In the Microfilm scanning world, there is a greater challenge to attain excellent image quality. Unlike paper scanners (that scan the original paper document), film scanners are faced with more potential challenges when scanning a roll of film a Microfiche, A Jacketed Microfiche, COM Fiche or Aperture card. The quality of the scanning is dependent on the competency of the person who filmed these documents ensuring that the film camera has the correct specifications. During processing, the film processor needs to be in spec regarding the quality of the chemicals used, the correct amount of time to wash off these chemicals and the correct drying time so that the film doesn’t stick together. Once the processing is complete, film needs to be stored in a climate controlled area to maintain quality of the images and the physical quality of the film. In simple terms, you don’t want the film to fall apart!
In a perfect world, extreme care is always taken to prevent processing problems. In reality, microfilm images created in the 1950’s and 1960’s does not have the same quality as film processed today. Today’s cameras are better and film is better especially when the “film world” went from Acetate film to Polyester film in the 1980’s. Today, preservationists have a higher awareness of how to correctly store the film to prevent breakdown in the images or film itself.
Many users who scan film have stated that a person really needs to have the temperament of an artist to be successful. That means paying attention to detail, however you especially need the best hardware and software tools available in the micrographics industry, to not only scan good images but great images! So what’s being done to create good to excellent image quality images off of film no matter its age or condition? Let’s talk for a moment about the 4 key ingredients for achieving good to excellent image quality off of a film scanner.
- Camera – Up until now, scan cameras have been available in an 8k or 12k configuration. The higher configuration allows companies to scan images at a higher resolution without sacrificing image quality. What has now come available (and really makes a huge difference), is what is called a 12 bit system that is an additional technology feature of these cameras. The result of this 12 bit system is that instead of having only 256 levels of grayscale to help in image quality, customers now have 4,098 levels of grayscale. This feature has already made huge differences in a variety of scanning applications. When scanning newspaper film, there is much more clarity in photos. Handwritten data (whether it be signatures or information in Notary Public Seals) is clearer. Any handwritten documents such as those used in genealogy are now clearer no matter how light the written material is (that in some cases almost blends in with the background).
- Lens – There are many lenses available in the imaging industry, but the lens nextScan choose for our scanners is one manufactured by Schneider. This lens has proven to provide outstanding results for characters that are smaller than 8 point type such as fine print in legal documents. It also brings clarity to characters in italics and the small print usually found within legal seals.
- Light System – nextScan has integrated into all of our scan systems a light system called LuminTec. This patent pending system consists of stroboscopic LED lighting for more consistent lighting and it runs cool delivering optimum performance from all the IT boards in our scanners. Other scanning manufacturers have followed nextScan and implemented LED lighting but nextScans’ technology goes a step further and uses the strobe “stop action” method to further enhance all the characters on an image. The resulting increased clarity in image quality. When you consider how fast the film is running past the scan area, this stop action feature eliminates the blur that occurs with other scanners and ensures better image quality.
- Imaging Hardware– As technology evolves, more functions and increased memory storage gives users more control over the expected quality of their images and do it faster. This becomes evident when you see the final high quality results.
The company called nextScan not only talks the talk but walks the walk. When we say we offer the highest image quality in the micrographics industry today, our in-house engineering and design staff has already upgraded the hardware and software features to ensure this. When you are looking for a film scanning solution, we ask that you consider all that we offer today and know we will continue to push for better performance in the future.
– Joe Merkel
West Coast Sales Manager