Photo packs have come a long way in the past decade, especially those that are targeted toward outdoor and adventure photographers. Alaska-based adventure photographer Dan Bailey takes a closer look...
I'm a hobby photographer who enjoys more the technical side of photography
than actually going out and taking pictures. I bought the Nikon Super Coolscan
4000 ED to scan my negatives and slides for archiving purposes. The scanner has
surprised me with the immense detail and color brilliance in the scans but also
has disappointed me in a few areas like the auto focus not always working
properly or the Digital ICE messing up on some images.
Firewire interface is fast and uncomplicated on the Mac
6 Frame strip film holder
Nikon Scan 3.1 software has many useful functions
Digital ICE works wonders on scratchy and dusty negatives
4000 ppi will scan all that detail
14 bit color channels
16x multi sampling
Analog exposure gain
Strip film auto feeder doesn't hold negatives straight enough
Very small depth of sharpness
Auto focus doesn't always work well
Digital ICE badly messes up on Fuji Superia films
The software needs a lot of RAM to run stably
Haven't needed Digital ROC. Color correction in Photoshop does it for
Digital GEM reduces some grain but at the same time introduces its own
A Stable Hardware Setup
Apple PowerMac G4 400 with at least 256 MB of RAM and built in Firewire,
running Mac OS 9.0.4.
Scanning Tips - Nikon Scan and Adobe Photoshop on the Mac
Note: these tips are not for beginners.
Plug-in or not Don't use Nikon Scan as a plug-in from within
Photoshop, it is a bit buggy. If you have enough RAM, have Photoshop and Nikon
Scan open as separate applications at the same time. Give each of them at least
96 MB of RAM and don't use virtual memory. Don't give the applications in total
more RAM than the available RAM on your computer minus about 50 MB for the
operating system. This way you can work on touching up one image while the next
one is being scanned.
Displaying images in Nikon Scan Don't use Nikon Scan to display and
manipulate scanned images. It is extremely slow with large files. Photoshop
handles it better.
File sizes File sizes can vary from a few MB (web stuff) to about 120
MB (14 bit colors per channel and 4000 ppi). If you want to work comfortably in
Photoshop with big file sizes, on the Mac you'll have to give the application
minimum(!) the amount of RAM as the file takes up space on your hard drive. That
way Photoshop doesn't have to use the hard drive much when applying calculations
to an image.
Preview images Use large preview images for properly examining a
negative/slide before scanning.
Scanning resolution Scan at the smallest resolution and file size that
accommodates your needs. Small images display less artefacts and use up less
memory. If you want to archive your images and have a lot of time, use the 14 bit
and 16x multi sampling scanning modes.
ICE Try and avoid using Digital ICE and GEM. Both blur your image and
unsharp mask in Photoshop won't bring those details back. If you want less grain,
use a finer grain film. If your negative is already badly messed up with
scratches, then maybe consider using some ICE. A work-around to getting rid of
scratches and not blurring your image too much is to scan the exact(!) same crop
of the negative once with ICE and once without ICE. In Photoshop you can overlay
both images by copying the ICE'd image into a new layer of the non ICE'd image.
Mask out the whole ICE'd layer and only let the areas show which you need to
remove a dust particle or a scratch.
GEM GEM only makes sense on large grain film, but beware, it also
creates weird texture artefacts in some images.
ICE with Fuji Superia Be very careful when applying ICE to Fuji
Superia films, it introduces a strong blur and color cutout effect to some areas
of the image.
Removing dust Remove dust from your negatives/slides with compressed
air before scanning. Where possible, remove dust and scratches from a scanned
image by using the cloning tool in Photoshop.
Batch scanning The Coolscan 4000 has a very small depth of sharpness.
The automatic strip film feeder that comes with the scanner doesn't hold the
strip of negatives straight enough to get good edge to edge sharpness. I wouldn't
bother batch scanning anything. In the long run, it is better to use the 6 frame
strip film holder for negatives or to use framed slides and manually adjust the
software for each scan.
Auto focus After each scan, make sure in Photoshop that the image is
sharp. If with 4000 ppi you can't detect every single grain, then the auto focus
of the scanner didn't adjust properly. Move the auto focus point to a spot with
more contrast on the negative and rescan the image until it is sharp.
Post processing Do any image post processing in Photoshop. The results
are better and you have a full information image to play with.
Lighting up dark areas 1
Adjust the analog gain in the scanner software so that no light areas are
Scan the image.
The image will be too dark.
In Photoshop make four layers of the same image.
Overlay the top layer nr. 4 with nr. 3 below it in 'screen' mode and merge
the two layers.
Create a layer mask for layer 2 and paste the above result into it as an
Invert the alpha channel (the layer mask).
Delete the merged layer of 4 and 3.
Layer 2 should be overlaying the ground layer with the light areas masked
Change the overlaying mode of layer 2 to 'screen' mode.
Adjust the opacity of layer 2 and flatten the image.
Alternatively use the curves and levels functions with somewhat different
Lighting up dark areas 2 If light and dark areas are too contrasty to
be corrected afterwards, I do two identically cropped scans of the same image.
In the scanning software, push the ananlog gain until the dark areas show
properly in the preview image. Let the light areas be blown out, you will need it
Scan the image.
Adjust the analog gain until the light areas show properly.
Scan an exact same crop of the image above.
In Photoshop, paste the darker scan into a layer over the lighter scan.
Select the whole area of the lighter scan with the blown out areas and copy
it into the clipboard.
Select the darker layer and create a layer mask.
Paste the lighter image into the mask as an alpha channel.
Change the brightness and contrast levels of the layer mask to your
Flatten the image.
Use the curves and levels functions of Photoshop to adjust the rest.
Increasing the contrast mainly in dark areas Use the same method as
described in "Lighting up dark areas 1" but use the 'overlay' mode when
Getting details out of very bright areas In Photoshop, to get some
more details out of blown out light areas overlay an image with itself in the
"multiply" mode. Then use the opacity of the overlaying layer to your liking.
Note: you might want to mask out areas of the overlaying image with the
techniques described above. This method does NOT make up for a badly exposed
Selecting dark or light areas In Photoshop, to select mainly the dark
or light areas:
Select all in a layer and copy the selection into the clipboard.
Change to quickmask mode and paste the selection into it.
Push the contrast of the quickmask to something between 50 and 80 %.
Return to normal mode and all the bright areas should be selected.
To select the dark areas invert the selection with shift+command+i.
Now apply whatever function you want to the selected areas. Note: of course
you could just use the curves function, but that is not exactly the same and you
can't apply other effects to just those areas.
Inserting a sky
In Photoshop, make a duplicate of your image layer.
Push the contrasts on that duplicate.
Use the liquify function to mask out everthing but the sky in that
Use the results to help you select the sky in your original layer.
Remove the duplicate.
Create a layer mask for the original layer using your selection. (You'll have
to turn the background layer into a working layer first by double clicking on it
and pressing return)
Insert a sky layer below the original layer.
Be careful to adjust the colors well so people don't notice it.
Weakening oversaturated areas on skin If you've used Fuji Velvia or
Kodak E100VS for people photography, your subject probably will have a red nose
and other oversaturated skin areas.
Carefully try and get rid of the oversaturation using the levels and
Select the airbrush tool and set it to 'screen' mode and 1% opacity.
Select a brush color from a normally saturated and bright skin area.
Carefully brush over the dark saturated areas until the saturation and
brightness levels match the other areas of the skin.
Darkening small skin areas Use the airbrush in 'multiply' mode and 1%
opacity. Select a color from a darker skin area and carefully brush over those
light areas until the brightness levels match the other skin areas.
Below is a selection of films I've used in the past. My opinions are based on
observations I have made during scanning.
Agfa Optima II 400: Grain and colors are similar to Kodak Royal Gold 400.
Colors sometimes off.
Agfa HDC 200: Nice colors. Nothing good and nothing bad about this film.
Fuji Superia 100,200,400,800: Very fine grained negative film for the
respective speed. ICE messes up on some images.
Fuji NPS 160: Larrge grain. Boring portrait colors. ICE seems to not mess up
so badly on this one.
Fuji Superia Reala 100: Finest grain negative film I've come accross. ICE
messes up on some images.
Fuji Provia 100F, 400F: The fine grain is awesome. Reasonably saturated and
very sharp. No need for GEM or ICE with slide film (usually).
Kodak Gold 100, 200, 400: ICE seems to work the way it was intended.
Kodak Supra 400: Large grain. ICE seems to work the way it was intended. GEM
Kodak Royal Gold 100, 400: Not as fine grain as Fuji's Superia line but much
richer colors. ICE seems to work the way it was intended. GEM creates some
Kodak Ektachrome E100S: Very fine grain, saturated, sharp. Scans well with
properly exposed film.
Kodak Ektachrome E100SW: Same as E100S but adds some warmth. Great for
portraits on overcast days.
Kodak Ektachrome E100VS: Similar to Fuji Velvia, way oversaturated for my
Kodak Ektachrome E200: Fine grain, neutral saturated colors, very similar to
Fuji Provia 400F. No need for GEM or ICE with slide film (usually).
Most slide films up to 100 ASA and Kodak E200 and Provia 400F have MUCH
smaller grain than one of the finest grain negative films Fuji Superia Reala.
Negative film scratches easily. Dust and scratches appear as bright white spots
in the scans and are very annoying. The only realistic way of removing it is with
the digital ICE function of the scanner. Slide film does not scratch as quickly
as negative film and when framed, it is easier to handle. Grain and scratches
appear as black areas in the scan and are much less obvious and easy to remove
with the cloning tool in Photoshop. Digital ICE is almost never needed. Negatives
have a much larger exposure lattitude than slides. But, a well exposed slide
beats a negative in almost any other discipline.
With a few manual adjustments here and there scans with the LS 4000 will
actually look pretty good, almost as good as drum scans. Scanning times are
anywhere from about 20 seconds to 20 minutes depending on the scanning resolution
and which features have been turned on. Typical scans at full resolution and size
and 8 bits per color channel take about one minute. I get very few system crashes
with Nikon's hardware/software combination on my Mac. Whenever it does crash, it
is usually due to the same reason any other app would crash - surfing the web
while scanning, or running low on memory and so on.