Nikon 8000L film Scanner

West Clear Creek

West Clear Creek

..a quick user review of the Nikon 8000L film scanner that I have been using for the last four to five years for my medium format negatives. As a result of a number of questions about how I get my images on the computer when I use a medium format camera with film, I decided it might be good to provide a quick update on my workflow with my film scanner.

The Nikon 8000L is a dedicated film scanner, not a flat bed scanner that can scan an assortment of images & documents. Thus I have very specific film holders that are designed for the scanning process; e.g. 35mm in slides, as flat film and for my application, for 120/220 mm film. Also, the Nikon 8000L was replaced by the Nikon 9000L about three years ago to improve on the scanning algorithums. So my bottom line, it provides awsome and huge scans, but don’t buy a used Nikon 8000L, buy instead a Nikon 9000L if you can find one.

So lets get to my chief grip with the 8000L, it does not give you the option to make a full range of values in your scan. For some reason the Nikon engineers blocked up the dark values, meaning that I should be able to get a full range of values; 1 – 255. With the 8000L, but I can never get the 1- about 30 values in my scan. After I import my image scan into Photoshop, I need to apply a levels adjustment to open the low values into the 1-5 range.

There is a Yahoo group for Nikon scanners that have talked this issue to death as to how to fix it, but there is no fix. After a lot of user pressure from the Yahoo group and picking up support from the Nikon user community, Nikon came out with the 9000L to fix the scanning issue, but no firmware update to fix the 8000L. grrrr. So if I was not making the move to a total digital workflow, I would be looking to sell the 8000L and purchase the 9000L.

The 8000L works great with a nice Dmax, about 4.1 so I do get full range of images, just a little compacted. I have had the same negative professionally scanned and when I compare them in Photoshop, the pro scan negative has a nicer tonal transition, but with some Photoshop tweaks I can get extremely close using my scan.

For medium format film, there is no noticeable difference between 120 and 220 mm films. I have scanned black & white Tri-X negatives from my earlier work in the 80’s and currently I am scanning color negative films. I scanned the black & white as a color negative to see if working with the blue channel would make a difference, but I could not detect an improvement, so I now scan black & white in the black & white mode.

What did make a difference was following a suggestion and making up glass holders for the film carrier. Due to the heat in the scanner, the film can buckle. Before the glass holder modification, I was lucky to get 50% of the scans completed without some loss of focus somewhere in the image. After the glass holders, now 100% sharp images. Yeah! I had to dissamble my 120 mm negative holder (you can buy a Nikon glass holder, but they were in short supply and expensive). Since I was not going back to scanning without the glass sandwhich, a calculated risk. Also, easier to find the stock 120 mm film holders if needed.

I had my local picture framing shop cut some glass (1/8″ thick) to fit the holder in both the non-glare and non-reflective picture framing glass. I did not notice any difference between the two, but others have seen Newton rings with the non-glare, but I believe they live in higher humidity locations. Note: if you get the glass too thick, you WILL jam the scanner and an absolute bear to get it back out. Now I place the negative between the two pieces of glass, with the “frosted” sides next to the negative and place this sandwhich in the negative holder and process normally. And yes, I do have more dust to “spot” after the scan because I now have another four more surfaces that can attack dust, and no matter what precautions I take, there is always a lot of dust to spot. Part of the process. FYI, I always archive the scan and then work on a copy (save as) of the scan.

Last point is the software options, besides the others there is one that does make a difference, but it will slow your scanning times down a lot. I check the 16x resampling option, which means it scannes the same site 16 times. It really makes a difference in the quality of the image, but it means that when I scan a 6x7cm negative in the color mode, the scan can take 3 hours. Thus the issue with the flattening of the negative, completing a 3 hour scan and then find out that I have to scan again to get a perfectly in focus image for another 3 hours is absolutly maddening.

I can recommend a dedicated film scanner to import your images into Photoshop, but please do not purchase the Nikon 8000L scanners unless you have some other issues you need to compromise on with regard to getting a full tonal scan.

Best regards, Doug

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