Pub

Michael's

Packaging

 

The first impression anyone gets of a new product comes from its packaging. On arrival, the Plustek box was well packaged by B&H—no surprise there, as all of their shipments come that way—but on further inspection, the scanner was double-boxed. Inside of the B&H box was another shipping box. Inside of that shipping box, padded by Styrofoam braces was a product package with a nifty little carry handle. No matter how hard they may have tried, UPS would have had immense trouble damaging the contents.

On opening the product package, the theme of excellence in packaging continued. A rectangular box sat on top of a double-padded scanner, wrapped in protective foam wrapping. Inside the rectangular box were the accessories. Each film holder ships in its own separate box.

 

Fig. 1: The package arrives double-boxed and well padded.
Fig. 2: Accessories are nicely packed in a tray in the top of the box.
A divider separates the tray holding the film holders from another section holding the power supply and USB cable. Altogether, a very professional job of packaging.
Fig.4: The film holders are a tribute to engineering brilliance.

But does that make it a good scanner? Let’s move right along and see.

 

 

The Hardware

 

 

It’ll take a while to really decide how well designed the hardware is, but a few descriptions of its behavior might lend some insight. The motor that moves the film holders back and forth sounds very smooth. I had looked at a Primefilm 120. The gentleman who owned it showed me some very impressing scans he’d done from his Hasselblad and at the start of my search, the Primefilm was first on my list. The one thing that bothered me about it was, when he was scanning film, it sounded like there was sand in the gears or something, and the film holders (which were quite flimsy compared to the Plustek holders) moved back and forth with jerky motions. According to my friend, that was the way it’d always been. I remembered a Nikon Coolscan 9000 a previous employer let me use on occasion and it always sounded smooth and sweet while it worked. There is a bit of a clunk when it first aligns the holder inside the scanner. A support rep at Plustek assures me that is normal…they all do that…it is the film holder being pressed snug against the transport carriage.

 

The film holders themselves blow me away. Not even the Nikon had such sweet holders. These babies hold the film flat and are easy to load. Those of you who have loaded the Epson 4990 120 holder will understand my tears of gratitude when I saw that. A magnetic bar holds the film flat and adjustable frames let you adjust to any frame spacing you might encounter (or at least anything I have so far). And they’re easy to load.

Fig.4: The film holders are a tribute to engineering brilliance.

Setup

 

 

Installation couldn’t be easier. Well, I suppose it’d be easier if you got somebody else to do it for you. But what’s the fun of that? When I get an expensive new toy, nobody touches it but me…until I’m done playing with it that is.

Place the scanner in a well-ventilated area where it has 8 inches of clearance both front and rear. The film holders protrude quite a ways in either direction during the course of scanning all images in the holder. Hook up the USB. The manufacturer recommends that you not connect the USB to an external hub. They suggest a direct connection to the computer. This is what causes frequent freezes in the application, according to their knowledge base. Guess some of the people who put up reviews on Amazon and B&H didn’t bother reading that far. Now hook up the 24V DC power supply. Don’t turn the scanner on just yet.

 

Now pull out the software and install the Plustek driver package. This takes a while to accomplish and sometimes it doesn’t seem like it’s doing anything. It is…so be patient. Once completed the setup “strongly suggests” that you reboot your machine before continuing, but it also provides an option for continuing without a reboot.

 

If you’re running Windows, reboot the machine. Trust me on that one. Once your computer is back up and running, it is time to fire up the scanner. On first power-up, the drivers are automatically picked up by Windows and the scanner auto configures. Now it’s time to install the Silverfast. This is equally easy. Follow the yellow brick road. Accept all defaults unless you are a computer wiz, and then perhaps you might want to do a custom installation. Options that you can change include:

 

  • ·        The file path where program files are located

  • ·        Whether or not to load product documentation

  • ·        Whether or not to load .MOV video tutorials

 

If you’re new to Silverfast, you probably want to stick to the defaults. Those movies are actually pretty informative. I’m not new to scanning, but I’m new to Silverfast and I am still finding them to be useful. Once Silverfast is installed, you’re ready to begin. There is no need to reboot the system after this installation. Just rock and roll.

 

 

Text (double-click to edit)

 

 

How about 35mm?

 

 

I’ve been using an Epson 4990 for quite some time now. Overall, I’ve been pretty satisfied with it for sheet film. It provides a consistent degree of mediocrity for roll film and totally sucked for scanning 35mm. Before springing for the Plustek, I seriously considered enduring the mediocre medium format and just getting a decent 35mm scanner. I figured 35mm was going to suffer anyway. I could have been ever so slightly wrong about that. My first scan of a 35mm negative shows that the Plustek 120 will do a professional level job even with this format.

 

 

How about 35mm?

 

 

I’ve been using an Epson 4990 for quite some time now. Overall, I’ve been pretty satisfied with it for sheet film. It provides a consistent degree of mediocrity for roll film and totally sucked for scanning 35mm. Before springing for the Plustek, I seriously considered enduring the mediocre medium format and just getting a decent 35mm scanner. I figured 35mm was going to suffer anyway. I could have been ever so slightly wrong about that. My first scan of a 35mm negative shows that the Plustek 120 will do a professional level job even with this format.

 

 

How about 35mm?

 

 

I’ve been using an Epson 4990 for quite some time now. Overall, I’ve been pretty satisfied with it for sheet film. It provides a consistent degree of mediocrity for roll film and totally sucked for scanning 35mm. Before springing for the Plustek, I seriously considered enduring the mediocre medium format and just getting a decent 35mm scanner. I figured 35mm was going to suffer anyway. I could have been ever so slightly wrong about that. My first scan of a 35mm negative shows that the Plustek 120 will do a professional level job even with this format.

I'd like to predicate this review with a few comments. Plustek did not ask me to do this review. Hopefully they won't ask me to take it down, because then I'd have to tell them to put it where the sun don't shine. Additionally, Plustek did not loan me a scanner for the review. I purchased one out of my own pocket after extensive research. My motive for doing this review is simple. I am not an experienced scanner operator. I wanted to provide some insight to what other people like me might expect going on to their first professional level scanner. More advanced users might find this review all but useless and completely disagree with my conclusions. That's what's great about the First Amendment. It allows us to agree to disagree without fear of repercussion. If you find this review useful and choose to purchase one, using the links on my site helps me with the costs of keeping it going.