The Nikon Coolscan 5000ED Returns

Note: The awesome 2004 brochure — subtitled “Timemachineography™ (??) — the above image comes from is still live on Nikon USA’s website. Find it here:

Several years after wandering in the film scanning wilderness, I’ve re-acquired a Nikon Coolscan 5000. I bought my first Coolscan from Adorama way back in 2009 second hand. Even then they were in short supply, having been recently discontinued. 

For the three of you who’ve been reading this since day dot (shoutout to Mum; Dad; the long suffering wife), I sold my first Coolscan in 2014 in the vain search for a reasonably priced scanner than could do 35mm AND 120. 

Over the past four years, I’ve tried a Plustek Opticfilm 120 (returned), Pacific Image PF120 (repaired; repaired again; replaced; sold), finally settling on an Epson V700 for my 120 and a Plustek Opticfilm 8200i for my 35mm needs (more on that later).

As soon as I plugged it in and fired up VueScan, all the familiar whirring and clicking sounds came back.

The scan quality is, of course, brilliant. The sensor and Nikkor ED lens resolve up to 4,000 DPI — film grain is delightfully visible. 

After the Coolscan arrived, another parcel came in the post bearing a film scanner. My replacement Plustek Opticfilm 8200i came from FVE. I was happy with this scanner, alas it developed banding and had to been repaired, which caused some other problems, so FVE replaced it (great service on their part). 

I was scanning film on my Coolscan I’d previously scanned on my Opticfilm 8200i, and I was surprised not to see a world of difference in the image quality. Both gave pleasing results with a roll of Foma Retropan 320. I’d be perfectly happy with either scan (view which image is which by clicking the hamburger).

Plustek Opticfilm 8200i

Nikon Coolscan 5000ED

Coolscan 5000ED @ 100%

Opticfilm 8200i @ 100%

However, where the Opticfilm 8200i loses the battle is speed. Plustek’s scanner is excruciatingly slow, with a colour negative frame at full resolution (10,000 DPI, although it doesn’t come anywhere close to achieving that) and infrared turned on taking several minutes. Then the film holder has to be advanced manually to the next frame. Although the scanner doesn’t resolve 10,000 DPI, you need to scan it at that setting and then downsize it to achieve its full optical resolution, which is somewhere closer to 3,500 DPI.

By contrast, the Coolscan does a strip of 6 frames in…I don’t know…15–20 minutes? You can fire and forget, so long as the frame edges line up in the scanner. Go away, have a glass of sherry, come back and start the next strip. 

It’s this speed that sets the Coolscan apart. Sure, it’s image quality is renowned, but people forget about speed. Time is more important to me than ever, as a Time Poor Father of a Toddler. Last time with the Coolscan, I had fewer adult-like responsibilities to worry about, but now I don’t have time to dick around with film holders, advancing frames one by one, finishing six frames a day as the tedium and joy of parenting gets in the way. 

Over the past six months with the Opticfilm 8200i, I scanned about a dozen rolls. I’ve done the same with the Coolscan in three weeks. 

And that’s why I’m loving the Coolscan all over again. Hopefully by the time this one carks it, there will be a worthy replacement. If not, there’s alway pixl-latr (go support it if you’ve not already).

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