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Film/Slide Scanner

All images at this site have been scanned using a "Minolta Dimage Elite 5400" film scanner. It costs about $600 at a photo-store like Adorama or B&H. This scanner can scan at 5400dpi resolution, but outputs the file at 4000dpi. This results in a magnification of the original image from a standard 24x36mm by about 135%.

Before you begin scanning your slides, you need to use a slide projector to get rid of the slides you do not want. You can improve on composition of images by cropping. You can also adjust colors in any decent image-editing software like Photoshop or Gimp for more pleasing effects.

It takes about 10 minutes to scan one film or slide. If you configure color-space on the output image, it takes longer. Configuration of ICE and Grain-Dissolver on this scanner increases the scanning time.

Scan Resolution

Scanning at 5400dpi is overkill for a 35mm film that contains images of travel taken without the use of tripod or good optics. The images are not so sharp to begin with anyway as to need such high scan-resolutions.

If I like the image and want to print it, I scan it at 5400dpi. I get a TIF file with 4000dpi resolution sized approximately at 1.27x1.91inch (32.4x48.6mm). It is a small image with very high resolution. The resulting image needs 106 megabytes of disk space. Unless you absolutely need such high resolutions, there is no point in scanning at such resolutions.

High resolution will help immensely if you want to crop the image and magnify the desired area to the size of the print. Your original image must be sharp enough to give you a decent printable image after magnification. The quality of the camera's optics, film quality and the way the picture was taken (tripod, lighting, aperture, shutter speed) matter a lot.

This scanner is far from being a perfect machine. I believe this is true for every film scanner out there. It definitely gets a lot of details in the shadow, but you get great results if you play with the manual exposure using the Minolta-supplied scanning software.

Maintenance, Archival and Storage

When not in use, cover the scanner with a dust-cover or at least a clean kitchen towel. Keep using the original plastic bags that are used to package the film holder and the slide holder. Tape the little ziploc bag that contains the pin to the scanner itself. Same goes for the plastic cover for the USB or FireWire port.

Once you scan your images, be sure you store the original-scans in a backup store like CD or DVD. I lost over over 200 high resolution scans when my hard disk came to a total stop all of a sudden. Scanning all those images required over 2000 minutes of manual work over a couple of weeks.

After scanning, store the store it away in your archive in a dark, cool, dry and dust-free place.

Autoexposure

If I use auto-exposure for scanning, I see a lot of haze in the resulting image. It is easy to remove the haze in Photoshop with simple adjustments. When I need a very good scan, I use manual exposure and I adjust the color levels within the Dimage-Scan utility. Most of the images in this gallery have been scanned using auto-exposure and adjusted using Photoshop where necessary.

Autofocus

Another word about autofocus. It is extremely important to select the point of autofocus. The film holder does not seem to hold the negatives taut enough.

Colors

The scanner _can_ give you 16bit per primary color. If you are amateur or even professional-amateur, you don't need 16-bit colors. The freeware programs (Gimp, Imagemagick) and Adobe Photoshop can work only with 8-bit colors.

Image Editing Software

The scanner comes with Adobe Photoshop Elements. I am not a pro and I find this sufficient for simple image editing. I installed Imagemagick on my computer to do mundane and repetitive post-scanning operations such as resizing, adding a frame, copyright notices etc. in a batch. If you have a lot of images to publish from, you should consider using ImageMagick.

Here is a short tutorial on using the convert utility supplied with Imagmagick.


Pictures may be downloaded for personal and not for profit use only. Pictures or parts of them may not be used for commercial or for profit without written permission. Pictures or parts of them may not be redistributed for any reason without written permission. Copyright Bay turtle. Last modified on: Oct 29, 2005