I’ve had a love/hate relationship with 35mm film photography for many years. Numerous times I’ve bought 35mm cameras, but sold them a few months later because I wasn’t happy with the quality of the scans I was getting.
I found a too good to be true cheap as new Leica M6 for sale on the net about 12 months back, and I snapped it up. Scanning has still been an ongoing battle, so much so that I’ve just relented and paid the lab to scan the films. Its easier to justify spending good money on scans when you’re shooting a brilliant camera with cracking lenses.
But surrendering the control to other people just didn’t sit right with me, so I started looking for better options.
I’d been scanning with an Epson v700, and before that a Canoscan 9000f, but being flatbed scanners the quality of 35mm scans were patchy at best, and the colours of the photos always had random blue or orange casts, regardless of the expensive software and plugins and negative holders I’d purchased.
The first quality scanner that came to mind was the Pakon 135 Plus, but the limit of a 2000×3000 file size, and the ever spiralling upward prices of those machines ($2k+ these days, up from around $600 3 or 4 years ago) had turned me off.
Then I stumbled across an ad post on Instagram from AAA Imaging in the US, selling reconditioned Noritsu LS600 scanners for $995 US. After a bit of research it seemed that the Noritsu would tick every box; 24mb 6000×4000 TIFF file output at the highest quality level was perfect for me, and every review I read was very positive (I read this review about a dozen times – http://www.gostreetphoto.com/noritsu-ls-600-film-scanner-review/).
I bit the bullet and ordered one, and it arrived about a week later. Setup was pretty straight forward. I initially set it up on an old Windows laptop, but soon decided to have a crack at getting it working on my Mac. As there is no software or support for running it on a Mac, I had to install a Windows emulator machine on my Mac, which was no where near as scary as it sounds. I found a very handy Youtube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DT8IyZTeaYo&index=35&t=558s&list=WL) which walked me through the process, and I was up and running after about 20 minutes.
I had read that it took about half an hour to scan 36 shots at the highest quality setting, but mine is much faster – it takes 11 minutes to scan a 39 shot roll. It sucks the entire roll up into the machine for prescanning, then displays 6 preview images at a time for adjustment. As soon as you’ve approved the first 6 and clicked next to view the following images, the scanner goes to work on the first 6 to save time. Very handy if you were running it in a lab and the volume of prints processed was critical.
And I’m very happy with the results. The colours right out of the scanner are spot on…they’re a bit warmer and less contrasty than the Frontier scans I’ve been getting back from the lab, and are much more pleasing to the eye for mine. Black and white shots are a huge improvement on flatbed scanning too – the extra crispness just looks amazing.
This wonderful beast is a bit of a game changer for me; I’m selling all my medium format cameras now, and enjoying a much lighter camera bag!
The shots below are comparisons of the images out of the LS600 vs the Frontier scans from the lab (Noritsu on the left, Frontier on the right). No adjustments, other than resizing for the web and minor crop/rotation. After scanning these pics I realised that the Noritsu scans looked a little soft in the shadows, which was caused by dirty scanner sensor glass.
The video below the photos is a screen video of the scanning process and Lightroom editing of a strip of 6 shots. Not overly exciting, but this is what I really wished I could have seen before purchasing. Enjoy!
And here is another short video of the machine in action, scanning a strip of 6 negatives. Hopefully you’ll be able to hear it in action. Also thrown in is a bonus “Film advance needs cleaning” warning.
Initially I found that the scans in high contrast areas were a little soft in the shadow areas, and figured something was dirty somewhere. A quick clean with a clean lens cloth solved the problem, so much so that now I find myself dialling down the sharpness in the scanners software to suit my taste.
Here is a before and after comparison of an extreme example of the softness before and after I cleaned the sensor glass. You can see in the dark areas to the left the shadows almost have a halo.