I purchased a new Nikon 9000 film scanner a little over a year ago, upgrading from the Nikon 8000 I’d been using for several years.. Both the 9000 and its predecessor produce top-quality exhibition-caliber scans from film sizes up to 120/220, which is the vast majority of what I shoot. The 9000 is a true 16 bit scanner, while the 8000 is 14-bit, and the 9000 is noticeably faster; but they are otherwise comparable devices. And unless I missed the memo, the 9000 is in current production, though it is frequently back-ordered. At $2200, and given that it’s a device targeted to professional users, one expects that Nikon would support it on the current operating systems used by those professionals, at least as long as the scanner is being manufactured. Right?
Well, no, actually. I’ve always scanned with Nikon Scan, the manufacturer’s program supplied on both scanners’ installation disks. It’s always worked flawlessly for me, and has a simple and uncluttered interface I’ve found vastly preferable to the alternatives. It was quite dismaying, therefore, to read Nikon’s announcement that it will no longer update its Nikon Scan software to provide Mac OS X support going forward. 10.6 Snow Leopard users are, therefore, SOL if the upgrade broke their Nikon Scan installation.
Though it has not been officially “supported” on OS X since version 10.3 or 10.4 at the latest, Nikon Scan ran well under 10.5 Leopard, at least on my system. Some users have been able to continue to run Nikon Scan after upgrading to 10.6, while others—myself included—have had problems. Fearing beforehand that this might be the case, I first did a trial upgrade on a clone of my boot drive’s 10.5.8 Leopard system, specifically to test whether Nikon Scan and a few other mission-critical apps would work under 10.6. On this test-clone upgrade, Nikon Scan worked just fine. Thinking I was safe, I proceeded with the upgrade on my production-system boot drive.
Uh oh. At first, Nikon Scan was broken—not sure why. Something critical was amiss—something that worked on the clone upgrade, but not on the production-system upgrade. Who knows what it was? Nikon Support certainly wasn’t talking. Nikon Scan was crashing on launch every time. Removal, reboot, and reinstall were of no use, so I thought myself stuck. My only options by which to run my year-old scanner would be to do some kind of reinstall of 10.5 Leopard; or to run VueScan or SilverFast in place of Nikon Scan. Both of those programs are supported in 10.6.
I can’t understand why so many people swear by VueScan and sing its praises; perhaps they’re so relieved to have some way to run their decade-old flatbed scanners, they are willing to overlook its glaring flaws. Nevertheless, VueScan was Nikon Support’s unhelpful suggestion, evidently offered without shame or even irony. No offense, Ed, but VueScan’s interface is unattractive at best; its documentation is near-awful, and the software is very difficult to use when scanning multi-frame film strips in a dedicated film scanner. Why should it be so hard to get the program to find and scan individual frames on a strip of 120 film, as Nikon Scan does effortlessly? And really, why should any of this be necessary? It’s not like the Nikon 9000 is an obsolete, years-old device. It’s their current top-end model!
Whither SilverFast? This software came bundled with both Epson flatbed scanners I’ve owned over the past few years, most recently the V750. Plus, I’ve tested trial versions several times over the years with my Nikon scanners, trying to see if I could get used to its ways. [This has been a mission of some urgency, since Nikon has long been making noises about bailing on its scanners.]
SilverFast’s latest version bypasses Nikon’s “obsolete” MAID drivers, dangling before me the promise of a future independent of Nikon’s inconstant attentions to its hard- and software. The software does an adequate job, but where VueScan’s interface is simplistic and opaque, SilverFast’s is cluttered and complex—as if its designers were afraid to omit the smallest quantum of information or function from the interface.
Withal, I could learn to love the software, but for its price: at just north of $500, SilverFast is a no-go. After dropping over two large on a brand-new current-model film scanner, why should I have to fork over another 25% of that geld for additional software to make it work on the computer system used by a majority of photographers and graphics professionals worldwide?
I finally decided the least expensive and quickest workaround would be to partition my boot drive to make room for a Leopard installation upon which to run Nikon Scan. This would of course mean the aggravation of booting into Leopard whenever I want to scan film, then booting back into Snow Leopard to do image editing in Lightroom and Photoshop. All my image-editing software would remain on the Snow Leopard installation for simplicity’s sake, so no more time-saving image editing while I scan in the background.
Or so I thought. It turns out that NikonScan wasn’t through with me yet. Right after getting Leopard and Nikon Scan installed on their own partition, I booted back into Snow Leopard. Just for grins, I decided to fire up Nikon Scan. one last time. Damn if it didn’t start up flawlessly and run the scanner normally! I changed nothing on the Snow Leopard partition; I have no idea what happened. I’m not one to examine a gift horse’s dentition, so I’ll accept this little token of the gods’ current and fickle favor, and forgo an explanation. This sort of unpredictable software behavior, while welcome now that it’s running in my favor, is not acceptable for an expensive piece of gear made by a company that purports to serve professional users.
My verdict: not cool, Nikon. Your neglect of, and disdain for, your scanner customers is disappointing, to say the least. How many more thousands of dollars should I have spent on Nikon products over the decades in order to have you reciprocate that loyalty in the here and now by properly supporting your products?