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Minolta Dimage Scan Elite Film Scanner Test Images

A word about our scanner testing philosophy: Some publications have taken the position of scanning everything using the scanner's default settings, believing this to be most fair, neutral methodology. The problem with this approach is it may show unacceptable results for an otherwise perfectly usable scanner. (Most users are willing to engage in some tweaking of the scanning parameters to get the best result.) For our part, we believe the most accurate representation of real-world performance is to allow for a reasonable level of twiddling of the scan parameters. In the interest of objectivity though, we also show scans performed with default settings, to provide a completely neutral reference point.
Also note that all images here have been JPEG compressed for compatibility with 'web browsers. This will degrade image quality somewhat, but we used a very conservative compression setting ("9" or better in Photoshop) to minimize this.

 

"Musicians II" image: (944k) The main image here was scanned at 1293 x 866 pixels (940 dpi), and minor tonal adjustments were made using the histogram tool. Both ends of the tonal range were stretched a little bit, brightening the highlights, and darkening the shadows. At the same time, the midtone values were boosted a somewhat, brightening the overall image. We also boosted the blue channel midtone slider a bit, to neutralize a somewhat yellowish cast we found in the original default scan. Here (840k) is a copy of the image scanned with the Dimage Scan Elite's default settings, actually a very passable performance, although a little dark, and with the slight yellowish cast overall that we mentioned above. Although the default scan is a a bit dark and doesn't use the full tonal range of the monitor, the colors are suprisingly saturated. (Usually, when a scanner doesn't use the full tonal range, we find rather muddy colors, but this wasn't the case with the Dimage Scan Elite. Color accuracy and purity on the adjusted shot (944k) are very good, although the reds are just a trifle "hot", and the blue of the Oriental model's robe is a ever so slightly under-saturated.

(NOTE that this is NOT the identical "Musicians" image as used in our digital cameras test! It's very similar, but the models are different, and the digital-camera version is a couple of reproduction generations removed from this particular version.)

 
"Musicians II" detail clip: (551k) This shot reveals the excellent detail captured by the Dimage Scan Speed at its 2820dpi maximum resolution. Cropped from the Musicians II slide, with the resolution set to maximum, the image shows very good detail, particularly in the fine, spiky foliage of the flowers in the garland on the model's head, although we felt the image was slightly soft, even as compared to Minolta's Dimage Scan Speed model we reviewed previously. The difference is slight, but we felt it was evident enough to deserve a comment on it. Interestingly, although the Dimage Scan Elite seems to truly have a higher native resolution than other scanners it competes with (as evidenced in the resolution test below), it also seems less prone to emphasizing the film grain. We attribute this to the diffuse light source it uses (a special fluorescent tube), which doubtless works in the same way that diffusion heads do on darkroom enlargers: Many pros swear by the diffusion heads, rather than the more-common condenser ones, because of exactly this effect. Applying unsharp masking in Photoshop(tm), with a radius of 0.7 pixels and a strength of 120% produced this image, which revealed more detail, but which we still felt was slightly soft.

When we tested the Dimage Scan Speed (also a 12-bit scanner), we noticed some tendency toward posterization in the shadows of the model's hair. Although the Dimage Scan Elite has no more bit depth than the Dimage Scan Speed, we saw none of this tendency in the Elite's scans.
 
Kodak Royal Gold 25 "House" detail clip: (491) This is a detail clip from the same negative used to produce the "house" poster for our digital camera tests. It was shot on Kodak Royal Gold 25 film, which is extremely fine-grained, but which has very different color characteristics from more ordinary color negative films. Most scanners we've worked with have had difficulty with RG 25's color balance, and the Dimage Scan Elite somewhat followed suit, as shown in this scan (346k), taken with the default settings. Thanks to the Minolta control software though, we were able to achieve an excellent color correction very quickly, as seen in the main shot. (491k) This particular negative has either a layer of very fine dirt on the emulsion, or voids in the emulsion, producing tiny white spots in the final scans. We found these to be very noticeable on scanners with highly-collimated light sources, but considerably less obvious with the Dimage Scan Speed, thanks to its more diffuse light source. With Digital ICE enabled, the defects vanish almost entirely, as shown here (493k), although theres a slight loss of sharpness as well. We applied moderately strong unsharp masking in Photoshop to this same photo, as seen here (575k), with the result that detail improved considerably, but the defects also became more evident again.  
"Train" Shot (Extreme shadow detail): (427k) This slide is an exceptionally tough test of scanner dynamic range: It contains areas of moderately bright highlight, but the shadows are very, very dense. good Dimage Scan Elite did exceptionally well on this shot, producing reasonable detail in the shadows, with very modest noise levels. (A performance befitting a scanner with true 12-bit/channel A/D conversion.) As you'd expect, the scan with default settings (276k) produced a rather dark image, but we were able to correct both the tonal balance and color shifts in the deep shadows quite well with Minolta's software, producing this adjusted scan (608k). The Dimage Scan Elite has an option for "autoexposure for slides" that compensates for underexposed slides, presumably by boosting the gain on the signal coming from the CCD. We found that it had little impact on this test though, probably because of the relatively strong highlights in the sandy ground in front of the train. The Dimage Scan Elite's option to capture 16 bit data is a big help here, as is its 16x multi-sample scanning. Here's a shot taken using the full 12 bit data (576k), but only sampled once per scan line. The shadow detail is much better, but there's still a fair bit of noise. Here's the real winner though, a scan taken using 12 bit data, 16x multi-sample scanning, and levels-adjusted in Photoshop afterward. (427k) This is arguably the best scan of this difficult subject done by any scanner we've tested to date (June, 2000).  
Q60 Color Target: (260k) The Kodak "Q60" color target (also the basis for the international IT8 target) is a good test of color accuracy and tonal rendition. The main image (260k) was scanned with the scanner's black point and gamma controls on the histogram screen adjusted to boost overall midtone brightness a slightly, as well as correct for a minor reddish color shift. For comparison, here is the default scan (244k), which is slightly warm-toned, but nonetheless has great color "out of the box." Some folks on the internet have taken to using a maximum-resolution scan of the lady's face in this slide as a resolution test, so we've included a sample of that portion of the slide at maximum resolution here (420k).  
"Davebox" test target: (329k) Here is our official "weirdness of color negative film" test target. Most scanner seem to have a hard time with this shot, taken on Kodak Gold 100 color negative film. The Dimage Scan Elite actually did a very credible job of scanning it though, as shown in this unmodified default scan (324k). The default scan did look a bit washed-out though, as the midtone values were rather high, and the white point down a little relative to the available tonal range. This proved quite easy to correct, by pushing up the "Gamma" midtone value, pulling down the white point, and moving up the black point a little. The end result (329k) is very snappy, with bright colors and good tonal range, but the colors ended up just a bit oversaturated, and the bright yellow swatch has a slightly greenish tinge. Still, a very good performance on a piece of film that causes problems for many scanners.  
WG-18 Resolution Target Horizontal Clip: (52k) The full WG-18 (Actually now ISO 12233) resolution target is very large (see below), so we cropped-out these clips to show the scanner resolution on this familiar target. These scans were made from a target shot on Kodak Technical Pan black & white negative film. This film is extremely fine-grained, with perhaps the highest resolution of any commercially-available 35mm emulsion. The target was shot with a Nikon 50mm, f1.4 lens (a notably sharp lens, particularly when stopped-down), at an aperture of f8. Thus, while not a "laboratory" grade target, this represents about as much detail as you'll ever see in a conventional film image. The downside of this target is that the Tech Pan emulsion is a little "thin," lacking density. There's thus a fair bit of compensation required of the scanner controls to restore it to a full contrast range. The image here had the white point adjusted pretty far downward, to pull the anemic "white" of the raw film up to the full value of 255. (This image was scanned in black & white negative mode, to best show the maximum detail possible with the scanner.)

The Dimage Scan Elite did well in the resolution category, thanks to its 2820 dpi scanning resolution, although not quite as well as the earlier Dimage Scan Speed, which actually seemed to exceed theoretical limits (!) The Dimage Scan Elite scanned the resolution target with solid resolution in the vertical direction (that is, across the horizontally-oriented test pattern) of 1300 lines per picture height or better, with visible detail extending to 1800 lines or so.

 
WG-18 Resolution Target Vertical Clip: (48k) Here's the corresponding vertically-oriented clip of the WG-18/Tech Pan test target. For some reason, performance in this orientation wasn't as high, with some aliasing (slight jagginess to the lines) appearing between 850 and 900 lines per picture height, and solid detail really not evident beyond 1200 lines or so. Still a good performance, but a notch below the earlier Dimage Scan Speed.  

NOTE! ->

Full-Size WG-18 Resolution Target: (1,295k!) For the real masochists, here's the full-size resolution target, scanned at the maximum resolution of 2820 dpi. A side note: We don't have an explicit test for frame coverage by scanners, but this test shot goes right to the edges of the 35mm frame. With the slide holder, the Dimage Scan Elite covers all of that and then some, but we found that the strip-film holder crops the image somewhat, on the order of about 3% in each direction. This image was scanned in black & white negative mode, resulting in a single-channel, grayscale-only image.

WARNING: This JPEG expands into a 9.6 megabyte file, which may crash your broswer if viewed directly! To view it, your best bet would be to first download it directly to your hard drive (right-click in Windows, click & hold in Mac Netscape), then open it in an image-editing application. here is the link to the RAW JPEG IMAGE (1,247k) (No surrounding HTML file.)

 
USAF 1951 Resolution Target: (488k) (Elderly technoids only ;-) Old-line lens and film testers will be well-familiar with the "USAF 1951" resolution test target. (1951 is the year it was created, giving you an idea of what we mean when we say "old-line.") This was scanned at the maximum resolution of 2820 dpi from a laboratory-grade target (chrome on glass slide) before being cropped down. Because this target doesn't have the sort of extended structures that the WG-18 one does, it doesn't permit the visual interpolation our eyes can do on the WG-18 pattern. As a result, the USAF target consistently yields much more conservative resolution numbers. WARNING: this file also expands into a rather large (9 megabyte) image, and so may crash some browsers. Here's a link to the raw JPEG file (488k), so you can download it directly to your hard drive if desired.

We were disappointed in the USAF target results, which we attribute to flare in the optical system, caused by the very thick glass mount, which could not only cause diffraction, but also

 

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