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Plustek Opticfilm 120

State of the Art Film Scanning?

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Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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opticfilm120

In the world of scanning there are three categories: the flatbed, the dedicted film scanner and the drum scanner. In recent years the only ‘pro’ scanner that you could buy new at a reasonable cost was the Epson V750: a flatbed that is capable of handling 35mm to 10x8 film. However it has always been the dedicated film scanner that has been the master at scanning medium format and 35mm film. The ‘gold standard’ is the Nikon 9000 (or 8000) but with no warranties or repair in sight these are becoming much rarer and good second hand units are now costing more than the original retail (the same is true of the Minolta Dimage Multi Pro).

Plustek announced a new competitor in this arena over a year ago, but it was only at the start of the year that units were getting into people’s hands. There is a decent thread on the scanner on the rangefinder forum.

I received the scanner last week and I won’t go into a box unpacking video as people have already done this. I also won’t be going through how Silverfast works as what people are really interested are the results - and again other people have looked at these in depth.

What I will be looking at is resolution, highlight and shadow quality, negative scanning, the film holders and speed of operation. Now most people wouldn’t be able to look at a single image of a scan and place the image quality’s place compared with other scanners. The only way to give a good indication of scanner quality is to show the same film scanned across a few different scanners. To this end we’ve scanned a range of film on a well calibrated Epson V750 and a Howtek 4500 drum scanner.

Resolution

Most people are interested in how much resolution can be extracted from their film originals. This is the equivalent to the megapixel race (the only difference being that you can always get your film original scanned on a better scanner sometime in the future). So how good is the Opticfilm 120?



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  • Adam Long

    “The ‘gold standard’ is the Nikon 9000 (or 8000) but with no warranties or repair in sight these are becoming much rarer”

    I had no problems getting my 8000 repaired last year (by H Lehmann in Stoke), so I guess there may be some life left in them yet.

    This Plustek looks to be just as capable though, if they can get a proper holder sorted. The comparison pics don’t seem to be working at the mo?

  • Adam Long

    PS no mention of ICE or similar automatic dust removal – assuming this is not a feature then? Big timesaver with the Nikon, works brilliantly at the expense of a tiny amount of resolution.

    • Oops – there was some on iSRD – I’ll look for it again

  • Christian Stromberg

    Thank you soo much Tim! This is the first proper review of the scanner which gets deep into what the scanner is capable of once the bugs are fixed. I had similar issues with the Plustek 7600i concerning sharpness, but once I found the right plane of focus, the results were very good. Lets hope that Plustek gets it right in the foreseeable future. It is on my wishlist since it was annouced, but every review out there just looks at what happens if you run it out of the box. I can totally understand this kind of approach, but personally I am already used to tweak my equipment to get the most out of it.

    • Christian Stromberg

      PS: did you try Multi-Exposure on the underexposed Velvia slides? I do not find the figure for the native dmax, it was mentioned in a forum somewhere (3.3 or 3.6), but the stated dmax of 4.1 is only achieved using multi-exposure.

      • Hi Christian – I’ve added my multiscan test in the footer of the article. The tests were inconclusive but the scans get nowhere near dmax 4.1 in my opinion. Perhaps they could detect something at this level but it would be swamped by noise and unusable in my opinion. From what I’ve seen a Dmax of about 3.5-3.6 is probably correct for typical use but this isn’t measured – just a comparative estimate.

        • Christian Stromberg

          Thanks Tim. I am still waiting for sample scans from Silverfast taken with the Plustek 120 after an offer I got on the Photokina. I sent them in December, but have been put off from month to month so far and therefore cannot make a comparison to my Umax 3000 🙁 But as the Umax has a stated dmax of 3.6, I fear the results won’t differ much.

  • Paul Mitchell

    Excellent review Tim. When I first bought my Coolscan 9000 I too had issues with focus using the supplied holders, buying the FH-869GR holder solved this but it did cost me an additional £200! It bugs me somewhat that this type of holder should be supplied as standard!

  • Excellent review Tim, glad I didn’t drop best part of £2000 on one, was worried about the lack of AF and glass holders which I think are essential on something this high end (or at least one of them anyway !)

  • Simon Gulliver

    I used a Minolta Scan Multipro for several years scanning 645 velvia and was happy with the output, but the extra quality of Tim’s drum scanning blows anything I could achieve out of the water. I can either look on this as a lot of wasted time and expense or a learning experience. I don’t intend to sound like an advert but given the low cost per drum scan and high equipment cost for a scanner I wouldn’t be tempted to do scanning in house again.

  • silentworld

    Tim, thanks for the detailed review. I have been following this scanner for a while. I am currently using a Coolscan 9000, which I am quite happy with. However, I do hope that there will be a worthy replacement available when my Coolscan 9000 eventually have problems (hopefully many years later….)

    From your test, while it still has some issues, it seems to have great potential once the focusing issue is addressed. Will you discuss your test results with Plustek? If you get a chance to talk to them, it would be great if you could share Plustek’s feedback. Hopefully they do have a good plan to address the focus issue, as they are so close to make this scanner right.

  • Just a quick update – I’ve just bought a Fuji Lanovia and a Screen Cezanne, both 10k+ desktop scanners in their time and the OpticFilm was coming close to one and exceeded the other in terms of resolution. The OpticFilm is definitely has the potential to be a great scanner and I can only recommend if you have the wherewithall to play around with creating a custom film holder.

    • David Higgs

      My ‘answer’ to the scanning problem is to use the Epson for MF and LF. It does a plenty good enough job for modest print sizes. When you need the power of a Nikon/Plustech/Leagacy flat bed, that’s the time to pay for a Drum Scan. Scanning well isn’t easy – and it pays to get someone that does it well to it for you.

  • redtreeme

    Lovely article and latest edition. Thank you.

    Has anyone tried or tested a method of “scanning” film with a digi camera using a macro lens and a tripod?

    I tried a play with a Sony RX100 and it wasn’t horrendous though it’s macro ability is slightly limited.

    I’d be interested to see if this method in comparison was even worth testing against the other methods listed here.

  • Ian Thompson

    Redtreeme said “Has anyone tried or tested a method of “scanning” film with a digi camera using a macro lens and a tripod?”

    Well, yes, after a fashion. OK, not directly of transparencies but regularly I photograph large (A1+) watercolour painting for a customer which are then printed full size as gallery prints. I use Canon 5D2 and 5D3 with a 100mm f/2.8 macro lens and – with careful camera centreing, exposure and colour calibration being paramount throughout – the results are astonishingly good, even though the enlargement from sensor size is massive – it is difficult to tell the prints from the originals. I would expect that the result would be even better from a 10×8 source, although I cannot pretend that an image from a 35mm full-frame sensor could be enlarged to the extent that might be ennjoyed by optical means from a piece of 10×8 film! I would be very happy to photograph a LF transparency or negative as a sample if anyone would like to see the result.

  • Nathan Thompson

    Very good review, thanks for the useful review which I need. I have got that too and had focus issue problem only affecting Negative tray I have. Other tray I have had no issue problem. Luckily for Australia we have had no bad batch of it, it was only just negative tray holder was the one affected here in Australia and it only need a simple replacement. I agreed with dynamic range issue problem which I was looking at. I had a look at another website that mentioned Braun FS-120 but problem is resolution is only 3200 dpi, although it just chuck Plustek Optic 120 outta of windows. Braun had the sharpest scan to date. You will be in for surprised. Even Braun had a better efficiency with dust and scratch removal than Plustek. Here is link to it if you would like to read: http://www.filmscanner.info/en/BraunFS120.html (I hope moderator don’t mind?)

  • david mantripp @ snowhenge.net

    I’m coming late to the party here, but I just wanted to say I took a gamble and bought a of120 to replace my failing Minolta MultiPro. This review helped a lot to convince me. I was expecting the worse, so I’m quite delighted to say that so far side by side subjective results from the of120 and multi pro actually show the of120 winning, by a nose. On my test Xpan E100G strip, the of120 has slight, but noticeable better resolution, and far less noise in deep shadows. The red channel is indeed slightly softer, but it doesn’t seem to have much impact.

    Tim, if you can remember, how did you close the holders with glass slides inserted ? I have some 1mm 6×9 slides, and the holder does not fully close with these. But at present, I don’t seem to need them.

    Honestly, given the build quality, the software bundle, the 6×7 IT8 reference, tech support and ongoing OS support, the of120 is a bit of a bargain in my opinion. My feeling is that a good proportion of web fora whining is simply down to people who have never used a film scanner and expect to become instant experts….

    • It’s definitely a contender in terms of resolution and seems pretty good for shadows (nice to have confirmation alongside the Minolta MultiPro). I didn’t scan slides directly, only fragments of file in between two 35mm anti-newton slide glasses in order to get the film flat enough to provide an ‘max’ dpi for scans (because slides bowed and depth of field wasn’t great). I didn’t have any chance to test 6x9s.

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