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Minolta Dimage Scan Multi PRO

A Review by Peter Wolff

Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro

Minolta has updated their multi-format scanner again, this time to the Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro. This scanner is competing with the Nikon 8000 ED and the Polaroid 120 and, of course, the Imacon scanners, although they are still in a different league. I've been reading many reviews and comments on these scanners in order to decide which one to buy. I finally settled for the Minolta for a number of reasons, including price and image quality. 

Technical Data

The Multi Pro is a multi-format scanner (as the name implies). It can scan 35mm and medium format up to 6x9. Other formats like 16mm film and APS can be scanned using optional film-holders. The resolution is 4800 DPI optical for 35mm and 3200 DPI optical for medium format. A good combination of very high resolution on the small format and a bit less resolution on the bigger format. It's a true 16 bit scanner, which means that it can deliver 16 bits for each color as output. Other scanners can do this also, but the Minolta is scanning with 16 bits internally also, whereas the competitors (Nikon, Polaroid and Imacon) are scanning with 14 bits. This should give a better DMax. The advertising material says a DMax of 4.8 (which simply is Log10(2^16), see www.scantips.com for more details on this subject), while the manual says 4.2 tested value. This scanner includes the ICE3 technologies from Applied Science Fiction and it offers support for dust removing, grain removing and color restoration.

The Hardware

The Multi Pro is a rather small scanner, at least compared to Nikon and Polaroid. The scanner is seen here next to a Nikon F90x.

Multi Pro and Nikon F90x

As it can be seen it will easily fit on almost any desk. There are only two buttons on the front; a power button and an eject button. On the back you'll find connections for SCSI as well as Firewire. The film holders are very easy to use and they have a rather rugged design using hard plastic. You don't get the feeling that you can break these holders easily. Film holders for 35mm strips, 35mm mounted slides and 120 film (max. 6x9) are part of the standard package. 

The Film Holders:

35mm strip holder 35mm slide holder
The 35mm strip and slide holders.

120 film strip holder 120 film strip holder - detail
The 120 film strip holder.

As it can be seen, the 120 film holder can easily hold 3 frames of 6x6 without any clipping needed. The holder shown above is the glassless holder, but for curled film there is a glass holder with anti-Newton ring glass.

Glass and glassless holders

The 120 film glass holder on the left and the glassless holder on the right. These are inserts that fit into the larger holder seen above. I try to keep my slides very flat and I haven't needed the glass holder yet.

All in all the hardware seems to be of good build-quality.

Installation

I'm using Windows 98 SE and therefore I have to use the SCSI connection, since Minolta does not provide drivers for the Firewire connection on Windows98. No SCSI or Firewire card was provided, so I had to buy a SCSI controller card. The Minolta web site suggests some Adaptec cards that can be used, but I took a chance and bought a very inexpensive card called ACARD AEC-6710S for about $30. The installation of the card went without any problems and so did installation of the scanner software. The scanner was found first time from the TWAIN software used via PhotoShop, and I made my first scan within minutes from starting out. I'm running Windows98 SE on a Pentium III 866MHz with 512Mb RAM.

The Software

Before going into details regarding the software I must say that it has never crashed or "misbehaved" in any way yet, so it seems as stable as the hardware. However, having said that I must say that the software seems a bit simpler that you would expect. But for scanning slides is works well and you will get correct colors. The software is build around a few main sections called "Index", "Prescan" and "Image Correction". The Index section will scan all 35mm films that are in the holder, be it the strip holder or the slide holder.

The interface

In the Prescan section you can scan one of the frames or the entire frame if its 120 film. You can then crop and re-focus the pre-scan if needed. Focus can be set manually or to automatic. The auto-focus is very good, however it will always focus at one given (by the user) place on the frame, and if the film is just a bit curled you might like to focus manually on one spot. 

Manual focus

The manual focus on the preview scan is made very easy — you simply have to align two bars (white and black) to the maximum size you can get.

The Image Correction section is where you can alter levels, brightness and contrast and you can make variations in colors, etc. I will not go into this section, simply because I don't use it — I prefer to alter these things in Photoshop.  

So far I have used the ICE dust-removal function for 35mm film only, but it can also be used for medium format and the results are pretty amazing. After using ICE you only have to spot the image for larger dust areas which ICE can not handle. 

You can select many color spaces as output for the scans.

Preferences dialog

You simply set the desired color space in the preferences dialog.

The Scans

Until recently I used the Epson 1640SU Photo flatbed scanner for scanning medium format slides. Needless to say, the Minolta is a great step foreward, and these two scanners are difficult to compare. But from what I've seen on the Internet, the Minolta performs very well compared to the other scanners in the same league. 

Below you will find my own tests. Since I only have the Epson scans to compare with, I will make the test in a rather unconventional way. I can compare the scans to those from the Epson and I can show grain, which you can compare to scans you might have. This section might therefore be more a comparison of a flatbed scanner versus a film scanner than a real test of the Minolta. The software reproduces colors correctly on slides, but unfortunately not on (all) negatives.

Medium Format Slides

Scanning grain on Velvia is no problem. Below you'll see the Minolta compared to the Epson 1640SU Photo, which does a pretty good job considering its low price. However the Epson scan is of course noisy and has a much lower "real" resolution. The examples here are from medium format slides scanned at 3200dpi.

Entire image

The enlarged areas below are from this full-frame
6x6 Fuji Velvia transparency.

Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro @ 3200dpi    Epson 1640SU Photo @ 3200dpi
                
Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro at 3200dpi                              Epson 1640SU Photo at 3200dpi

Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro @ 3200dpi    Epson 1640SU Photo @ 3200dpi
                
Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro at 3200dpi                              Epson 1640SU Photo at 3200dpi

Both images have been  brightened to reveal shadow details. Noise and banding is visible in the Minolta scan, but the Epson scan is rather useless. It might seem that this scanner is very noisy, but please remember that this is a very dark Velvia slide and noise can always be reduced using multi-sampling which this scanner also offers. This can be set in software to OFF, 2, 4, 8 or 16 samples. Below you'll see the same image with 16x multisampling.

Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro @ 3200dpi 16x sampling

Now noise is almost gone and more shadow details are visible. A bit of banding can still be seen though (the image is still heavily brightened.

Another example below is grain in a Provia 100F sky.

Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro @ 3200dpi

35mm Slides

When scanning 35mm you get 4800dpi optical resolution — quite a lot (90MB in 8bit!), and I think you can see from the example below that just about all the detail available on the film been has extracted from. Anyway, grain is very visible.

Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro @ 4800dpi
Fuji Superia

Epson 1640SU Photo @ 3200dpi Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro @ 3200dpi
These frames are
Actual Pixel size, No enhancements or changes are made after the scan, other than changing the color space from Adobe RGB to sRGB.

Negatives

Scanning negatives is not recommended with this software. Unfortunately the Minolta software can not really reproduce correct colors from (some) negatives. I have only tested Fuji Reala and Kodak Gold films. The Fuji films where acceptable, but the colors on the Kodak negatives where way off. However, it seems that the rather inexpensive VueScan software can be used for scanning negatives. I will post a separate review of this problem and how to solve it.

What Else?

The real resolution of the interpolated 4800 DPI on medium format has been discussed a bit on the net. Minolta says that interpolation is done in the "main scanning direction" — this sounds as though it might be a bit better than actual interpolation. I will look at this in a later test. How about B&W negatives? I've heard about problems, so I'll test this later also.

Conclusion

Minolta has created a scanner that delivers very high resolution scans and of apparently professional quality. The price of this device is low enough for enthusiastic amateurs to buy it. It's lighter and smaller than the obvious competitors (Nikon 8000ED, Polaroid 120), and — at least in Europe — a bit cheaper as well. Some even claims that the scans are better than the competitors (some even think the scans are better than Imacon, but I doubt it), but there are also some that says it's a bit inferior to the others. Bottom line is that all of the scanners in this league are probably good, and this scanner is definitely a revolution for enthusiastic amateur medium-format photographers. 

Links

To get a more complete view of what this scanner is capable of — and to get a second opinion — you should follow some of the links below. You can also read my article about medium format scanners here.

ï Imaging Resource
ï Ken Rockwell
ï SAPhoto (Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro, Imacon Flextight Precision II, LeafScan 45)
ï SAPhoto (Scanning negatives)

You could also simply go out and buy it. Here are some European sources.

ï CyberPhoto (SE)
ï Digital4U (DK)
ï DigitalFirst (UK)

Peter has published an addendum to his review in which he compares medium format scans at both 3200 and 4800 dpi. This article is located on Peter's own site.

About Peter Wolff

Until recently I earned my living as a computer programmer, but have had a passion for photography for many years. When I saw how the digital world of computers were mixing with photography, I decided to devote more time on this passion. My primary interests are medium format, high quality scans and of course inkjet printers.

 
Peter Wolff
Copenhagen, Denmark
photo@photographical.net
http://www.photographical.net

 NewThe HS-P1 multi-format film holder for the Minolta Dimage Multi is reviewed by David Mantripp

A discussion regarding this review and issues pertaining to
its software can be found here.


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Concepts: Fujifilm, Image scanner, Film formats, Scan, Color space, 120 film, 35 mm film, Medium format

Entities: the Minolta, Polaroid, Nikon, DMax, APS, Kodak, Adaptec, Adobe, Velvia, DigitalFirst, Europe, UK, Pentium III, Windows 98, ICE, Michael Reichmann, Epson, Peter, Imacon, F90x, PhotoShop, Photoshop, RAM

Tags: scans, medium format, Minolta, 120 film, 35mm, software, film holder, scanners, image, glass holder, 16 bits, epson scan, color space, epson 1640su photo, negatives, multi-format scanner, strip holder, Nikon, glassless holder, Minolta Dimage Scan, 35mm film, slide holder, high resolution, correct colors, enthusiastic amateur, Image Correction, film strip holder, shadow details, Minolta web site, bit scanner, film glass holder, Polaroid, card, Minolta scan, medium format slides, medium format scanners, medium format scans, SCSI, film scanner, small scanner