What am I doing today you ask? Well, I’m watching my NY Giants lose to the Philadelphia Eagles and scanning some old family negatives. But now I’m taking a break from scanning to write a little bit about… scanning. I’ve been writing about scanning quite a bit lately.

Earlier in the year I bought a new film scanner. A Plustek 8300i. I wrote about my thought process in deciding to buy it here (New Film Scanner) but now that I’ve really had a chance to use it and make multiple scans I wanted to mention it again. And mention that I like it. I like it a lot. It makes better scans than my old one and it makes them more quickly. I’m not sure of the exact time but it’s somewhere around a minute a scan rather than four minutes a scan.

The one drawback to the new scanner is that it doesn’t have a motor like the old one. I have to physically move the negative holder between scans. This means I have to hit the scan button four times to make four scans as compared to my old one where I pushed the scan button once and it made four scans. That seems a little bit primitive to me.

Of course, moving the film holder by hand might make the scanner last longer since what broke on my old scanner was it’s ability to line up the negatives correctly. I’d hit the button on the old scanner and it would make the first scan correctly but then it wouldn’t seat the film holder in the right place for the following three scans. They would all be off center. It wouldn’t scan only 80%-50% of negatives 2-4.

I had a friend say that probably the rubber belt in the scanner that moved the film holder got old and no longer fit correctly so that’s why it was off. If I could replace the belt it might work again. That sounds reasonable but when I opened up the old scanner I couldn’t even find a belt. All the electronics in there (and there are a lot of electronics) must have camouflaged it and kept it from view. But it’s a 20 year old scanner and I got a lot of scans out of it so I really don’t need to fix it. Especially since I got a new film scanner.

The best thing about the new film scanner is the infrared cleaning of the dust and scratches of the negative that it does. That works really well. One of the most time consuming things about scanning old negatives is cleaning them up after they are scanned. It takes forever. It takes so long that I only clean them if I’m making something of the scan. I scanned in all of my own negatives years ago but have only cleaned up a small percentage of them. Automatic infrared cleaning changes all that.

Photoshop has a “Dust and Scratches” filter that is supposed to clean things up but it does a mediocre job at best. It’s been in Photoshop since the mid 1990s and has never been improved. I’ve also tried out various pieces of software that were supposed to clean up scans but none of them have been very good. That’s why I’m loving this new infrared cleanup.

I’m not exactly sure how the infrared cleanup works but the scanner makes two scans. The first is regular and the second scans on the infrared spectrum (I assume). It then figures out what is supposed to not be there and fixes it. I’m very impressed with it.

The only thing the infrared cleanup doesn’t seem to fix is tiny horizontal scratches. Negatives are delicate things and the emulsion is prone to such scratches. I saw them in my own negatives which I took care of well and I see them in my mother’s negatives. Mine were in negative sleeves and hers were loose in envelopes. Both storage ways were vulnerable to those scratches but almost everything else is automatically cleaned up.

I liked the automatic cleanup so well that I ordered another new scanner. The Plustek 8300i is a 35mm film and slide scanner. A lot of my mother’s negatives were shot on medium format 120 film so the Plustek 8300i can’t scan those negatives. About 14 years ago I bought a flatbed Canon Canoscan 8800F and have been scanning in those 120 negatives on it. It’s not quite as good as a dedicated film scanner but it does a nice job. Except it has no automatic infrared cleanup.

Since I bought the Plustek 8300i I’ve also had my eye on an Epson Perfection V600. That’s a flatbed scanner that can also scan the 120 film like my Canon. The Plustek 8300i was $600 but I could buy the Epson refurbished for only $150. I didn’t get it before because why did I want to spend that money when I didn’t really need to? Then I got a taste of the automatic infrared cleanup.

The Epson uses something called Digital ICE to cleanup its scans. I’m not sure if that’s the same as the infrared cleanup but it’s been around for a long time. You used to be able to only get Digital ICE on high end scanners but that was in the early 2000s. I was willing to spend $150 to try it out so just yesterday I put in the order for the Epson. It should be here on Thursday. I’ll let you know how well it works.

I also want to get a couple of more things for the Plustek 8300i. When I bought it I wanted to order the version that came with two extra film holders but somehow picked the wrong one and ordered only one film and one slide holder. It’s not essential to have two but it might be helpful. It would have only cost me ten dollars extra packaged with the scanner but will cost me $25 on its own.

One other thing I want to get for the Plustek 8300i is a 110 film holder. That’s a really tiny type of film from the 1970s-1980s. My mother didn’t shoot a lot of photos on that film but there are some of them and I want to scan those ones in too. That holder will cost about $25 too.

As I wrote this the Giants continued to lose and now have lost. Oh, well, maybe I’ll do a little more scanning now.