General questions about film scanners and installation tips

Which film scanners can process complete film rolls?

There are a lot of users who have complete uncut 35mm film rolls in their archive, and they do not want to cut them for the scanning purpose. Also many users don't like photo laboratories to cut their films since often mistakes occur. With which film scanners can such uncut film rolls be scanned without cutting them into smaller parts?

The film scanner Reflecta RPS 10M and Reflecta CrystalScan 7200 are the only ones which can process a complete film roll (the RPS automatically, the Crystal Scan manually). So these two scanners are the only ones which can by dafault scan complete 35mm film rolls without cutting. For the Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED there is the SA-30 as a very expensive optional accessory and the Nikon SA-21-30. With thouse adapters 35mm film rolls with a length of up to 40 frames can be scanned automatically. These special film roll adapters from Nikon are a perfect solution, however, their price is higher than one of the above mentioned reflecta film scanners, which can process 35mm film rolls by default.

As an alternative for a film scanner purchase we recommend our Scan-Service. We digitize complete 35mm film rolls with the above described Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED and film roll adaptor SA-30, so that the films don't have to be cut.

Which film scanners are suitable to scan Kodachrome films?

Kodachrome films have the special property that they are principally black and white films and that the colour comes later into the film. This specific feature, the high resolution and the fine corn as well as the special, brilliant colours makes scanning of Kodachrome films to a special challenge for each film scanner. On our website Scanning Kodachrome films we have described the characteristics and problems of scanning Kodachrome films in detail.

Of course, each Kodachrome slide can be scanned with each film scanner, however, the result mostly is not satisfactory, often even very bad. We have made very satisfactorily experiences only with the Nikon scanner Super Coolscan 9000 ED. Only the Nikon LS-9000 is capable to scan Kodachromes faultlessly and in a quality which is worthy to Kodachrome films. Since this Nikon Super Coolscan 9000 ED is not built andy more and even used devies are extremely expensive and hardly available we recommend for Kodachrome scans our Kodachrome Scan-Service.

Other consumer scanners are mainly made for digitizing normal mounted slides and negatives. Of course they can also handly Kodachrome films, however, the results are mostly not satisfactorily. The Kodachrome scans of such scanners become decisively better when using the scan software SilverFast Ai Studio, which has special filters and settings for Kodachrome films. Best you calibrate your scanner with a Kodachrome IT-8 target. However, since there are only a few Kodachrome targets left on the whole world, they are extremely expensive.

Are there flipping problems at film scanners?

If you have ever projected mounted slides to a screen using a slide projector you definitely know the problem of flipping. For instance, when a mounted slide has a slight curvature in direction to the lamp; then it warms up by the hot light of the projection lamp. Reaching a certain temperature the film in the mount everts from alone and flips to the other side. The original focus gets lost by this process and the picture appears unsharp on the screen. Very good projectors make a new focus after that everting in order to solve this sharpness problem.

Are there similar problems at film scanners? Finally, a film scanners works like a projector with a lamp. The only difference is that at the other end there is no screen but a CCD chip.In order to enlarge a 35mm slide to a big area at the wall an enormous light power is necessary. That's why strong lamps are built inside projectors so that the resulting picture has enough intensity. In a film scanner the projection has to be done only to a small CCD sensor element. For this purpose no strong light source is necessary. Often in film scanners there are harmless LEDs inside, which do not produce heat at all.

Of course a flipping of the film cannot be excluded in a film scanner, if there is a curved film inside a slide mount. However, the usual flipping due to the lamp head can be excluded almost completely.

Which disadvantage does a glass holder have at scanning films?

A film scanner as the essential advantage over a flat bed scanner that the film material is rayed directly, i.e. no glass surfaces are in between. At a fladbed scanner with transparency unit the positive or negative lies on a glass surface. Another glass surface is in the lid of the transparency unit.

A glass surface in a scanner has several disadvantages: Dust and dirt can settle on it. Finger prints and scratches on one of the glass surfaces might be seen on the scans. For a high resolution scan the scan time is correspondingly long; during a long illumination the glass plate can warm up and the positive or negative on it can warp. Even minimal heat deformations have a negative impact on the scan quality. And finally on glass surfaces there are undesired reflexions, even if very expensive optical glass is used. Disturbing Newton rings can be reduced by the use of Anti-Newton-glass, however, often they cannot be avoided by 100%.

For some film scanner models there are optional or serial glass film holders. They are used for exotic film material, for instance. Even fragments of film and positives/negatives which are not clearly cut can be put easily in a glass film holder and be scanned with it. The main advantage of a film holder with glass, however, is that curved or convex films can be processed. Since a film scanner can focus ounly at one point, a strong curvature often leads to unsharp areas in the scan. In order to scan a curved, rolled or convex film strip in a plane level, you just press it between two glass plates and accept the disadvantages the glass plates have.

What is the advantage of a film scanner over a flatbed scanner with transparency unit?

A flat bed scanner is nowadays almost standard on a home PC desk. There are flatbed scanners for only 50 € available. However, there are also more expensive models, which have a transparency unit integrated, so that not only reflective material (paper) but also transparent material (films) can be scanned. So can one save the purchase of an additional film scanner with such a device?

The main difference between a flat bed scanner with transparency unit and a real film scanner is that you put the film on a glass plate in the first case, whilst the film in a real film scanner is rayed directly without glass in between. Since each glass plate has a negative impact on the quality of an optical system film scanners have a decisive on site advantage over flatbed scanners. Negative effects like Newton rings and unsharpness are no topic for film scanners, except films are mounted in glass frames.

An important difference is the resolution. While flatbed scanners have nominal resolutions often in the range of 3200 and 6400 dpi, in pratice they achieve often only 1600 ppi. Good film scanners, in the contrary, have nominal resolutions of 4000 ppi and achieve 3800 ppi in practice. A scan with an effective resolution of 1600 ppi yields an image with only 3 mega pixel; with this value it is inferior to most beginner's digital cameras. Very good film scanners make 35 mm scans with about 20 million pixels. Similar is the difference when scanning medium format films: While a very good film scanners produces up to 80 million effective pixels from a 6x6 cm film, a flatbed scanner onle gets approx. 14 million pixels. So all in all, you get less information from a medium formt film when using a flat bed scanner than from a 35mm film using a film scanner. The big advantage of the medium format gets lost in that way.

Another advantage of film scanners derives from the density range: The main task of a flatbed scanner is scanning reflective film material, which has a very small density range. In order to get all details of a film the density range must be 3 or higher. Such a high density range is only provided by very good film scanners. The consequence of a small density range is that you will see not enough details in dark and bright areas of the scan.

Error message at USB 2.0 connection

When connecting my film scanner to the USB port of my PC I get the following error message: "High speed USB connected to non highspeed USB port". This message might be a bit different, e.g. if an additional USB hub is used.

Firstly we want to note, that it is not really an error but more a warning. It means, that the scanner has a fast USB 2.0 interface while the computer or the Hub, respectively, only has a slow USB 1.1 interface. However, these different UBS standard are compatible to each other. This means, that it is no problem to connect a USB 2.0 device to a USB 1.1 port.

For film scanners a USB 1.1 interface is disadvantageous concerning the scan speed. The data amounts, which have to be transferred over the USB interface, are enormous, so that you will notice the difference between USB 1.1 and USB 2.0. For more information about that, please, compare the data transfer rates on our website about interfaces. For instance, a 35mm scan with 4000 ppi produces data of approx. 60 MByte. The transfer via USB 2.0 takes about one second, with USB 1.1 about 40 seconds. This difference is noticeable, especially since these values are ideal. In practice the maximum possbible data transfer rate will never be achieved.

Why is a film scanner not found by the PC?

It happens that a film scnaner which has been installed correctly according to the manual, is not recognized by the computer, even it is connected correctly. For such a problem there is no general solution, however, an important procedure, which you should test by all means:

For some inexplicable reason some devices get into conflict with each other if they all are connected to the PC via USB. Often a scanner works perfectly, but as soon as a printer is connected via USB additionally, the scanner does not work any more. In order to reduce the error search, you should unconnect all USB- and Firewire-devices and make the installation of the film scanner only with the scanner connected to the PC.

If the scanner works alone and there is a conflict with the printer, for instance, or with an MP3-player or a digital camera, it might help to change the interface from USB to Firewire, if available, or try to install the scanner again, or make a scanner driver update.

Can a film scanner be connected via an USB hub?

In principle a USB hub does not make anything else than make out of one USB port 4 or 6. So you can connect several USB devices to one single USB port. However, there are lots of problems known with such USB hubs. One typical problem is that the singular devices don't get enough power via the USB hub. Another problem is that the data transfer gets slower.

Principally there is no reason not the use a film scanner at a USB port. However, if you encounter problems at the setup of the scanner or during the operation of the scanner, you should test the scanner directly connected to the PC, i.e. without hub, before you consider the scanner to be defective.

Important notes for the installation of a film scanner

The installation procedure is for almost all film scanners the same as for other PC devices: First install the software, then plug in the scanner, switch on the scanner, automatic driver installation, ready. But nevertheless in this order there is a problem for many users so that they cause unnecessary problems. Because there were old, good times, where one could connect a device to the computer without happening something at all. Then the software was installed including the appropriate drivers, and then the device was ready to use.

Under the latest Windows operating systems this has changed that way that the operating system automatically notes, when a new component is connected to the computer. The operating system then searches automatically for a suitable driver or puts the user in front of a difficult choice...

At most film scanners nowadays it is inevitable that you first install the scanner software completely before you connect the scanner to the computer and switch it on. Only then Windows recognizes the scanner automatically and finds the correct driver automatically. The manufacturers do a lot in order to make users clear that they should obey this given procedure: detailed explications in the manual, quick setup guids, additional stickers at the USB port, hints in the installation procedure etc. Anyway, many users don't regard these hints and then have a not working scanner. It only helps: read the manual and start a new.

Back to the FAQ index

High-End Scan-Service