Camera Scanning vs Imacon vs Plustek

I used to have cheap access to an Imacon scanner, and before that owned a Nikon 9000. Now that I’ve sold everything and moved to another country, I’m starting my scanning workflow over again and bought one of these Plustek 8100 scanners. I can get very good color with the RAW scanning mode and NLP (loving it), but the Plustek scans just seem soft to me. I’m only working with 35mm.

I’m toying with the idea of adapting a Nikon 60mm Micro to my Leica M10 and getting the ES-2 film holder adapter, but I’m having a difficult time getting good answers as to where that could potentially put me in the continuum of scan quality. I know the M10 resolution would limit my enlargement size, but within that limitation, how would the sharpness and tonality compare to a Plustek or Imacon?

I have an Imacon Precision II but I now generally camera scan 35mm with a 24MP Fuji X-T2 with either a 55mm Micro-Nikkor f2.8 or an 80mm F4 Rodagon. I guess this is comparable with what you are thinking of doing but the M10 is full frame and you won’t have the RAW processing of X-Trans fles to introduce into the mix. In fact it’s generally reckonned that full frame doesn’t make much difference over APS-C at 24MP.

I have done some comparisons so I’ll look them up for you, and actually I’d be interested to have another look myself. It would be interesting to know which Imacon you were using and so what resolution you were scanning at. The highest resolution for the Precision II is 6300 ppi with the frame going through narrow edge first, 5000 ppi going in sideways as it were.

Numbers aren’t everything of course but reckon your Plustek 8100 can achieve 3800 ppi but only if you scan at 7200 ppi, in other words their quoted resolution is optimistic and you end up with a much larger file than is necessary. I wonder if this is the softness that you are seeing?

In fact 24 MP (5952 x 3968 px) is also around the 4000 ppi mark in terms of pixels captured so you’d expect the actual resolution from the Plustek and the Leica to be on a par. didn’t think much of the dynamic range of the Plustek whereas your Leica sensor is top notch so you would surely see a difference there and you would have quality RAW files to deal with as well.

Thanks for the reply! I used to rent time on an Imacon X5 and whatever the previous model was before that. Everything always looked great. I just found a shop locally that does Imacon rentals, so this may be moot now. I may still look around for an alternative home scanner, but good options are scarce. Probably no reason to spend the money on a lens and carrier for a camera at this point.

Well the only way is down in terms of quality and speed if you were using an X5, that’s not to say you wouldn’t get really good results with your M10/60mm Micro-Nikkor combo though.

I think you can count on a Plutek 8100 delivering inferior results to either an Imacon X5 or the camera/lens set-up you propose to use. As Harry says, there is more than the pixel count to consider. The quality of the lens and the lighting arrangement in a scanner are critical to perceived image sharpness and there is only so much you can expect from a $350 device. With regard to the Imacon, the stated optical resolution exceeds the effective measured resolution, which is typical of all scanners, whereas with a good camera/lens set-up you will get closer to the optical resolution the sensor measurements would indicate. In fact, there is no way to know for sure what will work better than testing, so if you intend to buy a camera-based solution, procure the equipment from a retailer who has a return privilege. The one other advantage of the Leica solution of course is that you will have an excellent camera for general purpose photography as well.