Nigel Atkinson Photography

Equipment review: Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED


Before reading this review please read my general introduction to reviews here


This is my second film scanner, and it beats the previous Coolscan 3 in all departments (though it was also much more expensive). I have gradually started rescanning older images and have achieved good prints from negatives and transparencies that I found impossible before.


The main assets of this scanner are:

1) scan speed

2) dust removal

3) grain reduction (GEM), and

4) batch scanning negatives on the same strip.

Primary downside is the lack of a printed manual (as with most consumer electronics nowadays). The electronic manual is of dubious quality and contains no real-world tips on how to get the best out of the unit. It would be great to have a simple introduction to sensible workflow with the machine rather than have to invent your own wheel. If anyone has guidance on how to set it up (especially on negs) please get in touch!

My initial optimisation led me to the following workflow, but it took a while to get there. I used GEM2 for slow films, GEM4 for fast films and normal digital ice for everything. DEM added significantly to the scanning time but initially seemed worth it for removing the visible grain. However, GEM also loses detail that you can't get back without scanning. Now that I have Photoshop CS2 I scan full resolution in 16bit without GEM and then use Photoshop filters to adjust the grain removal.

I do adjust the white and black point if the histogram is bunched, but donít adjust colour in the scanner software. I'm experimented on varying curves in the Nikon software but it didn't offered any clear advantages over Photoshop and was irreversible.

A full frame scan at max resolution is about 60Mb when saved as an 8bit TIFF and ends up at around 100Mb when saved from Photoshop elements with a levels layer. Expect to buy a second hard drive even if you are selective about what you scan. The good news is that prints to A3+ look really good (assuming the original image is up to it!)

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