Flatbed Scanner Questions

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I feel like I am on a fool's errand, but sometimes you just have to take the journey, or at least make an honest effort. A large number of family photos of all shapes, sizes and conditions have recently made their way into my possession. As family members have asked about "copies" of the images, I am thinking about scanning and posting them so everybody can at least have access to the images in digital form. I am well aware of many the pitfalls, challenges and limitations when scanning photos, so I know that I need to temper my expectations when it comes to digital output. My budget is somewhat limited, so I am examining the price/quality curve to see if any equipment changes/acquisitions would make any sense. I presently have two 600dpi flatbed scanners in addition to Ed Hamrick's VueScan software. And while I have tempered my expectations, I have not really been happy with the output from either scanner - an old CanoScan N670U and a relatively new Brother MFC-7840w multifunction unit. I am considering purchasing either an Epson V600 or a Canon 9000F, but am not sure how much, if any, quality gain I will realize with either one of them. Assuming I continue to use VueScan or the provided software with either of these units, does anybody know if they are leaps and bounds better than the two units currently at my disposable? Any advice (or sympathy) would be greatly appreciated. Thankfully, nobody is in a hurry for the images.

--Ken
 

Effeegee

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Ken

Speaking from a wholly biased position I favour a copy stand with cross polarised lighting. Batch similar sizes for tethered shooting in RAW with LR to get ahead with both the task and the metadata with potentially superior quality.

I have a newish Canon scanner LIDE700F (32bit driver only) and a 10year old Epson Perfection 2450 which I use regularly for the odd copy with a fudged driver for the Epson (none for this model in W7 64bit). I tried Vuescan but never came to terms with it or gigantic TIFF files - a Vuescan RAW file is not like the RAW file from a camera.

When it comes to quantity and more recently copying slides and B&W negs I reach for the copy stand and appropriate lighting. No d.o.f problems, no specular reflections editable RAW files, head start with metadata and all the power of non-destructive editing in LR and export to suit final purpose. The results are as good as scanning if not better and the process is much much quicker.

Of course this assumes you lay your hands on the rig and lens(es).....
 
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Speaking from a wholly biased position I favour a copy stand with cross polarised lighting. Batch similar sizes for tethered shooting in RAW with LR to get ahead with both the task and the metadata with potentially superior quality.
Thanks for the reply. I was going to mention using a copy stand, but was not sure what kind of results I could achieve. I have a D300 and the 105VR, which is a bit long for copy stand work, but I am sure that I could get my hands on a 60 micro. I'll need to consider this option as well.

--Ken
 

Mark Sirota

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I've actually found myself preferring longer lenses for copy stand work, provided you have a stand that is tall and stable enough. The main benefit for me has come when photographing stuff that's no longer completely flat; the longer camera-to-subject distance reduces the visibility of the wrinkles and curves.

Lighting, of course, also has a major part to play in hiding those sorts of imperfections, but I see no real downside to getting the camera as far from the work as possible when shooting flat (or nearly flat) pieces.
 

Effeegee

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To reiterate the lens focal length is not critical and longer has advantages in even lighting, flatter less distorted field of view, better working space and so forth. I use an old 135mm Pentax manual lens (with bellows) for slide copying on an APS-C ratio. A compact 50mm macro lens is the other lens for larger prints.
 

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I have been studying this a while... and I wound up with the Canoscan 9000f and Silverfast SE PLUS Archive Suite...and HDR 8....
The Silverfast is profiled to a specific scanner model.... and with the Canoscan infrared ability it will not only identify dust and scratches by measuring their location and determining that they are on the surface of the slides ( in my case) ... but can also do this with reflective scanning.... like pictures and such..... Then I am going to use my Lightroom 4 for developing and sorting. The Silverfast also has this developing capability and a great reputation... and I have found their technical help after purchase is fantastic.
 
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I'd completely agree with the Silverfast recommendation. Excellent software!
 

GBM

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I'd completely agree with the Silverfast recommendation. Excellent software!
I really appreciate you giving me that ' thumbs up' ... because it took a lot of internal mental wrangling on my part to decide to spend $310 on a software program which can only be used on one computer and with ONE model scanner. But everywhere I looked... including face to face questioning of my local camera shop lab people agreed it was the current standard everything is judged against.... which fits since the Kodachrome 2 slide film held that same position with regards to several criteria for many decades. If you pick up an old National Geographic and check the credits.... it is amazing how many had these three items in common... Nikon F,Kodachrome2, Wide angle lens.....
Also, it is nice to find that tech support is fast , competent and nice to deal with.... that has helped me feel good about my decision to commit that much money to scanning software.
 

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I really appreciate you giving me that ' thumbs up' ... because it took a lot of internal mental wrangling on my part to decide to spend $310 on a software program which can only be used on one computer and with ONE model scanner. But everywhere I looked... including face to face questioning of my local camera shop lab people agreed it was the current standard everything is judged against.... which fits since the Kodachrome 2 slide film held that same position with regards to several criteria for many decades. If you pick up an old National Geographic and check the credits.... it is amazing how many had these three items in common... Nikon F,Kodachrome2, Wide angle lens.....
Also, it is nice to find that tech support is fast , competent and nice to deal with.... that has helped me feel good about my decision to commit that much money to scanning software.
How do you like Silverfast? Is it easy to use? Is the documentation very good? After reading this thread today I started looking at it (Silverfast) and am considering buying the SE Plus 8 version to go with my Epson V500 scanner. In looking around for some books to help me learn more about getting the most from my scanner I found some people commenting that the Silverfast program was non-intuitive and it's documentation was not much help. What's your experience been?

Thanks in advance,
Kristin
 
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How do you like Silverfast? Is it easy to use? Is the documentation very good? After reading this thread today I started looking at it (Silverfast) and am considering buying the SE Plus 8 version to go with my Epson V500 scanner. In looking around for some books to help me learn more about getting the most from my scanner I found some people commenting that the Silverfast program was non-intuitive and it's documentation was not much help. What's your experience been?

Thanks in advance,
Kristin
Have you considered VueScan as well, Kristin?

--Ken
 

KKH

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Have you considered VueScan as well, Kristin?

--Ken
Ken,

I did look at Vuescan and was unimpressed. I'm digitizing from 35mm negatives and don't remember what type of film. I went through every option for brand and model of film and none came close to looking good. I didn't look at it beyond that. I'm sure part of my problem is that I don't know how to use it. That's why I was asking if Silverfast is east to use, or at least easy to learn. As long as there are clear directions I'm fine. If I have to figure it out on my own I'm sunk.

Kristin
 
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Ken,

I did look at Vuescan and was unimpressed. I'm digitizing from 35mm negatives and don't remember what type of film. I went through every option for brand and model of film and none came close to looking good. I didn't look at it beyond that. I'm sure part of my problem is that I don't know how to use it. That's why I was asking if Silverfast is east to use, or at least easy to learn. As long as there are clear directions I'm fine. If I have to figure it out on my own I'm sunk.

Kristin
As I have not used Silverfast, I cannot comment on it, but it has been around for quite some time and it has quite a following. Two things to keep in mind. There is a book out called The VueScan Bible that seems to be quite well written. You may want to have a look at it. Second, scanning color negatives is as much an art as it is a science. Many years ago, I worked in a photo lab printing color enlargements, and while there were a number of dedicated channels for the common emulsions, there were just too many generations of the common emulsions, and too many one off films to have a channel for everything. Needless to say, each enlargement was a semi-custom print because of the need for color corrections. So, keeping your expectations within reason might reduce some of your frustration.

Good luck,

--Ken
 
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KKH

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As I have not used Silverfast, I cannot comment on it, but it has been around for quite some time and it has quite a following. Two things to keep in mind. There is a book out called The VueScan Bible that seems to be quite well written. You may want to have a look at it. Second, scanning color negatives is as much an art as it is a science. Many years ago, I worked in a photo lab printing color enlargements, and while there were a number of dedicated channels for the common emulsions, there were just too many generations of the common emulsions, and too many one off films to have a channel for everything. Needless to say, each enlargement was a semi-custom print because of the need for color corrections. So, keeping your expectations within reason might reduce some of your frustration.

Good luck,

--Ken
Thanks for the input, Ken. I think a better way to describe my experience with Vuescan is that I got better results with the Epson software with a lot less effort. I put a fair bit of time into Vuescan and never got anything remotely resembling a decent result. If none of the film options worked I didn't see any reason to continue, as I remember choosing a film option as being step 1. I could be wrong. It could be I just needed more info on how to use the program. I looked at the description and user reviews for The Vuescan Bible and will probably buy it even if I don't use Vuescan simply because it apparently has basic information on how to scan negatives, something I've been looking for and not been able to find in electronic format. If you've got any suggestions for primers on scanning photos and negatives" information I'm all ears. It has to be in electronic format, though. Paper books are not an option.

Thanks,
Kristin
 

GBM

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I have reread my two posts about Silverfast and they still describe my feelings accurately. My scanning project slowed to a crawl because I got interested in updating my old Nikon F to digital ... I now have a Canon T3i ... and a nice ($22) four hundred page instruction manual by Mr. David Busch.
So, in this last year... USPTO rules, Sketchup8, Silverfast,Lightroom, T3i digital settings.... I am feeling some 0's and 1's rules overload....

Kristin, Why are paper books not an option ? For some things that is the only way that information is available....you can underline, highlight, and show them off on the coffee table !!!

The really needed Silverfast manual is PDF...
 
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KKH

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I have reread my two posts about Silverfast and they still describe my feelings accurately. My scanning project slowed to a crawl because I got interested in updating my old Nikon F to digital ... I now have a Canon T3i ... and a nice ($22) four hundred page instruction manual by Mr. David Busch.
So, in this last year... USPTO rules, Sketchup8, Silverfast,Lightroom, T3i digital settings.... I am feeling some 0's and 1's rules overload....

Kristin, Why are paper books not an option ? For some things that is the only way that information is available....you can underline, highlight, and show them off on the coffee table !!!

The really needed Silverfast manual is PDF...
I feel your overload and congratz on the new T3i. How are you liking it so far?

No books because I'm very chemically sensitive and paper absorbs everything. New books come with papermill fumes and new ink fumes, plus whatever they pick up from the warehouse. Old books potentially come with the fumes from everything they've ever been in the same room with. Presumably, I can buy a book, stick it somewhere to off-gas, and after some unknown amount of time be able to have it near me. I've never done that because, 1. I'm not that patient, and 2. I don't have a place to put where it can off-gas and not contaminate my air space. There's also the issue of information becoming out of date before I ever get to read it. I just deal with the fact that a lot of information is only available on paper. Fortunately for me, that's becoming less and less true. With digital content and my iPad (and Kindle for PC) I can underline, highlight, bookmark, *and* search. I LOVE the search function! Can't do that with paper. :) It doesn't look as good on the coffee table but I never have anyone in my house anyway, so it's not like anyone would see it. When I was learning Lightroom I put Kelby's LR3 book on the second monitor and LR on the main. For me, that was better than having a paper book open in my lap or on the desk.

Kristin
 

GBM

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I really like the T3i except for the lens caps. They are too skinny and the small push area seems to have the friction area angled so I keep dropping them. Actually it is more like card players 'spew' out a deck.. they shoot from my fingers...
I have Canon MiniDV cameras which will do 60 minutes of taping at a time.. so I was surprised to find the T3i limited to 12 minutes per clip of video.
I got the kit lens 18-55 and the 55-250 from B and H photo ( got my LR4/Kelby instructions) from them also)
They have adapter rings for my old Nikkor primes ( they did not have AF new so I am not losing that.. but gaining the use of some fine glass) of 28mm 2.8, 50mm 1.4,55mm 3.5 macro ,and 500mm reflex F5. So now for a flash ( 580ex ll and two pocket wizards p3) and I am loaded with equipment in search of how to use it....
 
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Well, I managed to put this off for almost eight years, but a recent death in the family has pushed this issue front and center again. Ironically, I do not believe that a lot has changed in those eight years. I still have my two scanners, the V600 is still being produced, and both Silverfast and VueScan are the main stand-alone software packages.

I have mulled the V600, and possibly the V800, during the past year, but realized that right now I just need to scan printed images, not film or transparencies (and I am not interested in a copy stand set-up at the moment). This leads me to wonder if the V600 is overkill for the task. I cannot recall the recommended resolution settings for printed materials if one wants a quality scan (if I do not want to enlarge a printed version of the image), but I believe that the V600 exceeds that recommendation by some margin. So, unless the V600's IQ or software is superior to something like their V39 model (which has also been suggested as a reasonable alternative for just printed materials and photos), is there any advantage to acquiring the V600 for this job? And, would either machine, or any other recommendation (including the two scanners I still have that were mentioned in my OP) benefit in IQ or workflow from third party software like Silverfast? I have tried to do a bit of research again on the subject, but my brain is focused on family matters at the moment, and the scanner and/or software are more of a means to an end (sharing a large number of family photos) than a fun project. And, I would prefer to do it right, and do it once if possible. Any advice or wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

--Ken
 
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If the bulk of what you're scanning are "snapshot" prints made by a consumer photo lab like a neighborhood store, I'd guess that many of them aren't going to be perfectly printed or properly color balanced. Many probably have blown highlights and blocked shadows. If that's the case, it probably isn't important to have a pro flatbed.

If the concern is about getting great results straight from the scanner, I often find it time-consuming to get that using most scanning software. Instead I scan everything relatively "loose" (lightly clipped black and white points, "good enough" color balance) using VueScan, to TIFF DNG, let VueScan dump them into a folder, and have Lightroom Classic pick them all up using Auto Import & Watch Folder. Then I bulk edit color and contrast more precisely in Lightroom Classic, since it's much more efficient for that than any scanning software. (I actually bulk scan negatives, but I would do the same with prints. With negatives I spend more time setting up the scans properly since negatives contain so much more good information.)

I used to have a Canon N670U, but I donated it a few years ago. In terms of image quality I think it would have been OK (not great) for snapshot scanning, but my biggest problem with it was that, compared to flatbeds released just a few years later, the N670U was slooooowwww. It took forever for it to run the scan head across a print. I currently have an Epson all-in-one, a few years old, that takes just a few seconds to scan a print. That might be a consideration: Even though you might not technically need a better scanner, if a new scanner is a lot faster it could pay for itself through the time you save.

I cannot recall the recommended resolution settings for printed materials if one wants a quality scan (if I do not want to enlarge a printed version of the image)
It depends on the goal of the archive. If the goal is to be able to print the same size as the original in the future, just set the software to scan actual size at 300 ppi. (Or possibly less if most are snapshots that are not perfectly sharp because of cheap pocket camera lenses or grainy film.) At that setting a 6 x 4 inch print would be 1800 x 1200 pixels. But notice that number is far below the pixel dimensions of many displays today, so if the family would like any photo to be able to fill a future high resolution display, you might adjust the scan resolution. For example, if you would like to archive these so that they fill a 4K television (3840 x 2160 pixels), then make sure the scans reach those pixel dimensions.

Just make sure you understand all the future uses the family anticipates for this archive, and adjust the settings to suit that.
 
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Hi Conrad,

Thank you for the helpful suggestions. A large number of these photos are B/W prints from the 50's and 60's although some are color prints from later. Regarding quality and post processing, I guess that I am trying to find a sweet spot between time and quality, and not having done much scanning, feel like I am flying in a bit of a fog. I had originally hoped to work all of the quality issues out and then put them into an online gallery where people could download high quality files (most likely in jpeg format) so they could have copies of their own. I don't want to scan images twice, once for immediate use and again for archiving, but I do not want to be bogged down trying to get a scan of a paper print "perfect", since I suspect that there is only so much that can be done relative to a raw file from a modern digital camera (excepting the need for intensive restoration work).

I did spend some time looking at Silverfast and its compatibility with scanners, and it is fairly limited in the models that it supports. So, if I do want to use it, it eliminates a lot of possible scanners. Again, I do not know how much it offers in both time saved and in IQ, so I am now feeling much more constrained in my hardware choices as the Canon and Brother are slow. I am hoping to spend a bit more time on this tomorrow if possible. I know there is no perfect solution, unless perhaps I want to just spend for a V850 and Silverfast, but I suspect that there is a sweet spot with respect to time, IQ and budget. Now if I can only find it.

--Ken
 
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Calibration is important, but I do want to nail down a set-up first. I found my VueScan license last night and installed the latest version on my computer. I remembered what a love/hate affair the UI is on the program, but it is nice to have a no cost option available. I also dug up the Canon scanner to try with VueScan since I do not have the Canon software for the scanner. Scan quality was quite slow and subpar compared to the Brother (which is also quite slow, but giving me adequate scans for the time being). Well, at least there is one less option in the mix now. I suspect the Brother could hold me for a few images at lower resolutions for immediate use, but I would like to get a more permanent work flow soon if possible.

--Ken
 
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FWIW, I started out trying to scan everything and quickly got bored because scanning is SO SLOW. I ended up with the camera on a tripod, photos magnetically taped to a board, and got through thousands in a reasonable length of time. They're not perfect, but they're perfectly good enough for enjoying as a family, and we still have the originals if I ever needed a high quality scan. I took more time with more important photos, but for the average snapshot, it was the best balance of time and quality at the time.
 
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FWIW, I started out trying to scan everything and quickly got bored because scanning is SO SLOW. I ended up with the camera on a tripod, photos magnetically taped to a board, and got through thousands in a reasonable length of time. They're not perfect, but they're perfectly good enough for enjoying as a family, and we still have the originals if I ever needed a high quality scan. I took more time with more important photos, but for the average snapshot, it was the best balance of time and quality at the time.
I had given this approach serious consideration, especially once I learned about magnetic holders. It is very tempting, but for two items that I would like to better address. The first is space. A copy stand with lights is larger than a scanner and i do not know if I have a place right now where I could leave it set up. The second is lighting. I have a large number of glossy or semi-glossy B/W prints, and I suspect getting them well lit without reflections could possibly drive me nuts if I cannot set it once per session and then leave it, hopefully without things getting bumped.

There is a part of me that concurs with Victoria's approach of good enough since I will still have all of the originals, and I suspect that anything put up on a blog will get compressed (as opposed to a hosted photo account), so a two stage approach may be better. If that is the case, then I am leaning toward one of three Epson scanners - V39, V370 or V600.

The one thing I am still trying to better come to terms with if I want a more convenient, but still decent scan, is 300 vs 600 PPI. @Conrad Chavez mentioned that most newer display are high resolution. If that is the case and 600 is actually a better scan than 300, then 600 is the choice. But, if 300 is really the limit of a print, is 600 on a high resolution monitor any better than a 300 at 200%?

--Ken
 
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FWIW, I'm on the same mission to scan my own, as well as family slides, negatives and pictures.

At the moment, I'm going to start with my Epson V500 with some slides. I'm just going to use the Epson Scanning Software and as starting point, using Film to Digital – Scanning Essentials 101 . From a reply to a post here, I also purchased Digitizing Your Pictures with Your Camera and Lightroom. I'm not planning on using my camera but found the reading of why to use a camera interesting. It does have some good points for organizing your collection. I have not got into the use in LR.

I have glanced at VueScan and SilverFast but have not found a compelling reason to use them until the Epson does not deliver.

A friend is lending me his V700 so I can do 12 instead of 4 at a time slide scanning. I understand the slowest aspect of it but am only scanning those images I feel I will do something with. The rest I'll just index as groups.
 
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