Where once dedicated film scanners were in rich supply, these days their numbers have thinned somewhat, with former big players – like Nikon and Minolta – now leaving this area well alone.
That’s good news for Plustek, which has continued to bring out new models, such as the 7200 and 7600 over the last few years.
Many a decent flatbed scanner can turn its hand to 35mm slides and negatives. However, the Plustek OpticFilm 8100 is aimed at those who need high quality, but don’t necessarily have huge sums to spend.
The OpticFilm has a smartly coloured dark blue coat, and makes a rather exotic addition to your desk. Its footprint is considerably smaller than that of a flatbed, and while the 272mm depth is similar, its width measures a mere 120mm.
Slides are clipped into one of two plastic slide holders, and these holders are then inserted into the side of the 8100. One can hold up to four mounted slides, the other for filmstrips of up to six frames.
You’ll have to make sure you have at least 175mm of airspace either side of the Plustek.
The mechanism is basic compared to older models from other manufacturers, although it does mean there’s little to break down on the 8100.
The holders are sturdy enough, and for now at least, replacements are easy to obtain. The need to manually guide makes the Plustek unsuitable for scanning bulk slides.
The Plustek OpticFilm 8100 isn’t about scanning at speed, more about quality of image. Resolution goes up to 7200dpi. This sounds very impressive – and, compared to many flatbed scanners, it remains a searing figure.
It's worth noteing that the majority of Plustek models (some of which have been around since the middle of the last decade) have offered this same 7200dpi resolution.
So 7200dpi was always significantly superior to the figures boasted by Nikon and Minolta models; and the Plusteks have shown again and again that they fare extremely well on quality.
Nonetheless, it would be nice to see some rise in this figure at some point. The dynamic range of 3.6 hints at the Plustek’s attention to colour depth, and, as we shall see, this can supposedly be extended further still.
Two main sets of software come with the Plustek. The Presto titles are cheap and cheerful (not to say a trifle clunky), but will suffice for basic scans. A small icon on the taskbar allows you to adjust the default settings, and you can then hit the QuickScan button and have the Plustek work on the current slide without having to worry about any other menus.
Plustek OpticFilm 8100: Performance
Scan times for most of the resolutions are fairly modest. The lowest setting of 600dpi produced a finished 2.2MB image within 36 seconds. This moved up to 45 and 53 seconds for 2400dpi and 3600dpi slides respectively.
Only at the highest resolution of 7200dpi (where the file consumed 300MB) did the time go out to a rather long-winded 2 minutes and 17 seconds. The quality of these slides was incredibly good, with blades of grass beautifully rendered even at the lower resolutions.
Presto’s enhancement tools, however, are very limited, and those wishing to harness the true power of the Plustek will find the SilverFast SE Plus 8 software package to be their main port of call.
SilverFast SE Plus 8 is far more complex than Presto, but the WorkFlow Pilot does a good job of taking you through the process, and there are some invaluable tools available.
The NegaFix option, for example, really did enhance the quality of our negative film scans. Even more useful is the MultiExposure facility, which scans the slide multiple times at various exaggerated exposure levels, and then uses this information to create a hybrid that benefits from superior dynamic range – supposedly this boosts the figure from 3.6 to around 3.9.
We couldn’t testify as to whether the 3.9 range is achieved, but greater attention to details and handling of extreme shades was certainly evident.
This comes at quite a cost in time, as it doubles the scanning time. Indeed, with most of SilverFast’s enhancement features switched on, the highest resolution scans require in excess of 10 minutes, and even a simple 600dpi scan took up a 1 minute and 6 seconds.
There are some features this model doesn’t come with. Should you be prepared to spend around £400 on the Plustek 8200i Ai, you’ll get an enhanced version of SilverFast.
The 8200i Ai comes with IT8 colour calibration, while iSRD (infrared Smart Removal of Defects) should prove more effective at removing dust and scratches than the slightly underdone tools offered with the 8100.