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Minolta Dimage Scan Speed 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: (784k) The main image here was scanned at 1088 x 732 pixels, and minor tonal adjustments were made using the histogram tool. Both ends of the tonal range were pushed out 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. Here (537k) is a copy of the image scanned with the Dimage Scan Speed's default settings, actually a very passable performance. The default scan is a trifle muddy, not using the available tonal range of the monitor to the fullest extent, and also has the slight magenta cast we found characteristic of the Dimage Scan Speed's default settings. Color accuracy and purity on the adjusted shot (784k) is very good, with bright colors and natural skin tones, although the blue of the Oriental model's robe is a bit 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 excellent detail, particularly in the fine, spiky foliage of the flowers in the garland on the model's head. Much more resolution than this would be pointless, as there's little more than film grain available as you try to go higher than the 2700-2800 dpi range. Interestingly, although the Dimage Scan Speed 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. Sharp-eyed observers will note a slight posterization in the shadows of the model's hair, on the left side of her head. This was apparently the result of our efforts to tweak the color and tonal balance to more closely match those characteristics to the original. The unaltered scan (551k) shows none of this behavior, yet still has very good color.  

Kodak Royal Gold 25 "House" detail clip: (758k) 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 Speed largely followed suit, as shown in this scan (617k), 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. (758k) 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.  

"Train" Shot (Extreme shadow detail): (299k) 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 Speed did quite 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 (223k) 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. The Dimage Scan Speed 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. Color is good, but this images shows a tendency of the Dimage Scan Speed to undersaturate greens a bit.  

Q60 Color Target: (142k) 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 (142k) was scanned with the scanner's black point and gamma controls on the histogram screen adjusted to boost overall midtone brightness a little, as well as correct for a somewhat reddish color shift. ("Gamma" midtone settings of 117, 122, and 130 were used for red, green, and blue color channels respectively, where 128 is the default.) For comparison, here is the default scan (138k), which is slightly warm-toned, but nonetheless has great color "out of the box."  

"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 Speed 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 the "Gamma" midtone value up to 175 (darkening the midtone values), and pulling the white point down to 249 (from 255), brightening the whites. The end result (329k) is a VERY snappy image, with bright, saturated colors and good tonal range.  

WG-18 Resolution Target Horizontal Clip: (61k) 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.)

This is an interesting shot, because the visual resolution appears to be quite a bit higher than should be theoretically possible. Given the roughly 2600 vertical pixels in the image, you should really only be able to see about 1300 lines of resolution. Instead, detail is clearly evident down to about 1800 line pairs per picture height. We frankly don't know how to explain this, other than by observing that the contrast ratio at that point is pretty far down from the 100% level set by the lower-frequency elements of the target. Possibly the low amplitude at that frequency helps to conceal the aliasing, along with the natural frequency rolloff provided by the non-"laboratory" target quality. Whatever the cause, the Dimage Scan Speed did the best of any scanner to date (January, 1999) on this target, going quite a bit beyond what "should" be possible!

 

WG-18 Resolution Target Vertical Clip: (92k) Here's the corresponding vertically-oriented clip of the WG-18/Tech Pan test target. Again, visual resolution appears to extend to at least 1800 line pairs/picture height.  

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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 Speed 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 9.3 megabyte file, 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 (1,295k) (No surrounding HTML file.)

 

USAF 1951 Resolution Target: (397k) (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 (8.36 megabyte) image, and so may crash some browsers. Here's a link to the raw JPEG file (397k), 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 cleanly down to 35.9 line pairs/mm, (912 line pairs/inch), and with some aliasing, down to 45.8 lp/mm (1163 line pairs/inch).

 

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