I recently inherited a box of around 4,000 film slides and was asked to scan them in. I decided that my existing film/slide scanner, a Veho VFS-001, was not up to the task so I investigated alternatives, and eventually settled on a Reflecta DigitDia 5000 – which is simply a rebadged (and cheaper!) Braun Multimag 4000.
First let me show you the specs, pinched directly from the manufacturer’s page:
The consistent advancement of DigitDia 4000 resulted in a substantially reduced scanning speed. More efficient working is now ensured by the faster scanning speed of only 90 seconds at full resolution of 3600 dpi. In addition, the scanner now has an improved and more stable USB 2.0 connection. Scanning is done directly from the slide magazine with a capacity of 100 slides and Digital ICE Technology.
No large-scale and manual inserting of single slides. The easy and fast way for high quality scanning of slides format 24x36mm for archival on CD, projection with digital-projectors, viewing on PC or TV, sending the images by e-mail, printing at home or exposure the images on professional lab on high quality photo-paper. Compatible for CS/Universal/Braun and LKM Magazines.
- Digital ICE™ – Hardware-based Dust-and Scratch removal with infrared sensors and automatically Software correction.
- DigitalROC™ – Color Restoration; Image Quality will be restored.
- DigitalGEM™ – Grain Management; minimize grain to restore the image’s sharpness.
- Image Sensor: Linear Array Color CCD
- Scanning mode: 48 Bit
- Optical Resolution: 3600×3600 dpi
- Lamp: Cold Cathode Fluorescent lamp
- Scanning preview: 15 seconds
- Scanning Speed (ICE off):
- ColorScan 1800 dpi 60 seconds
- ColorScan 3600 dpi 120 seconds
- Max. Scanning Area: 37.5 x 37.5 mm
- Dynamic Range: 3.8 Dmax.
- Batch Scanning: directly from magazine
- PC Interface: USB 2.0
- Output connector: 1x USB 2.0
- Viewer: Slide Viewer with backlight to examine slide
All sounds promising so far, and the Digital ICE sounds like a definite bonus, as frankly I can’t be bothered to clean 4,000 slides.
I’ve now scanned in over 2,000 of my slides so I feel I can write about the scanner with at least some experience.
In general, no problems at all with the image quality. For a 35mm slide, you get an image that’s around 14 megapixels in resolution. Some of the slides I encountered were some other format (sorry, don’t know much about film!) and were square. With these, you get around 10 megapixels.
The colour reproduction isn’t great. The colours are not well saturated and the scans have a distinctly washed-out feel to them. This is no problem if you plan to edit the photos manually later, e.g. using Photoshop or GIMP. The scanner package also includes a feature for colour restoration, DigitalROC, which brings me on to my next point…
DigitalROC is useless. Avoid avoid avoid. In photos that are well exposed and colourful in the first instance, it does an OK job and livens the colours up a little. In photos that are anything more than slightly underexposed, DigitalROC comes crashing in and ruins the photo. It makes parts of the picture look like they are in 16 colours. Unfortunately I didn’t realise this until after I’d done a few hundred slides, and I’ve had to go back and redo them without DigitalROC. In the end I resorted to using GIMP to adjust the colours – I found that the “Auto white balance” tool usually fixed the colours.
The original sample photo below was underexposed but by no means beyond repair with a little bit of gentle tweaking. But here’s what the DigitalROC made of it…
The other software-based enhancement, DigitalGEM is not a lot better. This is supposed to automatically sharpen the image, but I guess the risk with any automatic tool is that there’s no “one size fits all” solution. On some of my photos, DigitalGEM did such a “good” job of sharpening that it cut people’s faces out with hard edges that made them look like cartoon characters.
This next sample shows how DigitalGEM has oversharpened the glasses on the bridge of my great-grandmother’s nose. Perhaps you can’t see in this scaled-down version, and maybe that’s OK; maybe that means DigitalGEM has got away it. But click for the full-resolution version and see how odd it looks. I’m not really happy about this being done to my photos!
The only enhancement I found to be any good was Digital ICE – the hardware-based technology for removing (well, working around) scratches and dust using infrared light. I haven’t directly compared the same slide with and without Digital ICE, but in the scans that I have done, there isn’t a lot of obvious dust. Sure, it misses larger items like deep scratches and eyelashes, but it seems good at minimising the effect of dust.
The scanner automatically crops the image. This usually works well, although almost all of my scans were rotated by approximately half a degree. Sometimes the auto cropper crops close enough that you can’t tell, other times you get annoying wonky black borders.
Software user interface
The supplied software is rather crude. It is unlike any scanning software I’ve seen before, in that you don’t actually get to see your photos anywhere in the software. In my case, that didn’t bother me. I simply turned off DigitalROC and DigitalGEM, increased the resolution to 3600dpi from its default of 1800dpi (this took some searching) and from then on I simply commanded it to scan trays in batch.
It does not work on Windows Vista, and for you Linux users out there, I couldn’t get it to work on wine either. Maybe with some fighting you could make it go, but it was quicker for me to dig out my old laptop with Windows XP. An Apple OS X version of the software is included, so I can’t vouch for it and I don’t know if it’s any different.
For me, this was the main reason for buying such an expensive scanner, and the main advantage over the Veho. In reality, it has been a bit of a disappointment.
First off, Reflecta provide a 100-slide tray with the scanner. Great, I thought, and immediately loaded 100 slides into it. But it quickly became clear that this tray was not well designed and does not hold the slides straight (only up on edge, not along the bottom). If the slides are not straight, they can’t slide neatly into the scanner – and worse yet, as the slides are only held upright along one edge, as soon as they start to slide into the scanner, away from the support, they immediately fall over. Useless!
Luckily, I had a 50-slide tray that came bundled with the slides I inherited. This holds the slides and supports them all the way as they slide in and out. But I still had difficulty with the reliability of the loading mechanism. The first video shows how it should work, and the second shows what it does when it fails.
The most reliable slides in my experience are the fairly thick plastic-framed ones with rounded corners. The mechanism seems fairly able to capture them properly and slide them into the scanner. The round corners means they don’t snag on the “track” they slide along.
I also had some rather thicker slides, with the film sandwiched between two pieces of glass. These had square corners. They usually load into the scanner fine, but upon trying to unload them they often jam and have to be manually removed. This is an unrecoverable jam and so your batch job stops. Pretty annoying if this is in the first few of the tray!
The vast majority of my slides are “standard” thickness and either plastic with round corners, or card with square corners. These almost never get loaded properly, as the arm that pokes the slides into the scanner misses the slide completely, and you get a blank scan. So if you’re scanning thinner slides, you do really need to sit with the scanner and help it along when it changes over. Pretty annoying, as each scan takes almost two minutes, so a tray of 50 keeps you tied to your desk for an hour and a half!
I’ve managed with this scanner by saving my few thick, plastic slides for unattended overnight jobs, and scanning the thin ones whenever I have time to supervise the scanner.
- Very good image quality if you disable DigitalROC and DigitalGEM, and are prepared to play with the white balance and/or saturation yourself
- The autoloader is not very good at all unless you have a specific type of slide, and defeats the object of having a batch scanner.
- It is rather noisy – not only when changing slides but also when scanning slides. Comparable to an inkjet printer, perhaps.
- Software is rather crude, but does its job. You’ll be editing your photos in a third-party application anyway so who cares!
- It has still saved me significant labour compared with scanning 4,000 slides in the Veho!