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Scanner review: OpticFilm 8200i SE 35mm film scanner – by Olli ThomsonScanner review: OpticFilm 8200i SE 35mm film scanner – by Olli Thomson

Scanner review: OpticFilm 8200i SE 35mm film scanner – by Olli Thomson

When I was fifteen I wanted a Nikon FM. A couple of months ago, some forty years later, I finally bought one – actually an FM2n, but close enough. As well as shooting with film I also wanted to take control of the rest of the process: developing, scanning, printing. I decided to start with scanning and recently acquired a Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE film scanner. This is my review and here’s what I’ll be covering:

 

 

 

Choosing a film scanner

First question: flatbed or film? The former can scan prints or film, the latter film only. I was looking for a device to scan film, not prints so I ruled out flatbed scanners since they have no advantage over dedicated film scanners but do have a number of disadvantages.

Second question: 35mm or 120? Some scanners are designed for 35mm film only while others can also scan 120 film (or other formats). Since all my old negatives are 35mm and as I’m currently only shooting that format, I decided I could work with a 35mm only model. I don’t see myself moving to medium format in the foreseeable future but obviously, if that was an ambition it would make sense to consider a multi-format model.

Third question: automatic or manual feed? Some scanners allow for automatic feeding of images from a filmstrip or automatic advance of a film holder. Others require each individual frame to be placed manually. Since I don’t have a large archive of images to scan I went with manual feed.

Fourth question: which scanner? The options are quite limited – a quick search on B&H throws up only 32 film scanning devices in total. Once the first three questions are answered the options are reduced further. I chose this model from Plustek over a couple of others from the same company (one of which is identical in hardware but with different software) and a couple from Pacific Image which (under the brand name Reflecta) are well reviewed by filmscanner.info, but from user reviews do seem to have some quality control issues.

 

 

In the box

What can I say? It’s a black box with three buttons and slots for the supplied negative and positive film holders. That’s it. Apart from the on/off button there is a button marked ‘QuickScan’ which starts Plustek’s own basic software package, and a button marked ‘IntelliScan’ which starts the SilverFast SE Plus software from LaserSoft Imaging that comes with this particular model.

Also in the box is the software supplied on an ancient technology known as a ‘DVD’. Since I don’t have a DVD reader I did have to track down the relevant software online and load it from there.

Plustek’s customer service were very helpful here replying to my email explaining where to find the software, and providing a link to SilverFast within the day. With SilverFast I did have to get a new serial number but the process was quick and simple.

 

 

Software: Plustek QuickScan and SilverFast SE

Plustek provides its own QuickScan software which provides some basic scanning options, but I have no idea how good it is because I’ve never used it. There’s no reason to, since the scanner comes with SilverFast SE Plus.

Silverfast is to scanning what Photoshop is to photo editing. Like Photoshop, it’s not the most intuitive software so there is a bit of a learning curve. But it doesn’t take that long to get the hang of it since LaserSoft provides online video tutorials for almost every feature. SE Plus is one of three versions of the software, more advanced than SilverFast SE, less so than SilverFast AI Studio.

There are a lot of options even with this version of SilverFast as you can see below from the multiple menu items.

Plustek 8200i - Silverfast SE Plus

Plustek 8200i – Silverfast SE Plus

LaserSoft recommend starting with the ‘Workflow Pilot’ which provides a guided pathway through the many options. If you want more control over the decision making turning this feature off gives you access to all available tools.

SilverFast offers the option of saving your scan as a DNG file by selecting ‘48 Bit HDR RAW’ output for colour film. (HDR in this case just refers to the name LaserSoft gives to its own photo editing programme, nothing more). Choosing this disables most of the adjustment options and produces a ‘digital negative’ like the one below. This can then be inverted and adjusted in Lightroom using the Tone Curve or in Photoshop using Levels.

Plustek 8200i - A scanned HDR RAW image open in Lightroom

Plustek 8200i – A scanned HDR RAW image open in Lightroom

Using this method does produce significant colour casts once the image is inverted and it does require some work in your photo editor to correct these. This is complicated by the changes to the effect of many of Lightroom’s adjustment tools and sliders that result from inverting the image. However, you do get the hang of it with a little practice.

Life is simpler if you are scanning black and white film. Here, the appropriate output option is ‘16 Bit HDR RAW’, and the end result requires only a straightforward inversion: no colour, no problem.

Alternatively, you can let the software do more of the work and output an inverted, colour corrected 24 Bit TIF or JPG. Choosing this option allows you to select from the full range of available tools, the effects of which can be seen on the prescan displayed in the preview window. For the sake of brevity I’ll mention just a few of these tools.

 

 

SilverFast SE tools

Multiple Exposure – ME

This tool scans the frame twice, once for shadows, once for highlights, and combines the two to create an image with better dynamic range. The effect is subtle at best, though it is possible it may be more effective when applied to positives rather than negatives. I leave this turned on.

 

Dust and scratch removal – iSRD / SRDx

There are two dust and scratch removal options – one hardware based using an infrared scan and one software based. These are labelled iSRD and SRDx respectively. SRDx is best avoided since it softens the image. There is an option to create a mask and restrict the effect to a specific area, which can work if the selected area has limited detail to start with.

When iSRD works, it works well. But I have found that in some situations it is limited in its effectiveness, particularly on long, straight scratches. It’s not a complete solution but even where it’s not fully effective it does have some value. In those cases you should expect to have to do further remedial work on damaged or dirty frames in your photo editor of choice. As far as I know the AI Studio version of SilverFast has a greater range of options for fine tuning iSRD so may be more effective. This is another function that I leave on since it does no harm and does some good. It’s important to note that iSRD does not work with black and white film. Using it will make a terrible mess of your monochrome scans.

 

Film profiles – NegaFix

NegaFix allows you to select from a series of predefined film profiles created by LavaSoft. This covers films from the main manufacturers – Kodak, Ilford and Fuji plus a few others, including some I’ve never heard of. If your film of choice isn’t included you use the default settings. If you go for the AI Studio version you can fine tune the built in profiles or create your own.

Most of the other features of SilverFast I leave turned off since they are largely image adjustment tools – colour correction, contrast adjustment, sharpening and the like – that replicate what can be done better in Lightroom, Photoshop or other photo editors.

It makes no sense to me to apply these adjustments before scanning since they are then part of the final scan and can’t be subsequently undone. I personally use SilverFast to produce a minimally adjusted file which I can then edit in Lightroom.

 

 

Image quality

Though the scanner is rated at a nominal 7200dpi resolution the maximum actual resolution is somewhere around 3200 -3500dpi.

This gap between nominal and actual resolution is true of all scanners, though some come closer to the nominal figure than others. For me 3200-3500dpi is acceptable since it allows me to comfortably print at 12” x 8” which is as large as I ever go. Outputting a 48 Bit HDR RAW at 3600ppi resolution and 300ppi photo quality produces a DNG file that is 108MB. Outputting a 24Bit TIF at the same settings results in a file of 53.2MB. The resulting files are around 17MP.

So how do the scanned images look? Are they better than what I get from the lab at the time of developing?

For me, how they look initially is less important than how I can make them look. Doing my own scanning allows me to create DNG files that I can edit to my satisfaction, fine tuning each image to my taste. That flexibility allows me to get better scans than those I get from the lab.

At a certain point image quality becomes subjective so I’ve included a couple of samples – one black and white, one colour -below comparing different outputs of the same image. I’ve also included some crops for comparison.

 

 

Samples

Set 1: Kodak Portra 400

This set includes the unedited 48-bit RAW DNG immediately below and a gallery of three images:

  • Plustek 48 Bit HDR RAW DNG file edited in Lightroom
  • Plustek 24 Bit TIF unedited other than perspective correction
  • Lab scanned JPG unedited other than perspective correction

These three images are provided in a gallery format. Simply click an image to view it full screen and then tap/swipe left/right to compare.

Plustek 8200i - Plustek 48 Bit HDR RAW DNG file unedited

Plustek 8200i – Plustek 48 Bit HDR RAW DNG file unedited

 

Set 2: ILFORD HP5 PLUS

This set includes the unedited 16-bit RAW DNG immediately below and a gallery of three images:

  • Plustek 8 Bit TIF unedited other than perspective correction
  • Plustek 16 Bit HDR RAW DNG file edited in Lightroom
  • Lab Scanned JPG unedited other than perspective correction

These three images are provided in a gallery format. Simply click an image to view it full screen and then tap/swipe left/right to compare.

Plustek 8200i - Plustek 16 Bit HDR RAW DNG file unedited

Plustek 8200i – Plustek 16 Bit HDR RAW DNG file unedited

 

Set 3: 100% crops

For those of you interested in the detail that can be resolved with this scanner, I have provided three 100% crops based on the image below. The source image is a 16 Bit HDR RAW DNG file converted and edited to taste in Lightroom. The film is ILFORD HP5 PLUS.

The crops are as follows:

  • Lab scanned JPG 1000px crop
  • Plustek 16 Bit HDR RAW DNG file converted no additional editing or sharpening 1000px crop
  • Plustek 16 Bit HDR RAW DNG file converted and edited to taste in Lightroom1000px crop

These three images are provided in a gallery format. Simply click an image to view it full screen and then tap/swipe left/right to compare.

Plustek 8200i - Plustek 16 Bit HDR RAW DNG file converted and edited to taste in Lightroom

Plustek 8200i – Plustek 16 Bit HDR RAW DNG file converted and edited to taste in Lightroom

 

 

Price and availability

I got mine at B&H where it was selling for $290 reduced from the usual $360. It’s also available at Amazon (via Adorama). Plustek’s regional websites provide information on where to buy for different countries.

 

 

Conclusion

I’ll keep it brief. I’m happy with the Plustek scanner and the SilverFast software.

I believe that it gives me more flexibility and more scope in digitising my negatives and I’m pleased with results I’m getting already. I expect that with practice and greater familiarity with the software I’ll get still better outcomes.

You can also see a review of the OpticFilm 8200i (non-SE) over at 35mmc, which is identical to the one I review here – only the bundled software is different.

Thanks for reading!

~ Olli Thomson

 

 

Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE Specifications

ManufacturerPlustek (Taipei, Taiwan)

精益科技股份有限公司
Model NumberOpticFilm 8200i SE
Image SensorCCD
Light SourceLED
Hardware Resolution7200 dpi
Scan ModesColor: 48-bit input, 24/48-bit output?
Grayscale: 16-bit input, 8/16-bit output?
B/W: 1-bit
Dynamic Range3.6
InfraredBuilt-in
Scanning Speed3600 dpi: Approx. 36 sec (Multi-Sampling ON)
7200 dpi: Approx. 113 sec (Multi-Sampling ON)
Scanning Area (W x L)36.8 mm x 25.4 mm (1.45" x 1")
Preview SpeedNegative Film: Approx. 8 sec (Multi-Sampling ON)
Positive Film: Approx. 8 sec (Multi-Sampling ON)
Action ButtonIntelliScan, QuickScan
Power Supply15 Vdc / 1.0 A
InterfaceUSB 2.0
Net Weight1.6 Kg (3.5 Lbs)
Dimensions (W x D x H)120 x 272 x 119 mm (4.73” x 10.7” x 4.7”)
OSWindows XP/ Vista/ 7/ 8/ 10
Mac OS X 10.5.x/ 10.6.x/ 10.7.x/ 10.8.x/ 10.9.x/ 10.10.x/ 10.11.x/ 10.12.x/ 10.13.x
Hardware RequirementsWindows PC
2 GHz Processor or faster
2 GB RAM main memory (4 GB RAM recommended)
10 GB free space on hard disk drive
CD/ DVD drive or internet connection

Mac
2 GHz Processor or faster (INTEL based processor, NO PowerPC )
2 GB RAM main memory (4 GB RAM recommended)
10 GB free space on hard disk drive
DVD drive or internet connection

 

 

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About The Author

Olli Thomson

I photograph the world I find myself in. That world changes every two or three years so I'm always starting again, discovering somewhere new, evolving my photographic style. I am a photographer of places, most often urban spaces. I am drawn to architecture and design, whether on the grand scale of palaces, churches and skyscrapers or the reassuringly mundane office and apartment blocks of suburbia.

11 Comments

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  1. You’re welcome Tess. Glad you liked it.

    Reply
  2. Thanks so much for a helpful, “to the point” review without burying me in tech jargon.

    Reply
  3. Thanks Mike. The colour conversions are a little tricky at first since there are all kinds of colour casts if you simply do a straight inversion like you would do for black and white. I saw a couple of methods online but the one that I felt worked best involves inverting the R, G and B channels separately and adjusting these on the LR tone curve tool. There’s a helpful video on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zy7c2ikUhcM

    Reply
  4. Great results with inverting in LR. I’ve had the same scanner for a couple years, but have been doing the inversion and tif through the silverfast software, which has gotten better, but is still kind of cumbersome. I’ve been leaning toward just scanning as negatives, but haven’t gone down that path yet. Thanks for the info!

    Reply
  5. Biggest question for me is does a dedicated film scanner produce better results than shooting the negative RAW at 1:1 with a DSLR and a macro lens?

    I’ve been trying to decide whether to get a film scanner or just pick up a macro lens for my D850. My negatives are 35mm and 120.

    Reply
    • Olli Thomson

      I’m afraid I can’t help you there Michael. It might be a better option for those who already have a suitable lens and camera combination, though depending on how many images you were planning to scan it could be an even more time consuming approach. For the size I print the Plustek is the best combination of affordability, convenience and quality.

      Reply
  6. $$$$ pakon price is too ridiculous for most people to justify

    Reply
    • Olli Thomson

      I’m sure you’re right but those of us without 1000 dollars to spare and a technician on permanent standby have to set our sights a little lower 🙂

      Reply

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