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Minolta Dimage Scan Elite 2 Film Scanner Review

Minolta Dimage Scan Elite 2 Film Scanner Review - A test of the Dimage Scan Elite II film scanner

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Category : Film Scanners
Product : Minolta Dimage Scan Elite 2
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Minolta Dimage Scan Elite II 2The Dimage Scan Elite II is a competitively priced film-scanner, available from retailers for 470-550. Although appearing a rather plain device on the surface, it contains some advanced features more commonly seen on scanners costing several hundred pounds more.

Main features

  • 2820dpi maximum optical resolution
  • 2,688 x 4,032
  • 4.8 Dynamic range
  • Autofocus and manual focus
  • 16-bit A/D conversion
  • 48-bit colour depth
  • Digital ICE3
  • Scans 35mm and APS (requires optional holder)
  • Photoshop Elements included
  • USB and Firewire

Looking through these features and comparing them to costlier scanners such as the Nikon Coolscan IV ED and Canon Canoscan FS4000 it is clear, on paper at least, this is an excellent scanner.

Scanner installation
Minolta Dimage Scan Elite II connectionsYou have a choice of using a USB or Firewire connection (both cables are provided), though no Firewire card is included. We'd recommend making an investment in one if you haven't already, as using demanding peripheral devices like this quickly saturates any available USB bandwidth. Downloading the latest driver ensured we didn't have any problems in the installation procedure and we were very quickly able to start scanning.

Film handling
Minolta Dimage Scan elite II film slide holdersProvided in the box are two holders for slides and film strips. These are both handled automatically by the scanner and the system has an advantage over that used by the Nikon Coolscan IV allowing you to scan up to four slides much faster.

The blue cover at the front must be closed for the scanner to perform its calibrations when first turned on. The cover slides down one level for the included film holders and another level for the optional APS holder. Minolta have placed an eject button on the front of the scanner, an obvious item you'd think, but many manufacturers neglect it, relying instead on software.

TWAIN
The software interface for the Scan Elite II uses a straightforward, simple approach unlike it's competitor the Nikon Coolscan IV ED. This isn't a bad thing, quite the opposite in fact, as it makes your workflow all the easier to speed through. During testing I scanned a considerable number of images and found little to annoy me about the interface me once I had got used to it. The one exception to this was the custom input and output resolutions aren't handled as well as on some other scanners, but this is more of a personal niggle than a flaw.

The usual key functions are present, namely a Tone Curves/Histogram setting, Brightness/Contrast/Colour Balance setting, Hue/Saturation/Lightness setting, Variation Correction (for comparing the effects of various adjustments) and a Snapshot function for creating thumbnails of an image during stages of adjustment.

For those people not so confident with these advanced functions there is an Easy Scan utility where you can select how you will be using the image and the scanner works the rest out for you.

Click here to see animated version of TWAIN
Click on the image to load a larger, animated version.

Performance
This is a fast film-scanner, competing well with the slightly more expensive Nikon Coolscan IV ED. Although there is not a considerable amount of difference on some settings, Firewire can be as much as 10 minutes faster than USB on the most demanding settings.

Apart from when the Multi-sampling was enabled the scanner was fast and there was very little thumb twiddling going on compared to some flatbed scanning I was doing.

Size (Pixels) ICE3 Dpi Other File size (Mb) Time
Indexscan 4 slides No NA NA NA 30sec
Prescan 1 slide No NA NA NA 13sec
800x600 No 72 NA 1.2Mb 47sec
4032x2688 No 2820 NA 31.0Mb 54sec
4032x2688 Yes 2820 NA 31.0Mb 2min 6sec
4032x2688* Yes 2820 NA 31.0Mb 2min 50sec
4032x2688 Yes 2820 2x Multi-sample 31.0Mb 2min 37sec
4032x2688 Yes 2820 16x Multi-sample 31.0Mb 19min 54sec
4032x2688 Yes 2820 2x Multi-sample 16-bit 62.0Mb 2min 50sec
4032x2688 Yes 2820 16x Multi-sample 16-bit 62.0Mb 19min 55sec
* USB connection instead of Firewire

Test scans

Minolta Dimage Scan Elite II scan Nikon Coolscan IV ED scan
Minolta Dimage Scan Elite II scan Nikon Coolscan IV ED scan

The Dimage Scan Elite II produced an excellent level of detail here. Colours appear accurate and noise levels are very low.

Minolta Dimage Scan Elite II scan

Impressive amounts of detail can be seen in the wall, the excellent dynamic range of the Minolta helps produce a realistic looking image. We compared a section of the above scan to two other scanners. The low cost Jessops PF 3600 PRO (400) and the more expensive Microtek ArtixScan 4000tf (830).

Microtek ArtixScan 4000tf scan Jessops PF3600 PRO  scan Minolta Dimage Scan Elite II scan
Microtek ArtixScan 4000tf Jessops PF3600 PRO Minolta Dimage Scan Elite II

In these three sections there is a wide range of quality produced. The Microtek result was good, though a little soft. The Jessops sample has a lot of image noise, poor dynamic range and inaccurate colour reproduction. The Minolta produces the best result maintaining a lot of detail and sharpness without any visible noise.

The Digital ICE3 system works well as illustrated below. Some detail is lost as a result, but overall a high level of image quality remains. In the top left of the without ICE image, you can see some markings on the slide that the ICE system has removed. Adding only a minute to your scanning time it is probably worth leaving ICE on all the time.

With ICE Without ICE
With ICE Without ICE

The Multi-sample scanning option didn't yield any noticeable difference in our tests. However it is possible that with some scanning material a noticeable difference could be achieved.

16x Multi-sampling Without Multi-sampling
16x Multisampling Without Multisampling

Nikon Coolscan IV ED
Nikon Coolscan IV ED

Minolta Dimage Scan Elite II
Minolta Dimage Scan Elite II

Another sharp result from the Minolta. Colours appear pleasantly saturated and the high dynamic range capability shows its worth by the high level of detail throughout the image.

Verdict
The Dimage Scan Elite II consistently impressed me with ease of use, image quality and to an extent speed. I say to an extent, because the Multi-sample scans do take a long time, but they don't appear to offer much of an advantage anyway. Also impressive is the provision of USB and Firewire connections, quietness of operation and build quality. All for a reasonable price of between 470 and 550.

For anyone looking to buy a film-scanner for around 500, the Minolta Dimage Scan Elite II is going to be hard to beat.

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