Prices of 35mm slide scanners have fallen to the point you can get 4000 dpi at the price formerly of 2700 dpi.

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The collapse of prices of midrange flatbed scanners has now placed 1200 dpi flatbed scanner quality within reach of even SOHO and desktop publishing budgets.

35mm slide scanner
35mm slide scanner close up

Why do you need 4000 dpi for a 35mm film scanner when flatbed scanners are 600 dpi, 1000 dpi, or 1200 dpi only? Mathematical simplicity, a 35mm slide offers a tiny surface. To expand something that small large enough to print on 11 x 17 full bleed or wide format (24", 36", up to 60" or more) then you need all 4000 dpi. In fact we do not review any 35mm slide scanner at under 2700 dpi (1800 dpi is adequate for the Internet but not for color printing).

Actually, at 4000 dpi you can get better results from your 35mm slide than you can with a medium format transparency taken with a Hasselblad. This is because to scan your Hasselblad transparency you (will most likely) have to use a flatbed which is probably limited to a meager 600 dpi or 1000 dpi. Our bare minimum that we recommend is 1200 dpi. To get 4000 dpi on a medium format transparency you need an Imacon (vertical) scanner or a top-of-the-line flatbed such as the Fuji C-550 Lanovia, ScanView, or Heidelberg Prepress solution


35mm film scanner
35mm film scanner
What if you have thousands of 35mm slides to scan? People who have tons of slides to scan usually go out and buy a simple scanner with an auto-feed system (such as available for the various Nikon scanners). But this is not really an effective manner of scanning 35mm slides if you have several thousand.

If you have an entire lifetime of 35mm slides, you need a tabloid-sized flatbed that can handle a minimum of 40 slides at a time. You can keep them in the mounts. Sophisticated flatbed scanners such as the Scitex give their full optical dpi across the entire bed.

This is the only kind of flatbed that you can use for filling all the space up with slides. Because with cheaper scanners, you do not get the advertised dpi at the edges (you only get the full dpi down a narrow strip, the so-called "sweet spot."). So check out Their new model, the Jazz (EverSmart Jazz) drops the entry-level price for Scitex quality. If you are scanning for publication, you will probably want one of the higher-end EverSmart models such as the Pro II, for example.

Scitex slide scanner
Scitex slide scanner

You will be happy to learn, however, that the dpi of the surface of your scan is not what is required for the dpi of your printer. Your printer will probably calculate what it needs based on lpi (lines per inch). For the 1200 dpi QMS laser printer, the maximum it can absorb is 280 dpi per surface unit. The usual formula is around 1.5 times the lpi. The QMS operates at a lpi of about 90, so 135 dpi per surface unit ought to be enough. At a certain point excess dpi is thrown away by the printer. At a higher point, the dpi chokes the PostScript interpreter and your printer grinds to a halt (it simply crashes). The FLAAR test center can get away with excess dpi because the test system has 800 MB RAM; the test printer has 112 MB RAM; and the hard disks are 10,000 rpm Seagate Cheetahs as a Level 0 RAID array for added speed.

Also, our digital camera can take individual photographs at 350 MB and above, so we have plenty of extra dpi to spare. But it is simple enough for you to test what the limits are for your printer.

Another example, The Center for Advanced Imaging in St Louis estimated that their 600 dpi HP 3500 wide format printer needed only 120 dpi per surface unit. I fed it 175 dpi and it accepted that. All this means that a 35mm slide scanner such as the 2700 dpi Nikon CoolScan is just fine for most uses, unless you need to enlarge a smaller detail portion of a 35mm slide. Then you need to upgrade to the Polaroid SprintScan 4000. 35mm film scanner. Of course "film scanner" and "slide scanner" are all the same piece of equipment. You can feed them a film strip or a single slide still in its mount.

If you are going to feed your slide scanner (or flatbed scanner) 35mm color negatives, then you have a color cast situation that requires extra patience and some professional software. Better search the book shelves to find the ideal solution. We welcome feedback from people who have solved the problem of scanning color negatives, since we use only color positives (transparencies, slides) in our photo studio.

35 mm slide scanner
35 mm slide scanner

There are plenty of books which give a more thorough and technical explanation (several of our web sites have sections on Book Reviews). Other users have their own formulas. I can just report what we have found in our own three years of testing. Do not feed your printer too much dpi or it will get indigestion, but if you skimp and have too few dpi, the quality of your picture will be lessened.

In most cases it is probably easier to get both a flatbed and a slide scanner (unless you can afford an Imacon, in which case you do not need a separate 35mm film scanner since the Imacon can handle 35mm up to 4x5 formats). Be sure to check out the many other pages of reviews, so that you can avoid the several 4x5 scanners which are overpriced (and inadequate) when compared to other possibilities that perhaps you were not aware of.

FLAAR offers for you more information about this subject
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