This is a simple side by side comparison of results from different film and flatbed scanners i owned. This is not intended to be a scientific review, instead it should be a source of information about scanners that are either underrated or worth looking at because they can be had for cheap.
My interest is mainly about simple optical resolution that is limited by the lens or the transport used in the scanner. All of the scanners i tested did not show any problems with noise or limited dynamic range for negative conversion.
Of course, a USAF target would offer a clear statement about the quantified true resolution of the device tested, but when i started making these test scans i had no USAF target at hand and some of the devices are already sold. So i continued documenting the results with this cheap test negative and found direct a/b comparisons still pretty useful. Other than that, the images below are easy to read for everyone. When there is something special to say about a particular scanner i will add a note below.
All of them were fully serviced (cleaned, lubed and adjusted) before i scanned the test negative. On flatbed scanners i used a glass sandwich instead of the original film holders for optimal flatness and i adjusted the height of the negative until i got the best possible sharpness. I find this to be pretty important, because most of the reviews on the web relate to the original film holders.
All of the scans were made in the same environment:
- Scan in Vuescan as raw dng at the highest optical resolution claimed by the manufacturer
- All scans were oriented in the tranport direction (horizontally)
- Raw conversion in Adobe Camera Raw
- Only standard sharpening and no white balance
- In Photoshop cropped and resized to the same size
- Export as .jpg without compression
Until now, the Minolta Dimage Dual Scan III and IV gave me the sharpest results. Both are rated at 3200 dpi, what is plenty enough resolution for archiving negative film. In case you want to digitize slide film it may be worth looking at scanners with higher optical resolutions and better dynamic range, like the later Minolta Elite 5400 or Nikon LS 5 / 5000 scanners.
This comparison page will grow over time. Whenever i repair a scanner i will share the results with you and i hope it helps you to save some money.