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Thread: Scanning Software, Fact or Fictitious?

  1. #1
    LJ Segil
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    Scanning Software, Fact or Fictitious?

    OK, here comes the dummy question. Do the fully featured scanning programs like Silverfast or Vuescan add anything to the actual scanning process? Do they alter the actual data captured by the scanner? Are all the adjustments they make actually affecting what the scanner does, or are they software adjustments made to the captured image after the scan is completed? In other words, does it make sense to invest in one of these programs (very expensive, at least for Silverfast, complex and tedious to master) to improve the quality of the capture of one's scans, or can the same thing be accomplished by using the scanner manufacturer's software and making your adjustments to the scan in Photoshop, since the actual data produced by the scanner is not altered by the software driving it? It seems to me that the latter is the case, with the only exception that I have found convincing being the ability of Vuescan to produce a DNG file. Or am I completely missing the boat (this wouldn't be the first time I've done that)?
    Sage advice, wisdom, and derision all appreciated.
    LJS

  2. #2
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: Scanning Software, Fact or Fictitious?

    Much depends on the scanner. There seems to be little interaction between the scanner software and the scanner hardware with consumer flatbeds. Drum scanners on the other hand usually allow the software to do things like set the analog limits (top and bottom) for the log amp circuits. This lets the scanner match it's full digital range exactly to the density range of the film for each channel (depending on operator skill of course) for example. Professional flatbeds are probably somewhere in between in general.

    That said, some of the software for currently produced professional flatbeds appears to be using FFT algorithms. This is signal processing technology applied to imaging and can be quite effective in pulling detail out of film that otherwise might be obscured. That is, it can extend the range of what the hardware can do on its own.

    So, the answer to your question is, it depends. But you knew that was coming didn't you? Sorry, but there's nothing I can do about that.

    Bruce Watson

  3. #3

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    Re: Scanning Software, Fact or Fictitious?

    I do wonder just how much information is lost as a result of software limitation, however my scanned negs are for reference and online uses, so it doesn't affect me to the extreme.

    For my Epson V700 I use the basic software on fully manual, and I uninstalled the Silverfast because I couldn't be bothered to work out why it was worth wasting extra time for 'quick and dirty' scans.

  4. #4

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    Re: Scanning Software, Fact or Fictitious?

    I've owned and used a pretty decent variety of scanners over the past 5-7 years - dedicated film scanners and a bunch of Epson flatbeds from the 2450 onwards. I've used Silverfast with them (the full and SE versions), Vuescan and the proprietary packages. I honestly don't believe any of them are "limiting" in terms of what they produce. They all have quirks and some may suit your way of working better than others. Personally, I've probably found the proprietary software to be about the friendliest in use, but that's for the way I personally work. If you're scanning color negs and are short on experience, I think the "Negafix" drop in of Silverfast may be of some benefit in getting your scans to look the way you want them to look.

  5. #5

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    Re: Scanning Software, Fact or Fictitious?

    Good scanning software is important - and here's why:

    Every tonal adjustment introduces an element of distortion. Distortions add up. If you can get a scan which is already quite close to the final image, it will be to your advantage. That is, if you like images with lovely tonality.

    Scanning, capturing, and performing all subsequent adjustments in a high-fidelity color space, helps mitigate the distortions, and keeps your image from looking artificial.

    For a some compelling illustration, see The Benefits of 48-Bit Scanning

    You might also find these articles helpful:


  6. #6
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Scanning Software, Fact or Fictitious?

    I've used quite a few scanning programs. My favorite so far is Color Genius EX, which is proprietary to Screen's scanners. Most programs have way too many unnecessary elements, and what is necessary is poorly implemented. First, it should be clear what causes hardware adjustments in the scanner and what causes software adjustments, and it should be easy to make the hardware adjustments. Second, setting black and white points should be easy. Third, the software should make using profiles easy. Well, that's about it. Color Genius comes closer doing this than Vuescan or Silverfast, but it still has lot's of room for improvement, which I doubt will happen.

  7. #7
    Confidently Agnostic!
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    Re: Scanning Software, Fact or Fictitious?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ash View Post
    I do wonder just how much information is lost as a result of software limitation, however my scanned negs are for reference and online uses, so it doesn't affect me to the extreme.

    For my Epson V700 I use the basic software on fully manual, and I uninstalled the Silverfast because I couldn't be bothered to work out why it was worth wasting extra time for 'quick and dirty' scans.
    I'm not sure Silverfast is giving me anything extra over the epson software either. I actually find Epson gives a better scan of B&W negatives than Silverfast - it seems to have smarter auto adjustments for contrast & brightness. Maybe I just have to learn more of Silverfast's features, but for most things I find the epson software works perfectly well. I have used Silverfast to try to get better colour matching to transparencies etc, but I haven't really gotten to the point that it gives me much of an advantage over trying to do it in photoshop.

    I've never bothered with multipass scanning, etc, either.

  8. #8
    LJ Segil
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    Re: Scanning Software, Fact or Fictitious?

    Thanks to all for your comments, but as usual I remain confused. It still is not clear to me whether the adjustments made in the heavily featured scanning software are working at the level of the scanner itself to affect the actual scan obtained by the unit (hardware adjustments, in other words) or are acting on the image after it is obtained by the scanner (software adjustments, as occurs in Photoshop) without affecting the actual actions by the scanner to produce the original scan. In the former case, making adjustments acts on the scanner itself to change the scan initially obtained by the scanner compared to what the scanner would produce without adjustments, thus producing an actual change in the scan itself, or in the latter case the initial scan produced by the scanner is the same with or without adjustments, and the adjustments act as software adjustments on the scan after it finished being produced by the scanner; i.e. software adjustments without any affect on the performance of the scanner itself.

    If some adjustments affect the scanner itself, which ones do so (I have read that the Analogue Scan adjustment in Nikon Scan does, I have read differing opinions on setting scanner white and black points), and if the adjustments are working on the finished scan without affecting the actual scanning process, is there any advantage to making adjustments in scanning software over Photoshop (more familiar to this user, obviously YMMV). This is sort of a question back to your response Ken; I can produce a scan result that is closer to my final print using scanning software before importing to Photoshop, but why, if Silverfast is still just making software rather than hardware changes, does it matter if that is done on a 48 bit RGB file in Silverfast or if the 48 bit file from the scanner is taken directly into Photoshop and adjusted there?

    Hoping for more light to scan over my dimness (good luck with these shadow details).

    Thanks,
    LJS

  9. #9

    Re: Scanning Software, Fact or Fictitious?

    This is another "it depends" reply.
    First, most consumer level scanners have no adjustments available to the software to manipulate, so that's the first thing to verify.
    Secondly, third party software like Silverfast may or many not be accessing those adjustments, though the original software may. The Nikon you mention, the provided software gives access to the analogue gain, I don't know if Silverfast does or not. In the case of my Howtek, for example, full aperture control is available in Silverfast, but proprietary issues prevent them from accessing further hardware manipulation like lin/log amp control or uploading curves into the hardware. That's the second thing to look into, if your scanner has some control at that level, can your 3rd party software access it?
    Lastly, if you are scanning in high bit, and there are no controls over the manner in which the data comes into the software, then there is no technical resulting difference between adjustments in the scanner software, or Photoshop, assuming identical edits are compared if possible. The difference for me is that Photoshop is a far superior imaging editor than most scanner software.
    The exception is for color negs, I find editing a raw color neg scan in PS into something reasonable very arduous, and if your scanning software has good built in color neg editing things go much faster.
    Hope some of this helps.
    Tyler
    http://www.custom-digital.com/

  10. #10
    Is that a Hassleblad? Brian Vuillemenot's Avatar
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    Re: Scanning Software, Fact or Fictitious?

    I didn't bother trying to figure out the scaled down version of Silverfast that came with my 4990. The Epson software works fine and is much easier to use than Silverfast.
    Brian Vuillemenot

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