Digital Camera Home > Photo Scanners > Nikon Super Coolscan 8000ED Film and Slide Scanner
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: (304k) The main image here was scanned at 1280 x 855 pixels, and minor tonal adjustments were made, using the "curves-levels" controls. (Mainly pulling a little red out of the image, using the shadow and midtone sliders.) Here (292k) is a version scanned with the Super Coolscan 8000 ED's default settings, which shows somewhat heavy midtonesand a greenish tinge. This shot (292k) shows the effect of Nikon Scan 3's auto-adjust, which cleaned and brightened things, but left a bit too much red in the image. Even the unaltered image shows very good 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: (478k) The Super Coolscan 8000 ED's 4000 dpi resolution and ED optics do extract a great deal of detail from the film. As you might expect, the resolution on this shot was pretty close to identical to that we obtained with the 8000's little brother, the Super Coolscan 4000 ED. It's likely that the lenses are different, given the larger area the 8000 needs to be able to cover for medium-format film, and we *think* we can see a slight sharpness advantage to the 8000, but have to admit that the difference (if any) is so slight that it really amounts to little more than guesswork on our part.

Our Musicians slide is getting a little grundgy from several years use now, so you can see some very fine-grained dirt on the image here. Compare this image (492k), scanned with the Digital ICE defect-removal feature engaged. The dirt and a few minor scratches completely disappear, with remarkably little cost in sharpness. (In fact, there's so little loss of sharpness we're hard pressed to find it. When we first opened these shots in Photoshop to examine them, we at first mistakenly thought the one with ICE was the one without, and actually had ourselves convinced that it was the sharper. Now, we think we can see a few places where the ICE shot is softer, but wouldn't want to submit to a double-blind test!) This is an excellent illustration of Digital ICE in a more practical example than with our heavily-damaged negative film used in the main review. This level of grundge is pretty typical of what you'd find when dealing with older film in a production environment. If this were a job for pay, Digital ICE would have saved us a good 30 minutes or more of careful spotting in Photoshop.

Interestingly, we did notice that the Super Coolscan 8000 ED seemed much less susceptible to dust and scratches than the 4000 was. They both use an LED illumination system, so we'd expect the illuminator optics to be similar. Given the significantly lower sensitivity of the 8000 to dust though, we'd conclude that the 8000's illumination system is different somehow, perhaps resulting in more diffuse, less collimated light striking the film.

Kodak Royal Gold 25 "House" detail clip: (474k) This is a detail clip from the same negative used to produce the original "house" poster for our digital camera tests. (Now superceded 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, and the Coolscan 8000 ED somewhat fell prey to this. The default scan (400k) was quite washed out and flat, although the hues were generally correct. A few tweaks in the Curves control panel extended the tonal range and cleaned up the shadows a bit, producing this scan (474k).

Consistent with what we observed with the dirt on the Musicians slide, the 8000 proved much less susceptible to the tiny chemical flecks/emulsion defects on this slide. (Most scanners show tiny white specks across the image.) You can still see signs of them, but they're overall not too objectionable. When we engaged the "Digital ICE" defect-removal software though, the light flecks completely disappeared, as shown in this image (478k), with very little disturbance to the underlying image. - In fact, perhaps due to the 8000's more diffuse-seeming light source, we saw none of the artifacts around the louvers that Digital ICE introduced in the Super Coolscan 4000 scans of this image. The Nikon Scan 3 software has an unsharp masking option in it, which we didn't play with too much, preferring to do any sharpening in Photoshop, which is much more interactive, and gives you more controls to work with. Here's (494k) an example of the Digital ICE-processed image with fairly strong unsharp masking (0.8 pixels, 147%) applied in Photoshop.

"Train" Shot (Extreme shadow detail): (753k) 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 Super Coolscan 8000 ED did an excellent job with this, about what we'd expected, given the superlative results of it's little brother the 35mm-only Super Coolscan 4000 ED. The default autoexposure settings produced this (516k) very dark image. Some work with the curves control panel brightened things nicely, producing this (764k) image at 8 bit scanning depth, and this (730k) almost identical one at 14 bits (reduced to 8 bits in Photoshop for 'web display as a JPEG file). Turning on the 16x multi-sampling produced these 8-bit (771k) and 14-bit (753k) results. As shown in the main review text, we did notice the banding in the image that the 8000's "Super Fine" mode (1-line) scanning is intended to eliminate. Turing on that option (and watching our 8-bit scan times rocket up from 4m16s to 17m12s), we obtained these 8-bit and 14-bit results. Again, we saw relatively little difference between 8 and 14 bits, even when playing with the tone curves quite a bit in Photoshop. - The default rendering of the 14 bit file in Photoshop was a shade lighter, and we could just about convince ourselves we saw a little extra shadow detail, but it's equally possible that the differences were more imagined than real, they were that slight.

"New Train" Shot (Extreme shadow detail): (895k) As the name suggests, this is a new "train" shot. We made it because the old shot was a one-of-a-kind slide, meaning we'd be stranded if it ever got lost or damaged. We shot a full roll of photos (with exposure bracketing) of another locomotive, so we'd have spares for the future. We'll gradually transition over to this new slide, it appears here for the first time. This image (895k) represents the best results we could get from the Super Coolscan 8000 on the new target.
Q60 Color Target: (247k) 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 (247k) here was scanned with the scanner's "curves" controls adjusted to produce a neutral grey in the slide's background, more or less matching the monitor to what we saw in the slide, although going a bit more toward neutral "by the numbers". The default scan, shown here (223k), while it does an excellent job of capturing the full tonal range of the subject, with superior color saturation to boot, is a little dark and rather warm. The pure white swatch on the grayscale at the bottom of the target is very light relative to the rest of the image. This tends to "fool" scanners' autoexposure settings, producing artificially dark scans, as did the Super Coolscan 8000 ED. Nikon Scan's auto adjust control produced this image (248k), which is a bit lighter, but more magenta.

Some folks on the internet have settled on using a crop of the woman's face in the upper right-hand corner of this slide as a reference for detail and resolution. To help with people making comparisons with scanners we haven't reviewed yet, we offer this crop (148k) of that area, captured by the Super Coolscan 8000 ED at its maximum 4000 dpi resolution.

"Davebox" test target: (142k) This is our official "weirdness of color negative film" test target. The Super Coolscan 8000 ED did an OK job with just its default settings, but the resulting image (135k) was pretty washed-out looking, but the hue accuracy wasn't bad. Nikon Scan 3's auto adjust button on the Curves control panel produced this result (144k), which was a bit reddish in the shadows. A bit of fiddling with the curves control produced the final version (142k), which is better, but still not perfect. We probably could have improved things by tweaking the curves some more, but the color are still a little undersaturated. Overall not too bad though.  
WG-18 Resolution Target Horizontal Clip: (35mm) (96k)

WG-18 Resolution Target Horizontal Clip: (6x7 cm) (188k)

Whooee! While it's hard for long-time 35mm stalwarts like ourselves to admit it, medium-format film certainly captures a LOT more detail, as evidenced by the Super Coolscan 8000 ED's maximum-resolution results on this shot!

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. There are two different targets here. The 35mm one was 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 35mm 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 6x7 target was shot on Fuji Velvia transparency film, a very fine-grained color emulsion. We didn't record full details on that one, but do recall that it was shot with a Mamiya RZ-67, using a Mamiya lens of around 200mm focal length. (250mm?) It was also stopped-down a fair bit, to hopefully be within the lens' optimum aperture range. We're less familiar with medium-format lenses, so can't say how this compares to the ultimate attainable with a 6x7 camera. The amount of detail captured, relative to what we're used to seeing in 35mm scans is certainly impressive, however.

The Super Coolscan 8000 ED did very well with this target, producing very crisp, sharply-focused scans from both targets. The resolution is excellent, with detail clearly discernable to 2000 lines per picture height. By comparison, the Super Coolscan 4000 ED goes to 1800 lines and beyond.

A side note though: We did have quite a bit of trouble with this piece of film, because the masking strips used in the clamshell holder were too thick. We ended up scanning it with no masking strips, in order to get it to lie flat. (See the main text of the review, discussing the film holders, for more information.)

WG-18 Resolution Target Vertical Clip: (35mm) (99k)

WG-18 Resolution Target Vertical Clip: (6x7 cm) (202k)

Here's the corresponding vertically-oriented clip of the WG-18/Kodak Tech Pan target.Essentially identical to the horizontal clip above.


NOTE! ->

Full-Size ISO-12233 ("WG-18") Resolution Target (35mm only): (3,324k!) For the real masochists, here's the full-size ISO-12233 target, scanned at the maximum resolution of 4000 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 Super Coolscan 8000 ED covers all that and then some. For this particular scan, we were using the separate strip-film holder in the slide scanning head, so there's some slight cropping evident at the edges.

WARNING: This JPEG expands into a 60.5 megabyte file, which will almost certainly 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. (No surrounding HTML file, 2.5 megabyte download.) (For the real masochists, here's a copy of the full-frame 6x7 res target scan, a 9.7 megabyte download, which expands into a 262(!) megabyte file.)

USAF 1951 Resolution Target: (353k) (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 generally gives an excellent view of the scanner's ultimate capabilities. In the case of the Super Coolscan 8000, it clearly resolved the features of group 5, element 6, both horizontally and vertically, at 57 line cycles/mm (1448 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 generally gives much more conservative resolution numbers.  

Back to Super Coolscan 8000 ED Scanner Review

Or, Return to the Imaging Resource Scanners page.

Or, Return to the Imaging Resource home page.