Miscellaneous Ramblings

A Miscellaneous Ramblings Review

VueScan 8 Makes Quality Scanning Easy

Charles Moore - 2004.06.21 - Tip Jar

Hamrick Software has released VueScan v8.0.5, a major upgrade of their scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance.

VueScan 8 adds a PDF Getting Started Guide for new users, has a new metal/aqua look, an improved user interface, and adds support for per-color analog gain on Nikon scanners and reading raw files from many scanners. The latest release (VueScan is usually updated a couple of times a month or more often, and is a modest 2.1 MB download) includes:

  • Added support for Kodak RFS-3600 scanner
  • Added support for several PIE scanners
  • Improved color from Canon EOS raw files
  • Improved color from Nikon D-series raw files
  • Fixed calibration problem with Minolta Scan Multi
  • Fixed minor Epson problems

While I'm definitely not a fan of Apple's "brushed metal" user interface theme, VueScan 7 was looking more than a bit behind the times with its old, austere gray interface, and VueScan developer Ed Hamrick has done a very creditable job of making it look contemporary again while retaining all of classic VueScan's excellent functionality and user-friendliness. If I had my 'druthers, though, I would love an alternate Aqua theme.

VueScan has dropped classic Mac OS support with the version 8 release, but version 7 is still available for classic users. Version 7.6.64 is the last version that supports Mac OS 9.

Claimed to be the most popular scanner software in the world with more than 50,000 users, VueScan works with many types of scanners, is easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and has advanced features for restoring faded colors, batch scanning, and other features used by professional photographers.

The VueScan Getting Started Guide (downloadable in PDF from the Hamrick Software homepage) is a welcome addition, and it should help new users get up to speed with VueScan more conveniently than perusing the excellent - but prolix and unillustrated - online VueScan manual. The screen shots are all in Windows format but still help get the ideas across for Mac users.

VueScan features:

  • Accuracy: VueScan delivers better color fidelity and more natural color balance, with extended options for IT8 color calibration;
  • Productivity: VueScan improves your productivity with a range of batch scanning and advanced scanning options;
  • Cost savings: You can use VueScan to get improved images from your existing scanner;
  • Future upgrades: VueScan is continuously upgraded, adding new scanners and new features on a weekly basis;
  • Convenience: VueScan is quick to download and easy to install. It changes nothing on your computer, installs nothing in your operating system, and allows all other scanning software to continue to function;
  • Confidence: VueScan is used by tens of thousands of users worldwide, and is extensively tested and regularly upgraded.

Epson Perfection 4870 scannerI tested VueScan 8 with an Epson Perfection 4870 Photo combo flatbed and film scanner (a very nice piece of hardware that I reviewed recently using my 700 MHz G3 iBook running OS X 10.0.2. I had to remove the Epson Scan software from the OS X 10.3.2 Startup Items list (in the Accounts preference panel) before VueScan could recognize the scanner, but otherwise setup went smoothly. Both USB and FireWire interfaces are supported; I used FireWire.

VueScan works with prints, slides, or negatives.

Press the "Preview" button, and the scanner will preview your image, which will appear in the right hand pane of the VueScan interface window after VueScan processes the scanned data. A text readout in the bottom field of the interface window keeps you apprised of scanning and processing progress. Once the preview image appears, you can use the crop box to specify the desired crop for your scan.

If the colors don't look quite true in the preview, try control-clicking on an area of the image that should be gray. To reset to the automatic color balance setting, control double-click on the image. If the lighting in the scene is unusual (i.e., at sunset or with stage lighting), try setting "Color/Color balance" to "Neutral".

When everything is to your liking, press the "Scan" button, and the scanner will do its stuff, and after another processing interval, a scan of the image will appear in the window. Click "Save" to save it to your hard drive or open it in an image editing/viewing application. VueScan can save scanned images as JPEG files (by default) or TIFF files (optionally).

VueScan lets you change options in the tabbed panels on the left side of the interface window and displays images and histograms on the right side of the window. The bottom left corner of the window gives instructions for the chosen task and the bottom right corner of the window shows the dimensions of the image that will be written if you press the Scan button.

Other commands are available in the menu bar, and the most commonly used commands are available as buttons at the bottom of the window. A vast number of settings and adjustments are supported by the various menus and entry fields. VueScan keeps you informed as to what it's doing with text readouts at the bottom of the interface window.

The preview window is primarily used to show the cropping that the automatic cropping has selected and to let you change cropping if necessary. It's also used to give you a rough idea of what the color and contrast will look like in the final scan. The scan window shows the cropped image that can be written to a file or printed.

VueScan is a pure scanning application and doesn't have any post-scan image editing functions - no TWAIN or Plug-in interface support - so you must do your scanning from the VueScan application and then transfer it to an image editor for any final tweaking, but you can configure your favorite image editing program to automatically open each image when a scan completes. Use the "Prefs/External viewer" option to configure.

VueScan does color-correct scans from photographic images by referencing profiles for over 200 different types of color negative film and four types of slide film, and it can also color-correct raw data based on profiles for your particular scanner, as well as allowing for a wide range of manual adjustments, and VueScan is engineered for crop and white-balance accuracy to minimize the amount of manual post-scan adjustment necessary, which will be especially appreciated when scanning batches of images using the "Input|Batch scan" option.

VueScan also supports various processing algorithms such as dust removal, grain reduction, color restoration, and sharpening, as well as scanner hardware features such as batch scanning, autofocus, infrared channels for dust and scratch removal, and multiscan to pull the full bit depth of data from dark areas of slides.

You can save raw data to a file so you won't have to rescan the original to make subsequent copies, and VueScan also has preliminary support for raw files from certain models of digital cameras. See the list of supported cameras in the appendix to this article.

VueScan will work with an astonishing variety of scanners - flatbed or film types. Unlike the generally consumer-oriented scanning software that usually comes bundled with scanners, VueScan is targeted primarily at intermediate to advanced users who are more interested in getting the job done with a minimum of hassle and distraction, and there are no annoying helper "wizards" and "assistants."

For detailed information on using VueScan's many capabilities and functions, see the online VueScan User's Guide, which is comprehensively thorough but contains no illustrative screen shots, so you will have to read attentively.

watermarked imageYou can check out VueScan for compatibility with your scanner setup before committing any cash. The demo of VueScan it is fully functional, but it places $$ watermarks on your saved scans until you pay the license fee and receive a serial number.

In general, I've found that VueScan lives up to its claims and is a powerful and pleasant - even fun to use - piece of software. If you're serious about scanning, it's well worth downloading a demo copy to try out.

System Requirements (version 8.0.5):

  • Mac OS X 10.3 or higher
  • Supported scanner

For more hands on information, see Charles Moore Reviews VueScan 7.6 Scanner Software, which shows many examples of image restoration.

VueScan is $59.95 demoware and can only be purchased online with a credit card or debit card.

Appendix: Supported Digital Cameras

VueScan has preliminary support for raw scan files for the digital cameras in the following list. However, note that the colors will only be accurate if you use an IT8 camera target (like the one produced by Wolf Faust) and if you use VueScan's "Profile|Profile scanner" command to create an ICC file for your camera. Additional cameras may have been added since this list was compiled.

  • Canon PowerShot 600
  • Canon PowerShot A5
  • Canon PowerShot A50
  • Canon PowerShot Pro 70
  • Canon PowerShot Pro 90 IS
  • Canon PowerShot G1
  • Canon PowerShot G2
  • Canon PowerShot G3
  • Canon PowerShot G5
  • Canon PowerShot S30
  • Canon PowerShot S40
  • Canon PowerShot S45
  • Canon PowerShot S50
  • Canon EOS D30
  • Canon EOS D60
  • Canon EOS 10D
  • Canon EOS 300D
  • Canon EOS Digital Rebel
  • Casio QV-2000UX
  • Casio QV-3000EX
  • Casio QV-3500EX
  • Casio QV-4000
  • Casio QV-5700
  • Contax N Digital
  • Fuji FinePix S2 Pro
  • Fuji FinePix S5000
  • Fuji FinePix S7000
  • Fuji FinePix F700
  • Imacon Ixpress
  • Kodak DCS315C
  • Kodak DCS330C
  • Kodak DCS420
  • Kodak DCS460
  • Kodak DCS460A
  • Kodak EOSDCS3B
  • Kodak EOSDCS1
  • Kodak DCS720X
  • Kodak DCS760C
  • Kodak DCS760M
  • Kodak ProBack
  • Kodak PB645C
  • Kodak PB645H
  • Kodak PB645M
  • Kodak DCS Pro 14n
  • Minolta Dimage 5 (untested)
  • Minolta Dimage 7 (untested)
  • Minolta Dimage 7i
  • Minolta Dimage A1
  • Nikon D1
  • Nikon D1H
  • Nikon D1X
  • Nikon D100
  • Nikon D2H
  • Nikon E950
  • Nikon E990
  • Nikon E995
  • Nikon E2100
  • Nikon E2500
  • Nikon E4300
  • Nikon E4500
  • Nikon E5000
  • Nikon E5700
  • Olympus E-1
  • Olympus E-10
  • Olympus E-20
  • Olympus C5050Z
  • Olympus C5060WZ
  • Pentax *ist D
  • Phase One H10
  • Phase One H20
  • Rollei d530flex
  • Sigma SD9

Future versions of VueScan will include built-in support for color correction for these files. If you have a raw scan file of an IT8 target from one of these cameras, please send email to support@hamrick.com with a description of how to obtain the raw scan file (or attach it, if it's less than 2 MB).

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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