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Nikon CoolScan IV ED Film Scanner Review

Nikon CoolScan IV ED Film Scanner Review - Nikon CoolScan IV ED test

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Category : Film Scanners
Product : Nikon CoolScan IV ED
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Nikon Coolscan IV The Coolscan IV is placed in the middle of the Nikon film scanner range.Allowing you to scan film strips, slides and APS film scanners like this are the best way of achieving high quality digital images from your 35mm or APS camera. Not the cheapest around the Coolscan IV needs to show it can provide a level of performance to match the high price.

 

Main features

  • 2, 900dpi optical resolution
  • 2,870x4,332 pixels
  • Nikkor ED high-resolution lens
  • Autofocus and Manual Focus
  • A/D Conversion 12-bits
  • 36-bit colour depth
  • USB interface
  • 3.6 dynamic range
  • Digital ICE3 Image improvement
  • Costs around 600

Bundled Software
Nikon throws in a copy of Adobe Photoshop 5.0 LE and Fotostation with this scanner. Both are useful, though most people will already have some image editing software installed. Fotostation is included with many Nikon products and allows you to sort all your images into categories and easily search for a particular image.

Scanner installation
As with most USB devices these days installation was straightforward. Providing you have your computer's USB port set up correctly then all you need do is connect the scanner power andUSB cable and switch on. Then install Nikon's supplied drivers, and you're good to go. Remember this scanner only has a USB port, so if yourcomputer doesn't have a USB connection you won't be able to connect it.

Film handling
Provided in the box is a slide-mount adapter, strip film holder and strip film adapter shown below.

Nikon Coolscan IV

These all slide in and out of the scanner easily, and when none are in place there is a cover to prevent dust getting inside. Negatives slide into the film adapter, and are then processed by the scanner. This is a more straightforward system than some other scanners where you have to load the film into a holder. APS and medical slide holders are available as optional extras.

TWAIN

Nikon Coolscan IV

This is the main part of the TWAIN driver, it allows the basic operations of previewing, scanning, thumbnailing, changing the media type, auto focusing ejecting the film and performing prescan densitometry. Also provided for finer adjustment is a window of drop down settings, shown below with the example of Digital ICE3:

Nikon Coolscan IVThis window gives you the following configuration settings:

Layout Tools: Rotation, Selections, Show grid, Flip.
Crop: Crop to a size, Keep an output size, Keep a file size, Scale selector, Resolution.
Curves: Auto levels, three eyedroppers to set white point, gray point and black point, Reset.
LCH Editor: For editing Lightness, Chroma, and Hue. Set Black Point, White Point and Gamma.
Color Balance: Brightness, Contrast, Red, Green and Blue sliders.
Unsharp Mask: Intensity, Halo Width and Threshold. Can select all channels, or Red, Green or Blue.
Digital ICE cubed: Shown to the right.
Analog Gain: Sliders for Master, Red, Green, Blue.
Scanner Extras: Manual Focus Adjustment, Calibration, Pixel Data Size.

Nikon have produced a nice looking, powerful TWAIN driver. It's not the easiest to use, but the support is good, with help files explaining the various settings quite well.

Performance
One important note to remember in considering these performance results is thatour test system only has 256Mb RAM, an AMD Duron 750 processor, and Windows 98SE. If your system is faster than this you may find your times reduced. To give an impression of how fast the scanner will be for various types of use we performed the following tests:

Size (Pixels)

ICE3 and Post Processing

Dpi

File size (Mb)

Time

800x600

Off

125

1.37

8sec

800x600

On (normal) and PP

125

1.37

1min 53sec

2807x1985

Off

2220

15.9

1min 24sec

2807x1985

On (fine) and PP

2220

15.9

2min 43sec

2870x4332

On (fine) and PP

2900

35.6

4min 22sec

This is a fast scanner, although using ICE3 adds substantially to the scanning time. Howeverin the cases where ICE3 is needed this is time well spent.

Black& white test

Nikon Coolscan IV

The Coolscan does a good job here, with high levels of detail throughout the scan even in the dark shadowed areas. Left toautomatic settings it also shows the scanner makes it easy to achieve high quality scans.

Colour negative test

Nikon Coolscan IV

Colours are finely reproduced, and detail levels are high throughout the image helped by the ED glass. The automatic settings in the TWAIN driver are shown to be more than capable again.

Colour transparency test

Nikon Coolscan IV

Another good performance, fine tuning of settings in the TWAIN driver allows quick correction of any obvious problems in the preview scan.

Skin tone test

The scanners ability for colour accuracy made this slide an easy task. The varying tonal ranges are captured very well, producing a realistic scan. Nikon Coolscan IV

ICE3 test

Nikon Coolscan IV
Shown on the left is a scan without ICE3, and on the right a scan with ICE3. Nikon make a lot of their ICE3 system, and justifiably so as it's quite impressive. However with competition from the likes of Canon being strong Nikon's system only just manages to impress us. It does a good job of removing dust, but adds a lot of time to the scan. It's worrying that colours appear slightly duller after being ICE3'd. The best system of dust control for your film and slides has to be not letting the dust and scratches get on them in the first place!

Sharpness test

Nikon Coolscan IV

Although this scanner doesn't have the highest resolution in its class you'd find it hard to fault it. Details on the blown up area of the post box are very good. The wall is also very well defined, with all the shadow and dark areas showing good levels of tonal range.

Verdict
This is a very capable scanner, and we found very little wrong with it. Although on paper it does not seem as impressive as some of its rivals, its performance in our tests shows it to be more than capable.

However it's not cheap, and is really meant for those looking for high quality consumer scanning. The ED lens system, and ICE3 combine to produce excellent scans. This scanner will save you time on retouching in digital imaging editing software, and in this sense could pay for itself.

So if you're looking to archive your old photos in digital format, with the best quality available for under 600 you will no doubt be pleased with this scanner.

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