About 15 years ago, I purchased a HP film scanner but long ago that device gave up the ghost. I recently decided to buy a new film scanner and purchased an Plustek 8200i. This came with SilverFast 8 software. I had previously used this software on my Epson flat bed scanner and had even had to purchase a new copy from Lasersoft to get a version that would work on my current Mac operating system. I knew this software had a poorly designed interface but I had learned to use it. It has a lot of features but most of those are not easy to use or of limited value to me.
I heard about VueScan software and decided to purchase it. Unlike SilverFast were you have to purchase a new version for every scanner, this is one license that works with both my flat bed and film scanner.
I started with scanning a Kodak Gold negative that was 11 years old. I set both software to 3600 dpi and auto color correction.
After inserting the negative and doing a Preview, the software did a good job of selecting the frame. I like how you can put in the date (a guess) and other meta data that will be embedded in the file.
And here is the uncorrected image.
After doing the pre-scan, it did a fairly good job of finding the frame (although my past experience is that I have to almost always move the frame). The interface looks rich with lots of controls, but it takes time to learn them and in my opinion most are not very well designed.
Here is the actual image without any correction.
From previous experience, I have realize that SilverFast’s auto color is poor when using the Multi Exposure feature when scanning color negatives. So I did the scan again with Multi Exposure turned off without making any other changes.
If I match up this image with the one from VueScan you get this. The left side is SilverFast and the right is VueScan. I prefer the right side side produced by VueScan.
Scanning 35 mm Slides
Next I found a 44 year old Kodachrome slide when I was a young guy, one I had also scanned with both my old HP Scanner and Epson flatbed scanner.
Scanned 15 years ago with my HP Film Scanner
Plustek Film Scanner and SilverFast at 3600 dpi
Plustek Film Scanner and VueScan at 3600 dpi
On a web page it is hard to see that there is much difference,
If I do small crop, you can see the difference in resolution. I also include a crop from a scan of the same slide using my Epson flat bed scanner. I have arranged these with the sharpest images first.
The difference is now quite apparent. The resolution from old HP film scanner is lacking and the scan from the Epson flatbed scanner, even at the maximum resolution is soft.When using the PlusTek scanner at 3600 dpi, the VueScan software is also almost as good as SilverFast software at 7200 dpi while Silverfast at 3600 is quite lacking.
The Pluxtek scanner has an infrared channel for dusk and scratch removal, but that lengthens the time. Both also support multi exposure.
The Pluxtek scanner supports infrared scan for dusk and scratch removal, but that lengthens the time. Both SilverFast and VueScan support this feature as well as multi exposure.
These are times with the Plusteck scanner AFTER the preview has already been completed and adjustments selected. Each involves 3 scans, one for the image, one for the Infrared channel and a third for the multiple exposure, then processing and saving the image. SilverFast in particular takes a long time for “processing” after the 3 scans are finished while this is done quickly with VueScan. Time is shown in minutes:seconds using a 35 mm slide.
- SilverFast at 7200 dpi: 12:37
- VueScan at 7200 dpi: 5:23
- SilverFast at 3600 dpi: 5:30
- VueScan at 3600 dpi: 2:30
SilverFast came free with my Plustek scanner, but I had to pay about $70 to buy it for my Epson Scanner as an upgrade for the old version that came with that scanner. Trying to upgrade to more advanced versions of SilverFast can become very expensive, a real qusitonable thing since scanning of film is rather a one time thing for most people and not an on going process unless you are still shotting film.
VueScan offers a very reasonable price of $40, easily affordable. I selected the $80 option for the professional version that offers lifetime updates so I can avoid the issue I had with SilverFast where I had to pay to uprade to version 8 for my flat bed scanner, and even then that upgrade was not useable on any other scanner.
Without a question VueScan offers far better value and I suspect that SilverFast is packaged free with many film scanners because they want you to upgrade to a later version or one of their more deluxe versions. I don’t like this scheme and like the more straightforward approach taken by VueScan.
- The Plustek 8200i film scanner is much better than my old HP Film Scanner and my current Epson flat bed scanner.
- When using the PlusTek 8200i film scanner, it is well worth buying VueScan software rather than using the SilverFast software that comes bundled.
- VueScan scan times are only half as long as when using SilverFast
- VueScan at 3600 dpi has much better image when highly cropped than SilverFast can produce at 3600 dpi.
- VueScan is much easier to use. Although SilverFast has a lot of features they are cumbersome to use.
- SilverFast does a poor job of auto color correction of negatives when using multi-exposure while VueScan has no issue in this situation.
- VueScan is easier to use and the controls, although not maybe as fancy looking, are more practical to use. I am someone who is a semi-expert using Photoshop and Lightroom so for many users, this is even a bigger factor.
- VueScan offers free upgrades and you can use the software on multiple scanners.
- Upgrading to a more deluxe version of SilverFast is very expensive and the so called “upgrade” price is almost as much as the regular price.