I have been happy overall with the scans I get from the labs I use. I punch them up a little in Photoshop but they’re usually usable as is. But as a frugal dude I’m always looking to cut costs, and lab scans aren’t cheap.
My wife bought us a Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II scanner a couple years ago. It scans both 35mm and medium-format negatives. It’s an upgrade over my previous scanner, an Epson V300, which handles only 35mm.
Life’s been stupid crazy since then and I haven’t made time to play with the CanoScan, except for the quick scans I made of my mother-in-law’s 1940s-50s Kodachromes (see some here, here, and here). They turned out well enough using the bundled ScanGear software.
I was pleased, but surprised. The software Epson bundled with my V300 was terrible, and I expected Canon’s bundled software to be, too. So the other night, too tired to sleep, I got out some recent color negatives and scanned them with the CanoScan and ScanGear. I then edited the scans in Photoshop until I was reasonably satisfied.
I was thrilled that ScanGear automatically removed the color negative’s orange mask. The Epson software couldn’t do that and it was a pain to sample and correct for the mask. I never got it right.
I’m still building my scanning skills and knowledge, so this comparison is bound to be flawed. But here goes: my first CanoScan/ScanGear image. Yashica Lynx 14e on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400.
Fulltone Photo of La Grange, Kentucky, processed the film and scanned the negatives on their big Noritsu scanner. I Photoshopped those scans to my satisfaction, too. But even the base scans offered dramatically better sharpness, color, and tonality than the CanoScan.
I couldn’t resolve considerable softness in many of the images. This photo of a green house shows it best. The CanoScan/ScanGear scan:
The Fulltone scan is obviously sharper, even at blog resolution.
This negative was loaded with dust, or maybe scratches as no amount of cleaning ever cleared it up. So I turned on ScanGear’s dust and scratch removal. It cleaned up the marks, but added unsatisfying mottling on the shadowy parts of the image.
The Fulltone scan is better by a mile.
The ScanGear scans aren’t good enough. Yet. I haven’t mastered this software. If I keep experimenting, I might get better scans.
Or I could buy VueScan or SilverFast. I already own SilverFast for the Epson V300 and know it to be cumbersome and frustrating but effective. The scans still aren’t fully lab quality but they’re close enough.
Unfortunately, my copy of SilverFast works only for Epson V300 scanners. I’d have to buy a copy made to work with the CanoScan 9000F Mark II. The cheapskate within me urges me to try again with ScanGear.
Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.