Epson V500 + Vuescan – Output comparison

It seems if you read around the web, everyone has their own way of doing things. Some people use the factory scanner software others use expensive professional apps and everything in between.

I’ve been using Vuescan 9 on Ubuntu Linux for sometime and getting quite acceptable results. Now I know that the V500 isn’t going to get ground breaking detail from a negative, at least not the way a dedicated scanner or drum scanner could but those options are out of my price range so lets not digress.

Even in the limited world of scanning with Vuescan everyone seems to have their own little method. I’ve been using the preview + exposure lock + film base colour lock. method, I turn off all the auto settings and let the scanner do a pass. I set the black and white points and make a white balance adjustment by selecting a white or grey area of the scan. I then save off the file as a jpg and massage it to my liking in the gIMP.

I’ve recently read some articles online about getting better scans out of Vuescan, some which suggest doing multiple passes, others suggest getting a RAW file out of Vuescan and using something like Adobe CameraRaw to convert and adjust the scan.

I decided to do my own little test, I pulled out the binder and flipped back to the year 2009 and picked out a negative I’ve never scanned before. I thought it best so I don’t already have an idea of how it should look “finished.”

Below I present the following:
1. Single pass jpg scan, edited in gimp for curves and colour. unsharpened.
One Pass JPEG

1a. 100% Crop from single pass scan
One Pass 100% crop of JPEG

2. Three pass jpg scan, editing in gimp for curves and colour. unsharpened
Three Pass JPEG

2a. 100% Crop from three pass scan
Three Pass 100% crop from JPEG

3. Three pass raw scan, converted in UFRaw converter with curves and colour adjustment and imported into gimp for a final colour touch up.
Raw scan converted JPEG

3a. 100% Crop from Raw Scan
Raw Scan 100% crop from JPEG

So looking back at the results, there is a slight improvement in grain by doing a three pass scan. while going to the extra trouble to scan in raw doesn’t seem to produce any results that would make it worth the work.

Given that I could have spent a little more time here and there I may have gotten slightly different results, also that the colour balance isn’t perfectly matched between the raw and jpgs.

This has certainly showed me that going RAW for my scans isn’t worth the extra work even if I was able to get even a slight increase in perceived quality. however for stuff that I care about I’ll be doing a three pass scan for sure, it shows noticeably finer grain in the shadows and it’s not much extra work to tick a box, although it does increase scan time.

If this has been useful or if you have any problems with my openly unscientific method give me a yell in the comments.

Cheers