The new CoolScan IV ED (also called LS-40) and Super CoolScan 4000 ED (LS-4000) replace the CoolScan III/LS-30 and CoolScan 2000/LS-2000 respectively. List prices are £30 and £100 higher respectively, but resolution, quality, optics, speed and software are much improved. The Digital ICE hardware dust removal system has been extended into the new Digital ICE Cubed suite, with routines for noise reduction and restoring faded film.
CoolScan IV and the CoolScan 4000 are similar in looks. The real difference is inside: CoolScan IV has a maximum resolution of 2,900dpi (LS-2000 had 2,700), a dynamic range of 3.6 and the choice of 8- or 12-bits per channel output. The CoolScan 4000 has a maximum res of 4,000dpi, a very high dynamic range of 4.2 and a choice of 8 or 14 bits per channel. Output can be greyscale or ICC-profiled RGB or CMYK colour.
The black dust cover on the front panel slides down to reveal the interchangeable film adaptors. The manual adaptor takes either a single 35mm mounted slide or a six-frame film strip holder. This can be replaced with the powered 35mm six-frame film loader, which allows batch scanning. An APS (IX-240) film cassette loader is optional. Extra-cost options, for LS-4000 only, are a rear loader for uncut 35mm films with up to 40 frames and a feeder for 50 slides.
SCSI has been dropped in favour of a USB interface for CoolScan IV and IEEE 1394 (FireWire) for CoolScan 4000. The 4000 is bundled with an Adaptec FireWire PCI card for FireWire-free PCs and beige G3 Macs.
The new Nikon Scan 3 software runs as a standalone application but can also be called from Photoshop’s file import menu (Photoshop 5.0 LE and FotoStation album software are bundled).
The heavily revised user interface is a vast improvement on the old v.2.5. The main preview window can now be scaled to fit your screen. New tabbed ‘natural’ and ‘processed’ previews let you compare the raw scan with the effects of automatic and manual editing. A big new floating Tool Palette with tear-off re-positionable palettes is a welcome improvement on the old drawer metaphor. Tool settings can be saved individually or collectively and applied to other images.
Tools include a new Lightness/Chroma/Hue editor in addition to the RGB and CMYK Curves/Histogram editor. The Hue editor is fiddly but effective for adjusting selective colours. The preferences menu is also re-organized with understandable colour profile selection and lots of previewing options.
Minolta and Canon license Digital ICE dust removal for some models, but only the new Nikons have the new ICE Cubed suite, which adds Digital GEM and ROC.
ICE (Image Correction & Enhancement) compares the film’s transmission of infra-red light from the scanner’s LEDs with the visible RGB image. Any difference is due to surface defects that are then subtracted in software. This is the best dust-buster I’ve ever used. GEM (Grain Equalization & Management) is very effective at reducing the amplified noise that looks like film grain on many 35mm CCD scanners.
ROC (Reconstruction of Colour) automatically enhances old films that have faded or developed colour casts beyond the range of autoexposure or manual corrections. I got fantastic results from some grotty 25-plus year old pos and neg colour films as well as more recent under and over-exposed images. The only disappointment is that Digital ICE won’t work at all with monochrome films.
Output file formats include TIFF, JPEG, BMP and the new Nikon native NEF, also output by Nikon’s D1 digital camera. NEF preserves raw image information so images can be re-opened in Nikon Scan 3 and altered without losing quality.
The CoolScan IV and CoolScan 4000 put Nikon back at the top of the 35mm scanner tree and Digital ICE Cubed technology turns both CoolScans into world-beaters.