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Nikon Super CoolScan 4000 ED - some questions

 
 
Hans-Georg Michna
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      09-12-2005
Does anybody here have some experience with this scanner? I have
a few questions.

I got this scanner to scan all my slides and am not quite sure
about the optimal settings.

1. I find that this scanner, like practically every other, isn't
as sharp as the manufacturer states. It cannot nearly reproduce
a good slide in all of its resolution. Sharp, fine text, for
example becomes mushy and, in extreme cases, unreadable.

I conclude therefore that it serves no purpose to set the
scanner to its full native resolution. The pictures would only
be bigger and unsharp. So I reduced the resolution from 4,000 to
2,400 dpi. Even at that resolution the results are clearly very
unsharp.

Does this make sense?

2. Has anybody experimented with the sharpening function, the
one called unsharp masking? Does this in fact compensate for a
scanner shortcoming or does it only exaggerate edges? What did
you find to be the best settings?

3. When scanning with 8 bits per color, rather than the full
color depth, does it still make sense to do multiple passes per
slide? Or is the sensor noise lower than what can be represented
in 8 bits per color?

4. While scanning, the scan software uses 100% of an Athlon 64
3000+ processor. Is this normal? Is the processor really the
bottleneck? Anything I could set up differently to make it scan
faster?

5. Any other hints?

Hans-Georg

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winhag@yahoo.com
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      09-12-2005
Regarding 'sharpness'. I have used a Nikon 5000ED (same res as your
4000), and have found that it easily resolves grain. If your scanner is
not dirty or malfunctioning, or just not focused, it should be quite
sharp. Can you see the grain when view at 'actual pixels'? Also, if
your slides are heavily curved, that may be the problem. There can be
depth of field issues.

You may want to post your questions to 'comps.periphs.scanners' as that
is where the scanner community mostly is.

W

 
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Stacey
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      09-13-2005
Hans-Georg Michna wrote:

> Does anybody here have some experience with this scanner? I have
> a few questions.
>
> I got this scanner to scan all my slides and am not quite sure
> about the optimal settings.
>
> 1. I find that this scanner, like practically every other, isn't
> as sharp as the manufacturer states. It cannot nearly reproduce
> a good slide in all of its resolution. Sharp, fine text, for
> example becomes mushy and, in extreme cases, unreadable.
>



Sounds like you have focus problems or the film isn't flat. Read the manual
on the software, use the "ctrl" while clicking the focus button and you can
select different spots to focus on. If they vary a bunch (over 20-30
points), you'll never get the whole thing sharp.

>
> 3. When scanning with 8 bits per color, rather than the full
> color depth, does it still make sense to do multiple passes per
> slide?


I'd only do this if you have REALLY dense area's that show noise.

>
> 4. While scanning, the scan software uses 100% of an Athlon 64
> 3000+ processor. Is this normal? Is the processor really the
> bottleneck? Anything I could set up differently to make it scan
> faster?


Do you have AV software running? That can cause all sorts of problems from
what I've read with scanning.

I have the big brother LS 8000 and it scans everything I can see of the
film..

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Stacey
 
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Hans-Georg Michna
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      09-13-2005
On 12 Sep 2005 06:41:18 -0700, "(E-Mail Removed)"
<(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

>Regarding 'sharpness'. I have used a Nikon 5000ED (same res as your
>4000), and have found that it easily resolves grain. If your scanner is
>not dirty or malfunctioning, or just not focused, it should be quite
>sharp. Can you see the grain when view at 'actual pixels'? Also, if
>your slides are heavily curved, that may be the problem. There can be
>depth of field issues.


It does show grain, but there is a lot of softness. An edge that
is fairly sharp on the slide covers several pixels, something
like 4, on the scan. Slides are in glass, but taking them out
doesn't give any better results. They should at least be sharp
in the center, but they never quite are.

I must admit that I have yet to see any scanner that reproduces
a one pixel wide line as a one pixel line. Gues I need 8,000 dpi
to get a sharp 4,000 dpi picture.

>You may want to post your questions to 'comps.periphs.scanners' as that
>is where the scanner community mostly is.


Thanks! That's a useful hint. Will do this.

Hans-Georg

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Hans-Georg Michna
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      09-13-2005
On Tue, 13 Sep 2005 01:07:34 -0400, Stacey <(E-Mail Removed)>
wrote:

>Hans-Georg Michna wrote:


>> 1. I find that this scanner, like practically every other, isn't
>> as sharp as the manufacturer states. It cannot nearly reproduce
>> a good slide in all of its resolution. Sharp, fine text, for
>> example becomes mushy and, in extreme cases, unreadable.


>Sounds like you have focus problems or the film isn't flat. Read the manual
>on the software, use the "ctrl" while clicking the focus button and you can
>select different spots to focus on. If they vary a bunch (over 20-30
>points), you'll never get the whole thing sharp.


Stacey,

thanks for your reply! I had already tried that, but except for
a few far out of focus scans this is not the case. The autofocus
works well and the results are repeatable.

I think that this scanner is no better than any other and
exaggerates its resolution by a factor of 2. Scanning at 2,000
dpi, rather than its rated 4,000, yields reasonably, though
still not perfectly sharp pictures.

Try this. Put a piece of paper into a slide and scan the edge.
Then check how many pixels it covers. It's at least 4 to 4 grey
pixels between the black and the white area, rather than 1 or
perhaps 2.

>> 3. When scanning with 8 bits per color, rather than the full
>> color depth, does it still make sense to do multiple passes per
>> slide?


>I'd only do this if you have REALLY dense area's that show noise.


Thanks, thought so. I don't do it. It seems that the noise from
the film overwhelms the noise from the sensor, at least when I
scan at 2,000 dpi, half the rated resolution. Thus four pixels
become one and a lot of noise is cancelled out.

>> 4. While scanning, the scan software uses 100% of an Athlon 64
>> 3000+ processor. Is this normal? Is the processor really the
>> bottleneck? Anything I could set up differently to make it scan
>> faster?


>Do you have AV software running? That can cause all sorts of problems from
>what I've read with scanning.


No AV running in the background.

>I have the big brother LS 8000 and it scans everything I can see of the
>film..


Nice! Ever looked at the processor load? I have this impression
that the processor load is genuine, because any further load
actually slows the scan. Those scanners do make use of the
processor.

I have now, after a few tests, switched on the Digital ICE4 and
am deeply impressed. Never switched it off again.

Hans-Georg

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Kennedy McEwen
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      09-13-2005
In article <(E-Mail Removed)>, Hans-Georg
Michna <(E-Mail Removed)> writes
>Does anybody here have some experience with this scanner? I have
>a few questions.
>

Yup, years of experience with it.

>I got this scanner to scan all my slides and am not quite sure
>about the optimal settings.
>
>1. I find that this scanner, like practically every other, isn't
>as sharp as the manufacturer states.


Well that raises an interesting question: Do you know what "as sharp as
the manufacturer states" should look like? If you don't (and too many
people think it means you should get adjacent black and white pixels -
it doesn't!) how can you determine that it isn't as sharp as it should
be?

>It cannot nearly reproduce
>a good slide in all of its resolution. Sharp, fine text, for
>example becomes mushy and, in extreme cases, unreadable.
>

OK, you clearly have a problem with focus or dirt. The LS-4000 is
particularly fussy about film flatness, so if your film is curved by a
couple of millimetres then it will not maintain focus across the entire
frame.

Assuming your film is flat, is the scanner set to focus automatically
before each scan or preview is made? If you have inadvertently switched
this option off in the preferences section then the scanner will just
hold the last focus position it had - which could be miles (well, not
quite that far) from the correct focus position.

You can set the auto-focus on any particular part of the image using the
focus position icon in the scan software, or manually adjust the focus
through a range of values - though I have never found a real use for
this latter control other than assessing the amount of film curvature.

>I conclude therefore that it serves no purpose to set the
>scanner to its full native resolution.


I conclude the opposite - that you have a problem, not that the scanner
is incapable of delivering its native resolution.

>The pictures would only
>be bigger and unsharp. So I reduced the resolution from 4,000 to
>2,400 dpi. Even at that resolution the results are clearly very
>unsharp.
>
>Does this make sense?
>

Yes - it suggests you either aren't focussing or your scanner has
dirt/dust on the mirrors.

The easiest diagnosis of dirt/dust is to scan a frame edge against a
white background on slide film. eg. the black gap between two lighter
frames or the edge of the slide mount with light subject matter at the
edge of the frame. If you have dirty mirrors or optics then you will
notice a smearing of the lighter portions of the image into the black
frame. If this is the problem then there is no alternative to having
the scanner stripped and cleaned - something you can do yourself if you
are confident of working with optical instruments, but otherwise it is
better to pay someone who is.

>2. Has anybody experimented with the sharpening function, the
>one called unsharp masking? Does this in fact compensate for a
>scanner shortcoming or does it only exaggerate edges? What did
>you find to be the best settings?
>

All scanners have shortcomings in terms of their image sharpness, it is
a fact of life and USM is one method of compensating for this. I find
that something around 5% intensity, 5% halo width and 5-10 levels of
threshold fairly acceptable, but often scan without any USM.

>3. When scanning with 8 bits per color, rather than the full
>color depth, does it still make sense to do multiple passes per
>slide? Or is the sensor noise lower than what can be represented
>in 8 bits per color?
>

Yes, it still makes sense to use multisampling - this scanner does not
do multiple passes, it multisamples in a single pass. The reason why
this is still worth doing is because the noise is, of course, more than
the quantisation noise of the 14-bit ADC and this is for a linear scan.
Gamma compensation for normal use results in the noise from all sources,
including this quantisation, being amplified in the shadows. However
you will need a fairly dense film to be able to show the difference -
and you haven't a hope if you are getting scattered light from dirty
optics. Also, measurements show that for near saturated scans,
corresponding to shadows on negatives, the photon noise itself is
equivalent to just over 8-bits for the CCD. This can be improved by
multisampling, to over 10-bits at 16x. You will probably see more gain
from multisampling negatives than slides, because the dynamic range of
the scanner is very good.

>4. While scanning, the scan software uses 100% of an Athlon 64
>3000+ processor. Is this normal? Is the processor really the
>bottleneck? Anything I could set up differently to make it scan
>faster?
>

No idea, I don't use Athlons.

>5. Any other hints?


RTFMs - if you don't have copies then download them from the Nikon
website. There are two - one for the scanner itself and one for the
Nikonscan software.

Obtain and install the latest firmware update (v1.10)

Obtain and install the latest version of NikonScan (v4.02)
--
Kennedy
Yes, Socrates himself is particularly missed;
A lovely little thinker, but a bugger when he's ****ed.
Python Philosophers (replace 'nospam' with 'kennedym' when replying)
 
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Kennedy McEwen
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      09-13-2005
In article <(E-Mail Removed)>, Hans-Georg
Michna <(E-Mail Removed)> writes
>
>Try this. Put a piece of paper into a slide and scan the edge.
>Then check how many pixels it covers. It's at least 4 to 4 grey
>pixels between the black and the white area, rather than 1 or
>perhaps 2.


Precisely the point I was making in my other post - you *don't* know
what the manufacturer's specification should look like!

Resolving something does *NOT* mean reproducing it at 100% contrast -
which would be the case of having the single pixel transition between a
black and white edge you think you should be getting!

No visible optic in itself can achieve that, let alone one of limited
size in a scanner at 4000ppi (2000cy/in) resolution! The lens has a
finite MTF as does the CCD - all of which reduce the rate of change of
edges. Just for reference, a *perfect* f/4 lens will only be capable of
resolving 2000lppi at around 75% of the contrast of the full black to
white transition - and that is peak green light, it will be worse at the
red end. I don't know what the f/# is of the lens in the LS-4000, but I
doubt it is much faster than f/4.

A quick look at some published measurements from a number of LS-4000
scanners shows them to be among the best resolving units available, with
MTF-50 figures around 22-25cy/mm. That means that the scanner will
reproduce a bar pattern (more accurately a sine wave) of 560-640lppi at
50% of the contrast of the original. Since the scanner is capable of
resolving 2000lppi, then 4 pixels to achieve full contrast transition is
a reasonable comparison. However, the scanner could still be capable of
*resolving* 2000lppi even if it took 10 or 20 pixels to transition peak
white to black - unlikely, but certainly possible.

Your general dissatisfaction with scanners appears to be down to a
misunderstanding of what the manufacturers are offering in their
specifications.

What I find more surprising is that you have somehow convinced yourself
that so much more information is available on the film to begin with!
Try this for comparison: view your scanned edge transition or text on
your screen at 100% magnification, so that you can see the softness you
are concerned about. Typical displays these days are around 96ppi - so
the image size from a full scanned 35mm frame would be around
40x60inches. Now, go into a projection room and project your slide at
that same size and view it from the same distance as you do the monitor
- about 10-12". The original will, of course, look a little sharper
but, if your scanner is functioning correctly, it won't be that much
sharper and it will surprise you just how little information that the
scanner is not capable of lifting off the film.
--
Kennedy
Yes, Socrates himself is particularly missed;
A lovely little thinker, but a bugger when he's ****ed.
Python Philosophers (replace 'nospam' with 'kennedym' when replying)
 
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Stacey
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      09-14-2005
Hans-Georg Michna wrote:

> I have now, after a few tests, switched on the Digital ICE4 and
> am deeply impressed. Never switched it off again.
>


Yep, it's amazing how well it works! I suppose since I'm scanning mostly
6X4.5 and 6X9 film the rez issues don't seem bad? I have done some 8X10
prints from 35mm film scans and they look really good, about as far as I'd
ever go with 35mm film anyway..
--

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Stacey
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      09-14-2005
Hans-Georg Michna wrote:

> On 12 Sep 2005 06:41:18 -0700, "(E-Mail Removed)"
>
> I must admit that I have yet to see any scanner that reproduces
> a one pixel wide line as a one pixel line.


Stop pixel peeping and look at the prints..

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Hans-Georg Michna
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      09-15-2005
On Wed, 14 Sep 2005 01:13:36 -0400, Stacey <(E-Mail Removed)>
wrote:

>Hans-Georg Michna wrote:


>> I must admit that I have yet to see any scanner that reproduces
>> a one pixel wide line as a one pixel line.


>Stop pixel peeping and look at the prints..


Stacey,

no need to. I can compare the original slide under a magnifying
glass with the scan. The results from the Nikon 4000 ED don't
even come close to reproducing the sharpness of the slide.

But then this is still a relatively cheap scanner, probably
meant for the ambitious amateur, and for that it may be good
enough.

Hans-Georg

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