Creating perfect photos from your slide and negative scans with ColorPerfect: Nikon Coolscan, Nikon Scan 4.0

Increase the quality of your slide and negative scans from Nikon Scan with ColorPerfect! Find out more about how to scan with your Nikon Coolscan. ColorPerfect processes scans with color integrity and gives unprecedented flexibility in creative image editing. To harness the full potential of our Photoshop Plug-in it's important to obtain image data that has been subjected to as little processing as possible (RAW data). The following tutorial gives a step by step explanation on how to achieve this with Nikon Scan.

Creating linear scans of slides and negatives with Nikon Scan 4.0

To create suitable scans of slides and negatives for processing with ColorPerfect or ColorNeg with Nikon Scan 4.0 you will first have to set up a few Preferences in the Edit menu.


For one you will have to set the Gamma value from its default of 2.2 to 1.0 (linear). Afterwards you'll have to deactivate the Nikon Color Management System on the Color Management tab. While you are at it you might also want to take a look at the settings for Single Scan and Batch Scan. We recommend activating the Auto Focus Before Scan and Auto Exposure for Positive Film settings. You'll also usually want your scans to be saved to disk after scanning. The remaining settings have to be left at their defaults, especially those on the Advanced Color tab. You will have to restart Nikon Scan before these changes take effect.

Options for scanning slides and negatives

 After restarting Nikon Scan you have to make certain that the mode for color positive film is selected before scanning. This is important regardless of wether you are scanning slides or negatives. Next define the scan's resolution in the Crop area. If you are scanning for archival purposes it is recommended that you use the maximum physical resolution your scanner is capable of. In the example that's 4000 dpi. If you require a smaller image file it is generally best to sample the resulting image down in Photoshop later using suitable techniques instead of scanning at a low resolution to begin with.

Digital ICE which is the feature for automatically removing dust and scratches can safely be activated in most cases. This usually does not have a negative effect on the result. In many cases it is beneficial to use Digital ICE as it reduces the amount of time required in editing the final image. Digital ICE can not be used for black and white film. For Kodachrome slides the LS-9000 alone supports this feature.

The Scan Image Enhancer feature is only available for Nikon's newer Scanners. Like all features said to "optimize" or "enhance" images this option will wreack havoc on linear negative scans, so make sure it's disabled.

The most important settings are located in the Scanner Extras area. Here you can set the bit depth of the scan. For the latest Nikon scanners set this to 16 bits/channel. The previous generation can only be set to 14 bits/channel which also is sufficient for scanning negatives. The professional scanner models also allow multi sampling to be used to reduce noise. The densest areas of a transparency are the ones most prone to noise in scanning. Multi sampling is therefore especially useful for scanning color negatives as the densest parts of such scans contain much of the information that will later form the brighter tones of the positive image.

Improving quality by use of analog gain

 A special feature of Nikon's Coolscan scanners is the possibility to adjust the lamp brightness / exposure time separately for the three color channels which is referred to as analog gain. You can utilize that to reduce the orange mask of a color negative during scanning or even to eliminate it altogether. In a typical linear scan of a color negative the blue channel is more than two exposure values below the red channel and the green channel often is more than one EV below it. For modern scanners with 16 bit/channel precision this often is irrelevant for inverting the negative as there is still enough detail to work with. For older scanner models with 14 bit precision or even only 12 bit precision equalizing the three color channels' lightness before analog/digital conversion can improve the quality of the inversion. If we consider that the blue channel typically is the least detailed portion of the scan we can observe that it is possible to bring its quality up to the level of that of a scan with 2 bit/channel more precision. It is noteworthy that often the lamp brightness can't be increased any further in which case exposure time will be lengthened instead. If the maximum setting of 2 for the blue channel's analog gain is not enough you can even increase it further by adding a Master setting and a negative equivalent of that number to the Red channel's analog gain setting.

Removing banding effects in the scan e.g. with the Nikon Coolscan LS-8000

 If your scans are showing stripes that do not run in the direction the CCD moves, as can result from dirt in a scanner and your scanner has more than just one CCD line the option Super Fine Scan which is also located on the Scanner Extras tab can resolve the problem. This is a known issue for the Nikon Coolscan LS-8000. Super Fine Scan will lead to using just one of the scanner's three CCD lines. Using all three is what results in the banding effects. This will considerably slow down scanning but it removes the annoying effect that negative scans are especially prone to. The banding usually occurs in dark tones but becomes a banding in light tones after the inversion which is much more obvious. The example image shown is a crop from a black and white negative which is very dense in the areas that became the sky of the positive shown here. Due to the frequency of this being a problem we operate our Coolscan LS-8000 exclusively in Super Fine mode.

For the current generation of scanners Nikon is said to have solved this issue so that you can use the scanner's full speed without dramatically impairing quality.

Problems with the SA-21 stripfilm adapter

It has been reported that using the SA-21 stripfilm adapter on scanner models that support this accessory will make it impossible to select the mode for color positive film when scanning. One option to solve this is using the MA-21 slide mount adapter fitted with an FH-3 film holder instead. Note that the FH-3 is not necessarily included with the scanner but must often be purchased separately. We have not had the chance to explore this but it is likely to be a software matter so that you might want to check whether VueScan Professional or SilverFast also inhibit using the SA-21 if you already own a copy of either software.

Supported scanner models

NikonScan 4.x supports the following scanner models: Nikon Super Coolscan LS-4000 ED, Nikon Super Coolscan LS-5000 ED, Nikon Super Coolscan LS-8000 ED, Nikon Super Coolscan LS-9000 ED, Nikon Coolscan IV (LS-40) and Nikon Coolscan V (LS-50). For older Models such as the Nikon Coolscan LS-2000 or Nikon Coolscan III (LS-30) an older version of NikonScan is required. Alternatively VueScan Professional can be used with all of these scanners.

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