Review of OpticFilm 8200i SE, by Photographer Olli Thomson

“I photograph the world I find myself in. That world changes every two or three years so I’m always starting again, discovering somewhere new, evolving my photographic style. I am a photographer of places, most often urban spaces.”  This is how Olli Thomson describes himself.

Olli has recently bought a Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE 35mm film scanner as part of his ongoing dive into film photography.  Scanning is a critical part of his hybrid analogue-digital workflow in getting the negative into a viewable and printable form.  He bought the scanner so that he can produce higher quality scans, have more control over the outcome, and save money in the long run.  He wrote the scanner review at the Emulsive website and gave practical in-depth advice.  To help our blog readers who are considering the options of scanning at home or paying for lab scans, Olli is very kind to allow us to publish his review here.  If you prefer to read this review in your mother tongue other than English, you may use the Google Translate on the side menu of this blog.


SCANNER REVIEW: PLUSTEK OPTICFILM 8200ISE 35MM FILM SCANNER – BY OLLI THOMSON

When I was fifteen I wanted a Nikon FM. A couple of months ago, some forty years later, I finally bought one – actually an FM2n, but close enough. As well as shooting with film I also wanted to take control of the rest of the process: developing, scanning, printing. I decided to start with scanning and recently acquired a Plustek OpticFilm 8200iSE. This is my review and here’s what I’ll be covering:

Table of contents

1 Choosing a film scanner
2 In the box
3 Software: Plustek QuickScan and SilverFast SE
3.1 SilverFast SE tools
3.1.1 Multiple Exposure – ME
3.1.2 Dust and scratch removal – iSRD / SRDx
3.1.3 Film profiles – NegaFix
4 Image quality
5 Samples
5.1 Set 1: Kodak Portra 400
5.2 Set 2: ILFORD HP5 PLUS
5.3 Set 3: 100% crops
6 Price and availability
7 Conclusion
8 Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE Specifications

CHOOSING A FILM SCANNER

First question: flatbed or film? The former can scan prints or film, the latter film only. I was looking for a device to scan film, not prints so I ruled out flatbed scanners, since they have no advantage over dedicated film scanners but do have a number of disadvantages.

Second question: 35mm or 120? Some scanners are designed for 35mm film only while others can also scan 120 film (or other formats). Since all my old negatives are 35mm and as I’m currently only shooting that format, I decided I could work with a 35mm only model. I don’t see myself moving to medium format in the foreseeable future but obviously if that was an ambition it would make sense to consider a multi format model.

Third question: automatic or manual feed? Some scanners allow for automatic feeding of images from a filmstrip or automatic advance of a film holder. Others require each individual frame to be placed manually. Since I don’t have a large archive of images to scan I went with manual feed.

Fourth question: which scanner? The options are quite limited – a quick search on B&H throws up only 32 film scanning devices in total. Once the first three questions are answered the options are reduced further. I chose this model from Plustek over a couple of others from the same company (one of which is identical in hardware but with different software) and a couple from Pacific Image which (under the brand name Reflecta) are well reviewed by filmscanner.info, but from user reviews do seem to have some quality control issues.

IN THE BOX

What can I say? It’s a black box with three buttons and slots for the supplied negative and positive film holders. That’s it. Apart from the on/off button there is a button marked ‘QuickScan’ which starts Plustek’s own basic software package, and a button marked ‘IntelliScan’ which starts the SilverFast SE Plus software from LaserSoft Imaging that comes with this particular model.

Also in the box is the software supplied on an ancient technology known as a ‘DVD’. Since I don’t have a DVD reader I did have to track down the relevant software online and load it from there.

Plustek’s customer service were very helpful here replying to my email explaining where to find the software, and providing a link to SilverFast within the day. With SilverFast I did have to get a new serial number but the process was quick and simple.

SOFTWARE: PLUSTEK QUICKSCAN AND SILVERFAST SE

Plustek provides its own QuickScan software which provides some basic scanning options, but I have no idea how good it is because I’ve never used it. There’s no reason to, since the scanner comes with SilverFast SE Plus.

Silverfast is to scanning what Photoshop is to photo editing. Like Photoshop, it’s not the most intuitive software so there is a bit of a learning curve. But it doesn’t take that long to get the hang of it since LaserSoft provides online video tutorials for almost every feature. SE Plus is one of three versions of the software, more advanced than SilverFast SE, less so than SilverFast AI Studio.

There are a lot of options even with this version of SilverFast as you can see below from the multiple menu items.

plustek-82100i-image-2-silverfast-se-plus

Plustek 8200i – Silverfast SE Plus

LaserSoft recommend starting with the ‘Workflow Pilot’ which provides a guided pathway through the many options. If you want more control over the decision making turning this feature off gives you access to all available tools.

SilverFast offers the option of saving your scan as a DNG file by selecting ‘48 Bit HDR RAW’ output for colour film. (HDR in this case just refers to the name LaserSoft gives to its own photo editing programme, nothing more). Choosing this disables most of the adjustment options and produces a ‘digital negative’ like the one below. This can then be inverted and adjusted in Lightroom using the Tone Curve or in Photoshop using Levels.

plustek-82100i-image-3-a-scanned-hdr-raw-image-open-in-lightroom

Plustek 8200i – A scanned HDR RAW image open in Lightroom

Using this method does produce significant colour casts once the image is inverted and it does require some work in your photo editor to correct these. This is complicated by the changes to the effect of many of Lightroom’s adjustment tools and sliders that result from inverting the image. However, you do get the hang of it with a little practice.

Life is simpler if you are scanning black and white film. Here, the appropriate output option is ‘16 Bit HDR RAW’, and the end result requires only a straightforward inversion: no colour, no problem.

Alternatively, you can let the software do more of the work and output an inverted, colour corrected 24 Bit TIF or JPG. Choosing this option allows you to select from the full range of available tools, the effects of which can be seen on the prescan displayed in the preview window. For the sake of brevity I’ll mention just a few of these tools.

SILVERFAST SE TOOLS

MULTIPLE EXPOSURE – ME

This tool scans the frame twice, once for shadows, once for highlights, and combines the two to create an image with better dynamic range. The effect is subtle at best, though it is possible it may be more effective when applied to positives rather than negatives. I leave this turned on.

DUST AND SCRATCH REMOVAL – ISRD / SRDX

There are two dust and scratch removal options – one hardware based using an infrared scan and one software based. These are labelled iSRD and SRDx respectively. SRDx is best avoided since it softens the image. There is an option to create a mask and restrict the effect to a specific area, which can work if the selected area has limited detail to start with.

When iSRD works, it works well. But I have found that in some situations it is limited in its effectiveness, particularly on long, straight scratches. It’s not a complete solution but even where it’s not fully effective it does have some value. In those cases you should expect to have to do further remedial work on damaged or dirty frames in your photo editor of choice. As far as I know the AI Studio version of SilverFast has a greater range of options for fine tuning iSRD so may be more effective. This is another function that I leave on since it does no harm and does some good. It’s important to note that iSRD does not work with black and white film. Using it will make a terrible mess of your monochrome scans.

FILM PROFILES – NEGAFIX

NegaFix allows you to select from a series of predefined film profiles created by LavaSoft. This covers films from the main manufacturers – Kodak, Ilford and Fuji plus a few others, including some I’ve never heard of. If your film of choice isn’t included you use the default settings. If you go for the AI Studio version you can fine tune the built in profiles or create your own.

Most of the other features of SilverFast I leave turned off since they are largely image adjustment tools – colour correction, contrast adjustment, sharpening and the like – that replicate what can be done better in Lightroom, Photoshop or other photo editors.

It makes no sense to me to apply these adjustments before scanning since they are then part of the final scan and can’t be subsequently undone. I personally use SilverFast to produce a minimally adjusted file which I can then edit in Lightroom.

IMAGE QUALITY

Though the scanner is rated at a nominal 7200dpi resolution the maximum actual resolution is somewhere around 3200 -3500dpi.

This gap between nominal and actual resolution is true of all scanners, though some come closer to the nominal figure than others. For me 3200-3500dpi is acceptable since it allows me to comfortably print at 12” x 8” which is as large as I ever go. Outputting a 48 Bit HDR RAW at 3600ppi resolution and 300ppi photo quality produces a DNG file that is 108MB. Outputting a 24Bit TIF at the same settings results in a file of 53.2MB. The resulting files are around 17MP.

So how do the scanned images look? Are they better than what I get from the lab at the time of developing?

For me, how they look initially is less important than how I can make them look. Doing my own scanning allows me to create DNG files that I can edit to my satisfaction, fine tuning each image to my taste. That flexibility allows me to get better scans than those I get from the lab.

At a certain point image quality becomes subjective so I’ve included a couple of samples – one black and white, one colour -below comparing different outputs of the same image. I’ve also included some crops for comparison.

SAMPLES

SET 1: KODAK PORTRA 400

This set includes the unedited 48-bit RAW DNG immediately below and a gallery of three images:

  • Plustek 48 Bit HDR RAW DNG file edited in Lightroom
  • Plustek 24 Bit TIF unedited other than perspective correction
  • Lab scanned JPG unedited other than perspective correction

These three images are provided in a gallery format. Simply click an image to view it full screen and then tap/swipe left/right to compare.

plustek-82100i-image-4-plustek-48-bit-hdr-raw-dng-file-unedited

Plustek 8200i – Plustek 48 Bit HDR RAW DNG file unedited

SET 2: ILFORD HP5 PLUS

This set includes the unedited 16-bit RAW DNG immediately below and a gallery of three images:

  • Plustek 8 Bit TIF unedited other than perspective correction
  • Plustek 16 Bit HDR RAW DNG file edited in Lightroom
  • Lab Scanned JPG unedited other than perspective correction

These three images are provided in a gallery format. Simply click an image to view it full screen and then tap/swipe left/right to compare.

plustek-82100i-image-8-plustek-16-bit-hdr-raw-dng-file-unedited2

Plustek 8200i – Plustek 16 Bit HDR RAW DNG file unedited

SET 3: 100% CROPS

For those of you interested in the detail that can be resolved with this scanner, I have provided three 100% crops based on the image below. The source image is a 16 Bit HDR RAW DNG file converted and edited to taste in Lightroom. The film is ILFORD HP5 PLUS.

The crops are as follows:

    • Lab scanned JPG 1000px crop
    • Plustek 16 Bit HDR RAW DNG file converted no additional editing or sharpening 1000px crop
  • Plustek 16 Bit HDR RAW DNG file converted and edited to taste in Lightroom1000px crop

These three images are provided in a gallery format. Simply click an image to view it full screen and then tap/swipe left/right to compare.

plustek-82100i-image-11-plustek-16-bit-hdr-raw-dng-file-converted-and-edited-to-taste-in-lightroom1

Plustek 8200i – Plustek 16 Bit HDR RAW DNG file converted and edited to taste in Lightroom

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

I got mine at B&H where it was selling for $290 reduced from the usual $360. It’s also available at Amazon (via Adorama). Plustek’s regional websites provide information on where to buy for different countries.

CONCLUSION

I’ll keep it brief. I’m happy with the Plustek scanner and the SilverFast software.

I believe that it gives me more flexibility and more scope in digitising my negatives and I’m pleased with results I’m getting already. I expect that with practice and greater familiarity with the software I’ll get still better outcomes.

Thanks for reading!

~ Olli Thomson


Big thanks to Olli for sharing his scanner review with our blog readers.  This post was originally published on the Emulsive website.   EMULSIVE is a space for film photographers of all ages and backgrounds to share their knowledge, experience and thoughts about everything related to film photography.

One thought on “Review of OpticFilm 8200i SE, by Photographer Olli Thomson

  1. Pingback: Test unseres OpticFilm 8200i SE durch den Fotograf Olli Thomson | Plustek Blog Deutschland

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