Nikon abandons its scanner users: Snow Leopard support not forthcoming

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?

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20 thoughts on “Nikon abandons its scanner users: Snow Leopard support not forthcoming

  1. I spoke with Imacon regarding the Snow Leopard upgrade and was informed that a version of there software will be available in a few weeks so all Imacon scanners will work with Snow Leopard… just not now. Apple really screwed up by releasing this OS before its targeted date (1 month early from what I heard) as many companies were not ready with their software upgrades… as for now I have to scan on my PC and then send it to my mac which is less than perfect but a work around I can live with for a few weeks… Nikon this is your chance to make right and as Mike said support your customers!

    Viva la Revolution-
    Stephen Schaub

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    1. Stephen, thanks much for commenting. Good to have more specific information about what I also learned from Hasselblad USA about their plans to upgrade FlexColor to run under Snow Leopard.

      Oddly enough, FlexColor 4.8.8 has been working just fine for me on my Snow Leopard system! So evidently it *can* run, and problems are sporadic and unpredictable—which from a production standpoint might be even worse than the certainty of it NOT running.

      Nikon has really dropped the ball. Their behavior, however, makes sense if their next move is to announce that they’ve discontinued film-scanner production. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

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  2. I read many people having problems with 10.5 and Nikon Scan, mine has worked flawlessly with my LS5000. I have not upgraded to 10.6 yet for this very reason. I dropped 1.5K on the CoolScan 5000 here in China (import taxes) and I too am dismayed that a product that is current is not going to be updated.

    We chose to use film and scanners because we won’t settle for the quality compromises of bayer digital. So what are we to do? I am seriously thinking about selling my FM3a, 85 1.4 AFD, 50 1.2 AIS and 28 2.8 AIS and getting an M9. I want to shoot film – I prefer the look. For F*&CKS sake Nikon – stop being so friggin useless.

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    1. Yeah, you’d think so. I mean, they won’t upgrade the software because to do so is not a wise use of their resources, in their view. Yet they won’t release the source code, even though doing so would cost them nothing (all costs are sunk at this point); might save them money in reduced support costs (if indeed they’re incurring any); and would gain them something in good will. Crazy.

      Thanks for wrting, Bob. Happy New Year.

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  3. I have a Nikon 9000 scanner, and have tried Viewscan, but it is too slow. Have any of you installed Boot Camp and Windows Vista so you can use Nikon’s latest software for Windows? I’m considering doing that now, in hopes that the newer version of NikonScan will be fast and reliable.

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  4. Hi Michael,

    I don’t know whether your problem is solved or not. I recently converted from Windows XP to Mac OS 10.6.4. I have a Nikon 5000 Super Coolscan ED. I had SilverFast for Nikon in Windows. LaserSoft Imaging allows cross-platform re-installation with the same serial number. No hassle. All I needed to do was to download the OSX version and install my serial number. There was no need for any drivers – it’s plug and play – connect the scanner, launch SilverFast and scan away. Yes, the interface is cluttered and its not cheap, but there is NOTHING else providing the same combination of options, features, performance and quality. You’d probably find the same for your 9000ED. I agree it ain’t cheap, but when you consider how much use you’ll get from it over the years if you do a lot of scanning, it gets digested as time goes on.

    Nikon will not be the first or last major corporation to abandon its legacy customers once it decides to vacate a product line. This is not to excuse them, but just to point out that it may not be prospective waiting for them to do what one may expect they should do.

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    1. Mark, my problem got bypassed after it solved itself. My installation of Nikon Scan simply started to work after a reboot, for no apparent reason. Gift horse, I guess….But I’ve been using a Hasselblad 646 for most of my scanning since I wrote this post; the Nikon 9000 has seen little use.

      I have tried SilverFast several times. Inarguably it’s a capable program. But I just couldn’t get past the interface design. You’re correct, though, that for many scanners it’s the best, if not only, game in town. I will probably move to it if / when I use a scanner it supports. The Hasselblad scanners use their own proprietary software and drivers. Guess that’ll be my next worry, with the new Mac OS slated for release this summer.

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  5. Instead of bogging down my Mac with Boot Camp and Windows, I decided to install the Nikon Super CoolScan in my Dell computer. It works fine. I just have to transfer the scans into my Mac via a thumb drive or a CD. This way I use the Mac for Photoshop editing and to make prints with ImagePrint at the same time as scans are being made. I realize not everyone has a spare PC sitting on their desktop, but it might be a good workaround to buy an inexpensive PC or PC laptop to run your Nikon scanner. This way I get an automatic backup on the PC hard drive.

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  6. As a workaround, you can install VirtualBox on your Snow Leopard, buy a Windows Xp/Vista license (or get an old retail one) and run it virtualized on your system. However, this is far from being an inexpensive solution, except if you own an old winxp retail license. However, VueScan is not an option. Nikon Scan, when supported by Nikon, was a crash maker, but end results were nice. VueScan produces “artistic” results in the sense that it requires a lot of tweaking to output acceptable pictures. Sorry, Nikon, but you’ve lost a lot of your old time customers. Good luck selling DSLRs.

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    1. Francisco, I appreciate your commenting. Since posting this I have switched to the Imacon/Hasselblad 646 for most of my scanning, and therefore I don’t use the Nikon scanner very much. NikonScan is so far working on my Snow Leopard MacOSX system. I had thought of doing exactly what you describe—either dual-booting into Windows to run NikonScan there—or dual-booting into a previous version of MacOSX—but things are working OK for now.

      As I write this, it appears that Nikon has discontinued its film scanners entirely. The 9000 is nowhere in stock that I can find, and is listed as “discontinued” by B&H Photo. So that’s the end of the story. If I were going to use the scanner regularly at this point, especially with a new MacOSX version due this summer, I’d make the switch to SilverFast, learn its interface, and move on.

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  7. I have a coolscan 5000. Do you know of anyone having that scanner work with 10.6? I am also wondering what the last version of the Nikon Scan software was for the 5000?

    Thank you.

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    1. It should work fine. 4.1-something was the latest NikonScan version for all of their FW scanners.

      If I were you, I’d bite the bullet and pony up for SilverFast, learn the interface, and move forward with a modern set of MAID-independent drivers and software for the scanners. NikonScan is dead in the water.

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  8. I had not used my L5000 for many months and when I tried it with 10.6 it did not work. I have some APS film and negatives that both require the special adapters on the L5000 and therefore the Nikon Scan software to control the adapters so Vuescan and Silverfast are not options. There are two “fixes” for this issue. One is the get a low-cost external drive and load on 10.5 and Nikon Scan and when I need to scan I boot up my mac with that external drive. The other option that I am using now is I have an old laptop (12inch MacBook) that a G4 processor so the top end OS is 10.5.8. I keep this laptop only to run my Nikon scanner and it works well. I am sure that it should be possible to buy G4 laptops or Mac Mini’s for less than Silverfast.

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    1. Thanks for commenting.

      This is the frustrating thing about Nikon Scan: unpredictability. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. It might work with an OS upgrade, but not with a clean install of the same OS — or vice versa!

      Surprised to hear that Nikon Scan doesn’t support a Nikon-supplied holder for APS negatives; that’s nuts. I’m not regularly using my LS9000, but if I were, I’d just bite the Silverfast bullet and make my peace with that, and move away from Nikon’s hideous MAID driver system.

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  9. Possiedo Supercoolscan9000. Ho usato con successo e soddisfazione lo scanner con Mac osx 10.5. Ora ho MacPro con OSX 10.6 e arrangio con VueScan.
    Sembra incredibile che il colosso Nikon si rifiuti di aggiornare il suo software 4.0.2.
    Una brutta figura e una grande perdita di immagine in campo internazionale.
    frater.

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  10. I also own a Super CoolSacn 5000ED and , Believe it or not worked well in Leopard 10.5.8 and also on 10.6.8 but all good things ended and I refuse to dish out $$$$$$$$$ for either 3rd party program!
    However, I am blessed with Mac heaven, I also have the wretched Vista but downloaded the 4.03 upgrade from Nikon support and as mentioned in previous comments can scan, save and open on the Mac. No big deal except for the jerks who flipped all off as many have these quality scanners w/o the $$$, Silverfast, or the quality, Vue Scan.
    Perhaps I too will partition an external and see if the trick that worked For Michael Sebastian will allw me the same. But, I know a bane for Mac Gurus, with the 4.03 upgrade the 5000 works flawlessly, at least as of this posting!

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  11. I was a bit dismayed by Nikon removing support for Nikon Scan on Lion but I don’t get this angst about using Vuescan or other programs. I bought Vuescan for $40 and it works great on my Mac with Lion OS(10.7.x)! Seems like that is a very small price to pay to make $1500+ scanners work. I have a Nikon LS5000 and Nikonscab produced good images but was slow and crashed far to often. Very frustrating to have a crash about every 20-30 scanned images. I have had Vuescan for only 2 months but I have been able to scan over 13,000 slides using the LS5000 and an SF-210 auto loader. Vuescan handles the auto-loader well and I am able to automate much of my work flow such as image auto-labeling to match the labels on slides, etc. Vuescan has not crashed and runs faster than Nikon Scan. Saving just a few seconds per scan when doing thousands of slides is a big win. The LS5000 is a great scanner but Nikon Scan is dead software. Those of you complaining about having to move to third-party software need to move on and shell out the $40 or so and make it easy to use your scanner. Having to create separate boot partitions or running Vista (if you are a Mac user) is not worth the time and effort and probably costs more than Vuescan. BTW…I don’t work for Vuescan and I don’t know Ed Hamrick but I do get excited when new (and low cost) software makes my $1500 scanner hardware useable again and better than before. There is no way I could scan 13,000 slides in about 6 weeks like I have done with the old NikonScan software. BTW…I did not try Silverfast…that is much more expensive and I needed support for the Nikon SF-210 autoloader.

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  12. I have a Nikon Coolscan 8000 for parts. Nikon doesn’t fix’em anymore. Something popped and it doesn’t work anymore – not the power supply. Probably one of the boards? Anyway, I will ship it to you for cost of shipping. Anyone interested? Feel free to re-post if appropriate. Thanks. Ken Abbott

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