Plustek OpticFilm 7500i Review

4.0
September 24, 2009 | Zoltan Arva-Toth | Other Reviews |

Introduction

Reviewing a film scanner in 2009 may seem like a waste of time, but many photographers still have boxes of negatives and slides hidden away gathering dust in the loft. Enter the Plustek OpticFilm 7500i, a film scanner that promises to extract every last detail from your film photos thanks to its headline-grabbing optical resolution of 7200dpi. With a competitive price-tag of £225 for the SilverFast SE Plus software version, or £395 with SilverFast AI Studio, the Plustek OpticFilm 7500i won't break the bank either, giving you every incentive to finally sort out that long-neglected film library.

The OpticFilm 7500i is Plustek's first 35mm film scanner to offer compatiblity with both Mac OS and Windows.

Headline specifications and features of the OpticFilm 7500i include an optical resolution of 7200dpi, dMax of 3.5, 24 or 48-bit scanning, infrared Smart Removal of Defect (iSRD), multi-sampling, multi-exposure and support for both film strips and mounted slides.

The OpticFilm 7500i scanner comes bundled with either SilverFast SE Plus or SilverFast AI Studio, and is marketed at a very attractive price of £225 in the UK, with the AI version being more expensive but still affordable at £395.

Ease of Use

The Plustek OpticFilm 7500i ships in a large box, but the scanner itself is among the smallest I've seen. Also included in the box are a padded carrying bag, two 35mm film holders - one for strips of up to six frames and another one accommodating up to four mounted slides -, a USB cable, a mains adapter, an installation CD, SilverFast software on another CD and, with the AI version, a 35mm IT8 calibration target as well.

Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI

The following table summarises the key differences across Plustek's current lineup of 7200dpi OpticFilm models:

  OpticFilm
7200
OpticFilm
7200i
OpticFilm
7300
OpticFilm
7500i
dMax 3.3 3.3 3.5 3.5
Multi-exposure No No Yes Yes
Multi-sampling No No Yes Yes
iSRD No Yes No Yes
Weight 1.35kg 1.40kg 1.50kg 1.60kg
Supported Platforms Windows Windows Mac & Windows Mac & Windows
35mm IT8 Target Not Supplied Not Supplied Not Supplied Supplied with AI version

Film Holders

As noted above, you get two different 35mm film holders along with the scanner. Both are inserted through a dust-protected opening on the side of the device. The one for mounted slides is reasonably solid and holds the transparencies - up to four at a time - firmly in position. The same cannot be said of the hinged filmstrip holder, which feels a bit flimsy. The hinges are on the shorter side, making it awkward to open and close the holder. It would have been a better idea to put the hinges on the longer side, at least from a handling point of view. It's really only made for use with perfectly flat strips - any curling in the film will make it very hard to position it properly in the holder, not to mention it will likely result in a more or less blurred scan.

Bundled Software

The Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI comes bundled with Plustek's own QuickScan utility, LaserSoft's highly regarded SilverFast AI Studio - which you can install either as a standalone application or as a Photoshop plug-in -, plus a basic image editor called NewSoft Presto! ImageFolio and a document management solution named NewSoft PageManager.

QuickScan

There are two ways to scan your photos with the OpticFilm 7500i AI. One is called QuickScan, while the other is dubbed IntelliScan. The first uses Plustek's own QuickScan utility, whereas the other involves the use of SilverFast AI Studio. Each has its dedicated button on the front panel of the scanner, but both can also be initiated from the computer as well.

Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI

As the name suggests, the QuickScan option is for those who do not want to fiddle too much with settings. A few of them can be adjusted in a dedicated window, but the choices are limited. You can tell the scanner whether you are scanning a negative or a transparency, whether you want to open the scanned photo in Presto! ImageFolio or just save it on your hard disk, you can specify the file format, the destination folder, a file name prefix, the scanning mode (24 or 48-bit colour, 8 or 16-bit black-and-white), the input resolution, apply one of a few image filters, and make basic brightness, contrast and gamma adjustments. In addition, there are a few tick-boxes, allowing you to enable a preview window to be shown with each scan and to let the scanner auto process the images to some degree. Crucially, you do not get access to infrared dust removal, multi-scanning, multi-exposure, negative film profiles or manual colour correction when using the QuickScan utility - in other words, you are giving up most of the features you have paid for. For this reason, those who plan on using the QuickScan utility only should consider buying the cheaper OpticFilm 7300 instead of the 7500i.

The above adjustments affect all scans until you call up the QuickScan Setting window again. If you opt to enable the scan preview, a few of the settings can be tweaked individually with each scan (but others cannot, making QuickScan cumbersome to use, which kind of defeats the very point of this feature).

Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI
The preview window of the QuickScan utility

IntelliScan with SilverFast AI Studio

If you've installed SilverFast AI Studio, you can call it up by pressing the IntelliScan button on the scanner's front plate. SilverFast is a professional-grade imaging application, and as such, it is the exact opposite of the QuickScan utility. The options it offers are dazzling to say the least, and intuitiveness isn't among the program's virtues. This means that even if you have a fair bit of experience in image editing, you may find that it takes time to master this peculiar piece of software. On the CD, there are a number of MOV files that demonstrate what the different functions do and how they are meant to be used - they are worth checking out.

Given that QuickScan provides no access to some of the Plustek 7500i's most useful features, you will have to learn how to use SilverFast, no matter how intimidating it may seem at first sight. iSRD, multi-sampling, multi-exposure and a number of other functions are only accessible via this program.

To be fair though, some of SilverFast's features are actually quite straightforward to use. One of the handiest is called NegaFix. Negative films are not simply the inverse of positive film - they all have an orange mask, which needs to be filtered out in order to get the colours right. To make matters more complicated, every type of negative film has its own version of this orange mask, giving you no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. This is where NegaFix comes in: it stores profiles for a legion of print films, so if you intend to scan one that's included in its database, chances are you can get over the colour issue quickly and easily.

Many of SilverFast's functions are accessible via dedicated buttons arranged in a vertical row along the left side of the program's scan preview window. One of these is iSRD. The OpticFilm 7500i - as well as the older 7200i but not the 7200 or the 7300 - is capable of infrared scanning. This is important because dust and scratches respond differently to infrared light, making it possible for the scanner and the scanning application, in this case SilverFast, to isolate them and clone them out. iSRD, or infrared Smart Removal of Defect, is SilverFast's approach to this. It works on practically all colour films (except Kodachrome), as the sample below demonstrates.

Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI
A rather dirty frame of Fujichrome Sensia.

Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI
See how well iSRD cleaned it up.

The crops below show the same detail of the photo above, scanned at 1200dpi with and without iSRD:

Without iSRD With iSRD
Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI

That is very nice, but what about black-and-white films and Kodachrome? iSRD cannot be used with them. Fortunately, SilverFast also has a software-based SRD solution, which is user configurable to boot.

Another option that is only available when scanning with SilverFast is multi-exposure. This serves to improve the dynamic range of the scan by scanning the photo twice, with different levels of analogue gain applied. Apparently, you need to scan in 48-bit mode to take advantage of this, and save the resultant scan in a 16-bit-per-channel format such as TIFF or JPF. These can be converted to 8-bit-per-channel formats later, in an appropriate program. I expected this function to improve shadow detail, but found it to be most effective on the highlights, as these crops showing a detail of a white T-shirt show:

Single-exposure scan Multi-exposure scan
Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI

Note: multi-exposure is not to be confused with multi-sampling, which is a function aimed at eliminating scanner noise.

Resolution

7200dpi sounds like an awfully lot of resolution, and indeed, photographs scanned at this setting produce digital images of nearly 70 megapixels. But how much detail do they really contain? Let's find out!

Below is a scan of a frame shot on Fujichrome Velvia using a sharp prime lens.

Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI

See those plates on the wall? Take a closer look.

3600dpi scan 7200dpi scan
Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI

These crops have had no sharpening of any kind applied to them. Also, remember that you are peeping at portions that represent less than 0.2% of the total frame area! Now look at the thin concentric lines in both crops. You can see how the 7200dpi scan hangs on to them all, even where the 3600dpi scan loses them. Now to be honest, this was one of just a few cases where I was able to detect any difference between the amount of detail captured at 7200dpi versus 3600dpi. Most of the slides - and negatives - I scanned were taken with hand-held manual-focus cameras with consumer-grade lenses, and these did not typically contain enough detail to warrant being scanned at such high resolution.

Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI

But, since high resolution is one of the main selling points of this scanner, I was curious to find out whether it could outperform a lot more expensive yet theoretically lower-resolution model of a leading manufacturer. For this reason, I had the same transparency scanned professionally using a Nikon Coolscan 8000 ED. Some may cry foul at this point, since the Nikon is a top-of the line device designed for professional use - but it's an old model and at 4000dpi, its resolution is substantially below that of the Plustek's 7200dpi, at least on paper. So I took approximately the same crop from the Nikon scan, and 'uprezzed' it to match the size of the 7200dpi crop. The result is shown at left.

Even though the Nikon scan is interpolated up from a lower resolution, it is clear that it's sharper and more detailed than the Plustek at its native 7200dpi. How can this be? I think the Plustek's presumably cheaper, fixed-focus optic can be one of the culprits here, which probably doesn't compare well with the Nikon's high-grade ED lens and auto-focus.

But just because the Plustek's allegedly higher resolution doen't quite stand competition with the Nikon's 4000dpi, it doesn't mean that it's a low-resolution scanner in absolute terms. Quite the contrary - just remind yourself again how small a portion of the full frame we are peeping at here, and you'll agree that the Plustek is quite an achiever, especially at the price point it is being sold at.

Conclusion

If you were thinking of buying the Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI for its headline-grabbing 7200dpi resolution, you might feel a little disappointed. The real resolution of the scanner is apparently somewhere just below 4000dpi. But I'll hasten to add that this is still a very good figure for a film scanner - what's more, I'll go as far as to say it's overkill for most shots. For the majority of a typical hobbyist's photographs, scanning at around 2400dpi should be enough. This resolution yields sharp 8+ megapixel files that can be printed at magazine quality up to A4 size. It also cuts down on scanning times and file sizes, which can be humongous with 7200dpi scans, particularly those created in 48-bit mode.

What's more important than sheer resolution is that the Plustek OpticFilm AI is a scanner capable of infrared scanning, and comes bundled with a program that can take advantage of this - and much more. SilverFast AI Studio is a professional-grade imaging application that gives you more than you bargained for, offering everything from powerful colour management tools to complicated tone curve adjustments. But it also features some ingeniuous and easy-to use functions such as NegaFix and MultiExposure, both of which can make your life easier and improve the quality of your scans.

Overall, I can recommend the Plustek OpticFilm 7500i AI to any amateur photographer with a moderate archive of films - as long as you take your time to learn how to use it and the SilverFast AI Studio software, you are unlikely to be disappointed.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4
Value for money 5

Entry Tags

35mm, scanner, silverfast, film scanner, Plustek OpticFilm 7500i Review, AI, SE, 7500i, plustek, opticfilm

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Your Comments

21 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 John

I use Ed Hamrick’s Vuescan with my 7500i; scanning at 7200 and reducing the raw file to a half gives me the best results; a little smoother than straight 3600 scans and files are a reasonable size. I don’t like the film holder, but I can live with it ( unlike the holders that came with my Epson 750 ). Great value for money and gives me much more detail than I could get with my (late) Scanwit 2740. 3600 dpi is probably not far off max optical resolution. Ilford D100 and Fuji Velvia 100 are my main 35mm films; both scan nicely.

6:14 pm - Thursday, September 24, 2009

#2 Darrel

Very nice review !
The team play of Plustek scanner and SilverFast software is well explained including the most important features.

@John: I see absolutely no need for spending extra money on an additional scanner software when superb SilverFast is bundled.

9:02 am - Tuesday, September 29, 2009

#3 Pearly

Hi, I’m using SilverFast for years and I’m very pleased.
It can save you hours and hours of Photoshop post processing, if you’ve learned how to adjust SilverFast properly for doing most corrections during the scan process.
Second, the nice SilverFast staff offers a very personable and capable support, which ‘ve used twice so far.

best
Pearly

(btw. Plustak just came up with their new 7600i model, which is fortunately also bundled with SilverFast.)

1:21 pm - Tuesday, September 29, 2009

#4 imajes

I was curious about scanning speed as one of the reasons I loathed scanning film was the sheer time consuming tedium of doing so. I have thousands of rolls of film I would like to scan, but cannot face the thought of doing so. So speed of throughput and non-fiddly film holders would play a large part in my [and probably the many others in same situation] decision to buy such a scanner. Image quality being acceptable of course.

12:48 pm - Wednesday, September 30, 2009

#5 Columbo

When we are talking about scanning thousands of slides the Plustek is for sure not a good choice. You’ll end up scanning for years and years :)

Therefore you’ll need a scanner that’s able to batch scan whole magazines of slides. I would recommend the Nikon CoolScan 5000 with a slide feeder for up to 50 slides or the Reflecta DigitDia 5000, for which magazines that hold up to 100 slides are available.

The SilverFast Archiving Suite looks like a good software to operate that devices. First batch scanning the originals to HDD, then batch processing as needed when spare time is spendable.

greetz
Columbo

12:48 pm - Friday, October 2, 2009

#6 image masking

This is absolutely great review!!

6:13 am - Monday, October 12, 2009

#7 christmas shopping

I don’t have this specific brand of scanner, but I do have experience scanning film with other scanners. One tip on B&W film,especially older, traditional silver-based film like Tri-X or Plus-X or Ilford HP-5,etc is to scan it using the softeare settings for “Color Positive” or “Color Reversal” or “Color Slide”,and then invert the resulting scan. Older, traditional film.

8:38 am - Thursday, October 29, 2009

#8 Tom

Great review! It appears that as far and price are concerned this unit is a good choice. Thanks for all the in depth info.

5:05 am - Saturday, February 13, 2010

#9 Zoltan Arva-Toth

Since the publication of this review, Plustek has updated its QuickScan utility to include multi-sampling as an option. For multiple exposure and iSRD, you will still have to use Silverfast though.

10:42 am - Monday, February 15, 2010

#10 TOM DEPIETRO

I received the plustek 7500i se for christmas 2009 and still do not know how to use it. this link was no help at all. All i want to do is view slides and import only the good ones to iphoto on my MAC. This silverFast that has been included has really confused things for me. I think i am going to return this Plustek as long as it can’t e used.  Why can’t anything be produced simple now a days? I will wait to see if i get a response.  My number is 847-682-7531. Please use it if you can guide me through using this slide converter.  Thank You   Tom Depietro

3:32 pm - Tuesday, February 16, 2010

#11 Tom

Tom,

I have not personally used the 7500i, but the SilverFast program is a professional quality program and does have a learning curve. Try this link and explain your problem to them.

http://www.justanswer.com/computer/?r=ppc|ga|6|Computer+-+Top+Brands|Plustek&JPKW=plustek help&JPDC=S&JPST;=&JPAD=4076691712&JPAF=txt&JPCD=20091016&JPRC=1&gclid=COPn58LD958CFRwUawodehbGfQ

or

http://www.fixya.com/PostQuestionPremium.aspx?prdid=0&ctgid=0&fmlid=0&brdid=0&fromlp=1

Like to get your feed back on them as well.

Tom

8:03 pm - Tuesday, February 16, 2010

#12 mike

Great write up, just convinced me to order one

7:45 pm - Monday, March 22, 2010

#13 Jay

The silver program will offer histograms, etc., so reading up on Photoshop elements may decipher some of the learning curve.  I am curious, does the rather low DMax number mean that other higher numbers will grant very better results?

6:52 am - Sunday, April 25, 2010

#14 Internet Startup

I would recommend the Nikon CoolScan 5000 with a slide feeder for up to 50 slides or the Reflecta DigitDia 5000, for which magazines that hold up to 100 slides are available.

7:25 am - Monday, August 9, 2010

#15 Fairmont Bathroom

The Plustek OpticFilm 7500i has compared to the previous model clearly improved regarding resolution and density range thus supplies better pictures, even if the very much announced multi-exposure function does not bring the hoped quality increase. Thanks to SilverFast Ai Studio and IT-8 calibration scans with good colors and high resolution can be made with the Plustek 7500i. The scanner is being delivered with a very good, extensive software package, although unfortunately without Adobe® Photoshop® Elements.

10:54 am - Thursday, August 26, 2010

#16 Stock Photo News

Thanks for a remarkable good review and basis for buying decisions. Your conclusion tells us that for scanning photo archives for professional stock photography we need to use Nikon Coolscan 5000 or Nikon Coolscan 9000 or even better photo scanners or a professional scanner service.
Best
Soren Breiting alias Soren Breiting
Denmark, editor of Stock Photo News

10:12 am - Friday, September 10, 2010

#17 bathroom vanities

The maximum optical resolution of a scanner is very important.My first thought when I looked at the plustek box was some confusion. It was obvious from reading the English text on the box and the 3 quick guides that whoever wrote the English text, English was not their first language.

12:24 pm - Tuesday, September 14, 2010

#18 Mykalai Kontilai

It is a nice feature that Plustek include a carrying bag designed for the OpticFilm 7500i SE and its accessories. The bag is well constructed and comfortable to carry.

9:28 am - Thursday, September 23, 2010

#19 Senior Facility

The two ways to scan your photos which are QuickScan and IntelliScan, are simply amazing.

11:15 am - Wednesday, January 26, 2011

#20 payday loans

I like your post.. After your post i buy new slide/film scanner. I’ve been using it for three months. It’s very amazing….

7:17 am - Saturday, May 21, 2011

#21 renting

was curious about scanning speed as one of the reasons I loathed scanning film was the sheer time consuming tedium of doing so.

9:22 am - Tuesday, November 29, 2011