“Worth the Price of Admission” Slide Scanning

Nikon Scan Software


David (Sack)

I just want to be sure that you have my greatest thanks for tipping me off to Vuescan. In follow up to your kind suggestion at my blog, I trialed the software and then purchased it. It is twice as fast as the Nikon software. What a great find. I had heard of the software but was hesitant to try it. Your help on this is beyond words. It is as they would say in the USA, “Better than sliced bread.” Thanks again. I will blog post my thanks to you as well in the coming days. http://www.saturn-films.co.uk/

As the saying goes, I am sometimes slow to learn and then “lightbulb!!”

orchardparkway.wordpress.com Donna made a comment on April 14 on about slide scanning. I followed up a prior post with a new illustrated description of my setup. I have been a long time reader of photo.net and have read descriptions of scanning and woes of matching software and hardware. Nikon film scanners have been discontinued. Nikon has stopped supporting their scan software. And with the new advent of Mac OS X Lion, the old software doesn’t work because it’s a Power PC conversion program. In a nutshell, my scanner shouldn’t work with my Mac. Well, it does work. I’ve been afraid to change anything. Everytime you mess around, it’s days and days of agony until you have an efficient workflow established again. If you have read this far then you know that scanning film/slides is about getting the orginal image digitized so that it matches reasonably on the computer screen. This opens a whole big “can of worms.” You’re matching aging film media with software tranlators, photoediting programs, and LCD monitors. Depending on your OCD personality, this can truly be a great big headache.

I have heard of third party scan software like Silverfast and Vuescan, but because Nikon Scan software works so far, I have been deathly afraid to change what works. I also read at: Photo.net

The photo enthusiasts have a forum for digital darkroom and have been trading tips on scanning. The problems they discuss have kept me reticent to try anything new if what I have is working. Gee, did I say that already?

Parenthetically, for years, I have gone to bed mulling a computer problem that seems in unsolvable. I wake in the morning with new ideas that often work. Now science is saying that we continue to process problems while asleep. Imagine that!

The big experiment: I downloaded a free copy of the software at: hamrick.com

It’s a free trial with watermarks until you buy the software. I scanned in a Macbeth color chart. I can honestly say it worked in a few minutes. I use a Nikon Coolscan 5000 with an SF210 batch feeder. This is important because I’m about half way done scanning/editing more than 100, 000 slides, about 3070 rolls. Nuts! You bet!

The software even recognizes the batch feeder. The color scan is accurate enough compared to the original … so far. And it’s fast!! I’m now scanning at about a slide a minute with the software set to ignore dust and scratches. My old computer was between 3-5 minutes a scan. My Macbook Pro is scanning at less than 1 minute right now. At this rate there is a chance that my slide scanning project will actually be complete in this decade maybe even this year. So thanks again to David and to Donna. Their suggestions and comments have made a real difference for me.

The examples here are of slides that would challenge the software and scanner. You can see the sunset is a matter of taste. And fog is always hard. Depending on the settings there is still work in Photoshop to make final editing decisions.

Nikon Scan

Vuescan, not quite, but acceptable

Nikon Scan

Vuescan, different look

Slide Scanning

Two external hard drives above the scanner holding 100,000 images

In another post on 3/31 I had a conversation about slide scanning. To give you some background I started doing photography seriously in the late ‘60’s. My first Nikon Ftn was purchased by my Dad for me when he traveled to Hong Kong in 1971. I started in black and white using Tri-X. I developed it myself in a makeshift darkroom in the family’s basement bathroom. Then I wanted to move up to color slide. Ever on a budget, I bulk loaded my own cartridges from 100 foot rolls. And yes, then I began developing my slides in the bathroom sink and bathtub. The bathtub was essential as a water bath to maintain a constant 100 degree temperature + .1 degree. Yeah it was pretty crazy until I was more successful in life and could actually build a real darkroom.

So the OCD side had me carefully cataloging and storing my slides from the early ‘70’s till digital overtook me in 2004. The last slides were just before my son’s high school graduation. It was a Nikon D70 that began it all. Actually, my wife had gifted me a Canon G3 earlier. But it was the D70, which ended all thought of going back into the darkroom.

More than 100,000 slides sit in custom made drawers. See the 12/26/11 post for my carpentry skills. The first set of drawers were made by a custom cabinet maker and cost a fortune. I didn’t want to do it again and made the second set of drawers with the kids as a summer project. My daughter mentioned her participation recently. The kids were small and they did all the little finishing projects that helped out so much.

About nine roll per partition

I started with a Nikon Coolscan LS 1000. It was expensive and not too reliable. I had a bulk feeder and it didn’t work well. Then SCSI computer ports went and USB came. ICE is a computer software program for scanners that took out 99% of dust and scratches. That has truly made a big difference.

Scanner software Macbook pro and wordpress comment

So I finally bit the bullet and asked for the Nikon Coolscan 5000 for Christmas a few years ago. Santa (wife) delivered and I discovered that the unit had recently been discontinued right before I got mine. I had been waiting years for the price to drop and here it was discontinued forever. Well, I agonized over the bulk slide feeder, which would advance 50 slides at a time unattended. It was expensive and for a time was double the price as it was in scarce supply. There was also the matter of how the previous feeder was not reliable. I finally saw the price drop and ‘snuck’ the SF 210 bulk feeder into the house without mentioning a word. It just looks like it was attached to my scanner from the start. Currently I have seen the scanners sold for thousands above the original retail price. Who would have figured?

It’s been years and I have dabbled at scanning off and on. Over time I did manage to get about 5000 of my selects scanned. But, recently I have been on a ‘mission.’ This drives the family crazy. I start a project and concentrate on it to the exclusion of all else. My daughter has commented that she doesn’t see me anymore. She has take to calling my office/den a ‘man cave.’ My son rolls his eyes. Don’t even ask.

Scanner, sorter, bulk feeder

The bulk feeder requires some care and will jam up. Some nights it will scan 50 slides unattended while I sleep. By my current count I have 3046 rolls of slides stored. There are edited selects from 1238 rolls and counting down. So far there are about 20,000 images scanned.

There were not so many early slides before meeting my wife. The early work was not good. There were technical issues – focus, composition, and exposure. It’s been interesting to see my evolution progress from my early work. Since my kids were born the number of slides increased significantly as I took to documenting every moment in multiple. Hence the large number of slides yet to be scanned. Parenthetically I will add that from 2004 to 2011, I have accumulated more than 110, 000 digital images. I have effectively doubled in less than seven years. The images sit in two external hard drives resting on top of my scanner.

The technical side of scanning follows. I use the bulk feeder, which will load about 50 slides. It is fairly reliable. There is a setting for positive (slide). I do not use any post scan processing for color. I use ICE which masks out dust and scratches. Without this I would be blowing dust off each and every slide… extremely tedious and time consuming. ICE is magic!! Once in a while the scanner hiccups and the autofocus fails to focus. You need to rescan. The scan time per slide is about 1 to 2 minutes with a Macbook Pro and up to 4 to 5 minutes with a slower computer. If you add post processing to the ICE process the scan time will increase and you will never ever be done.

I post process in Photoshop and edit in Lightroom. This workflow works for me. Keeping track of the slides was done when I first shot and developed them. Each roll is numbered consecutively in chronological order. Each slide is numbered within the roll. I keep a separate database, which lists all the rolls, date, subject, place, and people.

The images are about 68mb tif in size and cut down to jpg of about 2mb. At my current rate of scanning it will only take about … And, I still have frozen slide film in the refrigerator. I do have to say that storing 100,000 images in a hard drive the size of a brick is pretty nifty technology. Does it work? So far so good.

The cost to commercially scan 10,000 slides runs about $1895. Scanning yourself… priceless.