Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Film Scanner Review By Logan Norton

Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Film Scanner Review

By Logan Norton

www.logannortonphotography.org

Hello again Steve, Brandon and readers. A couple of weeks ago I read Brandon’s account of his experiences with the Epson V600 scanner. I have used that same scanner for a couple of years with similar results. While I found it to be a good tool for working with medium format film, I struggled to get consistent quality results from it when using 35mm film. Black and white performance was decent but where I had the biggest issue was color film.

This struggle led me to the Kodak Pakon F-135.  After extensive research I order a Pakon and got to work setting it up. This small desktop scanner was a staple in 1-hour photo shops for many years and is relatively widely available on the used market today. I was able to find one in excellent condition for $250, a far cry from the $12,000 they sold for in 2004! Because of this age, and the fact that Kodak/Pakon no longer support these scanners, it is necessary to run them with Windows XP or earlier software. While this is a definite downside to the equipment, the Apple Parallels program is able to provide me with a relatively seamless operating experience.

Once I had the machine up and running it was time to scan my first roll of film. Key word being roll; the Pakon scans entire rolls of film and does so in less than 5 minutes! So, I loaded a roll of Ektar and started scanning. When I opened the images in Lightroom I was absolutely blown away. The color was so rich and vibrant, the exposures so consistent and the detail was fantastic! The scanner produces RGB, 16 bit files with a maximum resolution of 3000×2000. The scanner has a very good version of Digital Ice that handled some very dirty negatives well without being overly aggressive in the image softening. I have found it to produce spotless images with reasonably clean negatives.

The most important factor for me though was the color rendering that I get from this scanner. Kodak designed the software that is used and it produces color that is so good it only requires a very minimal amount of post-processing. Highlights and shadows are both heavy with detail and skin tones are some of the best I have seen from any scanner, easily rivaling those from both the Frontier and Noritsu scanners I have used. I have created a number of 16×22 prints from Pakon scans that are fantastic.
So, are there any downsides to this magical little machine? Only one as far as I can see: it only handles 35mm film. My answer to this was to continue using the Epson V600 for medium format and incorporate the Pakon for my 35mm work, which grew exponentially after getting this scanner up and running. For those who shoot a lot of 35mm film or those who may have a large quantity of old film they would like to digitalize, I highly recommend you give the Pakon some serious consideration. I am sure that you will find it an excellent tool for your needs.

Additional Resource:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llthINnRSYA

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49 Comments

  1. Been doing some research, just found this post, albeit old. I’m new, and tech ignorant, so, what software and windows platform is needed to run a Pakon?

  2. Hi there

    It seem as though these are very tricky to find in Australia?

    Can anyone share their experience buying one, also do they jam easily/can they be repaired if need be?

    I only shoot 35mm so this seems ideal as apposed to a flatbed scanner in which I have been researching.

    I am so glad I have found this little gem – however very hesitant to buy.

    Thanks in advance

  3. Hi everyone,

    Do you know if the pakon f 135 is usable with vuescan on windows ? Or do you know if the original software can give you a “raw” scan of the neg (tiff, linear, not inverted) ? I’m asking because i’m using colorperfect to invert and i find it very powerful so i would like to keep that part of the process. Thanks a lot.

  4. In your review, you mentioned that it scans rolls. Can it scan strips of film also? Most of the negatives I’ve run into are already cut into strips of 4-6 frames.

    • Melody, I have the scanner and I’ve had no problems scanning my strips of 4. I’ve even tried scanning a small strip of two, which worked fine!

      • Great to know. Thanks, Peter. I’m going to look into getting one, I think. Have you had any concerns that it only works on XP and is not supported any longer? Or do you have the newer model?

  5. Oh man, do I love the colours in photos 2, 4 and 7. Don’t suppose you can recall which film you used for those?

  6. Got mine last week and the result is much much much better than the epson v700 that I have been using so far. Sharper, cleaner and colors are more beautiful. The only problem is that it doesn’t do medium format and it’s really pity now the get better quality photos with 35mm film than the 120.

    Anyone got any tricks to get better results with medium format on the epson scanner ?

  7. I wonder if someone can help please, we are a digitisation bureau based in the UK and specilaise in the document and microfilm scanning. We have a project which requires over 2 million singles of B&W and Colour and 4 million Strips to be scanned from 35mm and 120.

    Can someone from the professional point of view can recommend a high speed scanners (we will need few to start of with) to scan 35mm and 120 Single and Strips in B&W and Colour.

  8. Hi. Hope you are still reading this. I bought a Pakon and am really happy with it. But for B6W I can only scan C-41 B&W, which gives a color pic in the result. Looks not too shabby, but I am missing a “true” B&W option. Could it be that I am using an old software version? It tells me that it is 3.0. What are you using? Thanks!

  9. Hello,

    Great article about a fantastic scanner.

    Let me start by saying we sell these scanners used on eBay.. And it is a great scanner. Here is the link to our listing; http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=181484681631 and we ship world wide.

    Dont forget to join the Facebooks users group. There is alot of great advice and help there. Link https://www.facebook.com/groups/PakonF135/

    If you have any questions please ask.

    Regards,

    Bruce Hallstrom
    AAA imaging solutions

  10. here you go… the Kodak death certificate explained concluded – suicide (read the applauding entries above) – instead of building on an already excellent platform of digital products and creating great affordable film-scanners that would keep film (and Kodak) alive forever, they committed suicide, shame on George Fisher, Dan Carp and Co.

  11. Really good results and excellent shots.

    If you are lucky enough to have a Costco near by that still develops and scans film, I highly recommend them. 35mm 3088 × 2048 scans from C-41 using a Noritsu machine, develop and scan w/in the hour for $4.86.

    My Costco is in Marina Del Rey, CA.

    They will even scan negatives that you bring in, for about $2.50 a roll. 35mm only.

    Best regards
    Huss

    • I had a Costco near me and I was happy with their developing + scanning as well…until I had to rescan some negatives and found that SO MANY of my negs were sliced at the wrong spots, some of them damn near a quarter of an inch into the negative.

      If you process at Costco (or anywhere, for that matter), make damn sure they don’t slice up your negs like a cadaver donated to a medical school.

  12. Great article! I would have never know about this scanner otherwise. How well does it handle negs that are already cut into strips?

    • After doing a little more research on these and talking to a couple of local mini-labs that own them… These are meant for speed. They top out at a 6mp scan. One of the lab guys tried to get it to do multi-pass but the unit is just not designed to work that way. If you have negatives cut into strips, the photo on either end of the negative may take longer to scan as the device can detect additional lack of flatness in that position and compensate.

      At any rate, it’s a set-it-and-forget-it unit. Roll the film in, chose the scan-to option and let it rip. Real fun for those who want to scan to flickr or other online image sharing services. They seem to be coming up on the used market from 100-250$US.

      Hey, just last week I unpacked my 10 year old Canon Canoscan 4000US… It kinda feels like a dinosaur as it chugs away at individual frames and I had to get VuScan to work it with my mac, but it works…MUCH slower though.

      I’m still surprised these are labeled as “Pakon” though. I’m sure when they originally came out they had another name alongside the Kodak machines.

      • A little history on Pakon:

        In 1984 the 75 plus year old company called Pako, manufacturer of photo developing and printing equipment filed for bankruptcy. One of its divisions called Pakon was sold by the courts to one of Pako’s executives, Mr Jim Truc. At that time Pakon manufactured plastic slide mounts ( these little plastic frames that hold individual slides so they can be placed in a slide tray for projection purposes). Mr Truc had a visions and saw the need for digitizing film and slides. Pakon started developing film scanners and initially came out with the Pakon F235 in the mid nineties , later they came out with the 335 and eventually a smaller version called the F135 and F135+.
        Kodak purchased the company Pakon in the late nineties and sold thousands of units to companies like Target, Rite Aid, CVS, Albertsons etc… for use in the in-store one hour photo labs.
        Kodak also sold a large quantity of F135+ to a company called DNP ( Dai Nippon), these units are branded ” Nexlab” but are 100% same machine.
        These are really high end professional film scanners , as somebody commented earlier these retailed at a price over $ 10,000.
        You can find many of them on ebay, we sell them fully refurbished with a 90 day warranty for $ 250.00 and we ship worldwide, we have a tech support hotline in case you have a problem with the install. We have sold over 500 units this year, check us out at http://www.aaaimaging.com

        • Thanks for chiming in with the clarification. I’m fairly certain the ones we had in Canada were branded Nexlab…
          However, with all due respect, the “professional” aspect has nothing to do with the image quality. …and they weren’t “high end” – they were THE end at the time. Lots of photo-finishing outfits “upgraded” to Nikon scanners and turnkey systems once they became available. For a time, the only thing you could get were the Pakon systems.

          It’s still a basic 6MP scan. It’s all about industrial production lines.

          The cost of these machines was aligned with the cost of pretty much all of the equipment in the photofinishing industry. Why sell a scanner for 1000$ when you can sell it for $10000 because the equipment it teams up with can be up around $100k or more for a service provider and more for incidentals.

          I admit, though, using them over the years, they’re nifty little machines – but a typical slide/negative scanner will give you far better quality scans than these machines.
          It was always fun to tell the new guy “Oh those strips have to be run through the toilet…” and get an odd look.

  13. Holy crap! Wow. These are amazing! I have got to get this. Unbelievable quality. I have a Wolverine SNAP 14 and I’m already having issues with it. So glad to have read this post. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Nice scanning and images and I would say that Fuji Frontier scans are still much nicer for color and tone richness although at 20-30 times the cost. The B&W’s though do look better than output from a Frontier.

    • Well the Frontier files need a bit more work because of the more blunt nature of the scanning on that Machine (i.e.: the Pakon adds tonal contrast and sharpens the files even if you ask it not to add contrast and sharpness), which is it’s default factory setting, it’s just how it interprets the files from the negatives. The Frontier has better tonal range for that stuff, and will get you much smoother transitions from deep shadow, shadow, mid tone, upper mid tone, highlight and pure white.

      The Pakon is great, don’t get me wrong. But if you can’t afford, or can’t house a Frontier, well then… Pakon is your jam, and it’s fantastic for that 35 work.

  15. Are those black & white images scanned from b&w film or were they converted from colour film? I have heard that the Pakon has problems with true black & white film (as opposed to c41 black & white) I am seriously thinking of getting one and poor black & white performance is the only thing holding me back!

  16. Wait a sec…when did Pakon and Kodak start working together? Weren’t they bitter rivals for years? What a cool find! Enjoy it!

  17. +1 on the Pakon! I love mine. Super fast scans, neutral color rendition, dust obliterated and the cost to shoot film becomes reasonable again. I can see some complaining about 6mp but you will be surprised at how good the output is from this little monster.

    • 6MP is more than enough for medium sized prints and the files are good to print up to 14×20″. If I need higher resolution, I go for my Coolscan 5000, but I prefer the Pakon for speed.
      The speed of this little gem is really unbelieveable: 5 min for a complete roll including ICE.
      Try it, you won´t be disappointed

  18. Thanks for your observations on the Epson, which I shall shortly be installing. Now I know not to be too disappointed! Don’t think it will be the Kodak for me here in Denmark: will look around.
    Super variety in your pictures – very enjoyable.

  19. Salt Point State Park? I was just camping there this week for the first time, and shooting film.

    Scans look great

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