Nikon Filmscanner Coolscan V ED - Test Report

At the End of a hot summer 2003 the Nikon boat was rocked. Suddenly customers were able to purchase Nikon scanners about 50% cheaper in the USA than in Europe. In Germany too some dealers offered consumers Nikon's filscanners for lower prices than a normal specialist dealer could buy them for directly from Nikon. There was much speculation over Nikon's launch of a new product range. Rumors of every discription was spread.

We still have Nikon film scanners and Nikon accessories available in our film scanner shop.

But why should Nikon launch a new range? After all Nikon was indisputably leading the market in all classes concerning quality and possibilities with the LS-40, Super Coolscan 4000 and the Super Coolscan 9000. However Nikon was front-runner concerning the prices as well.

In October 2003 Nikon surprised the filmscanner community with the successor of the well proven Nikon Coolscan IV ED. By means of specifications it was soon clear that the little Nikon progressed heavily. The biggest surprise though was a radical price reduction of about 20% compared to its predecessor. Does this mean higher performance for lower prices? Not really. My following review will show that Nikon strongly saved costs, which is not obvious at first glance though.

As described below Nikon launched two new scanners at the same time: the Nikon Coolscan V ED and the Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED. Because both scanners are formally almost identical, some pictures on this page derive from my review of its big brother Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED.

Configuration and accessories

I have ordered my Coolscan V and Super Coolscan 5000 the same day and I also received them at the same day. When unpacking the scanners it became already clear that Nikon has rationalised: two identical boxes with different labelling, same wrapping and packaging inside, the same film adaptor, same connection cable, same software and even the same user guide - only the scanners are different, but not formally.

The dimensions and the form are the same as its predecessor's. The altered stands immediately catch one's eye though. While the Coolscan 4000 was standing on four rubber knobs, the new Coolscan 5000 is bordered by two rubber-like plastic attachments, so that it has a skid-proof stand on the desktop both horizontally and vertically.

The most striking modification compared to the predecessor attracted my attention on the front side of the scanner: the LS-40 had a sliding cover, which easily covered the interior of the scanner when no film adaptor was attached. Therefore, when the cover was closed, the scanner's interior was securely protected against dust. Nikon removed this creditable piece completely. So a film adaptor has to be attached to the Coolscan 5 ED at all times, even when not in use. Actually this is not a big restriction, as long as the film scanner is placed on the desktop. But when you have to send your scanner to service or want to lend it to your friend, you always have to attach a film adaptor in order that the interior is protected. I think in this case Nikon economised too much and scored a classic own goal: suddenly the expensive Nikon scanners are the only devices in the market which do not have a direct dust protection of the interior. In this regard many a cheap discounter licks the expensive competitor Nikon.

Without film adaptor the interior of the scanner is open.

There is also modification on the back side of the scanner: the Firewire port IEEE-1394 was sacrificed for the benefit of a USB 2.0 port. Some Mac useres won't like this change. At Windows PCs (especially at notebooks) USB 2.0 is more widespread though, and has the same transmission capacity as Firewire. The back side of the Coolscan 5 incidentally differs from his big brother: the opening for the 35mm roll film adaptor, which can be used to digitise whole 35mm film rolls at once is missing here.

Part of the standard configuration are two film adaptors. With the strip film adaptor SA-21 you can scan film strips (positive or negative) with 2-6 photos. With the slide mount adaptor MA-21 you can scan single mounted slides. With the old Nikon 4000 the strip film holder FH-3 was yet included in delivery. Nikon removed this film holder as well - you can only purchase it as optional accessory. I think it's a pitty, because with the serial strip film adaptor SA-21 it is impossible to scan a single negative which often remains when developing a film. Strongly curled film strips as well can not be processed with the SA-21. Here the FH-3 strip film holder is essential.

For this reason the Super Coolscan 5000 in my opinion does not deserve the title "complete package" in the 35mm range any longer. Since the strip film holder FH-3 is virtually indispensable for people who want to scan not mounted 35mm film material, they are all but obliged to spend extra money for optional accessory when buying a Coolscan 5. This is a large step backwards compared to the predecessor.

The strip film holder FH-3 is not included in shipment anymore, although it is an indispensible accessory for scanning film strips and single frames. Thus it must be ordered separately.

There is another step backward concerning the scan software. The famous SilverFast is not included in the purchase price of the Nikon Super Coolscan 5 any longer. There is only the Nikon own scan software NikonScan. Everybody who knows SilverFast appreciates its advantages and would accept an accordant extra charge. For many users the Nikon own scan software is entirely sufficient though. Furthermore NikonView and Adobe® Photoshop® Elements is included in the software bundle.

So the big price cut Nikon made with the LS-50 compared to the LS-40 isn't that big at all when considering the changes in the scanner's standard equipment. While the lack of a front cover is in my opinion a big drawback, I can live with the missing SilverFast software and strip film holder FH-3, because these parts still can be purchased separately. But anyway the most expensive extra charge appears not until you need additional film adaptors.

Specifications of the film scanner Nikon LS-50

An essential improvement will catch the eye of those who still know and own respectively the predecessor Coolscan IV and fancy the new Coolscan V: the resolution increased from 2900 dpi to 4000 dpi. Thus the little Nikon Coolscan V ED offers the same scanning resolution as its big brother Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED. So is the LS-5000 really still a big brother or is it rather a twin brother?

While the Coolscan 5000 converts the colour signals with 16Bit per channel and generates according output files the LS-5 is restricted to 14Bit per channel. What does this number exactly mean? You'll get 214 different shades of grey, which are 16384 nuances between black and white, from a black&white scan with 14Bit. A scan of a colour image contains this number of shades in every colour channel red, green and blue. Thus in colour images 242 shades can be differentiated, this is more than 4 trillion colours. Of course these are theoretical values which are unattainable in practice.

A scan with 42Bit colour depth (explanation see our page colour depth) is being saved as a 48Bit file by the way - the residual 6Bits are simply not used. What does the resolution 4000dpi mean? If you scan a 35mm slide or 35mm negative with the highest resolution 4000dpi you'll get an image file of about 20 Megapixel. If you save such a file in the uncompressed TIF format you'll get a file with a size of about 55 MByte. And when performing a 42Bit scan instead of a 24Bit standard scan the file size doubles to about 110 MByte. Editing such images can bring many old computers to its knees.

What else distinguishes a Nikon scanner? Nikon uses high-class lenses. What counts for SLR cameras can also be transferred to film scanners to a certain amount: it's not the camera that takes the picture, it's the lens. Every professional photographer would agree to this statement. The light source is a four part LED which does a great job with colour images, but has some shortcomings with black&white images.

The slide mount adaptor MA-21 covers the scanners interior

The Coolscan 5 ED comes up with a set of image enhancement and correction techniques. We already know the automatic dust and scratches removal ICE, the Grain Equalization and Management GEM as well as the colour recreation tool ROC from the predecessor LS-40 ED. DDE and a Scan Image Enhancer have been newly added. DDE is part of the new Advanced ICE4 and performs exposure compensation. The Scan Image Enhancer optimises colours and contrast of an image. One thing the Super Coolscan 5000 ED can do while the Coolscan 5 ED unfortunately can't is multiple scans. If you scan an image 2, 4, 8 or even 16 times in one go noise and glitches of the scanner are effectively reduced. Nikon regrettably did not implement this feature in his small scanner.

The film scanner is connected to the computer via the USB 2.0 port (USB 1.1 is also possible). This ensures a fast data transfer. And this you'll need, because the amount of data generated by the scanner is extensive (up to 110 Megabytes from a 35mm slide). The fast data transfer is not only needed because of the extensive amount of data but also because the scanner works very quickly, i.e. the data is generated in a very short time. I think it's a pitty that Nikon abandoned the Firewire port - all my computers have this port which worked well with former scanner types.

The Nikon Coolscan V ED possesses a powerful autofocus tool. With tidyly mounted slides and plain film strips the autofocus does a very good job. It's getting more delicate when scanning curled film strips, curved slides or - to some extent - glass mounted slides, because the depth of field of the Coolscan 5 is less than 1mm. With this kind of originals the possibility of manual focusing helps. In my opinion a very reasonable feature - but scanning then takes a lot of time.

The Nikon LS-V can process single mounted slides or film strips with up to 6 frames. Furthermore you can scan single, loose negatives or positives and curled/curved film strips with the optional accessory FH-3. And with an optional APS adaptor you can process whole APS film rolls, too. But that's all with the little Nikon. To the big Nikon 5000 a whole set of optional adaptors can be attached, for example the slide feeder or the roll film adaptor. Nikon does not offer this expandability with its small model.

The Nikon Coolscan V differs from the Coolscan 5000 in another issue: there is wide difference in scanning times. I actually can't explain how Nikon managed it that the LS-5000 is twice as fast as the LS-5. I almost suspect that Nikon installed a kind of break in the little Coolscan V in order that there are still selling points for the 5000. But anyhow the Coolscan V ED is still much faster than most of its competitors.

Installation and startup

As I've unpacked my Nikon Super Coolscan V ED first of all I was surprised at the amount of manuals accompanying the scanner. But quickly most of it turned out to be good for learning foreign languages only. The whole user guide is available in six languages. You get a manual with 70 pages per language which explain installation and operation of the scanner and the software detailed and understandable. The separate quick start guide was much more useful to me though. After all you want to kick off immediately, when you've unpacked your first or your new film scanner

With the aid of the user guide or the quick start guide the installation is no problem even for beginners. But it was a problem for me, that I was able to install the new scan software NikonScan 4 not until the old version 3.x was completely uninstalled. Why doesn't the software perform an automatic update or doesn't automatically uninstall the old components? Not every user knows how to uninstall software via the control panel and what to do if he is asked repeatedly if components which may still be used by other programs should really be deleted.

Those who buy a Nikon film scanner for the first time naturally don't have this problem and the installation is easygoing. I found it very pleasant that the software installed the drivers for all current Nikon scanners at once. The normal user actually has got exactly one film scanner on his desktop, but there is people like me too, who got five different Nikon film scanners standing side by side.

At the end of the software installation process the computer reboots automatically. I would have preferred a callback. After this the scanner is ready for use, can be connected to the USB port of the computer and is automatically detected when turned on. So let the scanning begin!

The first scans of mounted slides were quickly done. A prescan, a fine finescan and finished was an excellent scan which didn't require further editing.

Scanning single mounted slides with the Nikon Coolscan 5 ED

Included in delivery of a Nikon LS-5 is the slide mount adaptor MA-21. This is the successor to the MA-20(S). I can hardly find any difference between these two models. The new adaptor got a little darker in colour - an outstanding trend with Nikon: the once light grey of the adaptors is getting always darker. In about ten years I dare say they'll be all black...

The new slide mount adaptor MA-21 has got an integrated cover protecting the scanner's interior against dust. This function is very important with the new Nikon LS-5 because this scanner hasn't got a front cover anymore, which could be used to simply close the scanner when not in use. So the MA-21 not only acts as a film adaptor but as well as a cover for the front insertion.

Inserting a single mounted 35mm slide into the serial slide mount adaptor

You can insert a single mounted slide into the slide mount adaptor MA-21. Nikon specifies a slide thickness between 1mm (0,04in.) and 3,2mm (0,13in.). In my opinion there is nothing to be said against inserting a super thin slide mount with the thickness of only 0,5mm. There is no problem with thicker glass mounts neither, but attention while inserting the slide is advisable. If you push the button on the right hand side of the film adaptor the inserted slide is pushed out mechanically, so that it can be easily removed.

The slide mount adaptor MA-21 and his predecessor respectivley proved themselves during the years. Using those you can digitise single slides very quickly: simply insert the slide, make a prescan, adjust the settings and scan - fast and simple. Of course you have to scan every slide individually. Thus who want to digitise great quantities of slides have to sit next to the scanner/computer permanently when using the standard MA-21, and do the disc jockey.

The slide scanner Nikon Coolscan V ED can operate either in horizontal or vertical position. For scanning single mounted slides with the MA-21 the upright position is advisable, because the slide is inserted horizontally into the adaptor. By doing so, you can avoid shifting of the film in the mount - a big advantage when processing old wobbly mounts that don't fix the transparency firmly anymore.

Note: Just like most film scanners the Nikon LS-5 ED only knows landscape format. Thus portrait format slides have to be inserted at right angle into the slide mount adaptor and rotated afterwards with the scan software or any image processing software.

Scanning film strips with the Nikon LS-50 ED

While the serial slide mount adaptor MA-21 is inserted into the scanner virtually just as a holder to carry slides, the also serial strip film holder SA-21 is inserted deeper and connected to the scanner by an interface with 35 pins. The adaptor is provided with data and power via this interface. After all the strip film holder not only has to carry the film material but also transport and correctly align it.

With the SA-21 it is possible to scan 35mm film strips with up to six frames automatically. To insert the strip film holder the scanner needn't be turned off. You gently insert the film strip (positive or negative) into the strip film holder. The scanner then automatically retracts the film to the right position. The film is transported by rubber rolls. In the beginning I was sceptical of this design - but in the meantime I've inserted hundrets of film strips into the scanner with the strip film holder, and there never was a problem. So this design works flawlessly. Of course it is very important that no dirt gets on the rubber rolls. You can imagine how a tiny dust paricle can wreak havoc on a rubber roll over which moves a whole film strip. So you should clean the rolls from time to time!

Scanning 35mm film strips with the serial SA-21

The function of automatically finding the beginning of the film and the division of the film strip into single frames respectively don't work flawlessly. On a negative film strip with night shots the software can't distinguish the bridge between the frames and dark areas of the image. That of course applies for positive film strips too. In such cases, after the index scan which tried to split up the single frames of a film strip automatically, it's hand time: you can set up the image position with the Nikon software using the menu item "Scanner Extras". After several trials whereas the index image is reloadaed consistently, you can find the right division of the images. The possibility of setting the image position manually is very useful and indispensible, but it costs a lot of time. That's the reason why I do not scan film strips with the Nikon Coolscan V or Super Coolscan 5000 anymore, but only with the big Nikon Super Coolscan 8000, where I can put the film strips into special film holders and fix them.

With the strip film adaptor SA-21 you'll know the true promise of batch scans the first time. Using the scan software you can choose which one of the up to six images you want to scan. And there is nothing to be said against scanning all six of them in one go. If you run NikonScan indirectly via an image editing software you'll get up to six windows with the image(s) for editing. If you run NikonScan as stand-alone application the software saves the single images in up to six consecutively numbered files (for example Image_01.jpg, Image_02.jpg, Image_03.jpg, ...) on your hard drive.

You can not automatically take over the settings you made for instance for the first image to the remaining images. Instead you have to save the settings and apply them to the other images. This works fast and comfortable though. Furthermore you can automatically apply these settings when scanning the next film strip, so that you don't have to make any settings again at all.

I would yet like to point at an unpleasing feature of using the strip film adaptor SA-21: the SA-21 can not be removed from the scanner when a film strip is inside the feeder. A sophisticated mechanism locks the adaptor in the scanner. If you forcibly pull on the adaptor you can damage the scanner. I don't like this construction at all.

The 35mm strip film holder SA-21 comes to its limits when scanning greatly curled or curved film strips. The automatic feeder possibly doesn't draw these strips in or incorrectly transports them. For scanning such film material you can only use the strip film holder FH-3, which was supplied in shipment with the predecessors, but has to be purchased separately now.

Scanning single frames

You can insert single mounted transparencies into the slide mount adaptor MA-21 and whole film strips into the strip film adaptor SA-21. The opened strip film holder FH-3: you can see the bridges for the gaps between the framesWhat to do if you have single loose negatives or positives as they often remain when developing the film in photographic labs? You can get the optional FH-3 strip film holder. This strip film holder was previously supplied with the Nikon 35mm film scanners LS-40ED / LS-4000ED but now it has to be purchased separately as optinal accessory for the new Coolscan 5 and Super Coolscan 5000. The strip film holder FH-3 during scanning Although the FH-3 is an indispensible accessory for Nikon film scanners.

You can place up to 6 single loose negatives or positives in the FH-3 and poition them exactly between the bridges. The inserted film meterial is fixed in the film holder with a spring lock so that it can not slip. The FH-3 is plugged into the slide mount adaptor MA-21. So an image in the FH-3 is handled like a single mounted frame and you can only scan one image at once. The image to be scanned is moved into a little window by an adjustable guide rail.

You could put single loose transparencies into slide mounts as well, if you want to spare the optional FH-3. The strip film holder FH-3 becomes really usefull not until you have greatly curled or curved negative or positive strips which the automatic strip film adaptor SA-21 processes incorrectly or doesn't draw in at all. Due to the spring lock such problematic film strips can be firmly fixed in the strip film holder and scanned frame by frame.

I'd recommend that everybody who buys a Nikon Coolscan V or Super Coolscan 5000 should order the strip film holder FH-3 as well, because in my eyes this is an indispensible accessory.

Scanning film rolls

Digitising whole film rolls is not a feature of the Nikon Coolscan V ED. Inserting whole 35mm film rolls is reserved for the bigger brother Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED because the 35mm roll film adaptor SA-30 can't be connected to the Nikon Coolscan V.

I'm pointing this out because I'm repeatedly getting asked if there is really no way to somehow attach the SA-30 to the small Nikon, because the LS-50 and the LS-5000 are so similar. It definitely does not work, there is no possibility to scan whole film rolls with the Nikon Coolscan 5 at once.

Batch scanning mounted slides with the slide feeder SF-210

The little Nikon Coolscan V ED and the big Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED feature the same adaptor slot for inserting film adaptors. The slide feeder SF-210 can be inserted into the Nikon LS-5 without problems, but hte scanner doesn't detect the feeder. It's because of Nikons sales policy that potential buyers of the slide feeder SF-210 have to buy the big Super Coolscan 5000.

There is always people who try their luck with a Nikon Coolscan V and a slide feeder and despair of that it doesn't work. I underline that the combination of the Coolscan V and the SF-210 is not designated by Nikon, although the feeder fits into the slot without problems.

Scanning IX240 (APS) films

The APS film adaptor IA-20(S) is available as optional accessory for the Nikon Coolscan V ED, which can be used for scanning whole APS films at once. The APS adaptor is installed in the scanner just like the strip film holder until it locks in place. The adaptor receives power and instructions >from the scanner via a 35-pin interface. After all ist's responsible for the automatic film transport.

You can place IX240 films with 15, 25 or 40 frames (negative or postive) in the adaptor. Attention: only developed films can be placed in the adaptor, otherwise a mechanism prevents closing the front cover. If you try The APS adaptor IA-20 with opened cover to close it anyway, you can damage the APS adaptor. Right after placing the film in the adaptor an automatic pulls the film out of the cartridge by itself. The cover of the APS adaptor is locked then and can not be opened any more. Even if the computer crashes the cover stays locked as long as the film wasn't rewind back into the cartridge. In this case only restarting the scan software and rewinding the film by clicking the appropriate button helps.

Scanning IX240 films is very easy to handle with the Nikon Coolscan V ED. With an index scan you'll get thumbnails of all images on the film. Thereby you can see if all frames are exposed or if the film has been rewind before. When scanning a single image it can of course happen that the whole film has to be winded first, what can take a lot of time if you want to scan frame #3 and then frame #37 for example.

But it's really comfortable to scan a whole APS film at once: if you make the desired settings after prescanning for example image #1, then you can assign these settings to all other images and scanning the whole film proceeds fully automatically in batch mode. Via the scan software you can assign predetermined scan areas according to the APS formats Classic, HDTV and panorama to every single image. That's really comfortable!

It's not a pleasure to scan certain IX240 films which can not be winded easily. Here problems with drawing in the film frequently occur - the adaptor crashes and you can't use it anymore! Only resetting it by the Nikon servie helps, you can not do it by yourself. I had never problems with Kodak APS films though.

Scanning preparations and other graphical material

Now it's getting exotic but by no means unrealistic. The medical slide holder FH-G1 for medical preparates is available as optional accessory for the Nikon LS-5000 and the Nikon Coolscan 5. The field of application seems to be very small for this optional accessory at first sight, but preparates are produced in many sciences and not only in medical science. For example I have already scanned transparent cut preparates of different kind of rocks for a mineralogist. In principle a film scanner with a resolution of 4000 dpi can be used as a microscope with camera by means of the FH-G1.

The medical slide holder for preparates FH-G1

You can insert object slides with a width of up to 26 mm into the medical slide holder. Bearings on both left and right hand side fix the object slide so that it can't shake or fall off. In the slot area the object slide is secured by two assembling clips (springs) and at the bedstop another notch prevents movement of the slide. The medical slide holder FH-G1 can be inserted into the serial slide mount adaptor MA-21 just like a normal slide mount. There is no limitation in the length of the object slide, but the scan area is as big as the normal 35mm frames - about 23x35 mm.

The field of application for the FH-G1 designated by Nikon actually is digitising medical preparates. But you can scan virtually all sorts of things with it. Due to its guides on all four sides you can insert and fix virtually any original with a height of up to 2mm and a width of up to 26mm. In this way I've alread scanned 16mm films, glas pattern, samples of rocks between glass plates and pieces of microfilm.

The supplied software of the Nikon LS-50 ED

I've already mentioned that Nikon does not ship its new models of film scanners with Silverfast anymore. Thereby the price reduction compared to the predecessors LS-40 and LS-4000 levels out - thus the scanners didn't really get cheaper, they were only reduced in the scope of delivery. Nikon supplies a threepart software bundle with the filmscanners:

  • Adobe® Photoshop® Elements 2.0
  • Nikon Scan 4.0
  • Nikon View 6.0

Some owners of a Nikon digital camera will ask themselves "What's Nikon View doing with a Nikon filmscanner?" We already know this programm for transferring our images from the camera to the computer, for viewing the images, sorting them, creating slide shows and so on. But what is this programm used for with a film scanner? Of course you can always create a slide show and so on with existing images, no matter if they accrue from a digital camera or from a scanner. But the actual application for owners of a Nikon film scanner should be the possibility to process NEF images. NEF is Nikon's own raw format which can be selected as output file format when scanning with NikonScan. This raw format contains (almost) all original information from the scan process, so that you have numerous possibilities of image enhancement and changing scan settings after the scan with the help of Nikon View. Supplying Nikon View makes sense by all means, although 99% of all users won't ever use this programm, because not everybody wants to spend 15-30 minutes for image processing, settings, enhancement and so on after scanning an image.

Many users already adjust the settings with the scan software, and for the "normal" image processing you'll get the Elements version of the best imaging software currently available (my humble opinion) anyway. With Adobe® Photoshop® Elements you can do typical changes of the image ratio like cropping, enlarging and down scaling, rotation and fliping. There are almost innumerable possibilities for colour enhancement - from a simple brightness slider up to the gradation curves tool there is virtually every nameable tool for processing colours available. And who wants to apply filters to his scan afterwards, for example to sharpen the image, finds almost boundless possibilities here, too.

Where are the limits of Photoshop® Elements? Does the extra charge of the 10 times more expensive full version pay off? For "normal" and semiprofessional users even the Elements verison of Photoshop® is too comprehensive to tap the full potential. I really do miss one appreciable feature in the light version: batch processing of images - whether embedded in the program or as separate batch processing software. And there is one more reason for the expensive full version: the Elements version can only process an image file with a colour depth of 16 bit if it is previously converted into 8 bit. The full version can load, process and save image files with 16 bit per colour channel.

Let's deal with the scan software Nikon Scan. At first glance the new Version 4 doesn't seem to have changed a lot compared to the old version. The user interface looks virtually identical, the settings work as known. A few drawbacks have been improved, new features have been added. And I'd like to mention a very pleasant one right at the beginning: you can choose for which scanners you want to use the program for already at the installation. Those who have five different Nikon scanners of different generations on their desktop (like me) will be very happy about not having to install every single driver separately. That's great! Of course John Doe purchases exactly one scanner and hence only benefits indirectly from this feature, for example when downloading a new version of the software.

So how good is NikonScan really? Can the software be recommended? There are people who are so sworn in the leading scansoftware Silverfast, that they depreciate any other program as crab without looking at it any closer. I've always had Silverfast and NikonScan for my Nikon scanners, and I've always preferred NikonScan. You'll easily realize the importance of the scan software when using a cheap film scanner. Owners of a cheap scanner who switch from the cheap scan software of the manufacturer to Lasersoft's Silverfast suddenly can see an increasement of quality of their scans as big as if they had purchased a new scanner. I've always said: it's not only the scanner that makes the image, it's also the software.

You definitely won't see a gigantic increase of quality when you use Silverfast instead of NikonScan. NikonScan is so good and extensive in the meantime that you can perfectly use it for comfortably producing very good scans. In my opinion it's rather a matter of personal prefernce which program you choose. Who already knows Silverfast from his flat bed scanner or even already owned another film scanner with Silverfast doesn't want to become acquaintetd with another scan software of course, because handling this kind of software correctly requires a lot of time.

So what are those special features of NikonScan that make scanning so easy? The user interface is very clear and easy to use: there is a preview window, a little window showing the scan progress and a palette window containing all settings. The special setting for Kodachrome slides proved to be very advantageous and virtually unique: with this special setting (in the line of positive, negative, b/w, Kodachrome) it's possible to scan Kodachromes with very high quality. Most other film scanners fail with this special task.

You can adjust all scan settings in a palette window: image format (portrait or landscape) and image size can be set in different ways and units. For setting the colour there is gradation curves, colour balance sliders, a LCH editor and an analog-amplifying slider. To achieve a higher sharpness you can use the function "unsharp mask" with a live preview in the preview window. Finally there are individual sliders for the scanner's special features ICE, which is the dust and scratches correction, the grain equalization GEM, the colour restoration ROC and the exposure extender DDE. Furthermore you can switch the Scan Image Enhancer (automatic setting of brightness and contrast) on and off.

But what would all those settings which can be comfortably adjusted one after another be, if they could not be saved? NikonScan provides the opportunity to save and load complete sets of settings. So you can save for example all settings for mounted colour slides as "Slide4000jpgICE.set" and easily load these settings when scanning such film material. Once you have made and saved your different settings you can quickly perform a scan or a series of same scans virtually at the push of a button. That's really comfortable and in my opinion no other software handles this task better than NikonScan.

Of course NikonScan has got some shortcomings too which I don't want to keep secret. While scanning it happens every now and then that the software totally crashes. But it doesn't crash with an error message or demands restarting the computer - no, it simply quits itself with the motto "I don't feel like scanning today. Let's try again tomorrow...". Another shortcoming is that sometimes the communication with the scanner doesn't work anymore - the software then messages that no scanner is connected. It's annoying when suddenly the progress bar stands still in the middle of the scan process and nothing happens for a couple of minutes.

Another drawback of the NikonScan software is enormously annoying: when using the Nikon Coolscan V ED together with the slide feeder SF-210 the maximum number of slides you can set is 99. But what if you want to digitise a whole slide magazine with exactly 100 images at once in batch mode? It's clear that you can't put 100 slides into the feeder at once. But it's no problem to keep supplies coming during the scan process, so that the scanner virtually runs non-stop. This actually works perfectly, but after 99 slides the scanner stops. It's annoying everytime you have to manually scan exactly one leftover image.

Conclusion for the NikonScan software: I am very pleased with NikonScan. The scan software is very clearly arranged and easy to learn. The settings for a good scan can be adjusted easily and intuitively. And last but not least the scan software delivers very good images and really makes the best out of the connected scanner. For me NikonScan still is the best film scanner manufacturer own scan software.

Appendix 2016: The scan software NikonScan from Nikon does not run on actual operating systems any more. With the scan software SilverFast Ai Studio the Nikon Coolscan 5 ED can be used with actual operating systems, too.

Image quality of the Nikon Coolscan 5 ED

How can the image quality of a Nikon Coolscan V ED be actually judged? Should we scan maybe 10 standardized test slides with resolution bar, colour patterns and gray scales to check to what extent the scans match the original? With such experiments you can indeed determine certain numerical values, but you often can't use them to find out what an image will look like. Maybe it's better to simply scan 1000 different images to make a conclusion by rule of thumb. Or should we just assume the Nikon V scans normal snap shots perfectly and fade to discerning originals like night shots or back light shots?

I received and tested the Nikon Coolscan V and the Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 at the same time. Naturally I can't help to compare those scanners. On the spec sheet the little Nikon delivers the same resolution as the big one, only the colour depth is 14Bit instead of 16Bit. Does this draw the big distinction, or is there a noteworthy difference to the 5000 at all?

A good image is first of all made by a good film scanner, second by the scan software and third by the following image editing. It's clear that you can't fix too much with the image editing software if already the first link of this chain is weak. The second link of the chain is also very important - and often overlooked: the scan software.

If you perform a normal standard scan with the LS-50 you'll get brilliant scans of 90% of all images using the standard settings. A scan of an underexposed image though will be too dark as well if scanned with the standard settings. Does this mean poor image quality? An image like this can be slightly lightended either directly with the scan software or afterwards with an image editing software. You can make all settings adjusted with the scan software with the image editing software, too, except for one: the dust and scratches correction ICE.

ICE works perfectly with the Nikon V: dust, scratches, fingerprints, lint etc. are automatically retouched effectively. An additional infrared source identifies what doesn't belong to the image and sophisticated algorithms correct the corresponding spots with close pixels. ICE works that good with the Nikon that I always keep it turned on, except for scanning B&W shots or Kodachrome images.

Back to my statement that all settings which can be made within the scan software except ICE can be made with the image editing software, too. From this it follows that it's not that important what the scanned image effectively looks like, but rather which information it contains. Example: a black and white astronomy shot looks worthless with standard scan settings. A lot of stars, dust (in space, not on the image) and clouds disappear. But if the corresponding area can be neatly displayed by adjusting the levels with Photoshop®, I speak about a good scan. In this regard the differences between the small and the big Nikon are clearly visible. Two scan files of the same size contain very different image information. When viewing a shot of the night sky you can clearly see that a lot fell by the wayside with the Nikon LS-5. The LS-5000 still shows different colour shades in image areas where the LS-5 only shows consistent black. Well, it's naturally hardly fair to compare the Nikon Coolscan 5 with the LS-5000, but I'd just like to show the differences.

A resolution test results in an effective resolution of 3900dpi for the Nikon 5.

As I performed a resolution test with a USAF-1951 test chart I could not see any difference between the Nikon 5000 and the Nikon V. The Nikon V displays element 6.2, which complies with a resolution of 3650dpi, as clearly as the Nikon 5000. When looking at element 6.3, which complies with a resolution of 4100dpi, you can see that the horizontal lines can be easily distinguished while the vertical lines can not be clearly perceived anymore, just like with the Nikon 5000. Thus I assign an effective resolution of 3900dpi to the Nikon Coolscan V ED, which means 2,5% less than specified 4000dpi. This is a creditable result since many other film scanners fall below their specified resolution with several umpteen percent. I was surprised that the smallest Nikon is as reliable as his bigger brother concerning resolution.

The scan software NikonScan offers to the user a multitude of settings to immediately perform a good looking fine scan after the prescan. Just like with an image editing software you can achieve the same effects on the individual gradation curves by using different controls. I myself prefer working directly with the gradation curves, although setting brightness and contrast could be done more comfortable as well.

So what is this ICE4, DDE, Scan Image Enhancer - catchwords Nikon is advertising with, which are rushing through the scanner community like magic words? I already mentioned that the ICE dust and scratches correction works flawlessly. I can only confirm rumors which accuse a certain blur to the ICE process insofar that in areas where big dust particles have to be corrected away with the surrounding pixels a certain impression of blur inevitably occurs. But this does by no means apply for the whole image.

We already know the grain equalization GEM and the colour enhancement ROC from the predecessor. GEM works very well with very coarse grained film material. Analyzing the image for repeating patterns which can be assigned to the grain works very well, but inevitably causes a slight blur, too. Thus GEM is not a function that you can always keep turned on without hesitation, but you should perform tests with every single film to find out if there is any annyoing grain effect or not. When scanning APS films the grain equalization GEM proved its worth so that I always turn it on by default..

The automatic colour enhancement ROC somtimes works wonders. Ancient, faded images suddenly appear like newly shot, just like restored. See my page about image correction. Corrections as they are done by the ROC technique can be done manually, too, but you'll need a lot of time to adjust the individual colour channels in a way that the restoration effect is visible. You should in no case turn ROC on permanently though. With a night shot or an image of the sea or of a ski trail you will get such disguised images, that it's rather manipulation than restoration we're talking about.

Besides the three already known ICE3 techniques a fourth one now came along with the Nikon Coolscan V ED: when scanning underexposed images or back light shots the digital DDE technique reportedly performs automatic corrections which enhances the details in very dark and very bright areas and achieves natural colours and brightness. This sounds very promising, but after careful consideration and a little testing you will quickly find out that you can achieve this kind of effects by changing the gradation curves, too. By the way you can not only automatically adjust the shadows with DDE but the highlights as well. In my opinion the DDE function is needless, because it's not generally useable, i.e. it must be adjusted individually for every image, and it can be displaced by changing the gradaton curves. But I don't want to ignore those users who are not familiar with using gradation curves: for them the DDE slider is a comfortable way to get more details into very dark image areas.

So we still have to talk about the Scan Image Enhancer as a new feature: this technique performs an automatic adjustment of brightness and contrast, so it complies with Photoshop®'s "auto levels". This function is a very recommendable feature of the NikonScan software, because it can notably improve a bigger part of the images. But as aforementioned this kind of function does not enhance image quality but only allows comfortable adjustment of image editing tools directly within the scan software. An image scanned with the Scan Image Enhancer in fact appears better than a standard scan, but this advantage is leveled out by the following image editing though. The Scan Image Enhancer is also a very useful feature that must not be turned on permanently. Everybody knows what auto level does with an image of a ski trail: the few people shilhoutted against the consistent white become extremely coloured and glaring.

Conclusion of the last 5 paragraphs: The scan software of the Nikon V contains a great many algorithms for automatic image enhancement which positively affect the image qualitiy in a comfortable way. But the actually good image quality is not due to these comfort features, but it's due to the fact, that the Nikon Coolscan V has got a wide density range and a high resolution. The high resolution provides finest details while the wide density range provides a good gradation of colours. The Nikon V's practical (not theoretical on the spec sheet) density range can't keep up with the density range of its big brother, but it's notably wide, so that it can be marked as an excellent feature of the Coolscan V.

One more word about the sharpness: The Nikon LS-5 notably gained resolution compared to its predecessor. With nominal 4000dpi the Coolscan V ED is ranking at top class of film scanners. Fortunately this is not only a value on the spec sheet but the scanner achieves effective 3500-3800dpi (Note: most film scanners do not achieve the resolution printed on their box). Who needs a feature like the "unsharp mask" in the scan software then? Naturally this artificial sharpening gives the final touch of details to the scan, but I'd recommend to do the sharpening with the image editing software afterwards, because a once performed unsharp mask can not be undone easily, particularly if the parameters were set to high values.

Concludingly I can put on record that the entry level Nikon scanner outpaces many competitors considering image quality, but that it can't compete the big Nikon LS-5000 ED just as expected. You won't see the difference with normal holiday snap shots, but you'll soon discover the class differences when viewing night shots, twilight shots, backlight shots or even underwater shots.

Scanning times of the Nikon Coolscan 5 ED

The Nikon Coolscan V and Super Coolscan 5000 may be very similar, but considering scanning times the Coolscan 5000 puts its little brother through its paces. Although the LS-5 is a very fast film scanner (2 minutes for a 35mm slide with 4000dpi and activated ICE) the LS-5000 proves to be a real sprinter among film scanners. That's one of the reasons why the LS-5000 costs twice the money of an LS-5. But now back to the Nikon Coolscan V ED.

Rating the speed of a film scanner is a very hard thing, because many factors play a decisive role, which you don't necessarily think of. Naturally the resolution and the settings of the scan software are important factors. But there are also a few issues you don't immediately think of which affect the scanning time:

  • Computer: even though you might think that the scanner does a better part of the work, the computer to which the scanner is connected has to handle huge data volumes. Converting the raw data into image data takes a lot of computing time, filters like ICE are computationally very intensive, but also saving big files on your hard disc drive can be decisive.
  • Data transfer: huge data volumes have to be transferred from the scanner to the computer. The scanner itself only delivers raw data, compressed JPG files are generated by the computer. Using an USB 1.1 port instead of the 2.0 version considerably extends scanning time, mainly when working with the highest resolution.
  • The scan area plays a decisive role. If you cut away the 35mm slide mount you will get about 30% less image information than by activating the whole scan area.

While scanning it stroke me first that the scanning times of the Nikon V are virtually not up to the resolution anymore. Thus other criterions are decisive. All scanning times are stated for a complete scan including auto focus and auto exposure. It's important to know that these processes have to be performed only once. Thus if you already perform auto focus and auto exposure with the prescan the finescan can start immediately and you'll save exactly the time you've already spent while prescanning.

Although a complete finescan with activated ICE takes much longer than with the Nikon 5000 the Nikon V is still front-runner among its direct competitors by far.

Scanning single mounted slides without ICE with ICE
Auto focus 1 slide 0:06 min 0:06 min
Auto exposure 1 slide 0:25 min 0:25 min
Preview 1 slide 0:36 min 0:47 min
Preview 1 slide with auto focus and auto exposure 1:07 min 1:18 min
Single scan slide 2000 dpi, auto focus, auto exposure 1:08 min 1:56 min
Single scan slide 4000 dpi, auto focus, auto exposure 1:08 min 1:56 min

When scanning negative film material the scanning times are noticably longer than for positive material. That applies to all film scanners. You can easily figure out how long it would take to scan a film strip with 4 or 6 frames at once. If you perform auto focus and auto exposure for every single image the scanning time sums up to 12-20 minutes - enough time leaving the computer workplace and doing something else.

Scanning single negatives without ICE with ICE
Index scan 6 images 0:15 min 0:15 min
Auto focus 1 negative 0:06 min 0:06 min
Auto exposure 1 negative 0:40 min 0:40 min
Preview 1 negative 0:38 min 0:46 min
Preview 1 negative with auto focus and auto exposure 1:24 min 1:32 min
Single scan negative 2000 dpi, auto focus, auto exposure 2:08 min 3:05 min
Single scan negative 4000 dpi, auto focus, auto exposure 2:10 min 3:07 min

All scans mentioned above were made with a PC with following key data: Pentium 4 processor 3 GHz, 800 MHz front side bus, 2 GB DDR-400 RAM, USB 2.0 port. With better equipped or weaker computers the scanning times considerably differ (see the example in my review of the Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED).


If you buy a Nikon Coolscan V ED you'll get a 95%-complete including scanner, connection cables, user guide, slide mount adaptor, strip film adaptor, scan software and image editing software for digitising your mounted 35mm slides and 35mm film strips. But the package becomes 100%-complete not until you puchase the optional strip film holder FH-3 because only with this accessory you can scan curled or curved film strips and single frames, too.

Considering resolution the new Coolscan V outpaced its predecessor LS-40 by far. The scanner now ascended towards top class with its 4000dpi resolution. Concerning image quality and scanning times the Nikon LS-50 is just like its predecessor in the vanguard of the price range between 500 Euros and 1000 Euros. The Coolscan V ED can absolutely be recommended.

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