Nathan Griffin Photographs

slide scanner - minolta dimage 5400

Macro Flower

The tool that I use to scan my 35mm transparencies is the Minolta Dimage 5400 film scanner. If you shoot slides or film and want to go digital, this is one of the best consumer scanners made for this purpose. Prior to getting this unit I tried using a consumer flatbed scanner. Results were very frustrating with this method and I am very pleased to have stepped up to a better tool. There are better scanning methods for transparency film, namely drum scans, but this is the best consumer grade film scanner that I could get my hands on for the cash I was willing to spend. I think it is a great compromise to more expensive units and well worth it.

The Minolta 5400 has a tray capable of scanning up to 4 mounted slides or 6 filmstrip images in a batch mode. The scanner comes with software to control the device - I use it for the bare minimum requirements to get the image in digital form with all adjustments made in Photoshop.

front picture of minolta dimage scan elite 5400

Reviews and test on other sites get into the nitty gritty of every detail of the Minolta Dimage 5400. I will spare you most of the details but will share some insight on the operation of the unit and the settings that I have success with. The screenshots below are from Dimage Scan Utility, the software that comes with the unit.

All of the images in my gallery pages have been scanned with the Minolta 5400. It is a pleasure to use and is more than adequate for capturing detail in transparencies and negative film.

screenshot of minolta dimate scan elite 5400 scanning software


screenshot of minolta dimate scan elite 5400 scanning software

  • Resolution - I only want to scan once and I have never found the need to lower the resolution from the max of 5400 DPI; I always use this setting. Since scanning at a lower resolution does not seem to decrease the scan time, it is just as well to scan at full resolution and resize in Photoshop later if the need arises.

  • Digital ICE - This technology removes dust and scratches from your final scanned image. It works wonders! I use it all the time when scanning transparencies and color negatives. Even with film that is straight from the developer, there is always dust on the film. The only downside to using ICE is a slightly softer image. I have scanned both with and without on the same image to see any difference. The only noticeable difference is all the dust visible when ICE is turned off! Digital ICE can not be used with traditional black and white film. This is reason enough for me to never shoot another roll of B&W film. I simply shoot color and convert to B&W in Photoshop.

  • Grain Dissolver - This feature enables an optical device to be placed between the film and the optical sensor to reduce the appearance of grain in your scans. It is similar to the Scanhancer product that was developed for the Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro. The software forces you to use grain dissolver when Digital ICE is turned on, so this feature is always in use for my scans

  • Auto Exposure for Slides - Off - Allowing the scanner to auto expose sometimes results in dark scans that seem to remove some of the information in the shadows. I may be wrong in this but I choose to leave it off and make all corrections necessary in Photoshop.

  • Manual Focus Dial - On - The focusing process is a simple game of turning the dial on the front of the scanner until you make two lines match up on the screen. It seems that the scanner could probably do this just as well as I could in auto focus mode, and it probably can. I have never had the scanner miss focus while in auto mode. Still, if I have the time and am working on one slide at a time I usually choose manual focus. If I am using the batch scan utility, the scanner uses auto focus. I have heard alot of people complain that the focus does not work on the 5400. This may be true for some but I think this assessment comes from two things: First, some people are scanning old transparencies that have warped over time making the focus difficult. Second, the scanner has such high detail and resolution that many are seeing for the first time the effects of poor technique. An unstable tripod and head becomes very apparent with scans from the Minolta Dimage 5400.

  • Color Depth - 16 Bit - The plus is that 16 bit color depth will result in more accurate colors and a greater dynamic range. In reality, the difference will probably be very hard for mos people to see. Again, since I only want to scan once, I try to squeeze all I can from the machine and scan at 16 bit color depth. the downside to this is the file size is doubled resulting in monster 230 Mb files!

  • Multi-Sample Scan - ? - The multi-sample feature basically scans the same portion of the film multiple times and averages the results. The reasoning is that a single sample of data will have some errors, referred to as "noise". By taking multiple scans and averaging you are essentially reducing the effect of errors. The only downside to multi-sample scanning is a possible loss of sharpness. I generally notice greater contrast and detail when using multi-sample scanning so I almost always turn this on. The question then becomes how many times to sample - the scanner offers 2x, 4x, 8x, and 16x. If I am batch scanning I may splurge and set the scanner on 16x knowing the machine has all night to do its thing. If time is an issue I will settle for 2x or 4x and reduce the scan time significantly. It seems the law of diminishing returns is in effect as I can see little difference between 4x and 16x multi-sample scanning.

  • Color Space - Adobe RGB - Please don't ask me to explain color space, but as I understand it, Adobe RGB has a much wider range (gamut) of colors available than other color spaces, such as sRGB. Again, in the interest of getting all the information that we can with the initial scan, I select Adobe RGB.

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