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Plustek OpticFilm 8100

 

 

Please note! This article was translated by Google. Phrases have only been corrected if the translation could be misunderstood. Have fun!

 

Before buying a scanner, it is wise to look at various possibilities and consider what works best for you

 

A flatbed scanner, who can handle documents and negatives, are a possibility, but for 35 mm film, it is unfortunately not the best choice. I've worked with a Canon 9000F, which in many ways is a good scanner, but despite high specification in terms of 35 mm film, quality is not good enough

 

Canon 9000F provides a useful result, but images from 35 mm film are missing sharpness and dynamics compared to a real film scanner. 9600 dpi is the specified optical resolution, but it is not true for 35 mm film! Not even a professional Nikon film scanner in the best quality can achieve such high resolution. Nikon 9000 has a resolution close to 4000 DPI?

 

A flatbed scanner does not have the quality as a true 35 mm film scanner. The files are large, but the resolution is actually very low and reaches only to print in a size of 13 x 18 cm and not much more.

 

It should be a real film scanner, everything else would be to compromise on image quality.

 

We are testing a Plustek OptivFilm 8100 film scanner in this article

 

There are only few providers of scanners today. Reflecta is one of them. The company has scanners at the same price class, with the same specifications. I can really not think of others, who can deliver scanners that have the necessary quality in the same price range

 

Minolta scanners is no longer in production for the simple reason that the company no longer exists. With a little luck you can maybe find a used one. Nikon can still deliver a professional quality scanner. Image quality and speed is very high, and so is the price too! There are used (older models) for a more affordable price. If you can find a used Nikon 4000 to a reasonable price incl. software that works, then go for it.

 

There are a lot of “scanners” on the market at prices from 500 - 1000 DKK These "scanners" uses a camera sensor in a suitable size (ie 5 megapixels), a lens and a light source for a simple photographing. It does not take many seconds to digitized negatives or slides that way. It's too nice to call it a scanner. It is said that there are users who are satisfied?

 

We are moving hastily back to a better and true scanner. In our view! Let's take a closer look at our Plustek 8100

 

The scanner is supplied with 2 film holder. One can hold 6 pieces of negatives and the other 4 slides. The scanner is fed manually by pushing the film holder to the required position. It works well, but it was a little difficult in the beginning to notice when the holder has the right position. I've seen better solutions.

 

Plustek 8100 weighs 1.5 kg and stands firmly planted. There are no vibrations of importance, when the scanner is running. It has a healthy sound

 

The optical (hardware) resolution is 7200 dpi max. This means that the real resolution, in this case, rather is somewhere between 3500 and 3900 dpi. It's actually very nice. If you set the speed to 3600 dpi, the real resolution is probably around 2400 dpi. It is not unusual for scanners in this price range. 

 

The Nikon has a resolution around 4000 dpi, when set to 4000 dpi. That's another story!

 

In the case of Plustek 8100, it is recommended to scan in 7200 dpi and resample the image to 3600 dpi, then there is excellent agreement between file size and image resolution. The only drawback of the method is that you spend more time on it.

 

At 3600 dpi Plustek 8100 is providing a fine quality. The quality is, in my opinion, excellent for most slides and color negatives. Everything else being equal, it goes faster with a lower resolution, and Tiff files can be kept in a manageable size (about 50 MB)

 

On a Nikon 9000 you can focus the image. It is simply possible to select a section on the image and adjust the focus (sharpness) just there. It can not be done with a Plustek 8100, which is of the type fixfocus, but the images are still good. If you are willing to pay an additional price, which is 5 - 6 times as much, then you get that kind of possibilities.

 

If, as we do, using an iMac, you must operate the Plustek 8100 through the software. The software is included with the scanner. Scanner software is in this case SilverFast 8 and it works very well. If you have a Windows PC, there are a few buttons on the scanner for fast operation. We can not test that part, because we do not have a Windows machine.

 

The “driver” from the manufacturer of the scanner that comes with the device is important. There is nothing so problematic as a “driver” that does not work optimally with the operating system. The “driver” is also important for the software vendor, in this case LaserSoft, and others who are programming software for Plustek 8100. In simplified terms, we can say that the “driver” is the one who has access to the functions that this scanner can perform.

 

LaserSoft of course squeeze the maximum performance out of the scanner, and it is with the program SilverFast 8 managed quite well. It is always the case with software, which is part of the price, that some useful features are missing, that would be nice to have. It can be solved, but an upgrade always cost extra.

 

When you read the technical specifications, it says, that the scanner has both 24 and 48-bit output. It is correct that the scanner can deliver 48-bit output, but the software supplied with Plustek 8100 only allows 24 bit output. It should just be noted that 48 bit files take up twice as much as 24 bit files!

 

The scanner works internally with 48 bit and it is possible to generate an HDR file (a raw scan file) which contains the raw (unprocessed) data from the linear reading head. Are there infrared scanning, the infrared image is also  stored in the HDR file. The supplied software can not process an HDR file and LaserSoft's editor designed for HDR files are relatively expensive, about the same price as the scanner, and is primarily for professionals.

 

The advantage of an HDR file means that you can wait to produce the final image to a later date. The principle is the same as we know it from a digital camera. We shoot in Raw format and produces the final image later.

 

HDR file is in this case a normal Tiff file and can therefore be opened in Photoshop. It is a very dark image you get up on the screen, because the image data is stored linearly. It's easy enough to add the picture a gamma curve, but to get the right colors, it is necessary to invest in the HDR editing program. Without a correct color profile, the result is too bad.

 

We operate the scanner via software, but the software also plays a crucial role for correct colors and image quality in general. Software must of course include the basics. That is, provide an image with the right colors, and produce an image where there is detail in the shadows and where the bright parts are not burned out. Gamma, white balance, contrast, color balance and that kinds of things you must be able to adjust. Being able to select scan speed, film media, etc is obligatory and must of course also be present.

In addition, all the niceties and the advanced options, this software offers might improve the images. We will look at it step by step and see if it's true.

 

But a scan is not better than the weakest link in the chain. That you must always remember.

 

Dust and small hair has always been a problem for negatives and slides. In the good old days was all dust removed manually with a blower or soft brush before you started lighting. To retouch the final picture afterwards, is and was a hopeless task.

 

When scanning slides and negatives, there are methods that can minimize the problem of dust and small hairs.

 

In modern scanners LED diodes are used for illumination of the slide. The light from the LED diodes do not produce heat and is suitable for illuminating the negatives and slides. The film material does not change shape because of heat.

 

If the scanner is born with an extra infrared light source, the software can scan and locate scratches, hairs and dust. The infrared light does not detect the color image but is stopped by the small foreign bodies and it produces an image where the motive can only be sensed, while dust, hairs and scratches are clearly seen in the picture

 

We now have a normal image with those ugly scratches, hairs and dust and then we have the infrared image, which is a kind of map of where the impurities are placed in the picture.

 

If we compare the 2 pictures in appropriate software, we can by using advanced algorithms replace the impurities (the black or white spots) with the missing image data. The algorithm looks at the surrounding area and try therefrom to calculate the missing image data

 

It is brilliant, but the trees grow, as you know, not into heaven. Software does not evaluate the image, just as you evaluate an image. It often means that the black or white spot disappears, but the image data to replace the spots differs from the subject. It often looks as if there is used an eraser a little too strongly. If the subject contains many details, and there are localized much dust in the same area, the result will not be optimal. It does not matter to 10 x 15 cm photos, but will be visible in enlargements. There will clearly disappear image information. In areas such as a blue sky and large areas without details, it works really well.

 

Dear child has many names. Infrared spot remover is called ICE, iSRD or FARE, depending on make and model. The principle is basically the same. Nikon has its own version of ICE with the addition “Professional” and it is probably the best ICE in the market.

 

Almost all scanners have a software solution to locate the spots. This kind of software has a problem to distinguish between what is image information and what is dust and scratches. It works fine for the small white dust spots on a color negative, but hair and larger things must be removed manually in an editor.

 

Infrared light normally does not work properly on Kodacrome slides and b / w negatives. It only works on color negatives and the other slides, but there is one exception.

 

Nikon's ICE Professional also works on Kodacrome and b / w negatives, and therefore it is the exception that confirms the rule.

 

Kodacrome slides is not a scanner's favorite food. Film Scanners have it especially difficult with Kodacrome color reproduction. Images are easily very blue. It takes a very special colorprofile to rectify the situation. The supplied software for Plustek 8100 does the job just fine.

 

This film type was developed about 80 years ago. Kodacrome is special because the dyes first becomes applied in connection with developing. The 3 color sensitive layers can therefore  be made very thin and that means sharper images (higher resolution). After about 30 baths and exposures the 3 layers have respectively been colored yellow, magenta and cyan and the change from black and white to a color slide has been completed.

 

The technique is almost the same as Technicolor, where you shot the movie on 3 separate black and white film, simultaneously. In front of each film was placed a color filter. The 3 color filters was red, green and blue. In a clever way based on the 3 b / w film, 3 gelatin matrices were prepared so that they could receive complementary colors. The three colored matrices were placed on top of each other with great precision and unified under high pressure and then there was created a color movie.

 

A Kodacrome film can be recognized by looking at the emulsion, which has clear contours of the subject.

 

When you add color after exposure, it is possible to use colors that have a longer durability than is the case with ordinary color film, where the colors are built into the film from the start, and where other properties have higher priority than the color durability.

 

Kodacrome is characterized by maintaining the colors for years without any change. The sharpness and fine grain is unique.

 

Color Negatives and ordinary slides can be produced in an hour at the local photo store. A Kodacrome should always be submitted to a special laboratory. Kodacrome film can no longer be purchased and / or evoked. It ended a few years ago!

 

Big Brother Plustek 8200i has iSRD (dust removal), but Plustek 8100 does not have an infrared feature and you must therefore remove the spots on a software solution alone.

 

I'm personally not comfortable with many of the features that automatically removes dust, scratches and hair. If a scan is used for large magnifications, you must remove dust and scratches in an editor

 

Plustek know very well the problems. You can use the software solution SRD and also using masks and thereby avoid an aggressive dust removal in areas with many details.

 

In the case Plustek 8100 I do not use Unsharp Mask, Gane (removal of film grain) and SRD (dust and scratches). Color adjustments are set, so I get a picture that contains maximum image information. I pay particular attention to dark areas. In other words, I want an image which is suitable to be perfected in an editor.

 

 

I open the resulting Tiff file in Camera Raw in 16 bits per channel and I use all the tools that this Raw Converter offers. The adjustments that I can do in Camera Raw, gives less losses than the adjustments made in an ordinary editor.

 

Camera raw working with linear image data. This means, among other things, the color balance can be fine tuned much more precisely than in any other editor. The possibilities to reduce grain and color noise or fine tune a particular color is optimal. I prefer to sharpen the image in Camera Raw and also correct any optical aberration, if necessary

 

When I have a picture that I'm happy with I open the image in Photoshop, still in 16 bits per channel, and begin the restoration by using the tools Spot Healing and Clone Stamp to remove scratches, dust and hair.

 

It is of course important that I do everything possible to remove dust and hair, before I scan. It takes extra time, but a full scan also takes very long time, if all utilities are turned on and the result is sadly not always good enough.

 

It does not take much more time with my method, but the result is much better than what SilverFast 8 can do

 

 

The above picture is from a black / white negative (Kodak Panatomic X) scanned at 7600 dpi using Plustek 8100 The photo is from the 1970 decade. Click on the picture!

 

The software is good and it helps tremendously that there are profiles of the most commonly used film types. It eases the adjustment work.

 

SilverFast 8 has a function that may be useful. It is possible to multi-expose an image, so there will be more drawings in the shadows and the very bright part of the picture. This is done by 2 images with different exposures put together into a single image. It accomplishes no miracles, but there is a clear effect. To ordinary well lighted images are the additional time by 2 times scan better spent on manual removal of dust and scratches.

 

The function AACO (contrast optimization) can occasionally be useful, but often gives the picture a little unnatural appearance. Like a bad LCD screen without really black in the picture.

 

Generally one can say that it is difficult to get a good drawing in the shade. The scanner's own noise does not bother in the dark areas, but the film itself has difficulty in reproducing the shadows decently. This is especially true for Kodacrome.

 

It affects not only Plustek 8100, but are valid for all scanners in this price range .

 

Nikon can do something that other scanners can not. There are clearly more image information in the shadows, when the image is scanned with a Nikon scanner.

 

Plustek 8100 is basically a good scanner. The supplied software is one of the best on the market. I do not think that the film holders seem solid and the manual control for proper placement of the film material is a little inaccurate and slow, but you get used to it surprisingly quickly. The basic functions are ok and at a lower price, it is probably not possible to find something better. The scanner can be recommended!

 

The scanner is purchased from the company Deltashop.dk. It is a specialized company, which I can recommend. In the beginning there were some problems with a driver for the new Mountain Lion, but it was solved quickly and without beating around the bush.

 

It is reassuring, when there are people behind the company logo, ready to help if necessary.