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12 February 2016
A few days ago a Plustek OpticFilm 135 arrived for review. The compact unit scans 35mm film strips up to six frames in length as well as individually mounted 35mm slides.
At $399, it's significantly more expensive than a flatbed scanner with a transparency unit (which scans as many frames at the same time). You can, for example, get the excellent CanoScan 9000F Mark II for just $170.
Plustek defines its OpticFilm line as "specialized Expert Digitize Tool for scanning Slide and Negatives. Our models are used by Professional Photographers, Graphic Designers, and for personal use." That's a pretty broad description, though.
A closer look at the OpticFilm 135 reveals it's designed for personal use by someone who has no background in scanning. It isn't designed for either professional use or even use by serious amateurs.
They'll both miss features like calibration and infrared scanning, not to mention third-party support for multipass scans.
Plustek listed the key features of the $399 OpticFilm 135 as:
- Optical resolution up to 3,600 dpi with dynamic range up to 3.4
- Automatic batch scanning up to six 35mm films or four slides
- QuickScan Plus offers enhancement tools and effects for automatic and manual adjustment
- Non-destructive editing for side-by-side comparison
- Direct uploading to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and Picasa
- Three quick buttons for easy batch scanning
- Supports panoramic film scanning (optional film holder available 2016 Spring)
- Supports both Mac OS X and Windows
Let's take a closer look at a couple of those features.Resolution
The optical resolution cited by the manufacturer represents an engineering ideal and is not representative of real world results. We'll have more to say about that in the third segment of this review.
If you can't wait, take a look at the resolution and print size charts in our OpticFilm 120 review. They show that if the OpticFilm 135 can deliver at least 2,650 dpi, you'll be able to make inket prints at 150 dpi as large as 17.67 x 26.50 inches.Dynamic Range
As for dynamic range, the rule of thumb is that you need a dynamic range of 2.0 for reflective material like prints. Slides can have a dynamic range of 3.2 to no more than 4.0 and negs a little less.
That's where multipass scanning comes in. A slide whose dynamic range exceeds the scanner's can be scanned twice, once for the shadows and once for the highlights, effectively increasing the captured dynamic range.
The OpticFilm 135's 3.4 dynamic range isn't bad but is significantly less than the OpticFilm 120's 4.01 using SilverFast Multi-Exposure.
Plustek lists the following specifications for the OpticFilm 135:
OPTICFILM 135 SPECIFICATIONS Sensor CCD Light Source LED Infrared Scanning No Optical Resolution 3600 dpi Scan Modes Color: 48-bit input, 24/48-bit output
Grayscale: 16-bit input, 8/16-bit output
Dynamic Range 3.4 Scan Speed 40 seconds: maximun scanning area, color, 600 dpi
205 seconds: maximun scanning area, color, 3600 dpi
Scan Area 35mm x 226mm (1.37 x 8.9 inches) Holders Six-frame film strip holder
Four-frame mounted slide holder
Batch Scanning Automatic Buttons Eject button plus three Scan buttons (Positive, Negative, Custom) Power 24 volts DC, 0.75 amps via an adapter Connectivity USB 2.0 Weight 3.49 lbs. Dimensions 6.9 x 10.2 x 4.1 inches List Price $399
The OpticFilm 135 is not supported by third-party scanning solutions including SilverFast, VueScan and Image Capture. Consequently, the software requirements for Plustek's QuickScan Plus are worth noting as well:
SOFTWARE SPECIFICATIONS Compatibility Windows 7, 8, 10
Mac OS X 10.8.x, 10.9.x, 10.10.x, 10.11.x
Hardware Requirements 2-GHz processor or faster (Intel only on OS X)
2-GB RAM (4-GB RAM recommended)
10-GB free space on hard disk
CD/DVD drive or Internet connection
Plustek says the OpticFilm 135 supports its button functions on OS X 10.11 El Capitan, which is not the case with other scanning software.
IN THE BOX
Included in the 6.55 lb. shipping box are:
- The OpticFilm 135 scanner
- 35mm slide holder
- 35mm negative strip holder
- USB cable
- AC adapter
- Installation poster
- Software CD
The OpticFlm 135 also includes a limited one-year warranty from Plustek.
The scanner itself is compact, larger than a hardback book but smaller than a shoe box. The black plastic cover mounts to a metal base plate.
Like the OpticFilm 120, there is a slot in the front of the scanner that runs straight through the back. The film holders are fed into the front slot and automatically fed through the scanner, coming out the back before being returned to the front.
There are five buttons on the top front, two of which also include an LED that changes color to indicate status.
The five buttons are:
- Eject: To manually eject a loaded holder (with LED status).
- Positive: To scan slides.
- Negative: To scan black-and-white or color negative film strips.
- Custom: To scan with custom settings.
- Power Saving: Press to wake the scanner, hold for two seconds to put the scanner to sleep (with LED status).
The LED indicators change color to indicate status:
LED INDICATORS EJECT POWER STATUS ● Scanner is on, no holder inserted ● ● Holder inserted, ready to scan ● Holder being scanned ● ● Holder has been ejected, remove
Holder cannot be inserted, no USB connection
● Scanner is in sleep mode No power
The buttons are merely conveniences. The scanning software itself can drive the scanner.
The back of the unit contains a Kensington security latch to the left of the rear holder slot. The USB data connection and the power brick connector are both below the slot. And in the top right corner is the Power switch.
Like the OpticFilm 120 holders, the holders are well built, far more industrial than what ships with flatbeds that have transparency units.
Both the slide and film strip holders have one geared side so the OpticFilm 135 can position them. Arrows embossed into the plastic frames of the holders make it clear which end goes in first.
At the leading end are a series of holes that tell the scanner which holder has been inserted (which determines the crop areas but not positive/negative scanning). The side holder has one hole open and three closed while the film strip holder has all four open.
The film strip holder has magnetic latches to hold the hinged cover closed.
The slide holder uses a plastic spring design to hold each of four mounted slides in position. But like the OpticFilm 120 holders, the plastic masks of the slide holder crop non-standard slide sizes to 35mm dimensions (1.0 x 1.5 inches).
With 35mm frames the issue of film flatness is pretty moot. The film strip holder does have spines between the frames on both sides of the holder that serve to flatten the film as well as mask the frames. The slide holder introduces no issue that isn't present in the mounted slide already.
Like the slide holder, the film strip holder masks are unforgiving. If, for example, your camera did not advance the film exactly the same amount as the holder's vertical bars assume, you'll be masking off image areas in some frames. And that does happen. So we'd prefer to see a holder with no vertical bars and software smart enough to find the frames. A panorama holder, we've been told, will be available separately. Or you could just cut the bars off.
Finally, film should be mounted with the non-glossy, emulsion side down. You'll only find that in the documentation.
(Editor's Note: This is the first part of a multi-part review of the Plustek OpticFilm 135. Links to the other stories are in the main table of contents at the top right of each story.)