Wednesday, December 22, 2010

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Nikon Super CoolScan 9000ED - Last Chance!

After a bit of digging around the 'Net, it looks as though my prediction is coming true.  I had been telling people that my gut feeling was that the 9000ED might last through to the end of the year, but I wasn't hopeful that it would be around too much longer.

Well sure enough, various large online resellers are listing the Nikon Super CoolScan 9000ED scanner as discontinued. In addition, Nikon USA's website has the scanner in their "product archive" section too. I am fairly certain that when existing inventory at Nikon Canada is sold out, there will be no more available. We currently have stock (at $2,649) and are planning another small order, but that will likely be the last we'll see of this outstanding film scanner.

For those wondering what the fuss is about, since for example Epson does make some decent flatbed scanners with film scanning capabilities, there is simply no comparison at all between the scan quality you get from a Nikon versus what you get on even the best Epson flatbed.  The Nikon 9000ED will give you razor sharp scans of 35mm and 120 (medium format) film all the way to 4000dpi.  You can see film grain sharply outlined at full resolution and the scanner will accurately autofocus on the film to compensate for slight positional variations from frame to frame.  In my experience, if you're lucky, you might see improvements up to about 2800dpi on the Epson scanners, but beyond that, scans just get softer and softer as you bump the resolution, firstly because their high-resolution flatbed scanners do not autofocus and secondly because I do not believe the film-scanning optics to be as good.  They are fixed focus, with only a crude adjustment capability for the film holders which allows you three different positions in 1/2 mm increments.  The Nikon 9000ED give true AF on your film, resulting in way more detail.

The Nikon also gives much better results with colour negative film, resulting in excellent colour and good skin-tones.  With the Epson, accurate colour can sometimes be a struggle with neg-film and for colour slides, the shadow detail is not as clean as from the Nikon, when you use Nikon's Multi-Sample Scanning capabilities.

It's certainly not that the Epson units are bad scanners, for the money they are actually quite good, but if you really want to get the best scans without spending a huge sum, the Nikon is the way to go.  When the 9000ED is gone, the only good film scanners remaining will be the Hasselblad FlexTight models (currently the X1 and the X5) but those start at around $14,000!  Yes, they are very very good, but most photographers (unfortunately!) won't have the budget for a Hasselblad scanner.

Lastly, there are a variety of very inexpensive film "scanners" out there but note that most of these use tiny point&shoot camera CMOS sensors with macro lenses to take a snapshot of your film.  The image quality from those is pretty questionable - relatively low resolution, cheap lens, generally poor dynamic range. When it comes to scanners (or "scanners"), you really do get what you pay for.

So consider this your last "warning".  If you want a 9000ED, you had better act quickly!


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