June 22, 2006

Scanning Xpan films with Nikon Coolscan 9000 and FH-869GR film holder

Matt-Davis hike at Mount Tamalpais, California

I returned the Epson V750-M Pro scanner and got instead a Nikon Coolscan 9000 scanner with the Nikon FH-869GR 120/220 rotating film glass holder. This holder uses two pieces of glass to keep the film flat, by sandwiching the film in between. In my tests I didn't notice any loss in image resolution, contrast or shift in the color balance compared to scanning the same slide in the regular film strip holder.

The film holder can hold 120 and 220 frames, but for smaller frames it uses a set of black masks to cover the unused portion of the glass. This helps with the proper exposure of the film, as it keeps light out in the unused portion of the frame. The masks are also cleverly done, as they have on one side a set of punches that uniquely identify the mask and its cut frame. As soon as you insert into the scanner the glass holder with a film strip and such a mask, the scanner reads those punches and communicates the information to the scan application. This way Nikon Scan automatically recognizes the size of the frame you intend to scan, and adjusts the crop frame accordingly. Pretty nifty!

One problem I did find with the glass holder is that on some frames I could clearly see Newton rings. I tried cleaning up the glass using a Pec*Pad wipe and Eclipse cleaning solution. This helped with some rings, but not with all of them. Luckily this was a problem for me with only one frame out of several I scanned.

Save for the Newton rings problem, scanning Xpan film strips in the Coolscan 9000 is very easy with the FH-869GR holder. In fact it appears to be the only way to scan Xpan film strips with the Coolscan 9000. The regular film strip holder that comes with the scanner has plastic tabs between the 35mm frames. My guess is that even if you cut them, the scanner will refuse to scan more than 36mm in length.

The only problem with the FH-869GR holder is that you cannot batch scan multiple frames. The glass opening is for exactly one frame, even if 3 uncut Xpan frames can fit in the holder. Oh well...

Posted by ovidiu at June 22, 2006 12:01 AM |
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