Minolta Dual Scan II


Oddly, the main reason I’m writing this review is that I feel that the Minolta Dual Scan II has been harshly treated in the media. Most magazines seem to skip over this, the entry level, model and move on to the Scan Elite. On photo.net all are singing the praises of expensive Nikons and Canons, and complain about the lack of ICE on this model.

In a sense they are right, but everything is a compromise. Here’s why the Dual Scan II is a compromise that works for me.

What is the Dual Scan II?

Flat-bed scanners have plummeted in price over the last few years. Just seven years ago the only way most people could own a scanner was by getting one of those hand-held ones that you manually dragged across your document. They were quite neat, but getting a good scan was tricky. You needed a steady hand and lots of patience.

Fast forward to the present day and you can get good and cheap flat-beds for reasonable prices. You don’t need a steady hand, just the patience — much less than used to be the case too — and a computer capable of accepting large image files. Most of the pictures you can see on the site have come from a very cheap flat-bed, so why did I go and buy a new one?

I have only very occasionally scanned anything other than my own photos. At first glance, a flat-bed seems ideal for the task: simply place the print on the glass and scan away. What’s wrong with that?

Image quality. Each stage the image goes through loses information. By taking the picture rather than looking at it directly with your eyes, you lose information. Scanning it in loses more and printing it onto photographic paper does too. So scanning from a print loses more information than scanning directly from the slide or negative.

Many flat-beds have a transparency adaptor, but I’m not impressed. Most scanners operate at between 600 and 1200dpi, which is great (too much really) for prints, but slides and negatives are much smaller so you’ll need to enlarge them to print. And negatives come out a funny colour. Much better, I thought, to get a scanner dedicated to scanning the originals.

Hence the Scan Dual II. It scans at 2820dpi, which is nearly three times the resolution that I could expect on a reasonably prices flat-bed. It’s much better than a digital camera, too. That resolution is roughly equivalent to a ten mega-pixel digital. Don’t bother looking in the shops for one of those just yet.

It’s designed especially for the task I’m interested in, meaning that you can automate some of the process. I can do up to six negatives or four slides in one go. It’s smaller than any flat-bed and conveniently connects to my iBook’s USB port (many other scanners in this price range are SCSI, which is difficult with a laptop). And it comes with software for the Mac, albeit only MacOS 9, which is another major consideration!

I see what they mean

I spent so much time in image editing software trying to correct the colours of my scans that buying a new scanner was worth the effort. To my eyes, the colours produced by the Minolta are fantastic. It’s able to find details in the negatives and slides that you can’t see in the prints.

It’s kind of obvious in retrospect, but now I find that I’m still spending time in Photoshop (much less through). The problem now is dust. When the source is so small, even small motes of dust look huge. I guess this is why people are happy to pay another few hundred pounds getting a scanner with ICE software. I’ve still not found a 100% reliable way of cleaning my negatives yet, so please let me know if you know of one!

But, as I said, it’s all a compromise. I could have brought a pretty good flat-bed scanner for half the price of the Dual Scan, so I stretched myself getting it. Spending more for ICE just wasn’t an option.

The software that comes with the scanner seems to be quite powerful, but does stop some way short of real image editing software. They supply Adobe Photoshop LE for that purpose, which is getting on a bit. It’s a cut-down version of Photoshop 5. Since we’re now on version 7 it’s rather ancient, and, like the scanning software, is not OS X native.


Slide scanners are very expensive compared with flat-bed scanners. Not only are they tasked with scanning much smaller sources, but far less people buy them. This means that in the broader scanner market, the Dual Scan II is horrendously expensive.

But as far as slide scanners are concerned it’s great. There are cheaper scanners, but they work at much lower resolutions and are only able to work on a single exposure at a time. The more expensive models tend to have image enhancement software which, while useful, is not worth the extra for someone with my (lack of) artistic abilities.

The bottom line is that if you’re on a limited budget, or would rather spend more money on camera equipment rather than computer peripherals, then I consider the Dual Scan II to be a good buy. However, the ICE software on the next model up are quite possibly worth the money.

Note: Some time ago I emailed Minolta technical support to ask them about a MacOS X version of their software. I was surprised when they said that they were not going to produce one. I was, therefore, even more surprised when I recently found said scanner software in a native MacOS X flavour. Ed Hamrick’s Vuescan shareware application is still a viable option, especially if you want to scan negatives (on which it does a far better job out of the box) but I think I’ll be sticking with the “unavailable” Minolta software.


11 responses to “Minolta Dual Scan II”

  1. John Barrett avatar
    John Barrett

    Help, I am trying to locate software to enable me to use the Minolta Scan 2 on a Mac OS X version 10.4.6 – is it possible!

  2. Hi John, it took a little bit of hunting around, but eventually I found the Scan Dual II support website. You can find the drivers there. Hope that helps.

  3. G.Merritt avatar

    Can I use my Dimage Scan Dual II – Af2820U on my ms XP computer system?

  4. I’ve not tried it on Windows, but you can be reasonably sure that it’ll work. Apple’s problem is that they’ve changed OS twice in recent years (from OS9 to OS X, and then again from PPC to Intel), while Microsoft have only just moved to Vista.

    On a related note: has anyone tried the old OS X drivers under Rosetta on an Intel Mac?

  5. John F avatar

    In reply to G.Merritt’s question – yes, it does work with XP. Since my 5year old XP machine has just died, my problem is now ‘…does it work with Vista?…’

  6. Christian J avatar
    Christian J

    Hi I’ve just stumbled onto your site. I’ve just powered up an Dual 2 and shoved the slide cartridge in incorrectly. Now the power button is flashing green and won’t stabilise and the scanner won’t work.

    Any tips to fix gratefully received.

  7. Hi! Cleaning trannies and negs – the failsafe way is to use a chamois leather and then enclose it in glass as soon as possible. Alternatively, use a camelhair brush (s-l-o-w-l-y) immediately before scanning. But you’ve tried that one, I know.

  8. Tom Arthur avatar

    I have read the comments on this page and as I have a few negs,I am going to have a go at cleaning and printing them my-self,hope it is all good advice on this page.

  9. bruce hyman avatar
    bruce hyman

    does anybody have useful information on color balance from the af2820u? i want to color-correct in photoshop, and it appears htat the output colors from the scanner are pretty awful. many thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Bruce, the way it works on the Dual Scan II is much like the “auto white balance” on a digital camera. That is, it’s kinda, sorta okay much of the time but inconsistent between exposures. Slides come out much cleaner than negatives. The trick is to set the colour balance manually. Basically you pick one image, say “this is white” (or black, or 18% grey) and use that for the rest of your scans. You can do this either in Minolta’s scanner software or in Photoshop. I tend to use the latter.

  10. bruce hyman avatar
    bruce hyman

    many thanks for the quick response. i’m obviously disappointed, but my doctor believes that i will live.