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Thursday, 29 July 2010


I killed my Nikon LS-2000 cleaning it.

I hadn't recognized the symptoms of gradually-increasing haloing, until one day I woke up and realized This Was Not Right! Looking at prices and features, I decided to risk cleaning it myself (I just blew off the front-surface mirrors with air).

I still don't really know what happened; I reassembled it and did a test scan and it WORKED, much better than before. And then the next morning it didn't work, and I never got it to work again.

So this wasn't even a case of ruining the alignment, or scratching a mirror, or one of the obvious problems. I don't know what the real problem was (I went in and wiggled connectors and all that afterward, didn't help).

In any case, I sold the carcass for parts on Ebay, so don't go telling me what I did wrong, it's no use to me now :-) .

I replaced it with a Coolscan 5000, AND got the slide feeder for it.

Which is now old enough that I should probably send it to Nikon for official TLC, before they forget how.

Hey! Lock and Dam #1!


Soooo ... don't scan. Use a digital SLR. Don't you wish all problems were so easy to solve?

I'm sure this does happen- to other peoples' scanners. They're usually very mean, generally unreasonable and probably most deserving of it.

Any advice from the community on where to get artixscan or polaroid scanners cleaned?

Dear Bill,

And you're gonna loan me your time machine, so I and my clients can retroactively produce digital versions of what we've already photographed on film, right?

Thanks, really appreciate your generosity!

pax / Ctein

I've got an Epson 2450 and from time to time have wondered whether it would be possible to improve its film scanning performance by replacing the glass with a thick piece of aluminium with a cutout to suit the film scanning area (something like 4"x10" from memory). There would probably be a bit of shimming to get the right height, but apparently they aren't always at optimum when they come from the factory.

When my (film)scans showed that same kind of haloing for all my scans and not only the ones taken with old Leica lenses, I got in doubt about the famous "Leica glow" and thought that the scanner might be dirty ... So I disassembled my Coolscan 4000ED and was able to clean the mirror but not the optics. Disassembling was easy but assembling took me a long time to avoid scratching the mirror... I would not do it again but bring my scanner to Nikon service and have it professionally cleaned.

I cleaned my old 3170 a couple of times - I think a flatbed is a little less daunting than a dedicated scanner. The last time I did it I went through and 'matt blacked' all the shiny surfaces following an article I saw somewhere on the web. That last bit of work did seem to improve things.

The V700 is much better all round, and doesn't seem to out-gas as bad as the 3170 either.

I would wonder how much extra scanner lifespan one can buy by cleaning. Even the most skilled and careful cleaning is going to take its toll on those mirrors over time, and some of the crud may not be removable at all. Perhaps the inside of a scanner is a better environment than the laser labs where I work (not impossible; environmental control is shockingly poor at my place of employment), but the quality of even our "protected" first-surface silver mirrors tends to degrade over time, and after a few years, no cleaning can rescue them.

This is actually one of those little issues I've pondered for years. Clearly, from the description:
"If you're good at mechanical assembly and disassembly and know exactly how to clean first-surface optics, go for it. If you don't, you need to hand this off to a trained professional.
...as well as the testimonials from others here I'm not inclined to tackle this job with my Nikon 5000 or my Epson 750 any time soon (i.e. ever). Nor am I inclined to spend/send them for "professional" cleaning.

Nope, I'm inclined to take two measures. First, I'm going to declare that the haziness is an artistic interpretation (hey, there are PS plug-ins that do that, too) for some images. But secondly, and more importantly, I'm going to continue to back away from film. (I'm already 95% there.) Film's PGR (Pain/Gain Ratio) has already exceeded 2.0 for me, and this just sends it to 2.25.

But thank you for exposing this dirty little topic, Ctein. It really is something I pondered.

Which scientists call it 'shmoosh'? They have not found their way to the internet, whoever they are.

I suspect this is a term coined by a practical scientist named Ctein.

As an aside on how quickly Google picks up a term, you can see that The Online Photographer is already a source for 'shmoosh'

Shmoosh on Google

I think what Bill was suggesting was using "slide copying" techniques with a digital SLR to digitize film. It's much faster than a scanner, the resolution depends on your camera, there's no ICE, the brightness range ain't half bad these days.

But if I'm wrong and Bill DOES have a time machine, I've got a few projects I'd like to borrow it for too!

Very timely subject for me as I'm just preparing to start some scanning with my Minolta Scan-Multi II. But I am completely amazed (and not a little disappointed) that the collective wisdom of the followers of TOP haven't yet offered any source for scanner cleaning services...

Dear Nick,

A good question, and I think it would depend entirely on how badly one's scanner surfaces collected crud. In my experience, cleaning the surfaces will extend the life of the device by at least a factor of three, but everyone's mileage will no doubt differ.

The situation inside the scanner is nowhere as bad as it is in your laser lab. None of the reflective or transmissive surfaces that acquire garbage (save for the underside of the platen) are anywhere close to image planes, focal planes, or nodal points in the optical system. As a result, slight scratches, nicks, and bits of crud that can't be removed don't noticeably degrade the image quality. I only did a half-assed cleaning on my scanner, because to go the whole anhydrous alcohol/distilled water/etc. route would've required completely disassembling the optical head to remove the components, and I had no faith that I would be able to get it back together again properly. So I gave the surfaces a cursory cleaning. They're 95% better than they were before, but they are terribly far from perfect; as a darkroom printer and amateur astronomer, I'd have fits if I saw that much crud on any of my lenses or mirrors in those venues. In the scanner, the performance is almost like new.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear Ken,

I love the idea of a PGR. How you calibrate that? Is there a unit standard reference in a bell jar under dry argon somewhere in Paris?


Dear DDB,

Oh you're no fun. My interpretation was a lot cooler.

Slide copying techniques, done with even the very good cameras and lenses, produce crappy results compare to a dedicated film scanner. Yes, they are a lot faster and easier. Faster and easier aren't part of my artistic niche; quality is what counts. In terms of color and tonal accuracy and bit depth, total density range captured, and resolution, I would have to spend at least $30,000 on digital camera equipment to approach what I can do with a $2000 scanner. If I just threw away the scanner every two years and bought a new one, I'd be better off economically!

The situation is different for flatbed scans. A very good camera copy setup can frequently rival a mid-line scanner, for all practical purposes.

(An aside: no, I don't want to hear from any readers telling me how wonderful their "slide copy" film scans are. No, they're not. They're quick and very easy, but they are not "good" save for a very small value of that word.)

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

I agree with Bill Rogers. Got rid of film,enlarger,trays,chemicals,
etc.,etc.,etc. years ago. I shoot with digital cameras, adjust pics
on computer software, and download to iPad for displaying my
pics to others. If I ever get an once in a lifetime photo,I'll blow
it up to 13x19 on my inkjet printer for hanging on the wall so
all my friends can admire how great a photographer I am.

If you have an Epson flatbed, I put up a page a while ago with .pdf files and tips to help disassemble these scanners at:


The information posted there should help many Epson owners get inside the case to clean things. Most people stop after cleaning the underside of the glass. One word of caution though - use cleaning fluid sparingly. Do not let the white calibration strip on the underside of the case near the top of the glass get wet/discolored or you could experience problems with start-up calibrations. Underside cleaning of the glass bed alone can do wonders. As Ctein pointed out, cleaning the optics can help even more but there is a real risk of damaging things. Based on feedback from others though, I am not sure the average authorized Epson repair center tech will get it right either :( Some are very competent, others are not.

An additional tip is to turn your bathroom into a clean/low dust room where you can disassemble things. Clean it well from top to bottom to remove dust. Then run a hot shower to steam the place up and thus "sink" dust left in the air. Keep the door closed and let the room temperature settle down to normal. Enter once quickly with your scanner and tools to do the disassembly. Lint-free towels are a must to keep the underside of the glass dust free before reassembling. Eyeglass cleaner from Wal-mart is a good cleaner to use and cheap in the small size (plus you supposedly get free refills for life!).

I find use for a wide range of qualities of scans when dealing with my old materials. They're mostly not useful as art, but as some sort of record, and sometimes it's more worthwhile (it seems to me) to put decent scants of 20 photos online rather than first-rate scans of 2.

Of course my Coolscan 5000 is not the ultimate in scanning, either; I've had occasion to resort to drum scans from a lab now and then.

If you can't offer suggestions for cleaning a scanner, what about a good test for scanner shmoosh? I was wondering if a slanted-edge MTF measurement might be a way of monitoring scan quality over time. If that is reasonable, is there an easy way to make a good slanted edge target for a film scanner? I have heard of using a razor blade in a slide mount, but I wonder about the reflection from the metal. One could photograph a target, or expose a piece of film directly with a razor blade on top of it.

Any thoughts?

I wonder if you could thwart creeping 'smoosh' by simply draping your scanner with a lint-free cover -- a sort-of scanner cozy. Could be a profitable enterprise for some techno-geeky Etsy member.

A square of silk works nicely for that purpose. Available at fabric stores.


Nothing to do with scanning but I'm curious about the curved lines, particularly of the canal side at left, in Fig. 2. What kind of camera/lens produced that effect?

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