Is the SA-21 the weak link in the Nikon scanners?
Old 09-15-2011   #1
sanmich
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Is the SA-21 the weak link in the Nikon scanners?

Hi all

I just realized that my CS5000 won't accept Delta 100 films, while it mostly (read almost 100%) works fine with Tri-x.
The unit is almost new (two years old, very light use)

I think automatic film advance is both the bless and the problem of Nikon scanners. I see this blog mentioning LEDs fading with age, and I see a lot of scanners sold without the SA-21 unit.
On the other hand, my friend's CS 4000 is starting to misbehave on the scanning part itself, while his SA-21 works just fine.

What is your experience with the reliability of these two separate elements of the Nikon scanners? the CS IV/V/4000/5000 on one side and the SA-21/SA-30 on the other?
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Old 09-15-2011   #2
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Michael,

thanks a lot for the info and the link, very informative and helpful ! The SA-30 unit of my 4000ED just slowly starts showing similar problems as reported in the blog. I suspected dirt to be the problem. The Scanner itself had been serviced by Nikon last year but I think that cleaning the mirror and optics is in order again... Scans started getting a little bit soft and show to much glow ...
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Old 09-15-2011   #3
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Thanks for posting the link! very interesting information.

I've never had any problems with my now sold Coolscan V or my current Coolscan 5000 so hopefully won't need to refer to it (finger's tightly crossed).

FYI last year, I spoke to one of the service staff at the Nikon Service Center in Shinjuku, Tokyo about the Coolscans, and he mentioned that most problems they deal with are caused by dust getting inside through the holes at the top and side of the scanner body. He told me to cover my scanner when not in use. I store mine in a dry box so no problem there. He also said they sometimes do repairs on heavily used SA-21 and SA-30 units to replace the plastic "wheels" and other moving parts (not exactly sure which ones). In Japan at least, Nikon still services Coolscan V and 5000 scanners.
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Old 09-15-2011   #4
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Thank you gentlemen.
I just sent a question to Nikon about a quote to repair my SA-21.
It's really annoying since it's clearly a manufacturing defect, unless these units were built to support only a few tens of scans, which I doubt.

I have the same urge to get spare parts, but unless there is one precise element that is usually failing before the others, I doubt it is possible.
The LED thing seems interesting, but I don't think I'm able to do such a repair, so it comes down to buy a spare board holding the three detectors, and I'm not sure it's possible to buy them.
If the SA-21 is the weak link, it may be worthy to have such a unit as a spare one, or to use each only half of the time.
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Old 09-06-2012   #5
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Just a follow up for those interested:

I have bought an old SA-21 as a backup. Works like a champ.
I have sent my original unit to Nikon USA. Their communication was abysmal (I got twice a repair quote for "general service - no problem description" after having supplied all details, and the tech didn't it would be important to describe what was done), but back it is and it works like a champ too, so I have a backup.

Now if Mr Kodak could be kind enough to continue to produce my scanner preferred food , the world would be juuuuust perfect
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Old 03-31-2015   #6
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Recently I bought a 10-year old Nikon Coolscan 5000ED, complete with SA-21 and SF-210. From the beginning I had problems with the SA-21 doing index scans, as color negative frames were not registered correctly. After cleaning the SA-21, the situation deteriorated to the point that it did no longer accept any film strip, but immediately returned it. I searched the internet for solutions, found that I was not alone with this problem, but could not find a really satisfactory analysis and cure. So I decided to do my own analysis. At the end I found a solution at least for my SA-21, that to my knowledge was not reported anywhere else in the internet. Because it may be of help to other SA-21 users, I want to report of my findings here.

My starting point was a description of a check of the three photo detectors built into the SA-21, given in http://janburke.de/index.php/blog-en...21-film-feeder. In this blog it was argued that IR diode wearout was a problem, but it came without a live detector signal analysis. So I decided to do this analysis. I traced the 3 photo transistor collectors to the big blue connector at the rear end of my SA-21, soldered wires to them and brought these wires to the front end of the SA-21, inside its housing. With a storage oscilloscope at hand I was able to trace these signals while inserting a film strip. These were the results:
1) with no film inserted (detectors should detect a “dark” condition), the front and rear detectors showed a 1,9V level, the center detector a 3,5V level
2) during insertion and transport of a film strip, the detectors showed pulse trains with the above low levels (when transport holes passed) and high levels approaching full 5V (apparently when film was detected = “light” condition)

My conclusion was that I had no problem with IR diode wearout or film reflectivity, as the “light” level was perfect. But I had a problem with the “dark” level at least with the center detector, where the signal swing was only 5V-3,5V=1,5V. From the above blog and my cleaning action I knew that the center detector is constructed different from front and rear. Front and rear have open spaces above them so that IR light, passing through film transport holes (“dark”), is not immediately reflected. But in case of the center detector, the spring loaded film holding frame sits above it and offers only a small cavity for IR light to disperse in “dark” condition. Thus the reflectivity of this cavity plays an important role.

To improve the “dark” level of the center detector as an initial trial, I cautiously applied a little of my wife’s mascara to that cavity. As a result, all problems were gone! Film strip feeding and index scan frame registration were without any flaw. I have worked through >300 film strips in this constellation since. By the mascara application, the “dark” level of the center detector improved from the previous 3,5V to 2,4V, obviously enough to offer a robust signal swing to the 5000ED mainframe.

With these findings, the former failure scenario is as follows:
After film strip insertion by the user, the SA-21 begins to pull in, first past the front, then past the center and finally past the rear detector. The front detector signals presence of film, but the center detector fails to do this. As soon as the rear detector again signals presence of film, the 5000ED mainframe determines an implausible condition, aborts and returns the film strip.

I regard my mascara solution as a hot fix. But so far I was unable to find some anti-reflective paint as a permanent solution. My suspicion is that during my cleaning action I inadvertently removed some coating already present in the holding frame cavity. But this former coating must have been insufficient to guarantee a robust signal.

Maybe this helps to revive one or the other SA-21.

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Old 03-31-2015   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sanmich View Post
Hi all

I just realized that my CS5000 won't accept Delta 100 films, while it mostly (read almost 100%) works fine with Tri-x.
The unit is almost new (two years old, very light use)

I think automatic film advance is both the bless and the problem of Nikon scanners. I see this blog mentioning LEDs fading with age, and I see a lot of scanners sold without the SA-21 unit.
On the other hand, my friend's CS 4000 is starting to misbehave on the scanning part itself, while his SA-21 works just fine.

What is your experience with the reliability of these two separate elements of the Nikon scanners? the CS IV/V/4000/5000 on one side and the SA-21/SA-30 on the other?
Hmm. I've been using Coolscan IV and Coolscan V scanners with the SA-21 unit since about 2007 or 2008. No problems to report here, with any films.

I do have the "Nikon CoolScan FH-3 Film Strip Holder Adapter" for when I'm trying to scan badly curled/damaged/otherwise weird 35mm film. It's a manually operated six-frame negative strip carrier, works with the slide carrier.

G
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Old 10-09-2016   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burkhard View Post

.... mascara ....

Maybe this helps to revive one or the other SA-21.
Sorry for the Necrophilia, but thanks man!
The mascara fix worked with my SA-21.

Wow 😳
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Old 05-17-2017   #9
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Originally Posted by kanzlr View Post
Sorry for the Necrophilia, but thanks man!
The mascara fix worked with my SA-21.

Wow 😳
Hi there,

appreciate if some graphics or pictures... as to where/how to 'apply' the mascara...
my local Nikon distributor would have nothing to do with the scanners now...
thanks
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Old 05-29-2017   #10
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Replying here also to an old threat (again), my SA-30 now has real problems properly detecting the space between the frames and it might be the center detector. Unfortunately the link to the replacement of the positioning sensor unit does not work anymore for me (php version not supported). Has anybody some illustrations or tips how to access or repair the SA-21/-30 units?
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Old 05-29-2017   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maddoc View Post
Replying here also to an old threat (again), my SA-30 now has real problems properly detecting the space between the frames and it might be the center detector. Unfortunately the link to the replacement of the positioning sensor unit does not work anymore for me (php version not supported). Has anybody some illustrations or tips how to access or repair the SA-21/-30 units?
Maddoc, try this link: http://web.archive.org/web/201608160...21-film-feeder
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Old 05-29-2017   #12
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Thanks a lot!! I also found additionally these instructions and ordered some replacement sensors as described in the link below. Now I just need to practice SMD soldering (Tmax 300C, t < 2 seconds)

http://www.shtengel.com/gleb/Replace...1_and_sa30.htm

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