By Mark D Segal
Lasersoft Imaging Inc. asked me whether I would be interested in preparing a review of the Plustek 7600i-Ai film scanner, which comes bundled with SilverFast Ai 6.6 Studio and a SilverFast IT8 target for profiling the scanner. The agreement between LSI and me was that they would arrange a loan of the scanner and software, I would design the review, test the package, receive technical support from them if needed and “call the shots” as I see them.
The Plustek 7600i is a rather unique product for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is the result of a close collaborative relationship between independent developers of hardware and software. The scanner was designed to work optimally with SilverFast, and the two companies cooperated to assure operational coherence between the hardware and the software.
Secondly, if you look around the market for dedicated film scanners these days, you will see that there is precious little available – especially of equipment which can deliver quality scans with high dynamic range and high resolution in 16-bit format. The Plustek 7600i-Ai retails in the USA for $520. An independent purchase of the bundled software would cost $218 from LSI’s website, hence the residual value of the scanner alone for the advertised specifications (16 bit/channel depth, 3.5 dynamic range, 7200 PPI optical resolution and availability of the infra-red channel) is truly very low relative to the prices of previous equipment in its technical range.
Café Sacher, Vienna 1987, Kodachrome
Photograph and Scan by Mark D Segal
So given the paucity of considerable alternatives for quality film scanning and the very attractive pricing of this model for the stated specifications, I thought it would be most interesting to try it and see what I could make it deliver.
This is a results-oriented review set in a comparative context and limited to 35mm positive and negative colour transparency films. The comparators are scanners capable of delivering high optical resolution, good dynamic range and 16-bit depth: specifically the discontinued Nikon Super Coolscan 5000ED and the still current Epson Perfection V750-M Pro which is Epson’s high-end flatbed scanner with the film scanning adapter built-in to the lid (US $850).
The results of interest to me, and I expect to most other photographers who scan film, are (in no intended order of priority): (a) operating speed, (b) efficiency of dust and scratch removal, (c) rendition of image detail (d) colour consistency between the original media, the scan and the same image opened in Photoshop and (e) rendition of detail in the lower quarter-tones. Hence this review examines the Plustek in the context of the three scanners for both positives and negatives.
My findings are summed-up below. Readers interested in the detailed analysis leading to these conclusions may download the full review in PDF format here.
Summing-Up on the Plustek Optic Film 7600i-Ai
I believe this is a very respectable package, especially considering its price:
Physically the scanner looks well-constructed (though I have no idea of its longevity – or that of the others); the simplicity of its feed mechanism and fixed focus augur well for maintenance. The preview time is very fast, and the scan time ranges from fast to slower (than the Nikon) depending on the pixel dimensions of the images being scanned.
SilverFast iSRD (for dust and scratch removal) works well with this scanner, which is a real boon to productivity in terms of obtaining clean scans in little time.
Granularity of fine detail, when seen in a properly sharpened 11*16.5 inch print, is close to that obtained from the Nikon scanner.
The combination of the Plustek Optic Film 7600i and SilverFast Ai Studio with Auto IT8 profiling provides a viable colour management solution for the scanner component of a colour-managed workflow. It performs considerably better on Kodachrome than achieved from the Nikon scanner using the same software for Nikon. On the whole, the Epson scanner handled Kodachrome the best of the three.
Separation of tones within the quarter-tone range is acceptable and better than may be expected from its lower stated DMax rating (compared with the Nikon and Epson scanners).
Now, is this the scanner for you?
As usual, it depends. It is a dedicated 35mm film scanner, so if you need to scan other media and will buy only one scanner, this is not the one for you – a flatbed with film scanning capability such as the Epson would be the indicated choice. If you want a dedicated film scanner for the extra bit of quality the technology can deliver with 35mm film, you don’t mind spending time colour correcting Kodachrome and you want the best granularity obtainable for less then 15,000 dollars (e.g. the Hasselblad Flexscan) and you don’t mind spending over 2000 dollars on eBay for a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000ED, bide your time, bite the bullet and go for the Nikon. If you want a practical, immediately available, very reasonably priced and high quality scanning solution for 35mm film, you’ll get good value for money with the Plustek Optic Film 7600i-Ai.
Download the Full PDF Review
Mark is a periodic contributor of essays and ideas to this website. He has been making photographs for five decades, got into digital imaging with Photoshop 6 and a film scanner in 1999, was fully digital and a “raw image” convert since 2004 and has produced thousands of inkjet prints using successive generations of Photoshop, Camera Raw and Epson professional printers.
A sample of Mark’s work can be seen at www.markdsegal.com, where he also has information about custom training he provides on Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom and SilverFast (scanning software).