Flatbed scanners can do an adequate job of scanning slides and negatives if you want to make small prints or digital slide shows on CDs or DVDs. But if you're blowing up a beautiful, old vacation photo to 11 by 17 inches, you'll want to look at a dedicated film scanner.
Nikon recently introduced its lowest priced film scanner, the Coolscan V ED, for $599. That's still considerably more than the typical $100 flatbed scanner, but much less than the $1,000-plus that film scanners cost just a couple of years ago.
Unlike a flatbed scanner, the Coolscan V ED can capture 4,000 dots per inch from a film strip, which means you can blow up a 35mm frame to a high-quality 11-by-17 print.
The Coolscan comes with attachments for scanning mounted 35mm slides and film strips; an attachment for APS film is available separately. Unfortunately, the scanner can't scan popular formats from the 1950s, '60s and '70s such as 110 and 126.
During a month of testing, the only problem encountered had to do with film type. The scanner has settings for film negative, positive and Kodachrome, which must be selected before clicking the scan button. Several slides scanned on the positive setting looked as if they had halos around the bright spots in the image. Rather than being a problem with the scanner, it turned out that the slides were Kodachrome film but had been put into unmarked mounts. Once the scanner setting was changed to Kodachrome, the images looked sharp.
Nikon says you can scan an image in under 40 seconds. Well, that's true - if you scan at a moderate resolution or don't use any of the automatic enhancements. Once you turn on Digital ICE (to help eliminate dust specs and scratches) or Digital ROC (to improve the color of faded film) or scan to a larger file size, scan times will increase substantially.
The Coolscan V ED is a bit pricey for most consumers, but if you need high-quality scans of 35mm film or slides on a regular basis, its abilities are well worth the price.