Previously I wrote about scanning negatives and slides, using both an old HP film scanner, an Epson flat bed scanner and a then recently purchased Plustek film scanner.
It has now been five years since I purchased the Plustek film scanner and despite good intentions I have not done much scanning. It is just too time consuming. Recently I had the opportunity to use a bulk slide scanning method from SlideSnap Pro, called the SlideSnap X1. This is essentially a Kodak type slide projector with a digital camera attached and pointed toward the lens of the projector. You can use traditional Kodak carousels, but I used a stack loader and was able to scan about 1,000 slides in a couple hours. The camera is tethered to a computer where the images are saved directly.
This reminded me of my experiment a few yeas ago using my Nikon DSLR along with a Nikon Bellow and Slide Duplicator, which gave me good results but you had to manually put each individual slide into the slide adapter and then fire the camera.
The SlideSnap X1 takes a photo larger than the film area to make sure you capture everything which leaves a black border. That allows you do scan rapidly in bulk with with no need to position the crop for each individual slide prior to the scan.
In post you could manually crop each individual image, but I was seeking a way to auto bulk crop the images. SlideSnap Pro offers some software for cropping but they also recommend using BatchCrop which includes more features, including dust removal. They have a Mac version so I purchased BatchCrop.
Scanned Image Comparison
From my prior tests, I found using the PluxTek Scanner with VueScan software to provide the best results up to that point. It allows up to 7200 dpi resolution but when I dropped the resolution down to 3600 it was just about as good. I was anxious to see how things compared with the SlideSnap X1, and the BatchCrop software set at maximum setting to remove the dust and scratches.
The coloring with the Plustek film scanner does look better, but the SlideSnap is not bad and much better than the old HP film scanner I had used 20 years ago. I was interested in the differences in resolution. So I did a small crop on the name on the ski and compared against the same tight crop from my prior experiments scanning. I also investigated the effect of dust and scratch removal when using BatchCrop. I have arranged these into somewhat equivalent groups with the sharper images first.
The difference is now quite apparent. The resolution from old HP film scanner is lacking and the scan from the Epson flatbed scanner, even at the maximum resolution is soft. When using the PlusTek scanner at 3600 dpi, the VueScan software is also almost as good as SilverFast software at 7200 dpi while Silverfast at 3600 is quite lacking. The SlideSnap Pro does a good job also, despite it being basically a camera taking an image of the slide. The effect of dust removal using BatchCrop has a minimal effect on softness, with it hard to tell the difference between no dust removal and using the maximum setting (there are five levels you can select). On the other hand, using the Photoshop filter for dust and scratch removal makes the result unacceptably bad.
The Pluxtek scanner supports infrared scan for dusk and scratch removal, but that lengthens the time. Both SilverFast and VueScan support this feature as well as multi exposure. The BatchCrop dust removal works on a batch process after scanning the slide so the time it takes is not nearly as important as when you are waiting to scan each individual slide.
The Slide Snap X1 takes all the images in bulk and I later, also in bulk, crop the back border and remove most of the dust and scratches. I just feed the BatchCrop program how many files I want, run an action I setup, and come back later. For the other scanners you have to do a preview scan, then make adjustments such as the crop. These are times with the Plusteck scanner AFTER the preview has already been completed and adjustments selected. Each involves 3 scans, one for the image, one for the Infrared channel and a third for the multiple exposure, then processing and saving the image. SilverFast in particular takes a long time for “processing” after the 3 scans are finished while this is done quickly with VueScan. Time is shown in minutes:seconds using a 35 mm slide.
- Plustech Scanner using SilverFast at 7200 dpi: 12:37
- Plustech Scanner using VueScan at 7200 dpi: 5:23
- Plustech Scanner using SilverFast at 3600 dpi: 5:30
- Plustech Scanner using VueScan at 3600 dpi: 2:30
- SlideSnap X1: Less than 5 seconds per slide. I keep my slides in a metal case and just pulled out a whole group of about 40 slides and put into the bulk feeder, press a button and within a couple minutes they were all done with the files saved on my USB drive. No need to individually feed slides and wait several minutes for the scan to finish them insert the next one.
- The SlideSnap X1, couple with BatchCrop software, gets the job done MUCH faster than using any other type of film scanner. You end up with slides which are mostly properly exposed, cropped and much of the dust removed, and with a resolution that compares with dedicated film scanners.
- For removing dust and scratches Batch Crop does it reasonably well and will process after the scanning is finished. There are 5 settings for the level of dust removal and it seems the only disadvantage of using a higher level is the time it takes but there is no clear impact on image quality. On the other hand the Photoshop filter to remove dust and scratches softens the image too much to be considered.
- The Plustek 8200i film scanner is much better than my old HP Film Scanner and my current Epson flat bed scanner, but not much better than the SlideSnap X1 method. It also takes too long so I don’t seem to get around to it but it remains my best option for negatives.
- I now have a method to actually scan my thousands of slides, it is using the SlideSnap X1 along with BatchCrop software. After processing in BatchCrop I import into Lightroom and do any need fine tune cropping or additional dust removal and color adjustment. For some slides that need more fixing I also use the healing brush in Photoshop.