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Polaroid SprintScan 4000 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 better in Photoshop) to minimize this.

 

"Musicians II" image: (252k) The main image here was scanned at 1282 x 862 pixels, and minor tonal and color adjustments were made. The lightness control was boosted to a setting of +11, the 9 units of green were removed from the shadows and 2 units of blue. Here (232k) is a version  scanned with the SprintScan's default settings, with somewhat heavier midtones and a slight color cast in the shadows. Even the unaltered image shows excellent color accuracy, tonal range, and saturation though.

(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: (456k) The SprintScan 4000's 4000 dpi maximum resolution is at the upper end of available desktop film scanners: In reviewing earlier models, we'd said that more than 2700 dpi would be wasted on 35mm film, since we felt more resolution would just increase image noise and grain. We confess that we've changed our minds on that score, after working with the SprintScan and other 4000 dpi scanners: There's clearly detail available in most 35mm film that's revealed by a 4000 dpi scanner, but not seen by a 2700 dpi one. This crop from a maximum-resolution scan shows good sharpness relative to other scanners we've tested, although we *are* clearly approaching the limits of available detail in the original.  
Kodak Royal Gold 25 "House" detail clip: (380k) This is a detail clip from the same negative used to produce the original "house" poster for our digital camera tests. (Now superseded by one shot on 4x5 transparency film.) It was shot on Kodak Royal Gold 25 film (sadly, no longer manufactured), which is extremely fine-grained, but which has very different color characteristics from most normal color negative films. Most scanners we've worked with have difficulty with RG 25's color balance, but the SprintScan 4000 did a bit better than most, as seen in this default scan (384k). Some fiddling with the color controls produced this scan (380k), which was better, but still a little reddish looking. As is often the case, there proved to be no substitute for Photoshop(tm) on this one, as a little work with its "levels" control produced this result (412k). We were very impressed with the amount of detail the SprintScan extracted from this negative. This shot (568k) shows the result of moderately strong unsharp masking in Photoshop (148%, 0.7 pixel radius), which brings out absolutely amazing levels of detail. (In the process making the film defects much more evident as well.)

The SprintScan 4000's software incorporates an option for dust and scratch removal. When we applied it here, it produced this result, eliminating the white spots entirely, but producing rather an odd texture in the foliage above the house. The overall result was a dramatic improvement over the raw scan, and the fine detail was left more or less alone, but we wouldn't rate this software-based approach as being quite equal to the various hardware-based ones currently on the market.

 
"Train" Shot (Extreme shadow detail): (1,478k) (These images saved at very low JPEG compression, to preserve shadow detail as much as possible.) This slide is an extraordinarily tough test of scanner dynamic range: The slide contains areas of moderately bright highlight, but the shadows are exceptionally dense. The SprintScan 4000 didn't quite come up to the top of the class among scanners we've tested on this shot, but did surprisingly well, given that the competition included units with 14-bit A/D converters, vs the 4000's 12-bit ones. In fact, just using the auto exposure option produced an unusually good scan, as seen here (492k). Some twiddling with the exposure parameters brought out a little more detail, but with somewhat increased noise, as seen here (492k). Finally, a little tweaking in Photoshop resulted in this version (492k), only slightly improved. Overall, the SprintScan 4000 did quite well on this shot, even using only the automatic exposure setting.  
Q60 Color Target: (160k) 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. When we scan this target, we usually set the highlight and shadow points for good white and black values at the end of the gray scale, then try for a neutral midtone in the gray surround. With the PolaColor software, this proved to be surprisingly difficult, as it seemed we needed a lot of minor tweaking back and forth to get the midtone to come out neutral. The final result was quite good though, as seen here (160k). For comparison, here's (136k) a shot of the original scan, using the scanner's default exposure and color settings. Some folks on the internet have used this slide as a test of scanner resolution, looking at a full-res crop of the lady's face in the upper right hand corner. For those interested in making that comparison, here's (108k) a max-res crop of that area.  
"Davebox" test target: (380k) This is our official "weirdness of color negative film" test target. Here, (380k) we set PolaColor Insight's film preference to Kodak Gold, with the result that we got *really* bright color (maybe a bit too much so), and a rather odd color cast. (Blue in the highlights, red in the shadows.) Overall not bad though, many scanners seem to badly wash out this negative. Here's a shot with the default settings, which looks very similar. This target was rather dirty when we scanned it, so we tried PolaColor's dust removal, with this (268k) result. The dust is gone, but details in the text are all blended together, particularly noticeable in the label at lower left.  
WG-18 Resolution Target Horizontal Clip: (220k) 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. The SprintScan 4000 had surprisingly little trouble in this respect though, producing a very crisp, contrasty, sharply-focused scan, with no visible color artifacts anywhere. MAN, that's a lot of resolution! High-quality 2700 dpi scanners typically resolve this target to about 1600 lines per picture height before getting lost in aliasing and moires. The SprintScan 4000 though, easily continues all the way to 2000, one of the best performances we've seen to date. Conclusion? - You'll need a razor-sharp lens and fine-grained emulsion to really see it, but the 4000 dpi really does make a difference!  
WG-18 Resolution Target Vertical Clip: (124k) Here's the corresponding vertically-oriented clip of the WG-18/Kodak Tech Pan target. If anything, the results here are even more impressive, with detail clearly distinguishable all the way to 2000 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction. Wow!  

NOTE! ->

Full-Size ISO-12233 ("WG-18") Resolution Target: (3,773k!) For the real masochists, here's the full-size ISO-12233 target, scanned at the maximum resolution of 2700 dpi. A side note: We didn't explicitly set up a test for frame coverage by scanners, but our ISO-12233 shot goes right to the edges of the 35mm frame, and we found that the SprintScan 4000 pretty well covers the full frame.

WARNING: This JPEG expands into a 61 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 (3 megabyte JPEG download) is the link to the RAW JPEG IMAGE. (No surrounding HTML file.)

 
USAF 1951 Resolution Target: (252k) (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 4000 dpi from a laboratory-grade target (chrome on glass slide) before being cropped down, and would normally give an excellent view of the scanner's ultimate capabilities. The last distinguishable feature being group 5, element 4 vertically, element 5 horizontally, at 45.3 and 50.8 line cycles/mm respectively. (1151 and 1290 line pairs/inch). The short extent of the USAF pattern targets doesn't permit the sort of visual interpolation our eyes do naturally on the more extended ISO-12233 pattern. As a result, the USAF target should yield much more conservative resolution numbers. The thick glass of the USAF target seems to cause problems for scanners optical systems, as evidenced here by the marked flare and rather poor focus. Thus, while this target is one of the highest quality ones we possess, it really doesn't give as good a measure of scanner performance as the "home brew" ISO-12233 derivative shown above. (And which the SprintScan 4000 turned in a stellar performance on.)  

 

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