS-8000

Introduction

The Minolta is the clear winner. No, I don't get paid anything by anybody. I do this site for fun, buy my scanners out of my own pocket for personal use. I have tried these for myself with the same transparency for direct comparison.

You are reading this because you, as I, had $3,000 to spend on a 120 format scanner. You are trying to decide among this Minolta, the Nikon 8000, or the Polaroid Sprintscan 120. They all have the same price and the Nikon and Polaroid have similar specs, and the Minolta has somewhat superior specs.

I am scanning transparencies (slides) and almost exclusively Fuji Velvia. There is no relationship of anything I say to scanning negatives.

B/W negs are easy to scan on anything because the dynamic range is about half that of a transparency (1.35D vs 3.7D typically). Color negs are a bear to scan because the color correction needs to be different for every brand and speed and model and version and batch of film. I hate color negative film. Watch out when you see people commenting on scanners and they forget to mention the most important thing: what they are scanning. If someone talks about shadows or highlights and forgets to mention if they are scanning slides or negatives they are wasting everyones' time, since these reverse depending on which kind of film they are using!

The Minolta has higher resolution for 35mm where you need it (4,800 Vs 4,000 DPI) and slightly less resolution on 120 where you don't want it (3,200 vs. 4,000 DPI) compared to the Nikon and Polaroid.

Before you worry about "only" 3200 DPI, just remember that a 6 x 7 cm image scanned at 3,200 DPI gives you a huge 175 MB file (350 MB in 16 bit mode) sufficient for printing 24" x 30" images at 300 DPI. If you used 4,000 DPI you'd wind up with a 275 MB file (550 MB in 16 bit mode). I rarely scan at 3,200 DPI anyway, so this is no concern and I prefer it.

The Minolta comes standard with a glass 120 holder, so the scans are always sharp and really do give 3,200 DPI resolution. I suspect the Nikon and Polaroid lack a glass holder in which case you're more likely to see far less detail even when set at 4,000 DPI. All the 4,000 DPI gets you in that case is busting your computer and storage for poorer images, not a practical choice. Also the Minolta glass holder is superb and has no Newton ring problems' even if you had these on the other scanners they my give this rings and therefore useless scans.

A big reason for my choosing the Minolta was its claimed 4.8 DMax, far beyond any of the other stretched claims of any other scanner.

Polaroid Sprintscan 120

I tried the Polaroid before I bought this Minolta.

I quickly passed the Polaroid because it lacks any automated dirt and scratch removal (ICE). Without ICE the scans were useless unless one has 10 minutes to an hour per scan to spot each one by hand.

Bob Shell said in Shutterbug, January 2002, pp. 74-76 that a 6 x 6 scan took 17 minutes, not the 2 minutes as claimed by Polaroid. This is awful, the Minolta Multi PRO does the same scan in about two minutes. Remember that the Polaroid has no ICE, so it has no excuse for bogus scan times. Bob said the Preview took over a minute, which is hideous if true. The Minolta takes about 30 seconds. I would not even want to be given this scanner if it really is that slow; life is too short!

It does not come with a glass holder for 120, which means that you'll probably loose sharpness. Bob thought it worked fine.

The Polaroid does have nice shadow detail and is by far the only physically attractive scanner among this bunch.

If you prefer to spot by hand and have a lot of time to wait around and for some reason can't figure out that the Minolta is the clear winner today than you may want to consider this, especially if you use color negative film since the optional Silverfast software bundle includes a lot of color negative film terms to give decent color that the Minolta does not. Of course one probably can get that same Silverfast software for the Minolta eventually; I don't know and don't care since I avoid color negative film.

Imacon

I forget exactly which model I tried. It was the one that scans up to 6 x 18 cm and that used to sell for $10,000 but is now discounted to $5,000 since you now can get the other three scanners reviewed here for $3,000. This Imacon scans at only up to 3200 DPI (less than the other three scanners) and scans up to 6 x 18 cm.

The Imacon is sharp, but so are the other scanners.

The shadows from the Imacon were weird. My scan was done in a screwy "Imacon Flextight" color profile, not the standard sRGB or Adobe RGB or other format. Its shadows were elevated, meaning either that they look too light or that the histogram sits too far to the right. One would have to reset the blacks to black in the Imacon. I'm not kidding, I scanned the same dark transparency on all these scanners.

What made my mind up fast is the lack of dirt removal. The Imacon, like the other scanners, is so sharp that every imperfection is rendered with total clarity, meaning you'll be spending hours spotting your work. I don't know about you, but even if the Imacon cost LESS it still costs more due to all the lost productivity.

Also the film holder requires unmounting of any mounted film, a royal pain for 35mm.

Therefore I prefer the Minolta.

The Imacon is deceptive in it's promotion. It has nothing to do with legitimate drum scanners which are described here. The Imacons are just conventional CCD scanners with an innovative curved film holder and clean optical path.

Nikon Coolscan LS-4000

You don't need this Minolta for scanning only 35mm, but if you are burning to buy the best sub- $50,000 scanner for 35mm and wonder how it compares to the popular Nikon 4000, it is clearly better than the Nikon 4000.

With real slides the sharpness is the same, however the shadows of the Nikon 4000 are poor and visibly much worse than the Minolta. That is the big difference.

On normal Velvia slides the shadows on the Nikon 4000 (both Mac and PC platforms) clip at about D3.2 (not D4.2 as specified; I said D3.2). This means that many shadow areas on the Nikon 4000 are dark and without form; on the Minolta they look as they should.

You can see this looking at the scans; you also can see this in the histograms if you are blind. The Minolta histogram looks perfect (the far left hand side of the bell curve just touches the far left hand side of the histogram as both glide down to zero) and the Nikon histogram is clipped (there is no left side to the bell curve; it just bunches up against the left hand side of the histogram and you can see that the left hand side of the histogram has been cut off and that the value of the histogram is still very large at the far left). You can see this two more ways: 1.) Change the levels in each scan by sliding the right slider to the left. You'll emphasize how the Nikon scan is clipped and the Minolta still holds detail, and 2.) Cruise around each scan and look at the INFO pallet in Photoshop: The Nikon 4000 scan has many areas stuck at 0, 0, 0 without detail, the Minolta scan is rich and has different but small values all over the same dark areas.

The color and performance of ICE on the two scanners is very similar.

Nikon Super Coolscan LS-8000

I have never even seen the Nikon 8000 although I have had some of the same fillm scanned on one that I scanned on my Minolta.

I skipped it because it, from what we've read elsewhere, has buggy software and a banding problem unless used on the very slow "fine" scanning mode. The Nikon has a triple row CCD to allow it to scan more quickly, however if those three CCDs do not match closely enough one gets banding, or fine streaks in the image. Therefore, the "fine" mode uses just one of those three CCDs and gives much slower scans.

I figured I'd buy the Minolta based on its superior specifications and if it worked as claimed I could ignore the huge Nikon 8000. The Minolta does does work as claimed and I did ignore the Nikon 8000.

The Nikon is the pig at this party: compare the specified size and weight to the other scanners. I didn't realize this, but surprise!, it takes twice the space on your desk and weighs over twice as much: twenty pounds versus eight. The Minolta is the smallest.

The Nikon does not come with a glass holder for 120 film, althogh I have heard it has a clever tensioning device that holds the film flat without glass unlike other glassless holders.

I have scanned the same piece of film on both a Nikon 8000 and my Multi PRO. The scans were different but about the same quality. If I had to make the choice again today I'd still go with the Minolta, simply due to size and no bugs in the software. I'd compare the two for speed. I recall a Bob Shell review in Shutterbug saying the Nikon was very slow to scan.

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