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SS4000 : Polacolor vs. Silverfast (was Re: filmscanners: Bestscanner software)

Silverfast 5 AI known bug:
To all SS4000/Silverfast 5 users: Be sure you are running the latest patch
for version 5 which fixes a major CMS options bug. The desired patch is not
necessarily V5.5 which is not a bug fix release and for which Laser Soft is
charging a fee. I got patch V5.2.0 r05. Laser Soft makes getting their
patches a pain in the ass by requiring registration, mailing usernames and
passwords to download patches, and insisting on CD verification. These folks
are real stiffs. I had dink around for a half hour or more to get the patch
and install it. For example, you'll need the release CD mounted (on Mac
anyway) to use the update, but it doesn't inform you of this until after
you've installed the update and loaded the software using Photoshop.

Polacolor vs. Silverfast:
Having had a chance to work with both Polacolor Insight (V5.0.3) and
Silverfast (V5.2.0 r05) for a week, I notice that Silverfast delivers color
that's no better than Polacolor and without calibration Silverfast output is
much worse. This became apparent to me while comparing scans of an IT8 Q60.

When uncalibrated, Silverfast yields scans that are overly dark, dreadfully
under saturated, blue in the highlights and mid tones, and magenta in the
shadows. No amount of Photoshop tweaking allowed me to overcome the
saturation deficit. Levels and curves can overcome the casts but the image
is still dull. Calibration provided a significant improvement in saturation,
but output still shows much too dark, with a cyan cast in the highlights and
a yellow/red cast in the mid tones and shadows.

Polacolor scans (using zeroed settings) look much better to me than
calibrated Silverfast scans. Polacolor output is more saturated, and much
closer match to the IT8 as viewed on a light box.

Monaco EZ Color 2 doesn't accept Silverast 5 AI Scans:
I can't get Monaco EZ Color 2 to build a scanner profile from uncalibrated
scans made by Silverfast. I've been careful to consider interactions between
Silverfast controls and EZ Color 2. EZ Color reports that there is an
unknown problem with the Silverfast scans. Maybe this is due to the poor
saturation of uncalibrated scans. I haven't tried Monaco EZ Color on a
calibrated scan. I'm not going to go there for now.

Please note that I've also had trouble getting EZ Color to accept HP 7400C
IT8 scans, so this is not just a Silverfast issue. In the case of the HP, I
was able to overcome EZ Colors objection by tweaking the scan using the HP
drivers controls. I have not had the same luck with Solverfast.

OTOH, EZ Color 2 works fine with Polacolor Insight scans and produces
profiles that result in images that I find improved over what I obtain with
the Polacolor alone.

Polacolor HDR:
An FYI for those who have wondered about HDR: The point of this software is
to decouple the task of making a scan from the task of performing color
correction. It doesn't play well with Photoshop, as you might hope.
Ostensibly, the point of HDR is to permit a nave scanner operator collect
the hi-bit data from the scanner into files, while another more skilled
operator operates the complex Silverfast UI to color correct. In other
words, imagine breaking a scanning task into two parts: 1) get the raw data
from the scanner saved as files, and 2) process and color correct the data.
The HDR version of Silverfast simply opens previously saved hi-bit data and
treats it as if it has just come right from the scanner. Unfortunately, the
data saved during step-1 is truly raw, with coding so far away from what
most users expect that using Photoshop to bring it into a typical RGB
working space will be well beyond most users skills.

I think the Silverfast software is close to being an anachronism: its value
is rooted in being a capable center of a color correction workflow for
graphic arts industry style prepress shops. This is decreasing in importance
in the graphic arts industry as color systems are become more modular, and
Silverfast's orientation is totally askew for photographers using Mac/PC
digital imaging systems. If the results of Silverfast were superior for
photographers, its idiosyncrasies would be tolerable, but I find that
Polaroid's driver, though sort of crude and incomprehensible in terms of
color management, yields better color than Silverfast.

Still haven't yet tried Vuescan with the SS4000...



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