Some months ago a photographer posting in the Shutterbug Forum mentioned he had purchased a Kodak Kodachrome K3 IT-8 profiling target slide from B&H. I must confess I did not know Kodachrome IT-8 target slides existed only those made on Ektachrome for calibrating and profiling a scanner. I thought I had kept up with Kodak Color Management, but maybe the company never catalogued or made public the existence of Kodachrome IT-8 target slides, but on the internet in the Kodak FTP site I did find an Index File to enable using the Kodachrome K3 IT-8 I purchased from B&H, And then after borrowing a Color Management suite from X-Rite containing software to make input profiles I was able to use the Kodachrome IT-8 to profile my scanners and run some tests.
Kodachrome was one of the first color slide films and always held a unique place in the film world. Besides being unusually sharp, rather contrasty and with a unique color palette unlike any other slide film, it found a large following among photographers, and is still produced today although there now is only one plant available located in Kansas that processes the film. But my interest is not in current Kodachrome film use but in the millions of Kodachrome slides photographers have which until now have always been more or less of a challenge to scan. The reason for that has in part been a scanner profile made using an E-6 film IT-8 target does not produce a profile that favors the characteristics of Kodachrome, either in color palette consistency or in characteristic curve response. So scans from Kodachrome can be difficult to color correct and adjust ideally sometimes reproducing odd color anomalies that are hard to eliminate. Using the Kodak made Kodachrome K3 IT-8 target slide (dated 1999) to calibrate and profile proved to make scanning Kodachrome easier, more effective and produced image results that better preserved the look of Kodachrome. But there were still inconsistencies and anomalies still, so I can understand why Kodak never made the Kodakchrome K3 IT-8 widely available. How B&H acquired the supply they have been selling is a mystery to me, as was the existence of Kodachrome IT-8 reference slides until recently.
However, the results I got with the K3 Kodak IT-8 target although less than ideal was enough better than using an Ektachrome profile for me to try to find a way to solve this problem. And because I have had a long relationship with the very best scanner software company, Lasersoft Imaging, I sent my results to them and alerted the president of the company of my interest in finding a solution to calibrating and profiling film scanners specifically for Kodachrome film scanning. It was not long and some conversations ensued and I learned that Lasersoft was already on the same page, and we were able to exchange ideas about possible solutions.
I did not have to wait very long and Lasersoft Imaging issued a new version of SilverFast Ai for some film scanners that contained not just the usual scan mode selection of Positive for transparency film and Negative for print film, but with a third mode selection: Kodachrome! What this does is to use the calibration profile for the scanner on file and essentially create a new virtual Kodachrome profile to scan Kodachrome using LUT’s based on the color and contrast differences between E-6 and Kodachrome to provide a simulation of actually calibrating and profiling the scanner using a Kodachrome IT-8 target.
Of course I downloaded this new version driver for one of my scanners and gave it a try scanning a number of Kodachrome slides. Actually the results were better than using the profiles I had made from the Kodak K3 Kodachrome IT-8, and should provide a substantial functional advantage to most users of scanner who are scanning Kodachrome film. Of course the more accurately the scanner is calibrated and profiled with an E-6 Ektachrome IT-8 , say compared to using a manufacturer supplied generic profile for the scanner, the better the performance and results.
That was a few weeks ago. In the last few days Lasersoft Imaging announced and made available new Kodachrome IT-8 target slides for calibration and profiling, and I got my hands on one as quickly as possible to try it out. With this new Lasersoft manufactured Kodachrome IT-8 I calibrated and profiled my newest 35mm scanner and selected a couple dozen of my most challenging, difficult to scan Kodachrome slides to begin testing. This new Kodachrome IT-8 used to calibrate and profile provided markedly better scans of Kodachrome that are clean and free of color casts and anomalies, allowing me to obtain scanned image files I am as satisfied with as any scan I have made from an E-6 film original, easily and directly without twisting and bending the software to obtain an ideal color correction, and that reproduces the color in the slides with precise fidelity - the Kodachrome look that has until now been so illusive.
I will do quite a bit more Kodachrome scanning and then write this entire story in greater detail for a possible article in Shutterbug health permitting. In the meantime I felt the news being so good it could not wait. Check it all out at: http://www.silverfast.com