While a guest professor at Japan's National Museum of Ethnology (Osaka) it was possible to have access to unbelievable equipment.

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Review of Kodak slide scanners, especially the 4050 for large format film, coupled with links to reviews of the inherent problems of the whole Kodak Photo CD system.

The museum had a brand new 4x5 slide scanner, the equivalent of what today is a Kodak model 4050. The basic difference is that in 1995 it was run by a Sun Sparcstation; today it is more sensibly coupled to a Macintosh G3.

The review is simple and to the point. The original 4x5 system (which also did 35mm and 6x6 cm medium format) was overkill for 1996 and is obsolete in 1999. The selection of a Sun Sparcstation was totally impractical (unless you have a room full of other Sun Sparcstations to handle the images). It is much more realistic to use a Macintosh. Sure Adobe Photoshop was available for Sun and Silicon Graphics, but outdated versions. The latest versions were available only for Mac and Wintel machines. Besides, unless you had a million dollars worth of RAM and a super fast hard drive, the Sun computer did not handle digitized slides significantly faster than a normal Mac or PC.

1:1 scale Mayan hieroglyph from a Tepeu 1 vase.
Mayan vase hierogliphic close-up

The particular scanner in Osaka was either poorly manufactured or had otherwise developed loose connections. Hardly what you expect in a $125,000.00 scanner. What a waste. Today you can get an Imacon to do 4x5 and medium format for $16,000, so why get a Kodak? Kodak was a convenient answer in the early days when not many people knew about scanning, scanners, or any of the high end. Kodak packaged together an entire system and held your hand while it was installed.

Unfortunately the scanner operator was uncaring (a polite way for saying that he pressed the ON button without adequately adjusting for the different attributes of the various scans). I got the impression the operator had insufficient training. Training the operator is often worth more than having expensive hardware and fancy software. A well trained operator can produce wonders from a midrange scanner, but a poorly trained operator will produce bad results no matter how expensive and high-end the scanner.

Today, with the Internet, and better access to information, there are plenty of other companies who will hold both your hands and even your feet and will deliver a fully professional system for far less than Kodak asks. Kodak, like any large company, has a hard time changing with the new technology. Imacon, Scanview, Howtek, and comparable smaller companies depend on producing an exceptional scanner; these companies devote their entire capabilities to focus on producing quality software and hardware for the high-end graphics market.

Another part of the problem with Kodak scanners is the legacy of Kodak Photo CD. This well intentioned but ultimately unfortunate system attempted to cram umpteen pictures in multiple resolutions onto a single CD. This was a clever marketing ploy to attempt to interest Mr. and Mrs. John Q Public to store their family albums on Kodak Photo CDs. This meant it was directed at the low end (read low resolution, poor color quality, and dreadful compression). Nowadays any reasonably intelligent person can, on their own, vary the resolution of their pictures. Macintosh systems provide automatic thumbnail views anyway. Archiving software such as Extensis Portfolio can create much more useful thumbnails than the low-res Kodak images anyway.

An additional problem with the Kodak Photo CD system is that they attempted to make it proprietary. In other words, no other software but Kodak could open a Kodak Photo CD in the early days. Still today you can mess up the files if you attempt to open them in any normal conventional manner. It might be safer to get the special version of SilverFast which is made specifically to open Kodak Photo CD files, www.LaserSoft-Imaging.com.

Rather than beat a dead horse, best to politely acknowledge collective appreciation to Kodak for trying hard in a premature era to bring Photo CD to the masses. Today Yamaha, Panasonic, and dozens of other venders of CD-R burners have provided a substantially higher level of quality and an international standard (such as Adaptec TOAST CD-burner software). Today there is no need to have Kodak hold your hand while you burn one of their CD formats. You can select your own format and more easily burn your own CD--far more flexible.

I have not used the Kodak model 1000 scanner for 35mm, but unless it has eliminated the Kodak Photo CD system it suffers all the effects of the unnecessary gibberish of ranked resolutions. All you need is a single resolution; you will have to resize the picture for eventual use anyway, so why gut the archival original just to get lots of useless extra resolutions to clog your Photo CD with.

A host of medium and high-end scanner manufacturers run circles around Kodak in the market of the 1999. Their scanner was a good try, definitely well intentioned, and I am sure that other units did not have the physical defects of the 1996-vintage model in Japan (it was, however, brand new when I used it in 1996).


If you are stuck with lots of Kodak Photo CD images that you did before better systems were available, be sure you get SilverFast to open your Kodak Photo CD images. Kodak Photo CD never really became an international standard and most scanner and color programs cannot necessarily open a Kodak Photo CD properly (I suspect that Kodak wanted to sell that software on their own, but the market refused to buy it). In the meantime there is a "rescue software" available from LaserSoft Imaging. This is a special form of SilverFast. For more information, consult www.silverfast.com
Unusual deity variant of PSS hieroglyph, Tepeu 1, Maya, Land Collection
Unusual deity variant of PSS hieroglyph, Tepeu 1, Maya, Land Collection
The one part of the Kodak system that was superb in 1996 and is still high-tech today is their dye-sub printer. Alps can also produce dye-sub at about $500 (as opposed to over $7,000+ for the Kodak version) and Fuji Pictography can produce exhibit quality masterpieces that surpass even a $10,000 dye sub printer--but this only works if you have the extra cash for the pricey Pictography. The Kodak dye sub printer produces exhibit quality prints, is solidly made, and worked flawlessly for the several months that I tested it in Japan. QMS sells dye-sub printers in Europe and I would imagine in the USA as well.

If you wish a tip on a reliable place to purchase any major brand of 35mm slide scanner (Nikon, Polaroid, etc) we recommend CDW. CDW stocks over 40,000 items for computers and digital imaging. e-mail Mick McEuan at mickmce@cdw.com and indicate what kind of scanner you would like (or ask his advice).

 

 

Comprehensive information, on the best ways to print digital photos and graphics.

How about color prints a full 36" inches wide?

postcard sized digital photo printers (dye sub printers) letter size and 11x17 dye sub printers for outstanding quality
what paper is best for digital photos ? what paper for brochures? European paper ?  Rolls Royce of digital printers www-dye-sub-printer-review.org
Capable laser printer for printing photographs at 11x17 (A3) up to 13x26". What are the best scanners to digitize your photos, your pictures, your 35mm slides, 3-D objects? 24 inch wide color printing capability on your desktop
Which graphics quality laser printer(s) can print up to 35 inches long, at up to 1200 dpi? Once you scan (digitize) the photos, how do you store the digitized format?

What wide format printer to avoid ? What ink jet printers to avoid ?

  www.flatbed-scanner-review.org www.wide-format-printers.org

 
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