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Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE Film Scanner Review

Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE Film Scanner Review - The Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE is a film scanner with 48-bit colour and 7200dpi resolution, bundled with Silverfast to deliver infrared dust and scratch removal. It's quiet, it's easy to use, but is it worth 239?

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Category : Film Scanners
Product : Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE
Price : £239
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Installation
Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

The OpticFilm 7600i is the latest film scanner from Plustek, bringing the successful award-winning formula of high quality features and low price of previous models up to date with a couple of improvements. These include a subtle but important increase in D-max from 3.3 to 3.5 and a new multi-exposure function. The scanner can also now be used with Apple Mac computers. We liked the 7200i when we tested it in 2006, four years on, can the £239 7600i SE still impress?

Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE bundlePlustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: Installation
The OpticFilm 7600i SE comes bundled with two CDs. One has the OpticFilm set up program/driver and user guides, along with NewSoft Presto! PageManager (a file management program) and NewSoft Presto! ImageFolio (image editing program). The other cd has the latest version of Lasersoft's Silverfast SE Plus Software which supports the scanner's infrared dust removal system, iSRD, but also offers a new Multi-Exposure scanning feature.

Installation is straightforward, just run the installation CD, then connect the scanner using the USB cable. Windows automatically detects the scanner and you are ready to scan.

I already had Photoshop installed, so I selected the Photoshop Install option when running the SilverFast CD. This automatically adds the Silverfast program in the File>Import menu of Photoshop.

Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE film carriersPlustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: Features
The OpticFilm 7600i SE has 7200dpi scanning capability, the same as the model we tested four years ago. This is more than adequate for most users who will want to scan their films and can output to around 32in on the long side at 300dpi (book/magazine resolution). So that's more than adequate to produce double page spread photos.

It's odd though that the pixel count of digital cameras is increasing year on year, yet Plustek haven't felt the need to pack a few more pixels resolution into the scanner. While Nikon and Canon have gone quiet on the film scanner department, they did always increase scanning resolution when a new model was introduced to encourage upgrades.

So if you're an existing Plustek owner you'd better wait and see if we feel the increased d-max is enough to make you exchange, while any newcomers to film scanning can be satisfied that this is still a very good resolution - the Nikon LS50 has 4000dpi , the CanoScan FS4000US (now discontinued) was also only 4000dpi and the Minolta Dimage Scan Elite 5400 (also discontinued) was 5400dpi.

The scanner comes with a mounted slide carrier to hold four transparencies and a negative carrier to hold a strip of six. You also get the two CDs mentioned above, a usb cable, power adaptor and padded carry case with a neat pouch in the lid for the two carriers. I can't imagine many people moving around with the scanner, but it's certainly useful if you only use the scanner from time to time and don't want it sat on the desk top.

Speaking of which, the footprint of the scanner is a tidy 120x272mm so it doesn't take up much space. You'll need to allow about 250mm at each side to accommodate the carrier and about 40mm to cope with the non bendy part of the usb cable plugged in at the back.

Other features, found on earlier models, such as Silverfast's iSRD dust and scratch removal , NegaFix, Selective Colour Correction, Auto Adjust and USM have been joined with a new multi-exposure scanning option. This acts like an in-house HDR (high dynamic range) option, by taking separate scans for the darkest and lightest areas and combining the results to give an overall better exposure.

Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: Handling
The film holders are plastic, but are robust and should last a long time if handled carefully.
The slide carrier has individual slots for each frame. They are spring mounted to ensure the slide sits tight in the carrier and they are easy to load and unload. The film carrier has apertures for six frames, but a strip of four could be loaded. Just unclip the end and the whole row hinges up. Small plastic guides ensure the negs sit in the correct position. You just then align the strip in the carrier so each frame aligns in the aperture on the carrier.

To scan you insert the film carrier into the side of the scanner until it clicks into place. To advance to the next frame, you manually push the holder further through the scanner. This system is fairly crude compared to those used on more expensive Nikon, Canon or Minolta scanners, but the advantage is you're not relying on a motor to drive the carrier. I had the Minolta lock up a few times, so this is reassuringly simple. My colleague, when reviewing the 7200i, made a point of mentioning that there was no facility to adjust the position of the film once it was placed in the scanner. This is no longer an issue; the carrier can be moved backwards or forwards in the scanner. As the carrier is manually inserted, you don't have the luxury of doing a preview of all the frames in the carrier like you can on some of the other film scanners.

Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: Performance
Scan speed has improved dramatically since we tested the OpticFilm 7200i. In the table below you can see the speed performance at maximum resolution using iSRD is under 10 minutes. This has been axed right down from a criticised 38mins. And a 2700dpi scan has gone from from 3mins 29secs to 2mins 22secs. Both scans still seem like a long time per shot, but considering the amount of time you would spend editing dust marks it may be worth being patient. 

What's slightly disappointing is the maximum scan resolution with iSRD off has gone up from 1min 50secs to 2min 56secs. As most of us would be happy with an A4 scan the respectable 50sec at 2700dpi is probably the time saving way to go if you have a lot of scans to complete.

Scan Resolution iSRD Enabled File Size Time
7200dpi Yes 178MB 9mins 50secs
7200dpi No 178MB 2min 56secs
2700dpi Yes 24.4MB 2mins 22secs
2700dpi No 24.4MB 50secs

close up of post box to test 7600iPlustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: Detail
The OpticFilm 7600i compares extremely well against other scanners. The 7200i, tested four years ago, came second to the better dynamic range and more accurate colour reproduction of the Minolta Dimage Scan Elite 2. But here, using a shot taken on a tripod mounted camera of a wall and post box, the clarity of the OpticFilm 7600i shows the scanner is capable of capturing plenty of detail.

The area we used in the 100% scans below is highlighted in the white rectangle in the full frame to the right. Notice how the the mail box slot has some detail (like the Jessops scan) but without the noise. Also how the detail in the embossed letters PO is really cleanly defined. You can see detail in the paintwork and flakes. An impressive performance.

Plustek OpticFilm 7200i close up detail Plustek OpticFilm 7200i Microtek ArtixScan 4000tf Minolta Dimage Scan Elite 2 Jessops PF 3600 Pro
Plustek
OpticFilm 7600i
Plustek
OpticFilm 7200i
Microtek
ArtixScan 4000tf
Minolta Dimage
Scan Elite 2
Jessops
PF 3600 Pro


Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: Colour negative test

As with previous OpticFilm scanners, the bundled Silverfast software helps reproduces colours accurately, with plenty of saturation, but with a little less contrast than the OpticScan 7200i. This can easily be added in the image editing software and gives you a choice of a having more neutral result or ones with more punch. The sharpness of the image is uniform across all of the image. Also there is absolutely no noise visible in the image, which is fantastic for a scanner of this price. 

Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: Colour transparency test
Plustek OpticFilm 7600i colour transparency scan
The increase in dmax over the OpticFilm 7200i is clearly seen here with a better balanced tonal result. The scanner still hasn't managed to pull back any detail in the back of the gull's head, but all other areas display less contrast and more detail.

Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: Skin tone test
Plustek OpticFilm 7600i wedding transparency scan Plustek OpticFilm 7200i
The image above is a 100% crop from the veil in the image to the left. This shows just how much detail can be reproduced by this scanner, each individual circle of the fine gauze has been rendered, along with a few specs of dust!
 
The above scan of a bride taken using transparency film is a little warm and can be corrected really easily. That said the colours make the skin have a healthy glow which is no bad thing, but you may not like the slight red hue of the wedding dress. The 7200i we tested gave a slightly green bias. Neither version is far from neutral.


Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: Black & white test
Plustek OpticFilm 7600i black & white scan

The OpticFilm 7600i delivers detailed scans from black & white film, producing a good range of tones. It does a better job of reproducing extreme tones from the darkest areas of the film thanks to the improved Dmax. Here you can see detail in the coat that the previous versions struggled with. The iSRD function will not work with black & white film and has to be disabled. This is common for most scanners employing an infrared dust and scratch removal system, only Digital ICE 4 available on the Nikon Coolscan V has overcome this problem.

Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: Dust and scratch removal test
If there's one area the scanner is let down it's in the dust and scratch department. So we can partly blame the Silverfast software here. As much as I like the handling of the program and it's normal features, the dust and scratch option could do with being a little more "intelligent".

There are two options: iSRD, which combines a hardware infrared scan with the normal RGB scan and a software dust and scratch remover. The infrared scan picks up the areas where dust or scratches are present on the surface of the film and then, using information from the rgb scan, attempts to remove the dust/scratch defects by patching over them. This is the hit and miss bit, as you'll see from the illustrations below (click on them to view a larger version).
Plustek OpticScan 7600i iSRD mode Plustek OpticScan 7600i iSRD mode
At the automatic setting of 12 a large hair next to the palette is half patched over. Some small dust blobs are still visible top left. Increasing the Detection setting's value to 20 removes unwanted blobs, but adds to the bad patch job of the hair.
Plustek OpticScan 7600i iSRD mode Plustek OpticScan 7600i iSRD mode
Here's how the iSRD has detected the dust areas. It places a red mask over all the defects. These are the areas that will be treated. Here the software based dust and scratch removal was used and has actually done a much better job of removing marks, but is a touch softer.
Plustek OpticScan 7600i iSRD mode Plustek OpticScan 7600i iSRD mode
This negative had loads of dust spots picked up by iSRD and displayed here in the mask mode. iSRD has removed most of the troublesome white specs but the Detection setting had to be maxed out at 20, and you can still see specs that have been missed
Plustek OpticScan 7600i iSRD mode Plustek OpticScan 7600i iSRD mode
The software based dust and scratch remover has failed here as it's taken the shadowed edge of the ride's support bar and removed it. You can set the detect type to White or Black to help here. Otherwise you will not get rid off all the dust, as seen here.
It seems the best way to use this feature is to take it as far as you can without the dust looking painted over. This will catch most of the small specs, and remove the rest with your image editing software's clone, heal or patch tool.

Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: multi-scan test
Now let's play spot the difference. Which photo is a 2x scan and which one is a 16x scan? Open up large and prepare to put the images under scrutiny! We could hardly tell the difference. With a time of 4:38 for a 2x or 19:54 for a 16x, it's doubtful we'd be using the 16x again and would probably just stick with the 2:22 for a 1x scan.
Plustek OpticScan 7600i 2x scan Plustek OpticScan 7600i 16x scan

Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: Verdict
The Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE looks and operates like the 7200i we've already tested, but this scanner has three major differences. One; faster scanning times, two; a higher dynamic range and three; multi-scan. If you already have the 7200i you may not feel it worth the investment, especially if the multi-scan was what was attracting you to the product, but if this is your first scanner purchase you will not be disappointed. The results above speak for themselves. It's a very capable scanner, offering good sharpness and accurate colour scanning in a no-frills package.

I've been using a Dimage Scan Elite 5400 and there's not enough difference to justify the difference in price (about double). The Minolta is noisier when scanning, but scans about twice as fast. If dust spots are an issue and you don't have time to retouch you may be wiser going for the Nikon Coolscan V, otherwise you can confidently make this your top choice. 

Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: Pros
High quality scans
Small and robust feel
Value for money
Quiet while scanning
Storage case

Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: Cons
Dust removal could be more effective
Multi-scan not effective

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE
OVERALL

Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE: Specification
Interface: USB 2.0
Technology: Colour CCD image sensor
Hardware Resolution: 7200 x 7200 dpi
Dmax: 3.5
Film Holder: Mounted slides, up to 4 slides. Filmstrip, up to 6 frames
Max. scanning area: 24.3 x35mm
Preview Speed: 7.57 seconds for slide and 8.01 sec for negative film
Scan Speed: 3600dpi: Approx. 32.14 sec (multi-sampling ON)
7200dpi: Approx. 56.82 sec (multi-sampling ON)
Colour Depth: 48-bit input 24/48-bit output. Greyscale 16-bit input 8/16-bit output.
Operating temp: 10° C to 40° C (50° F to 104° F)
Scan Method: Single-Pass
Scanning Materials: Reflective color or black-and-white 35 mm slides, 35mm filmstrip.
Multi-Sampling: Yes
Lamp: White LED
Connectivity: USB 2.0, ethernet, wi-fi, bluetooth, direct memory card slots, Pictbridge
Dimensions (WxDxH): 120 x 272 x 118.5mm
Weight: Approx. 1.6 kg
Power adapter: Power Output DC 15V, 1A
Power Consumption: Operation: 15 watts maximum. Idle: 5 watts
OS Support Windows 2000, XP, Vista. Mac 10.3.9 and higher

The Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE is available from Warehouse Express for £239. Full details here: Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE.

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Comments


Paul Morgan e2
13 15.2k 6 England
17 Feb 2010 8:19PM
These are cracking scanners for the price, nice and compact, about the size of a small loaf.

I`m still using the 7200i and using the latest software that I think came packaged with this scanner, a free upgrade.

I don`t bother with dust or scratch removal, that`s left to photoshop.

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timbo 11 591 United Kingdom
24 Feb 2010 10:05AM
I'm using the 7200i too but only paid about 75 a year or so ago for it brand new from Amazon. It's a great little scanner and more than man enough for the job.

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