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Olympus ES-10 Film Scanner Test Images

The ES-10 is the first film scanner reviewed on this site, so the comments below include more background commentary and comparisons/contrasts to digital cameras than would normally be the case. We'll update this once other scanners are reviewed, and (hopefully) move some of the general digital camera - vs - film scanner discussion to a separate FAQ/Tutorial document.

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" in Photoshop) to minimize this.

 

"Musicians II" image: (323k) The main image here was scanned at 1200x800 pixels (maximum res is 2400x1600), and tonal adjustments were made. We increased the setting for overall "exposure bias" somewhat, as well as both the "shadow" and "gamma" settings on the "color" control panel. The default settings produced this image (287k), which is rather dark. Even though this is a very different source image than that used in our digital camera tests (see the note below), note the excellent color saturation.

(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 reproductions generations removed from this particular version.)

 

"Musicians II" detail clip: (190k) By film scanner standards, the ES-10's maximum resolution of 1770 dpi sounds somewhat modest. By digital camera standards, the resolution is extraordinary. (Olympus refers to the unit as providing "3.84 Megapixel" resolution, but the actual difference between its results and those of a "1.5 Megapixel" camera is much greater than the "megapixel" numbers would indicate, since the scanner has many more effective sensor pixels than do digital cameras with "striped" arrays. This clip is taken from a full-resolution (2400x1600) scan of the Musicians II image. Note how easily single strands of the model's hair and fine detail in the flowers are resolved!  

Kodak Royal Gold 25 "House" detail clip: (189k) 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 any of the films the ES-10 was designed for. Thus, the color here is a bit off, but the detail is extraordinary. (Compare this shot to some of the highest-resolution digital cameras, such as the Olympus D-600L, and the difference will amaze you. - Look particularly at the pine needles against the sky.)  

Q60 Color Target: (191k) Kodak's "Q60" color target (formally adopted by the ISO as part of the IT8 color standard) is a good test of color accuracy and tonal rendition. The main image here was scanned with the same tonal settings we used for the Musicians II shot above, while this version (199k) was executed with the scanner defaults. The scanner shows excellent tonal range, color purity, and saturation. The very darkest swatches of the gray scale are plugged below about step 20, but differentiation in the highlights is excellent. (The original here is a color slide.)  

"Davebox" test target: (306k) No two ways about it, color negative film is weird! Different brands and even different products within the same brand vary wildly. The ES-10 has standard settings pre-configured for a number of popular emulsions, including Kodak Gold, Kodak "other", Fuji, etc. You should be able to match most films with one of the standard setups, although as noted above, odd films like Kodak Royal Gold 25 are problematic. The main image was shot on Kodak Gold 100, and scanned using the "Kodak Gold" settings of the scanner, without modification. Colors are very saturated, and there's a slight yellowish cast overall. Tonal range is very good, extending from extreme highlights to deep shadows, although the reddish cast is more pronounced in the darkest areas. These images show the left-hand side of the Davebox before (279k) and after a Photoshop "auto levels" command (293k), which removed the color cast with a single operation.  

WG-18 Resolution Target Horizontal Clip: (54k) The full WG-18 target is quite large (see below), so we cropped-out these snippets to show the scanner resolution on this familiar target. The original shot here was taken on Kodak Gold 100, a relatively fine-grained color negative film, but is definitely not to be considered a laboratory-grade standard. Nonetheless, this will give a fair indication of maximum performance with the upper end of typical film emulsions. The horizontally oriented target (vertical resolution) shows a visual resolution of 1000 line pairs/picture height or more, although there are fairly strong color artifacts beginning around 900 lp/ph. (Contrast this though, with top-end (mid-1998) digital camera performance of ~750 lp/ph.) (Scan done at 2400x1600 pixels full-frame.)  

WB-18 Resolution Target Vertical Clip: (55k) Here's the corresponding vertically-oriented clip of the WG-18/Kodak Gold 100 target. Notice how much fewer color artifacts appear in the horizontal direction! Visual resolution along the horizontal axis of the film extends to 1300 line pairs per picture height or so, a very impressive number. (Scan done at 2400x1600 pixels full-frame.)  

(NOTE! ->)

Full-Size WG-18 Resolution Target: (1,549k!) For the real masochists, here's the full-size WG-18 target, scanned at 2400x1600 pixels. A side note: We didn't explicitly set up a test for frame coverage by scanners, but our WG-18 shot goes right to the edges of the 35mm frame. This reveals that the ES-10 crops the frame ever so slightly, perhaps by 3% or so.

WARNING: This JPEG expands to an 11 megabyte file, which will almost certainly crash your browser 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 (1,549k!) (No surrounding HTML file.)

 

USAF 1951 Resolution Target: (195k) (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 2400x1600 from a laboratory-grade target (chrome on glass slide) before being cropped down, so it probably gives a more accurate view of the scanner's ultimate capabilities. Along the vertical axis, the last distinguishable feature is group 4, element 2, at 17.9 line cycles/mm (~454 line pairs/inch), while the last clear feature along the horizontal axis is group 5 element 1, at 35.9 line cycles/mm (~911 line pairs/inch). These numbers are a little hard to translate to the line pairs/picture height of the WG-18 chart: The raw values translate to 430 and 860 line pairs/picture height, but the short extent of the USAF patten elements doesn't permit the sort of visual interin or eye on the more extended WG-18 pattern. As a result, the USAF target will yield much more conservative numbers.  

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