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Minolta Dimage Scan Multi 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 ("8" or "9" in Photoshop) to minimize this.

 

"Musicians II" image: (652k) The main image here was scanned at 1200x800 pixels, and we made minor tonal adjustments with the histogram controls. We brought the black level up a bit, to stretch the blacks down to the lower limit of the tonal range, boosted midtone brightness slightly, and corrected for slight magenta cast in the lower midtone values. While this may sound like a lot of adjustment, it's actually relatively minor, as can be seen by comparing the result with this image (616k), scanned with the Dimage Multi's default settings.

(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: (828k) This shows the excellent detail the Dimage Scan Multi captures at its maximum resolution setting of 2820 dpi. Cropped from the Musicians II slide, with the resolution set to maximum, the image shows excellent detail, particularly in the fine, spiky foliage of the flowers in the model's garland. As we noted with the Dimage Scan Speed, while the Dimage Scan Multi seems to truly have a higher native resolution than other scanners it competes with (as shown 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. If you look closely, you'll see a slight posterization in the shadows of the model's hair, on the left side of her head. This apparently resulted from our efforts to tweak the color and tonal balance to more closely match the original. The unaltered scan didn't show this posterization, but we neglected to save a copy of it to show you here.  

Kodak Royal Gold 25 "House" detail clip: (720k) 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 color-negative film, which is extremely fine-grained, but which has very different color characteristics from more ordinary color films. Most scanners we've worked with have had difficulty with RG 25's color balance, and the Dimage Scan Multi somewhat fell prey to this syndrome. Nonetheless, the default scan (608k) showed good color values, appearing only slightly washed-out. Our main shot (720k) here was quite easily corrected, using the Minolta's excellent control software. 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 Multi, thanks to its more diffuse light source.  

"Train" Shot (Extreme shadow detail): (472k) 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. The Dimage Scan Multi did fairly well on this shot, but shows moderate noise when you examine the deep shadows in Photoshop(tm). (Surprisingly, the Dimage Multi's "little brother" the Dimage Scan Speed did much better in the noise department than did the Multi on this shot.) Most impressive in this image was how well the 'Multi did on its default scan (476k), using its autoexposure capability: We actually made relatively few adjustments relative to the default scan for our final version (472k). (As with the Dimage Scan Speed, we suspect that the 'Multi would do even better on slides which are low-key overall: The relatively bright foreground in this image prevents scanners with autoexposure from boosting the CCD gain too much.)  

Q60 Color Target: (116k) The Kodak "Q60" color target (also the basis for the international IT8 target) is a good test of color accuracy and tonal rendition. The default, auto-exposure scan (112k) had very good color "out of the box," with only slightly compressed tonal range, and a slightly warm color cast. Both of these were corrected with minor adjustments to the white and midtone points in the histogram controls, producing a main image (116k) with very good color and tonal rendition.  

"Davebox" test target: (396k) This is our official "weirdness of color negative film" test target. Many scanners have had a hard time with this shot, taken on Kodak Gold 100 color negative film. For some reason, the white balance frequently comes out skewed, and the colors a bit weird, even though this is very much a "mainstream" color negative film. The Dimage Scan Multi actually did very well on this test, as shown on this default scan (396k). The default scan looked a little washed-out though, as the midtone values were a bit high, and the highlights slightly low relative to the available tonal range. (The overall response was very similar to that of the Dimage Scan Speed, which we tested earlier.) To compensate, we boosted the "gamma" midtone value up a bit in the scanning application (sorry, we didn't record the exact setting we used on the midtone slider.) NOTE: Depending on your monitor gamma setting, our final images could appear either light or dark. - We used a monitor gamma of 1.8 when adjusting these images, a bit higher than typical for Macintosh systems, a bit lower than that of most Windows machines.  

6x7/35mm Comparison Scans: Because the Dimage Scan Multi uses the same CCD array for scanning both 35mm and medium-format film, you'd expect the resolution and sharpness to be about the same on both film types. On the other hand, as medium-format enthusiasts are fond of pointing out, the larger format doesn't place the same demands on either the film or the camera optics to deliver a given level of resolution. (Please, no flames here, we really don't want to get off into a holy war about 35mm vs. 6x7!) We were interested therefore, in comparing how well the Dimage Multi did scanning medium-format material. Since we didn't have any standard scanning targets to use for 6x7 (we're 35mm folks ourselves), we went out and rented a Mamiya RZ67 with 180 mm lens, loaded it and our trusty Nikon (with the very sharp 105mm macro f2.8, shooting stopped-down to f8-11 or so) with fine-grained film, and shot a deliberately high-contrast image. (The ubiquitous girl in the sun.) For film, we chose Fuji Velvia, for its reputation of fine grain and high resolution. Boy, did we ever find out though, why people don't use this stuff to shoot flesh tones! - The high color saturation left us with very ruddy skin tones that proved very difficult to compensate for in the scanning process. Thus, in the images below, don't blame the scanner for the bizarre color produced by the film! Also, we weren't able to correct the two images to produce the same color balance, given the somewhat different exposures we ended up dealing with in the two formats. (We're not sure about this last: As far as we could tell, we were working with two identically-exposed frames, but the color was noticeably different between the two format sizes, even to the naked eye. Perhaps different emulsion batches??)

What we found was that, as good as the Dimage Scan Multi's resolution was in the 35mm format, it easily bested that level when scanning the 6x7 film. For those interested in making the comparison, here's a small portion of the 35mm frame (180k), and here's the same area cropped from the 6x7 image (160k). The differences in sharpness between these two images is noticeable, although not startling, but they tell only part of the story: To see the *real* difference, check out these two images, which have had unsharp masking applied in Photoshop. Precise comparison is made difficult by insufficient depth of field, and slightly different points of focus, but to our eye the 35mm sharpened version (332k) looks about typical of the results from a high-end 35mm slide scanner, while the 6x7 sharpened copy (392k) is markedly sharper in the areas of finest detail. The film grain is much less noticeable in the medium-format sample, as you'd expect.

 

WG-18 Resolution Target Horizontal Clip: (56k) The full WG-18 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), 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. It is thus difficult to set scanners properly to produce adequate contrast to separate the finest details without losing critical information. As a result, the scans shown here were captured with significant adjustments to the tone controls. 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.

We've been finding this target a little hard to interpret for film scanners, thanks to our eyes' tendency to perceive straight lines, even in the face of artifacts and other visual "untruths." From that standpoint, the USAF target (see below) is perhaps a harsher test of scanner resolution, although it is further from the typical images that will be scanned by users. All that said, as shown in this grayscale horizontal clip (56k) of the resolution target, the Dimage Scan Multi cleanly resolves (without aliasing) 1400 lines per picture height in the vertical direction, shows excellent detail at 1600 lines, with only slight aliasing, and shows some detail all the way out to 1800 lines. Its performance in color mode (84k) is equally good, with no color aliasing artifacts.

At 6x7 size, our target is impaired by poor framing, thanks to unfamiliarity with the camera involved. Also, the resolving power of the film and lens is more of an unknown (Fuji Velvia vs. Kodak Tech Pan). The net is that our target image is about 5% smaller than it should be, meaning that the resolution numbers should be boosted by that amount, and we can't count on the numbers as representing the same sort of standard as those from our 35mm tests. (Thus, 1400 lines on the target equate to an actual measurement of 1475 lines.) That aside, this 6X7 grayscale clip (44k) shows that absolute resolution on the 6x7 format appears to be a bit below that obtained for 35mm, with cleanly resolved detail at 1400 lines per picture height, but much more aliasing at 1600 lines, and almost no detail at all by the time we reach 1800 lines. The same image scanned as a color transparency (in RGB mode) (76k) also shows more color aliasing than did the 35mm sample. (It's interesting to note, that although the measured resolution of the Dimage Scan Multi is lower for medium-format than for 35mm, we felt that our scans of a natural subject were sharper in medium format.)

 

WG-18 Resolution Target Vertical Clip: (56k) Here's the corresponding vertically-oriented clip of the 35mm Tech Pan target, showing visual resolution in the horizontal direction of at least 1500 lines per picture height with no aliasing at all, and very little at 1600 lines. Again, slight detail is present at 1800 lines, and this time, there seems to be less aliasing than in the vertical direction. An equivalent RGB scan (80k) shows no color aliasing at all. Turning to the 6x7 sample, the results match those of that format in the previous sample: Clean detail at 1400 lines, heavy aliasing (although few color artifacts) at 1600, and essentially no detail by 1800 lines. Performance in the medium-format case is similar to that shown above for the horizontal clip, with the vertical elements of the 6x7 frame shown here in black and white (44k), and here in RGB color (76k).  

NOTE! ->

Full-Size WG-18 Resolution Target: (1,512k!) For the real masochists, here are full-size resolution targets, scanned at the maximum 35mm resolution of 2820 dpi in grayscale, and RGB, and the maximum 6x7 resolution of 1128 dpi in grayscale and RGB. As we've seen with most other scanners tested, the strip-film holder appears to crop the 35mm frame slightly, perhaps by about 3% or so. On the medium-format side, we don't know whether it's cropping or not, due to the poor framing of our test target. Our guess though, would be it's pretty minimal, given the precision alignment of the film masks.

WARNING: These JPEGs expand into 10-30 megabyte (!) files, which may crash your broswer if viewed directly! To view it, you must 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 (1,512k) (No surrounding HTML file.) Here are the corresponding files for 35mm RGB (2,376k), 6x7 Black & White (1,020k), and 6x7 RGB (1,796k).

 

USAF 1951 Resolution Target: (340k) (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 (8 megabyte) image, and so may crash some browsers. Here's a link to the raw JPEG file (340k), so you can download it directly to your hard drive if desired.

As expected, the USAF resolution target in fact gave more conservative resolution figures, with the scanner resolving fairly cleanly down to 35.9 line pairs/mm (912 line pairs/inch), and with increasing aliasing below that level. Curiously, the target element at 57 lp/mm (1448 lp/inch) came out remarkably clean, although we suspect that this was just a coincidence due to the lucky alignment between target elements and scanner pixel positions.

 

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