Sunday, July 25, 2010


When Canon announced a 9600 optical resolution Canoscan 9000f flatbed scanner, I got on the phone and got a loaner to test and report on. For all the enthusiast photographers with film collections they want to scan into digital files, this new Canoscan made me wonder, is it an ideal answer? It’s priced right with a list of $249. But how well does it work and what quality of scans does it reproduce from 35mm film? Of course from my mail I knew many readers would be interested, but I didn’t get an assignment to do a user report.


This new 9000f model Canon flatbed photo scanner is not essentially different from their 8800f model, it looks a little sleeker and has higher resolution and scans 8.5x11 inch reflective documents and prints (at 4800dpi), as well as both 35mm and 120 photographic film (at 9600dpi). Film scanning is supported by an infrared FARE 3 sensing of dust, dirt and scratch for automatic software cleaning. Like the most contemporary scanners, the Canoscan 9000f uses white LED’s for scan illumination. The scan sensor is a 12-line CCD. The 9000f scans in 48-bits and will also output 48-bit files. It connects with your computer via a USB specified as the fastest available your PC’s support.

I also contacted Lasersoft and obtained their new version of SilverFast for the Canoscan 9000f in the most complete Ai6 version. My first scan was made with Canon’s ScanGear software, a scan of a letter-sized portrait print. Easy and quick, but then there is little ‘interpretation’ between different media involved scanning a good print. The result without any manual adjustment was pretty accurate. Then I switched to scan four different color negative film images, and quickly found that quick and easy has its limits. All the preview scans, presented in four thumbnails on one screen were usable, and pretty good dynamic interpretations of different color negative film bases.


The first thing I did before making a scan with the 9000f and SilverFast was to use IT-8, and put a 35mm target slide in the scanner and ran the profiling of the scanner, It didn’t take even a few minutes or any effort, it was done automatically with the software in seconds. Let’s then get on with scanning. Since I tested the Plustek 7600i I have been doing a lot of personal scanning of my 35mm film library, a job I will never live long enough to finish. I had a lot of 35mm film frames selected, a wide variety of subjects and different kinds of films, and I just grabbed a bunch, maybe 100 to 150 images, and dove into scanning with the 9000f using all of the methods supported by SilverFast; using the software conventionally and traditionally, making high-bit raw scan files, and using the newest and most efficient kind of batch scanning, the SilverFast Archival Suite method. This is something a large number of readers have written about, what is an efficient and fast way to get scanning done. Quick and easy alone doesn’t do it because the price is poor image quality or very long and tedious work color correcting 48-bit scan files with an image editor. I think many experienced photographers don’t realize that color correcting and translating between different films both positive and negative is far from straightforward and simple as film images vary in density and with negatives making an inversion to a positive image, and also eliminating the dye color in the film base, is a complicated path to get to a digital image that will make a high quality print or display on-screen.

But lets start with the most common, scanning positive color slides to a digital image that will make a good print reproduction. With SilverFast the first step in color correction and adjustment is the one that is done easily by automation to get to the Histogram process that maps the much greater range of typical slide densities to the 256-step gamut of a digital image. Once an image has been previewed, and the scan frame is adjusted within the image leaving just image information inside, at the top left of the SilverFast control window click the second from the far left icon that looks like an aperture. Then open the Histogram with the third icon from the left, and in the window and at the bottom is to me the most valuable adjustment for Removing Color Cast. Many film images may have a colorcast from light reflections, smog or smoke in the atmosphere, and frequently a color in the film base or a tint from less than perfect processing. The Color Cast slider allows adjusting the color cast removal by perception seeing the adjusted image free of any colorcast.


The Canon Canscan 9000f looks and feels like a really well designed and finely made machine. And once you begin using it, it is smooth, quiet and quick unlike many scanners I have used in the past the scanner self-initialization and calibration has been made extremely efficient, so little time is wasted between scans, and depending on the file size of output, it scans very rapidly. I think a lot of photographers with film libraries have hoped for a flatbed that will scan prints, as well as both 120 and 35mm film as well as a dedicated film scanner, has just been a dream. Well the Canon Canoscan with SilverFast running it is just about there – the dream has been realized to a very large extent. I did most of my testing with 35mm film images including a lot I know are difficult to scan. The results are so close to those I have obtained with the Plustek OpticFilm 7600i it is hard to tell which is better. But there are differences, some odd and older films reveal that the Canon Flare 3 works best with newer E-6 and C-41 process films, but not as well with earlier process films, and of course not at all with silver B&W or Kodachrome, but no infrared cleaning sensor does.

Another flatbed distinction is the unusual design of 12 line CCD’s that produce a raw file that requires twice to four times as much software sharpening compared to a traditional 3 line CCD sensor of a dedicated film scanner. Is this a problem? Mostly not, but it does create an image appearance that is a little different, and can be an advantage because graininess is less apparent. In other words I have encountered problems getting good scans with some films with both dedicated film scanners and this new Canoscan 9000f, no more or less, just a little different with each, as both have their advantages and disadvantages, just somewhat dissimilar and distinct. The bottom line is the Canoscan 9000f with SilverFast is really a good scanner especially considering it does prints, medium format and 35mm and the total cost with SilverFast SE added is under $300. That’s really good news in times like these.

The complete report that will be published in Shutterbug is fully illustrated and more detailed, but you don’t have to wait, this is the best in flatbed film scanning.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


About a month ago I wrote a blog here about a new LED lamp made by Fobsun in China. And here is the essential information I had at the time: “I took interest in Fobsun because they sent me a news item about a downlight they make that has a standard lamp socket as used in America and white light output near 6500K color temperature. This lamp is also about as bright as a 40 watt incandescent lamp. To me its color temperature close to that of an LCD computer display and moderate brightness makes it an ideal candidate as an illumination source for environmental lighting where computer digital photography is done and prints are being made, in a light source matching the computer screen. It is a Fobsun Horizon Down Lights Adopting SMD LEDs, FLB-E27-90W-H, E27 base SMD bulb, 38*160mm, 90LEDs,7W,100-260VAC, white color, 6000-6500k,630lm.”

A business friend helped and joined with me to order 5 of these lamps for test and trial that were shipped directly to me by air. When they arrived I was quite positively impressed with the fine quality and features of the 90 LED lamp design. It is about six inches long and about one and five/eights inches wide, so the light panel of LED’s is four inches long. The E-27 is a standard US-type lamp screw in with a collar to grip to install. And the lamp also turns on axis around 180 degrees so once installed in a socket it can be adjusted in light pattern direction.

For me making fittings to use these lamps only required a few dollars in standard lamp parts at a local hardware store, and some odds and ends of studio clamps I had kept from the days I owned a photo studio. The actual work of making sockets and attachments to hold two of the Fobsun E27 LED lamps was easy to do and I had them installed in my digital darkroom in short order. One was attached to he end of a “C” stand arm and the other to an above desk, steel bookcase where one of my computers is installed. This second one is located over and extension of that desk that is used for for one of my printers, and the lamp provides illumination for the printer output. After turning on the Fobsun LED’s I was surprised how bright they are, measured about ⅔’s of a stop brighter than my computer screen. In addition the area illuminated is quite even in brightness with little fall-off at the edges of the illuminated area. But the color of the light is cooler than the 5000K lamps I had been using, so it was perceptually very evident. Then after using the Fobsun LED’s for a few days my perception adapted.

To adjust the light level on the desktop of the first unit installed on the “C’ stand I just raised the lamp height a little. With the other lamp over the printer I could not move it higher so put a half-silk nylon ripstop filter under it and got the illumination level to match the computer LCD screen brightness. finally I put a 14x10x7 inch black box around this lamp to shield the side light and provide a holder for the silk. I measured the color balance of the Fobsun LED lamps compared to the computer LCD set at 6500K. The difference was small, just 2% cyan and 2% blue would make a balance; or I could lower the color temperature of the computer LCD a couple of hundred degrees. There were no gels as thin as I needed available, and after trying the computer LCD at a lower color temperature, I decided the difference was perceptually not worth adjusting. My evaluation of prints compared to the image appearance on-screen confirmed this. The difference between projected illumination of an LCD screen and the reflected light from a print obscure the small difference in the color balance. In other words close enough is in reality ideal.

After years of never having an affordable and comfortable light balance between my darkroom and my computer displays, the Fobsun LED’s have provided a very comfortable environment for viewing prints and seeing how well they match their on-screen image. It is such a pleasure to have this light match, and now that I am getting comfortable working with it, I also feel comfortable recommending anyone interested to give it a try. Just take a look at for their section on Horizon Downlights. It would be better of course if Fobsun had an American distributor, but maybe that will happen some day.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Not long ago I wrote a blog about the new Mac Mini just announced. The improvements Apple made were encouraging that the Mini would now be an even better mainstream option for computer users. But I had no plans to get one myself when I wrote that blog. But a bit of bad luck changed the situation. My relatively old office Mac Mini was knocked out of business by a “mini” external hard drive, one of several brands designed for convenience with the same lateral dimensions as a Mini and intended to sit under a Mac Mini. For some reason my little “mini” external hard drive failed and got very hot, and that damaged the Mac Mini sitting above. That was the second time I had one of these “mini” external hard drives involved in a problem with a Mac Mini. So a lesson finally learned. Convenience sometimes has a price. Oh! well, the new Mac Mini is a larger shape, so those old “mini” external hard drives are a thing of the past, and that will be a matter of deliberate choice in my case.

Of course wouldn’t you know I had this breakdown occur during the 4th of July holiday weekend. So instead of taking an extra day off on Monday after the 4th, I got on the phone with the Apple on-line store to order a new Mac Mini. I called even though I usually buy from the Apple on-line store over the internet because I wanted to get the quickest delivery of a new Mac Mini they could arrange. A very understanding and congenial Apple representative arranged my order of a new Mini and put me in touch with customer service. It worked, my new Mac Mini was delivered the following Wednesday, and by the end of the day it was installed and all of my applications, settings, and data from the old Mini were installed in the new one. Of course anyone who has had to replace a failed computer with a new one knows there is still much more to do to catch up on most of a week of lost time doing other things.

So, now that I have a new Mac Mini running my office; Is it everything Apple touted a short time ago. I am not at all disappointed. Although the new Mini is a bit larger in overall size and a might slimmer in height, it is barely different enough to notice. But I do notice no more white power brick of the old one, so my desk is cleaner. And this new one boots up quickly and even though just office stuff on screen the improvement in the new one’s video is evident. The screen is sharper and easy to see and read documents opened. I’ve done a couple of days of mail, checking news of the photo industry, answering queries,and getting addresses entered and posting to snail mail done, all the everyday office stuff. What is amazing beyond the fact this new Mac Mini runs quick and quiet, is that the migration from the old broken Mini has been so fault free, making the transition completely painless and everything works. It is like there wasn’t a disaster the other day, just an easy rebirth to a slicker, better running computer world.

For my office, I just got the minimum package Apple offers in a Mini, and it is quite enough for the job. A fully loaded new Mini with 8GB of RAM to run photo applications and processing I am sure will be equal to what might be imagined would be much bigger and more expensive. For sure now the Mini is a bit misnamed, its now a full-blown working computer from Apple, and an advantage to photographers who need a professional level LCD display better than the sRGB home-office models in the discount stores. I like it because I can recommend this new Mac Mini as a fully competent computer solution for the serious photo enthusiast, and without any reservation.