View Full Version : Leaf 4x5 Film Scanner

26-May-2005, 19:45

I have an opportunity to purchase a Leaf 4x5 film scanner with a brand new tube... what are the pros and cons of such a beast? The price is $1,500 and it will come with software, instruction manuals, etc. It is used but in remarkable condition. When it was brand new... I understand they went for about $20,000 plus.

Are there questions I should be asking? Is it still being serviced by the manufacturers (I think it's Creo, who was just purchased by Kodak here in Canada.)

There is also a Besseler 4x5 enlarger with a Besseler/Minolta head available... what should I be paying for this enlarger with the baseboard, stand, and 6 additional lamps? It's in "literally" mint-condition.

Thanks in advance for any assistance.


Brian Ellis
27-May-2005, 04:34
The price for the enlarger chasis depends to some extent on which model it is. The MXT was the last version I believe, there were earlier versions that aren't a whole lot different from the MXT but that presumably would sell for less than the MXT. Once you determine the model you should be able to get a pretty good idea of the value of the chasis by looking in the completed sales section of ebay. I own the MXT and it's a nice enlarger but I doubt that the chasis alone would bring more than about $200 today, earlier versions a little less but ebay should be a better source of information than my guess.

The head is more unusual, I don't know if you can find any sales of one on ebay or not. FWIW I sold mine about six years ago for $500 (they cost about $1000 new) but that was before color darkroom work basically disappeared. There were three versions of the 45A head. Mine was the third (and final) version. I wouldn't pay anything for the first version, it had a bad reputation for reliability and short tube life and since the head hasn't been made for quite a while parts likely would be a problem. The second version improved the reliability by changing the wiring and relays around as I recall. The only difference between the second and third versions was the name, the second said "Beseler/Minolta," the third said "Beseler" alone. Unfortunately I don't remember how you distinguish between the first and second versions, both said "Beseler Minolta." I'd guess that $150-$200 would be a fair price for the second or third version.

I know nothing about the Leaf back.

Frank Petronio
27-May-2005, 06:35
I had a Leaf 45 scanner in the mid-1990s, and for its time it was amazing. It cost $14,400 new. Leaf was bought by Scitex, Creo bought Scitex, Kodak bought Creo. I doubt the software has been updated for modern operating systems, although there might be a hack out there. Set up is via DIP switches, it is a SCSI device, and not for the timid computer user. The nicest thing is that it uses Besseler film carriers, which are a heck of a lot less expensive than Imacon carriers.

It is very slow. I used to use two computers, (9500s with lots of RAM and 21-inch Pressviews) with one dedicated to scanning. I think 20-30 minutes per scan was the norm - for a 100mb file. The files are excellent, although 16-bit scanning was abit unstable software-wise.

I think scanning in the 2-300 mb is the highest practical limit for the scanner. I forgot the ultimate optical resolution, but it was high, and I could even get a scan from a 35mm. But the bottlenecks involved...

I sold mine in the late 1990s for $1000, with a spare new bulb. It requires a shipping pallet - 100 lbs or so. It paid for itself back in the day because I could charge $100 for a scan.

Afterwards I used a Howtek drum, a Scitex EverSmart, and a Linocolor Tango. Now I am quite satisfied with my wonderful little Epson 3200 and Minolta Dual Scan IV for 98% of my work, as I rarely work on files over 300 mb on my Powerbook. And once in a while I bum a few scans off my friend's Imacon. If you are careful you can get great results from a cheap Epson, and the software gives you greater control over the scan than the old Leaf software ever could.

The experts here can tell the difference between an Imacon and a real drum scanner. I can't. But I don't make 1 gb scans because I don't make giant prints. Of course, all the scanners made in the 1990s weren't envisioned as making gigabyte scans - most scans for offset printing were in the 20-50 mb range. So the fellows here are really pushing the limits of the hardware more than any other application.

Then there is Clifford Ross... ;-)

I wouldn't bother with a used Leaf Scanner again.

27-May-2005, 23:19
Brian, Frank,

Thanks kindly for the information and advice...

I've decided to forego the Leaf Scanner for the time being. I'm presently using the same scanner as yours, Frank (the Epson 3200) and agree that it's a great little scanner. For whatever reason, I thought the Leaf was a step up from the Epson scanners.


I guess I'll have to ask the seller which model he has... the head has Bessler/Minolta on it, which eliminates the latest version. He has about 6 additional tubes on hand for the head. One issue he mentioned was that the light source tends to flicker a bit (possibly due to voltage fluctuations but he wasn't sure of that.)

Again, thanks for the input. :)