MINOLTA DIMAGE SCAN ELITE 5400 REVIEW
Last Updated August 13, 2003
I received my Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 on Friday July 25, 2003 and started testing it immediately. As a lot of people are eager to read some reviews on this new and very competitively-priced scanner before making a purchase decision, I thought that, as one of the very first users of this scanner, I ought to publish my impressions and findings to assist other colleague photographers.
So here it is, I tried to keep it simple and to the point, with the primary objective being providing relevant information for would-be buyers.
PRICE: I did a quick scan of who sells this product in the US and decided on Adorama because its price was lower ($829.99 US) comparing to B & Hís ($ 899.00 US). There are a few dealers that offer this product for a little bit less money, but as I donít know them and their operation seems to be much smaller than that of Adorama, I chose the latter as offering the best comfort/price ratio.
PACKAGING: the Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 comes neatly packed in a cardboard box with all needed accessories for the user to quickly put it in operation. More importantly, it comes with a USB and IEEE 1394 (FireWire) cables.
OPERATION: the scanner comes with a set of scan programs: DiMAGE Scan Utility, Easy Scan Utility and Batch Scan Utility, plus a complementary copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements Version 2. In my tests, I only used the DiMAGE Scan Utility. It is very easy to use with all the standard functions and features of a semi-pro scanner program.
RESOLUTIONS: the Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 supports the following preset resolutions: 540, 675, 900, 1350, 1800, 2700 and 5400. I started my tests by scanning a few 35mm slides in 5400 DPI mode (each slide generates approximately 200MB with 16-bit color depth) then switched to 2700 DPI (53MB with 16-bit color depth) to save disk space. I personally donít think that the extra disk space consumption justifies scanning every slide or negative in 5400 DPI mode, especially if the image is a close-up or macro. See test samples.
DYNAMIC RANGE: the Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 has an excellent dynamic range, which means that you will be able to see more details in the dark areas in your pictures.
ICE: the Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 comes standard with ICE (Image Correction Enhancement) software, which is very effective, but taxing on the scanning time (approximately 10 minutes to scan a 35mm slide in 5400 DPI or 2700 DPI modes). The generated file size does not change whether you scan with or without ICE.
SCANNING TIMES: to do my tests, I used a Pentium 4-equipped PC running at 1.8 GHz with 512 MB of memory and the virtual memory set at 766 MB. All my scans were made using 16-bit color depth and FireWire interface:
- 4 to 4.5 minutes at 2700 DPI
- ~9 minutes at 2700 DPI with ICE
- 2.5 to 3 minutes at 5400 DPI (I donít know why it takes less time than for a 2700 DPI scan)
- ~9 minutes at 5400 DPI with ICE
RECOMMENDATION: one should always use the Unsharp Mask (I use Photoshop), as even at 5400 DPI with MANUAL focus (which I always use) the output image is not as sharp as what one could get with some pre- or post-scanning tweaking with the Unsharp Mask function. Also, if you want to see more vibrant and saturated colors, you should add 10 to 20 units in your Contrast setting (I do this with Photoshop). I also found that the Auto Settings of the Curves and Histograms function in the Image Correction Option is not very effective: with Velvia 50 slides the resulting colors are too green to my liking. I mostly rely on Photoshop Auto settings (Auto Levels, Auto Contrast and Auto Color) and then will tweak a little bit with the Curves if I am still not satisfied with the results.
MY SCANNING WORKFLOW: after having used the Minolta Dimage Scan Elite 5400 intensively for over 2 weeks now, here is the workflow routine that I go through for EACH negative or slide that is worth my scanning time (I always scan at 2700 DPI):
1) Minolta: I always use ICE.
2) Minolta: I always use MANUAL Focus.
3) Photoshop: I crop or rotate whenever it is necessary.
4) Photoshop: I always apply the Unsharp Mask (Amount: 40%, Radius 10, Threshold: 0).
5) Photoshop: I always apply Auto Levels.
6) Photoshop: I always apply Auto Contrast.
7) Photoshop: I always apply Auto Color, except when I find that the result is not satisfying then I would skip to Step 8.
8) Photoshop: if necessary I tweak the color with a manual Color Balancing.
9) Photoshop: I sometimes tweak the image further by playing with the 'curves'.
It may seem very time consuming (15 minutes of scan time plus one minute of manipulation per picture), but I want to scan my negatives and slides only ONCE and then generate lower-resolution versions in whatever file formats I may need later. Having other things to do while the scanner is humming is a good thing, always think about multi-tasking if you don't want to waste months scanning your library of negatives and slides.
CONCLUSION: the Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 is very competitively priced and easy to use. Unfortunately I have never used the Nikon CoolScan 4000 so I cannot say whether the Nikon 40-bit color depth feature produces any noticeable image quality difference.
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