The Super CoolScan 5000 ED is Nikon’s new top-end film scanner. It usurps the Super CoolScan 4000 ED, introduced in 2001, as the best scanner in its class.
Despite the name, the resolution of the 5000 ED remains 4,000dpi. The compact body of the CoolScan 4000 has been restyled slightly, and there are major improvements on the older unit. There is a two-line CCD sensor for higher speed and greater dynamic range, plus the latest Digital ICE4 Advanced technology. The ICE (Image Correction & Enhancement) system is licensed from Advanced Science Fiction, now a Kodak subsidiary.
Nikon has built on the success of the CoolScan 4000, and improved upon some of the older model’s specifications. The auto focusing speed has been upped to four seconds, while the dynamic range is 4.8, compared to the 4000’s 4.2. This allows the scanner to see further into shadows, while retaining highlights.
Multi-pass scanning is possible in four stages up to 16x, giving higher quality but slower speeds. A new Scan Image Enhancer control option automatically adjusts brightness and colour saturation for optimal contrast. The standard interface is now USB 2.0, but there’s still an option to use FireWire.
The scanner can be very fast if most of the enhancements are turned off – it takes 80 seconds for a 22MB single-pass scan that could fill a page of Digit, but two-and-a-half minutes for a 4x scan. However, if you try to scan a scratched and faded original with all the Digital ICE4 functions turned on, be prepared for a long wait.
Previewing different ICE4 settings can be slow, too. The results are worth it though – ancient colour-shifted negatives reproduce beautifully.
The ICE4 technology has four components. The main ICE uses infrared LEDs within the scanner to detect dust and scratches, which are digitally removed from the final scan without blurring. This saves a lot of retouching work. GEM (Grain Equalization & Management) reduces the effect of film grain, again with minimal blurring, while ROC (Reconstruction Of Colour) automatically attempts to improve the appearance of faded or colour-shifted old films. It can work very well, though the effects are a bit fierce on film with only slight shifts, and you may need to do some manual adjustment. New with ICE4 is DEE (Dynamic Exposure Extender), which lets you selectively enhance highlight and shadow exposures.
The 5000 ED works well for black-&-white film too, though disappointingly it’s not quite as good as the older 4000 ED. ICE4 won’t work at all with conventional mono film, where the previous scanner’s ICE3 GEM would reduce grain very well. Grain isn’t a huge problem with the 5000 ED, but it’s certainly noticeable.
The new Nikon Scan 4 software is very similar to the older version, apart from menu palettes for the new features. It runs as a standalone application or within Photoshop.
The software is clearly laid out, with a big before/after preview window and an extensive tool palette containing all the sliders and controls. It proved slightly unstable on OS X 10.3, with a tendency to suddenly quit, or for the palettes to unexpectedly disappear.
If you can’t afford £10,000 for a high-productivity pre-press scanner, the CoolScan 5000 ED is ideal for top quality scans up to professional print levels. However, the 5000 remains fairly expensive, so it’s worth taking a close look at the new CoolScan V ED, which has just been released at around £550. It's similar to the old Super CoolScan 4000 ED, but with 14-bit A/D conversion and new a USB 2.0 interface.