The Plustek OpticFilm 7200i 35mm Film Scanner; An Affordable, High-Resolution Scanner Page 2

In fact, the exercise revealed that even if not fully utilized the scanner's high-resolution CCD sensor has a significant benefit. Particularly when scanning some color negative film, lower resolution 35mm dedicated film scanners have been prone to reproduce color negative film images with rather excessive apparent graininess. I have always assumed this being due to a pattern interference phenomenon (similar to a Moiré effect) between the pixel sensor size pattern and the inherent film grain pattern. Even though individual film grains are many times smaller than a pixel sensor's site cell size, grain pattern observed in film is usually due to a visual clumping effect. The film grains overlap as the grains are distributed from top to bottom of the thickness of a film's emulsion and, as seen through the film base, appear to overlap one above another to look like clumps. Apparently, the sensor's site size and its pattern of pixels produced by the Plustek 7200i is of a magnitude finer so that an interference pattern that exaggerates apparent graininess in a scanned image is not such an issue. The grain in the color negative scans I made was accurately reproduced and not exaggerated, whether the output scan file was the full 7200 ppi or scaled to a smaller print size.

The Plustek 7200i features a new automatic infrared hardware-based dust and scratch elimination utility. It can be manually adjusted with a slider for Detection intensity.

Although it was encouraging to discover that the high resolution of the Plustek 7200i was an unusually positive attribute, I also scanned many slides and color negatives to assess other dimensions of the scanner's ability to reproduce quality scan image files. Of course, I was particularly concerned about the dynamic range of 3.3 D-max, but slide films rarely reach a comparably high density range and still utilize the entire density range capacity of the film with which they are made. So in the hundred or so images I scanned I only encountered one which did not result in a satisfactory scanned image because of dynamic range causing a sharp shadow cutoff.

A good part of the effectiveness of the Plustek 7200i and the good color reproduction I was able to achieve is due to the LaserSoft SilverFast Ai driver software. It includes full color management control and a basic but complete set of tools to adjust all of the attributes of image characteristics, including brightness, contrast and tone curve, saturation and color balance, as well as the almost exclusive capability to detect and eliminate any color cast in the original due to lighting, processing, or age deterioration. In addition, the new iSRD worked quite effectively and has the advantage of a manual adjustment of the sensitivity of the infrared recognition of defects. Moreover, iSRD is accompanied by LaserSoft's very effective software-only SRD defect cleaning utility that provides a good solution for films like Kodachrome, and a bit less so with silver-based black and white. These cannot be cleaned using the infrared iSRD to remove dust and scratches as part of the scan process.

I have attempted to scan this particular color negative several times with less than satisfactory results, until this time with the Plustek 7200i. Besides all of the colors and detail reproducing with vivid accuracy, the exaggerated and obvious graininess reproduced in the sky was absent. It was replaced by a smooth tonality with a grain pattern that looked normal and consistent with other areas of the image.

Evaluation And Recommendation
If one adds up all the features of the Plustek 7200i the result is really a "mixed bag" that makes this scanner not at all comparable to any 35mm dedicated film scanner now available or made in the recent past. For instance, it is far and above the highest resolution 35mm consumer scanner available, yet one of the most affordable at $399. If I were to compare it to my no longer available Konica Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 II, the Konica Minolta does a better quality job of scanning slides, but not nearly as good a job scanning color negatives, both of which are largely a function of the Plustek's lower dynamic range and the Konica Minolta's much higher D-max, even though both scan at 48-bit depth. And today, most dedicated film scanners automatically feed and position the film in its carrier in the scanner, while you have to do that manually with the Plustek. Some of the best dedicated 35mm scanners have either an automatic or both auto and manual focus function, and the Plustek is apparently a fixed-focus device. The Plustek comes with LaserSoft's SilverFast Ai software (a basic feature configuration that can be upgraded), and it is an additional cost upgrade with some other scanners like Nikon, Canon, and Konica Minolta. The Plustek is a PC Windows only scanner, while almost every other 35mm scanner supports both Windows and the Apple Mac.

If you are staying at the lodge at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park you have to get up and out well before dawn to climb to the top of the springs to catch the first light as it skims over the mountain and catches the steaming springs. This scene used the full exposure latitude of the Fujichrome I exposed it on and the Plustek 7200i was able to reproduce the range quite effectively. After scanning it for my test, I re-scanned the same slide with my Konica Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 II and was able to pull just a bit more detail from the shadows in the background, but not to any great overall advantage compared to the scan made by the Plustek.

My only reservation is that it is PC Windows only, and I would have liked to see how it would perform if run on an Apple Mac, and that wonder remains. The reason is that compared to all of the scanning I have done in the last few years, I have come to prefer scanning with an Apple Mac to what I had experienced in earlier years working with Windows, and found the screen interface with the Plustek version of SilverFast not as easy to evaluate and control adjustments of color values.

Irrespective of my personal idiosyncrasies, I would have to say that generally the Plustek 7200i is a great value. Photographers who have recorded many or most of their images on color negative film will probably benefit most using the Plustek 7200i. With most typical E-6 process slide films others will get as good or better result than they can obtain with any scanner at a similar price point, and as good as many scanners that are more costly. For photographers whose image library is all or mostly Kodachrome, the Plustek 7200i has to be a more cautious recommendation, in part because iSRD is not useable (but neither is ASF/Kodak Digital ICE), and the 3.3 D-max dynamic range may not obtain as much shadow detail as would be ideal from some Kodachrome images. Personally, if my library included more images on color negative film the modest cost of the Plustek would encourage me to get it just for scanning those color negatives.

For more information, contact Plustek Inc., 17517 Fabrica Way, Ste. B, Cerritos, CA 90703; (714) 670-7713; www.plustek.com.

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