Tag Archives: Photography

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.

Italy, 2001

Most of my recent trips have been prompted by a change of jobs, and this one was no exception. I decided on Northern Italy as I’d been there before, but only when I was eleven or so. I had great memories of the place — well, a great milk-shake in Sirmeone — and wanted to explore the area more and see what the place looked like from an adults perspective.

Last time we’d been based near Venice. This time I stayed away from the coast and flew into Milan’s Linate airport, spent a day there (Milan, not the airport!) and then headed, by rail, to Desenzano del Garda, a small town on the south side of Lago di Garda (Lake Garda). From here I was able to visit Verona and see the delights of the other towns on the lake.

Also see my newer pictures in Siena, Pisa, San Gimignano and Colle di Val d’Elsa in 2004 and even more of Florence, Poppi, Fiesole, Monteriggioni and others in 2008.

Milan, Italy

Milan, Italy

Milan, Italy

Sirmeone, Lake Garda, Italy

Sirmeone, Lake Garda, Italy

View over Sirmeone, Italy

Desenzano, Lake Garda, Italy
Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

Desenzano, Lake Garda, Italy

Desenzano, Lake Garda, Italy

Desenzano, Lake Garda, Italy

All shots were taken with my EOS. I experimented with a number of different films on this trip: Fuji Superia 100, Fuji Reala 100, Kodak Royal Gold 100 and Fuji Velvia 50. Due to the quality of the scans, you can’t really tell the difference but the prints do vary. Differences in colour saturation are mainly due to the light and polarisation.

If the pictures have piqued your interest, there are a few web Sites that you might want to visit:

  • Italian Tourist Web Site. Where I booked one of my hotels.
  • I used the Michelin “in your pocket” guide to the Italian Lakes (from Amazon UK or US) and the Insight Milan FlexiMap (from Amazon UK or US).
  • As always, there’s a Lonely Planet guide. You can buy a copy from Amazon (UK or US).

Sri Lanka, 2001

Sri Lanka (nee Ceylon) is famous for its tea and Arthur C. Clarke, but, as I found out, there’s much more to it than that!

We started in Negombo, a beach resort a few miles away from the airport, moved round to take in the ‘Cultural Triangle’, down to Kandy, Adams Peak and a tea plantation. Finally, we headed to Unawatuna, a beach resort near to Galle (and the England – Sri Lanka test series) and then back to Negombo for the last night. We made plenty of stops along the route.

A combination of a new camera and the beauty of the place meant that I took as many pictures in Sri Lanka as I took in Georgia and Thailand put together! Here I present the highlights.

Click the small pictures below for a full size version.

All these pictures were taken on my Canon EOS300, mainly on Fuji Superior ISO400 film. I ran out of film towards the end of the trip so the last few are on Kodak Max (ISO400).

The same pictures that are on Kodak film have white lines down the middle. They are scratches on the negative that appear to have been put there during either developing or printing. I’m tempted to name the guilty company…

If the pictures have piqued your interest, there are a few web sites that you might want to visit:

  • The Lonely Planet guide is usually worth consulting.
  • If you prefer hard-copy (much more portable than your laptop!), you can buy a copy from Amazon (UK or US).

Miscellaneous Pictures, 2000

Until now, all the pictures I’ve put here have been based on a theme: the country I was in when I took them. I do take pictures at other times though, and there are often not enough of them to justify a complete page to themselves.

That’s what you’ll find on this page.

There are basically four groups. Firstly there are a few snaps from a quick trip around Durham, in the North-East of England. Then I was briefly in and around Montreal, Canada in May 2000. There are also a couple of pictures taken around Wimbledon during the summer. All these are taken on the Canon Sureshot. At the end you’ll find the highlights of the first roll of film through my EOS (Jessops ISO200). They’re all in and around London.

Click the small pictures below for a full size version.

Durham CathedralDurham's market square A couple of hours south of MontrealA view over Montreal
A square in MontrealNear Wimbledon Common Tower bridgeSt Pauls cathedral
Just outside St PaulsOutside my bedroom window

Thailand, 2000

Thailand is such a beautiful country that I could help but take a huge number of pictures. What you can see here represents the good fraction of those taken!

We started in Bangkok, got the night-train up to Chang Mai and a boat up to Chiang Rai. From there we mini-bused and walked through some Hill Tribe villages back to Chiang Mai, Bangkok and then flew home. A tiring couple of weeks, but well worth it for the scenery alone.

Note that the spelling of many Thai places are not strictly standardised. I’ve used the spellings that our tour-guide or my Lonely Planet guide used, but you may well see others.

Click the small pictures below for a full size version.

A temple viewed from a boat trip down the Chao Phraya RAnother view from the river, Bangkok Wat Po, BangkokWat Po, Bangkok
Wat Po, BangkokWat Po, Bangkok Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, near Chiang MaiChiang Mai from a taxi
Traditional Thai dancingView of River Fang from near Tha Ton View from the River Fang on the way to Chiang RaiView from an elephant
A Chinese temple in Myanmar, near the Thai borderIn Myanmar, just across the border from Thailand On the trekThe first Hilltribe village we stayed at
First thing in the morning at HuayraiA little later at Huayrai The second village we stayed atOn the way to the third village
On the way to the third villageMixture and high- and low-tech at Ahka Makamporm, the t Near Ahka MakampormNear Ahka Makamporm

If the pictures have piqued your interest, there are a few web sites that you might want to visit:

  • Lonely Planet have a useful guide to Thailand, including a large number of interesting links.
  • If you prefer hard-copy (much more portable than your laptop!), you can buy a copy from Amazon (UK or US).
  • Some of the above pictures were taken in some of the northern Hilltribe villages. This web site gives some useful information about them.

Ireland, 2000

Ireland, as I’m sure you know, is a small country in the north west of Europe. It is famed for it’s glorious landscape and frequent and heavy precipitation. We were fairly luck, but we did get very wet on more than one occasion!

We started in Dublin, headed down to Cork via Cashel, up to Killarney and then back to Dublin through Limerick, Killaloe and Kildare. The location of most pictures has been noted.

The pictures of Limerick were actually taken in October 1999, but it didn’t seem worth putting them on a separate page.

Click the small pictures below for a full size version.

Looking at Hore Abbey from the Rock of CashelHore Abbey, near the Rock of Cashel Muckross LakeMuckross Lake
View in the People's Park in LimerickClock tower in Limerick King John's Castle in LimerickThe treaty stone in Limerick
Killaloe across Lough Derg from BallinaLooking out over Lough Derg

If the pictures have piqued your interest, there are a few web sites that you might want to visit: