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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 processed as little 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

In order to produce slide and negative scans suitable for further processing with ColorPerfect or ColorNeg with Nikon Scan 4.0, two general settings have to be made in the options menu of the software first.

 

First, the gamma setting must be changed from its default value of 2.2 to 1.0 (linear gamma). Afterwards, the Nikon Color Management System has to be deactivated on the Color Management tab. Furthermore, you can also check the settings for Single Scan and Batch Scan. Recommended for both are the Auto Focus Before Scan as well as the Auto Exposure for Positive Film settings. Automatic saving of the scan to the drive is also recommended. All other settings should be left at their default values. Especially the settings 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 must make sure that the color positive film mode is selected before scanning. This is important whether you are scanning slides or negatives. Next define the scan's resolution in the Crop area. If scanning for archival purposes, the maximum physical resolution supported by the scanner is recommended, here 4,000 dpi. If you need a smaller image file, it is usually better to reduce the resulting image later in Photoshop using appropriate techniques than to scan at a low resolution.

Digital ICEDigital ICE, the function for removing dust and scratches, can be activated, it has no negative influence on the result. In many cases it is advantageous to use Digital ICE as it reduces the amount of time required in retouching the final image. Digital ICE can not be used for black and white film. For Kodachrome slides, the function works with the Coolscan LS-9000 alone.

Scan Image EnhancerScan Image Enhancer is a feature available only for the newer Nikon scanners. Like all functions that are supposed to "optimize" or "enhance" images, this one is fatal for linear negative scans. Therefore, make sure it remains disabled.

The most important settings are located in the Scanner ExtrasScanner Extras section. Here you can select the color depth of the scan per channel in bits. With the latest generation of Nikon scanners, the maximum possible color depth is 16-bit/channel, with the previous 14-bit/channel, which is also sufficient. The professional scanner models also allow multi sampling to be used to reduce noise. This option can be used to maximize quality. The densest areas of a transparency are the ones most prone to noise during scanning. Multi sampling can therefore be especially useful when scanning color negatives. The densest areas of such scans contain much of the information that will later form the lighter tones of the positive image.

Improving quality by use of analog gain

 A special feature of the Nikon Coolscan series is the possibility to adjust the lamp brightness / exposure time separately for the three color channels which is referred to as analog gain. With this you can reduce the orange mask of the negative already during the scanning considerably or eliminate it completely. In a typical linear color negative scan, the blue channel is more than 2 exposure values darker than the red channel, and the green channel is often more than 1 exposure value darker. 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 scanners with 14-bit/channel or only 12-bit/channel, however, an increase in quality can be achieved by equalizing the brightnesses before analog-to-digital conversion. If we consider that the blue channel is the least detailed part of the scan, we can see that it can be raised to the level of a scan with 2-bit/channel more precision. It should be noted that often the lamp brightness cannot be increased any further, there is then an increase in exposure time which slows down the scan. 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. The use of this option requires some testing in any case.

Elimination of banding in the scan with the Nikon Coolscan LS-8000

 When scanning with the Coolscan LS 8000 ED, it is necessary to activate the option "Extra-fine scan" under the Scanner Extras (screenshot appears above), where only one of the three CCD lines is used to scan the original. This makes the scan slower, but solves the annoying problem of banding, which is especially common when scanning negative film. The example image is a small section of a black and white negative with quite dense areas that form the sky in the positive shown. If streaks appear in the dark areas of the negative, i.e. the bright areas of the later positive, this is the solution. Due to the frequency of the problem, we scan exclusively in Super Fine mode with our LS 8000.

For the current generation scanners, Nikon seems to have finally fixed this problem, so that Super Fine mode is no longer necessary even for negatives, and the full speed of the scanners can be used without dramatic loss of quality.

Difficulties with the SA-21 filmstrip adapter

It has been reported to us that when using the SA-21 filmstrip adapter, only the mode for color negatives can be selected and not the mode for color slides as required. One way around this problem is to use the MA-21 slide adapter in combination with an FH-3 film holder. However, the FH-3 film holder is usually not included with the scanner and must be purchased separately. We were not able to pursue this further, but since the problem described is probably a software issue, it might be worthwhile to first check whether VueScan Professional or SilverFast also prevent the use of the SA-21 in positive mode, if you already own one of the two software products.

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.