Reflecta DigitDia 5000 Slide Scanner – Review

I recently inherited a box of around 4,000 film slides and was asked to scan them in. I decided that my existing film/slide scanner, a Veho VFS-001, was not up to the task so I investigated alternatives, and eventually settled on a Reflecta DigitDia 5000 – which is simply a rebadged (and cheaper!) Braun Multimag 4000.

First let me show you the specs, pinched directly from the manufacturer’s page:

The consistent advancement of DigitDia 4000 resulted in a substantially reduced scanning speed. More efficient working is now ensured by the faster scanning speed of only 90 seconds at full resolution of 3600 dpi. In addition, the scanner now has an improved and more stable USB 2.0 connection. Scanning is done directly from the slide magazine with a capacity of 100 slides and Digital ICE Technology.
No large-scale and manual inserting of single slides. The easy and fast way for high quality scanning of slides format 24x36mm for archival on CD, projection with digital-projectors, viewing on PC or TV, sending the images by e-mail, printing at home or exposure the images on professional lab on high quality photo-paper. Compatible for CS/Universal/Braun and LKM Magazines.

  • Digital ICE™ – Hardware-based Dust-and Scratch removal with infrared sensors and automatically Software correction.
  • DigitalROC™ – Color Restoration; Image Quality will be restored.
  • DigitalGEM™ – Grain Management; minimize grain to restore the image’s sharpness.
  • Image Sensor: Linear Array Color CCD
  • Scanning mode: 48 Bit
  • Optical Resolution: 3600×3600 dpi
  • Lamp: Cold Cathode Fluorescent lamp
  • Scanning preview: 15 seconds
  • Scanning Speed (ICE off):
  • ColorScan 1800 dpi 60 seconds
  • ColorScan 3600 dpi 120 seconds
  • Max. Scanning Area: 37.5 x 37.5 mm
  • Dynamic Range: 3.8 Dmax.
  • Batch Scanning: directly from magazine
  • PC Interface: USB 2.0
  • Output connector: 1x USB 2.0
  • Viewer: Slide Viewer with backlight to examine slide

All sounds promising so far, and the Digital ICE sounds like a definite bonus, as frankly I can’t be bothered to clean 4,000 slides.

I’ve now scanned in over 2,000 of my slides so I feel I can write about the scanner with at least some experience.

Image quality

In general, no problems at all with the image quality. For a 35mm slide, you get an image that’s around 14 megapixels in resolution. Some of the slides I encountered were some other format (sorry, don’t know much about film!) and were square. With these, you get around 10 megapixels.

The colour reproduction isn’t great. The colours are not well saturated and the scans have a distinctly washed-out feel to them. This is no problem if you plan to edit the photos manually later, e.g. using Photoshop or GIMP. The scanner package also includes a feature for colour restoration, DigitalROC, which brings me on to my next point…

DigitalROC is useless. Avoid avoid avoid. In photos that are well exposed and colourful in the first instance, it does an OK job and livens the colours up a little. In photos that are anything more than slightly underexposed, DigitalROC comes crashing in and ruins the photo. It makes parts of the picture look like they are in 16 colours. Unfortunately I didn’t realise this until after I’d done a few hundred slides, and I’ve had to go back and redo them without DigitalROC. In the end I resorted to using GIMP to adjust the colours – I found that the “Auto white balance” tool usually fixed the colours.

The original sample photo below was underexposed but by no means beyond repair with a little bit of gentle tweaking. But here’s what the DigitalROC made of it…

DigitalROC goes wrong on an underexposed photo

The other software-based enhancement, DigitalGEM is not a lot better. This is supposed to automatically sharpen the image, but I guess the risk with any automatic tool is that there’s no “one size fits all” solution. On some of my photos, DigitalGEM did such a “good” job of sharpening that it cut people’s faces out with hard edges that made them look like cartoon characters.

This next sample shows how DigitalGEM has oversharpened the glasses on the bridge of my great-grandmother’s nose. Perhaps you can’t see in this scaled-down version, and maybe that’s OK; maybe that means DigitalGEM has got away it. But click for the full-resolution version and see how odd it looks. I’m not really happy about this being done to my photos!

DigitalGEM oversharpens

The only enhancement I found to be any good was Digital ICE – the hardware-based technology for removing (well, working around) scratches and dust using infrared light. I haven’t directly compared the same slide with and without Digital ICE, but in the scans that I have done, there isn’t a lot of obvious dust. Sure, it misses larger items like deep scratches and eyelashes, but it seems good at minimising the effect of dust.

The scanner automatically crops the image. This usually works well, although almost all of my scans were rotated by approximately half a degree. Sometimes the auto cropper crops close enough that you can’t tell, other times you get annoying wonky black borders.

Software user interface

The supplied software is rather crude. It is unlike any scanning software I’ve seen before, in that you don’t actually get to see your photos anywhere in the software. In my case, that didn’t bother me. I simply turned off DigitalROC and DigitalGEM, increased the resolution to 3600dpi from its default of 1800dpi (this took some searching) and from then on I simply commanded it to scan trays in batch.

It does not work on Windows Vista, and for you Linux users out there, I couldn’t get it to work on wine either. Maybe with some fighting you could make it go, but it was quicker for me to dig out my old laptop with Windows XP. An Apple OS X version of the software is included, so I can’t vouch for it and I don’t know if it’s any different.

Auto-loading mechanism

For me, this was the main reason for buying such an expensive scanner, and the main advantage over the Veho. In reality, it has been a bit of a disappointment.

First off, Reflecta provide a 100-slide tray with the scanner. Great, I thought, and immediately loaded 100 slides into it. But it quickly became clear that this tray was not well designed and does not hold the slides straight (only up on edge, not along the bottom). If the slides are not straight, they can’t slide neatly into the scanner – and worse yet, as the slides are only held upright along one edge, as soon as they start to slide into the scanner, away from the support, they immediately fall over. Useless!

Luckily, I had a 50-slide tray that came bundled with the slides I inherited. This holds the slides and supports them all the way as they slide in and out. But I still had difficulty with the reliability of the loading mechanism. The first video shows how it should work, and the second shows what it does when it fails.

The most reliable slides in my experience are the fairly thick plastic-framed ones with rounded corners. The mechanism seems fairly able to capture them properly and slide them into the scanner. The round corners means they don’t snag on the “track” they slide along.

The "Goldilocks" slide - just thick enough

I also had some rather thicker slides, with the film sandwiched between two pieces of glass. These had square corners. They usually load into the scanner fine, but upon trying to unload them they often jam and have to be manually removed. This is an unrecoverable jam and so your batch job stops. Pretty annoying if this is in the first few of the tray!

A thick glass FerraniaColor slide

The vast majority of my slides are “standard” thickness and either plastic with round corners, or card with square corners. These almost never get loaded properly, as the arm that pokes the slides into the scanner misses the slide completely, and you get a blank scan. So if you’re scanning thinner slides, you do really need to sit with the scanner and help it along when it changes over. Pretty annoying, as each scan takes almost two minutes, so a tray of 50 keeps you tied to your desk for an hour and a half!

A thin cardboard slide

I’ve managed with this scanner by saving my few thick, plastic slides for unattended overnight jobs, and scanning the thin ones whenever I have time to supervise the scanner.

Verdict

  • Very good image quality if you disable DigitalROC and DigitalGEM, and are prepared to play with the white balance and/or saturation yourself
  • The autoloader is not very good at all unless you have a specific type of slide, and defeats the object of having a batch scanner.
  • It is rather noisy – not only when changing slides but also when scanning slides. Comparable to an inkjet printer, perhaps.
  • Software is rather crude, but does its job. You’ll be editing your photos in a third-party application anyway so who cares!
  • It has still saved me significant labour compared with scanning 4,000 slides in the Veho!
Leave a comment ?

23 Comments.

  1. If you use the compatibility mode the software works for vista. The software does work for Windows 7 as well.

    • Hi Christiaan,

      Thanks for posting. The first thing I tried with Vista was the compatibility mode, and it didn’t work for me. I will give it another try, and perhaps with more patience this time :) Didn’t see much point in fighting with Vista when I knew I had XP available.

      Good to know it works on Windows 7, too.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

  2. Best Rated 35mm Slide Scanner | Top Rated Products - pingback on July 8, 2009 at 4:27 am
  3. You need to slide the red plastic bit forward on the arm for universal slides, as it shows in the video it is setup for the cs slide mounts. These are rigidly set in their trays and only need a narrow ‘pusher’.
    This is the same design as the original cs slide projector’s think the one I have in the roof is agfa, before reflecta took over the product.

  4. Interesting experience… I, too, have bought a Reflecta DigitDia 5000 new, in July this year, so just 1 month ago: and have scanned all my slides (mostly glassless plastic frame Hamafix, but some paper Kodachrome slides as well) with no problems whatsoever. In fact, I bought two Paximat 100 round magazines. So letting the scanner work (even unattended – no problem) gets the job done quite fast: 100 slides in 4 hrs 15 (best quality: 3600 dpi, save as TIF (= 90 MB each!), and with ICE on (which, in my opinion, is a must).
    As I have now finished all the slides I wanted to scan (3 wks into the job) I sell my nearly new Reflecta DigitDia 5000 for EUR 777 (optionallt Paximat 100 magazines, two of them at EUR 10.50 each) If interested, contact me at: reflecta.digitdia.5000_AT_mac.hush.com

  5. @Baz
    Thanks for that info – I didn’t see anything like that in the documentation. I guess it would explain the loading problems I was having.

  6. @Ing
    Perhaps the difference between your setup and mine was the red lever that Baz mentioned.

  7. Just wanted to drop you a line to say, I enjoy reading your site. I thought about starting a blog myself but don’t have the time.
    Oh well maybe one day…. :)

  8. It’s a long way to scan !
    I use my Reflecta digitdia 5000 for one year
    I have a big amount of slides to scan : 30,000
    I have now scanned more than 10,000 without any major problem (but i’m careful with thin card slides which often block, fortunately I have few of them).
    Every evening i put a basket of 50 slides and it goes on alone.
    So I recommand this scanner, with the inconvenients of noise and crude software.

  9. I use a powerslide 3650 from pacific image, but it’s the same scanner. I’ve already scanned 3000 slides and it jammed a very few times. I used both paximat circular 100 slides tray and paximat 50 slides linear tray. Now I’m usind standard 36 slides linear trays, and they’re fine too, I just need to reposition the orange lever from the back to the front side of the mechanical arm

  10. nice method article. The scan mode definitely affects the final image.
    It is useful to lay around 12 slides on a flat plate, scan at 600 dpi then crop accordingly though some slides quality may be pretty poor to start with. photoshop comes in handy here.

  11. Hi,
    Has anyone done a comparison between the Reflecta 5000 and a Nikon 4000 ?????
    I am thinking of buying a Nikon second hand as I have thousands of slides to scan.
    From what I can work out Reflecta do not have a Dist. in Australia.
    Phil

    • I’ve never used a Nikon 4000, so I can’t really comment on it. I suspect you’ll get better image quality from it. If you want to use the bulk auto-loading feature, apparently you’ll have to buy the SF-200 auto slide feeder. I’ve no idea how much this costs.

      I didn’t buy my Reflecta from an official distributor – I bought it from eBay. They seem pretty rare devices though.

      When you’ve decided what to buy, please post back here and let us know how you got on with it.

  12. Is there any chance you could try moving the little red bit of plastic as suggested by other commenters and rerunning a couple of the various slides to see if they transport properly? This would be interesting, as yours is the only review that seems to have actually addressed a number of different types of mounts in the first place.

  13. Just tried it. Works! No more swearing and baby sitting the
    scanner…!

  14. Have you sold the scanner yet? I’m interested in buying it. Cheers, Matt.

    • Hi Matt,

      Sorry, I sold the scanner about a year ago. I bought it for a specific job, to scan 5000 slides, and then I sold it again. It was cheaper to do this than to rent one, or to send the slides to a photographic shop. Shame to get rid of it, because the image quality was nice, but it didn’t make sense to have a £900 scanner lying around.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

  15. Thanks Jonathan. I’m thinking of doing the same; buying the scanner, using, then selling on. Can I ask how much you got for it ? Many thanks, Matt.

  16. I can’t remember how much I bought it for (because I gave the buyer the original receipt for the warranty) but it was around £900 I think. I bought it new from an online retailer that I’d never heard of before.

    I sold it on eBay for £699. At the time I remember being a little disappointed with the price but as such a niche item it didn’t attract much attention in the 10-day auction.

    Either way, £200 was a better price for scanning 5000 slides than any photographic store was offering (some of them wanted 99p per slide!). I also made a few quid on the side by offering to scan slides for friends and family. Given that it can chew through a tray of 50 slides unattended, it doesn’t take much trouble to scan a couple of trays for a tenner :)

  17. I’m looking to purchase if anyone has one for sale. Say if includes the Digital ICE and Silverfast software.

  18. Hello !

    I am interested in problems (or NO problems) with LKM magazines in Reflecta 5000.
    Has anyone experience with this combination to share with public ?

    • Hello Miro!

      I hope it is not too late for answer, but here it is anyway:
      This machine works great with LKM magazines. I have luckily decided to use LKMs when I started to take slides 20+ years ago :) and this year I have scanned 1000’s of slides with it. If you have original LKM magazines, it works without any jams. But the fact is, I had some problems with fake magazines. You can read all abou it here: dia-scan.blogspot.com/2012/10/welcome-to-machine.html

Leave a Reply

Trackbacks and Pingbacks: