Minolta Dedicated 35mm Scanners

I’m seeing a lot of these older Minolta (Dimage dual scan II, III, IV, Elite II) scanners online for relatively affordable prices compared to newer dedicated 35mm scanners. The results I’ve seen seem to blow a lot of the newer dedicated scanners (Plustek) out of the water. Most of the complaints are software related, because of the age of these units. I’m wondering if anyone has any experience running these older scanners with Vuescan? It looks like the amount of detail you’re able to resolve is miles ahead of most flatbeds as well. I’m guessing with Vuescan + NLP, you’d be able to get some amazing results.

I use a Minolta Dimage Scan Elite F-2900 with Vuescan and that is a capable setup. It takes a little time to learn the finer points of using the Vuescan software, but it is certainly possible to get good results.

My particular Minolta scaner has the added complexity of a SCSI connection, so be sure you can physically connect the scanner to your computer before buying.

My SCSI adapter converts to Firewire 400, which is only slightly less obsolete than SCSI. Because my next computer almost certainly not not have a Firewire port, I can see this scanner is at the end of it’s life, and will need to be retired with my next computer upgrade.

With that in mind, I have switched over to photographing my film with a digital camera. There are pros and cons to each, but the DSLR-copy method is faster than my film scanner, and more future proof.

My Minolta Dimage Scan Elite 5400 II scanner works fine w/ Vuescan (uses a USB connection so no special hardware issues). One advantage of this scanner is built-in dust reduction.

I’m happy with my Dimage Scan Elite 5400 (mark 1). Prices seem to be going absurd high these days, and specially the mark 1 aren’t known to be the best built devices around.

Sharpness is insane though. The lens inside is sometimes harvested as being an insane crazy macro lens.

I’m even going so far as to say it’s too sharp :).
Not many 35mm films that can actually resolve to the > 5000 DPI this scanner really manages (at least not the films I shoot often).

Tested NLP once with the same negative scanned through my Elite 5400, my Crystalscan 7200 and through a Sony A7m2 with a Minolta 50mm 2.8 Macro lens (and a Lomography Digitaliza and a cheap A4 LCD lightpad). The film was a modern Vista+ 200 (or 400, not sure). The 5400 won clearly in the sharpness, but after applying a bit of sharpening the Crystalscan actually wasn’t that far behind (the film was the limiting factor) while it reaches at most +/- 3300 DPI I believe. The DSLR ‘scan’ was pretty close as well. But although all pictures were trialed with NLP (2.0 I believe), the colors of the DSLR scan were ‘off’, while they were instantly pleasing and fine with both the dedicated scanners.

So I settled on using dedicated scanners… They take longer, yes. But with the automatic cleaning with the use of the IR channel the final ‘time per final scanned, cleaned and converted image’ actually isn’t that much different (although the Minolta 5400 on full 5400 DPI is actually very slow. It can at least scan 5 / 6 frames automatically so it sits there doing it’s thing).

But I get consistently good results. I also get good results scanning DSLR-style… but every once in a while I get an image where the focus wasn’t right, or I get light bleeding in a corner all of the sudden… and the conversion results from the dedicated scanners seems to be more ‘right’ from the get go as I said.

Software with the Crystalscan is fine. Vuescan and / or Silverfast (modern versions) on modern OS works just fine, but the scanner has other quirks (like needing to be turned off and on every +/- 6 scans to prevent banding artifacts, and the light source not being that strong).

The Minolta is a software nightmare. I’m an IT pro so I can live with the challenge, but I wouldn’t recommend it to any novice. For ‘modern’ computers: The scanner does work with Vuescan and there is a Silverfast 8 version. But the Silverfast version had issues specific to the reverse-engineered protocol of this scanner and they don’t seem to be able / willing to develop it further. If it works with your scanner, fine. But others have reported left sides of the image being darker or off, because of some internal-calibration missing.
In my experience Silverfast’s own IR detection also seems to misinterpret the IR data this scanner ‘scans’, so using automatic cleaning causes artifacts and issues.

Vuescan works but can’t focus properly. It seems to report an area as being ‘in focus’ while it absolutely isn’t, so you end up with blurry scans. Manually focus is a pain with Vuefast (at least with other software you can manually focus while you see a live indicator on the screen to tell you when you turned the focus knob in the right position. Vuescan doesn’t have that).

What actually works with good results is the official Minolta-scan software, and the (very) old Silverfast 6. Silverfast 6 uses ‘official Digital ICE’ ir cleaning which works fine with this scanner, so no artifacts. And the (auto) focus is consistently good and you can queue up scan jobs from the film-holder (so it can scan up to 6 in a row automatically once you set it up).

Minolta-scan is tricky to set a custom exposure but it’s very possible, has good focus and delivers good (raw-scanner) results. I never use the inversion from these programs, only the raw (‘scanned as positive’) linear-tiff files. Minolta-scan can’t batch scan an entire film holder of 6 images so every image has to be started manually, but otherwise it works fine.

Minolta-scan and Silverfast 6 require a 32 bit OS. It might work with Windows 7 32-bit, but I ended up using Windows XP for it. I have used both VirtualBox (free) and VMWare Player (free) as virtual-machine utilities to run Windows XP and pass-through the USB connection for the Minolta, and this is how I scan.

No clue about MacOS by the way :).

I never used a flatbed scanner for film scanning, but most flatbed scanners I’ve read of don’t reach beyond +/- 1800 to 2000 DPI (While claiming 9000+ or something). Yes, the Minolta reaches more (and so does a good DSLR scan) but I wonder if you really need it. Most consumer-film doesn’t resolve that much more, let alone if you manually focus your camera :).

After looking at a lot of images scanned at more than 2000 DPI, and then scaling it down (And then back up) and comparing… I wonder if it’s worth it :).

Depends what you use it for I guess. Pro work (shooting images for money) -> yes, it would be worth it, but wouldn’t you be better of using a pro lab then anyway? For hobby stuff -> I doubt it’s worth the price and hassle. That’s why DSLR scanning has come up so much. It’s a learning process to get it right but it can deliver great results for a lot less money, and if you don’t want your images to be ‘just perfect’ it can also save quite a bit of time :slight_smile:

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Focus w/ VueScan has not been an issue with my Minolta Dimage Scan Elite 5400 II. Looking back at previously scanned slides (Kodachrome 64, e.g.), I can see that the scanner’s focus on film grain was a lot better than my manual camera focus on a lot of subjects. :smile:

I had a Minolta dimage 5400 Mk.1 and just sold it recently. In my personal case I wouldn’t go for a dedicated film scanner again, mainly because of convenience:
• Using Silverfast and Vuescan on a Mac and WinXP the software quite often freezed
• Although 5400 dpi sounded fantastic, in real life it meant a horrible long scanning time and huge files.
• The 5400 (I and II) do have one of the best lenses ever build inside a scanner but they also have a really uneven lightsource that often can be seen in magenta/green gradients and darker stripes in the pictures. I tried to cover for it in LR but that was just way to much work.

If you are looking for “scanner project” go ahead and get one. You will inevitably run into minor and major problems, from time to time you will need to open up the scanner and service something yourself, email with Vuescan and Silverfast staff because of issues and so on. If this is something that you enjoy go for it. Remember those machines are quite old and not build to the same standards as (for example) a Canon 5D II.

I ended up with an 5D II with an 100mm Macro, my Ipad Pro as a lightsource and a film mask. I am way faster then with the 5400 I and most importantly I can focus on my pictures and not on my pesky scanner or freezing software. Sharpness is important but in real life my 5D II gives me all a need, especially for offset printed publications. If I need astronomical sharp and big files for huge prints I send my film to some place with an flextight and they scan my picture manually with 8000dpi for 15€.

The biggest lesson I learned: Spending too much time with my setup, scanner and software is time lost on being outside and taking pictures.