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Author Topic: Mark Segal's "Scanning with SilverFast"  (Read 12468 times)
ThomasH_normally
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« on: December 23, 2009, 02:57:43 PM »
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Currently we do not have at LL (Luminous Landscape) a forum dedicated to film scanning, and Silverfast or Vuescan are not really "raw processors". I wanted though express my gratitude for the excellent essay by Steven Segal! LL has really become the primary source of most interesting essays and reviews relevant to photography.

I also have my "entire life history" on celluloid, and lack of any support for it in Lightroom was quite a surprise to me. I was expecting at least some scanner profiling support, a la Vuescan, for which I worked out my own workflow including profiling, scanning using NikonScan and converting "scans from disk" using Vuescan. The result went into Lightroom, once I got accustom to it. I miss in Lightroom good exif data creating feature. For example, I would like to enter Camera Type and Date. Lenses: I am not sure in most cases which was used, and in only few cases I noted down aperture and exposure times. But date and the camera: that would be of utmost interest to me.

I use Nikon scanner LS4000+SF200+SA30. Ever since I got SA30, I stopped cut film at all. I store entire rolls in plexi boxes and scan them in batch using NikonScan. Of course I was stunned that Lightroom would not read in NikonScan NEF files, the other NEF's, not the digital SLR NEF's. So the way into LR is via 16bit TIFF's, which are bigger, much bigger. And I have quickly discovered that they cannot be really processed well in LR because of the color profile issue. Thus the step via Vuescan is still necessary in my workflow.

The workflow as described by Steven Segal is naturally better, since he relies on Silverfast entirely. My conclusion was that Vuescan does not provide results comparable to the Applied Science Fiction modules ICE and GEM (now owned by Kodak) integrated into NikonScan, and so I opted to scan with NikonScan incl. ICE and GEM set according to the film ISO/grain level, and than to use Vuescan on these TIFF files using color profile made from the same scanner by myself from IT18 patches. I applied the same technique on my negatives. This provided me with best results I mastered to achieve, albeit all this costs much more work compared to raw converter and to what we get these days from our DSLR's. Vuescan was always somewhat... capricious.

Now that my LS4000 comes into age, I am thinking of Epson flat scanner as well, because that would be a versatile device scanning printed matter as well. LS5000 would be limited to film only. I wonder if someone did some good compares if film scanned by Epson can provide results comparable to LS5000?

Thomas


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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2009, 04:44:53 PM »
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Thomas,

I think you mean "Mark Segal", not "Steven."

I agree that it is a great article and I am very much tempted to get the Silverfast, once the updates for Windows are available. I am currently in the early stages of scanning old Kodachromes using a borrowed Nikon 5000. I have used Silverfast SE with various Epson flatbed scanners, currently the 4990, which isn't that great for 35mm slides.

When I first downloaded Nikon Scan and tried to install it, I got an error message to the effect that Vista was not supported, so I got Vuescan, which works fine. Just the other day I checked the Nikon site, and they finally have a version that works on Vista, so I have that too.

I would be very much interested in comparisons between the Nikon 5000 and the recent epson flatbeds, like the 750. Also I'd like to hear comparisons between the software packages: Silverfast, Nikon Scan, and Vuescan.

Many of my best images are still on film or slides, and I do want to preserve them.

Eric

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« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2009, 06:06:54 PM »
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Eric, yes, that's me - Mark Segal - not Steven - too bad - I'd actually have some real money!  

Yes, I have compared various softwares and scanners for working with film. I'd sum it all up like this:

SilverFast is costlier than Vuescan but it provides more. For what it does, I wouldn't knock Vuescan - it's a capable application and provides very satisfactory results - provided (like with any software) it is used properly. SilverFast, however, is a more feature-rich application, and all the more so with the HDR and infra-red stuff. Both can be downloaded as free demos for a while, so anyone who wants to make detailed comparisons relative to their requirements can do that. It would require a whole other article and approach for an author to do this. I was focusing on the one product.

Turning to the scanners, The Epson V750 is in many respects a sweet piece of equipment. Lots of versatility - you can dry-mount or fluid-mount (which is not nearly the pain you would think it is if you use film cleaner as the mounting medium), works smoothly, has numerous holders for various sizes of film media, and its output for flatbed reflective material is very high quality. I also tested it for scanning items with minor relief, such as pieces of jewely and it did very well. I'm less enthused with it as a 35mm film scanner, whether positives or negatives. I've observed better contrast and resolution from a dedicated 35mm film scanner - my comparator in this case being either the Nikon Super Coolscan 5000ED (first choice) or the now discontinued Minolta Dimage Scan Elite 5400. But those two scanners are 35mm film only. For anyone doing a fair amount of scanning involving both 35mm film and other media, the optimal set-up is to have both the Nikon and the Epson hardware and use each for what it is best at doing. I know, more $$$, and not being Steven..............but "c'est la vie". You knew digital imaging was a money-sink anyhow, didn't you?

Joking aside, the way I like to look at this is simple - one buys this kind of equipment and keeps it for years, so the annual amotization over its useful life is really low. But scanning is a time-consuming occupation and that time for most of us is worth much more than the cost of the equipment, so we want the best possible outcome for the time spent to make it worthwhile, hence best to be optimally equipped - within reason. Note that I haven't mentioned "Imacon"here.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2009, 11:50:53 PM »
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Steven, I mean, Mark,    

Thanks for that summary; it's very helpful. I am fortunate to have the Nikon 5000ED on a fairly longterm loan, and it is doing very nicely with Vuescan (since I learned how to tame the beast). I have found my Epson 4990 adequate for medium format film through 8x10, but not really good enough for 35mm. But scanning some 45-year old Kodachromes with the Nikon has brought out more detail than I had known was there. I guess the lens for my Kodak Carousel projector isn't the greatest.

I'll probably spring for the Silverfast as soon as they have the IR access in the Windows version. Incidentally, the current version of Vuescan does also use the IR channel for dust and scratch removal, and seems to do a pretty good job, leaving only an occasional job for the PS clone tool. 

Again, your report was excellent and very informative.

Eric

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« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2009, 05:14:10 AM »
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My first thought when I saw the thread title:

Film grain??? Grain this! (SMACK)
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2009, 07:57:03 AM »
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Quote from: Eric Myrvaagnes
Steven, I mean, Mark,    

Thanks for that summary; it's very helpful. I am fortunate to have the Nikon 5000ED on a fairly longterm loan, and it is doing very nicely with Vuescan (since I learned how to tame the beast). I have found my Epson 4990 adequate for medium format film through 8x10, but not really good enough for 35mm. But scanning some 45-year old Kodachromes with the Nikon has brought out more detail than I had known was there. I guess the lens for my Kodak Carousel projector isn't the greatest.

I'll probably spring for the Silverfast as soon as they have the IR access in the Windows version. Incidentally, the current version of Vuescan does also use the IR channel for dust and scratch removal, and seems to do a pretty good job, leaving only an occasional job for the PS clone tool. 

Again, your report was excellent and very informative.

Eric

Thanks Eric, much appreciated.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2009, 08:08:43 AM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
My first thought when I saw the thread title:

Film grain??? Grain this! (SMACK)

Jonathan, funny - what to say about grain; as we all know, fact of life with film; just three observations: (i) it can be managed to varying extents (see my articles from three years ago); (ii) interesting how many people (with software vendor support) are adding grain effects to otherwise gorgeously crisp and clear digital images, either because of nostaligia or for artistic effect (i.e. using limitaitions of film technology as an artistic quality) and (iii) for all those millions of slides and negatives in peoples' shoeboxes all over the world holding unrepeatable photographs, tolerating some grain in a film scan is a small price to pay for the benefits of digitzing them.

But you were joking around, no?  
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2009, 09:54:19 AM »
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Quote from: MarkDS
But you were joking around, no?  

Actually, yes...

Scanned film is certainly better than nothing, even with some grain.
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« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2009, 12:03:18 PM »
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SilverFast is a very mature product and one of the best scanner drivers ever (certainly available today for so many devices). Been around forever. The interface and some of the way you deal with things (color management especially) isn’t all that intuitive but the results are first class.
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Andrew Rodney
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« Reply #9 on: December 25, 2009, 03:57:22 PM »
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The Silverfast AI interface has always been painful for me. Nikon ED 5000/9000 bundled software...forget it. Vuescan is crippled, too, except for one little gem...the ability to grab all the scanner data in 16 bit and output it in Adobe RAW DNG format. With this one often overlooked feature, Vuescan Pro at a budget price of about $80 gives me a scanner workflow identical to my RAW camera workflow, and I find it totally refreshing. Sure, I have to invert negatives in PS, but I've got all the data the scanner is capable of outputting to work with. This Vuescan feature has thoroughly revived my interest in digitizing my film collection and shooting with film once again.

cheers,

Mark
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« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2009, 09:36:50 AM »
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Quote from: MHMG
The Silverfast AI interface has always been painful for me. Nikon ED 5000/9000 bundled software...forget it. Vuescan is crippled, too, except for one little gem...the ability to grab all the scanner data in 16 bit and output it in Adobe RAW DNG format. With this one often overlooked feature, Vuescan Pro at a budget price of about $80 gives me a scanner workflow identical to my RAW camera workflow, and I find it totally refreshing. Sure, I have to invert negatives in PS, but I've got all the data the scanner is capable of outputting to work with. This Vuescan feature has thoroughly revived my interest in digitizing my film collection and shooting with film once again.

cheers,

Mark
http://www.aardenburg-imaging.com

Hi Mark H.,

I also have Vuescan Pro version 8.5.39, and indeed it can output a TIFF in DNG format, to make it readable in ACR. As the manual says: "Output | TIFF DNG format:
This specifies whether to write TIFF files in DNG (Digital Negative) format. This allows VueScan's TIFF files to be read by the Adobe Camera Raw plugin or other programs that read DNG files."

The file is "raw" in the sense that no other user-induced corrections have been applied to it, and it is linear as far as the scanning process is concerned. But under the hood it is a three or four channel image scanned from media that is already non-linear. Another factor which intrigues me about our interest in "raw scans" goes back to where we start from: film has a characteristic curve, so the images are "gamma-encoded" from the get-go. This is not the same as a raw capture in a digital camera, where we get a linear capture of scene-referred luminosity. Further on format, one does not need the DNG format to read the image data if processing the resulting files in Lightroom, because Lightroom can read and process most raw camera formats, DNG, TIFF, PSD and JPEG.

SilverFast also gives you the option to scan an original (whether negative to negative, negative to positive or positive to positive) rendering all the scan data the scanner can muster, untinkered, with   linear gamma (but not in DNG format). If you look at the two images on the intro page of my article (Wat Arun Bangkok), the left - negative - image was scanned in SilverFast exactly in that manner. I then "juiced it up" a bit to give it some "negative drama" for artistic effect, but the underlying image is a linear "SilverFast HDR" "raw" scan outputting all the data the scanner captured.

As for the benefit of scanning negatives this way and then neutralizing the mask and inverting the primaries in Photoshop, yes, I've used several techniques for doing this successfully, but frankly, it's more work and no better than making a normal negative scan in SilverFast and using their "Negafix" option to render a very satisafactory positive. I came to this conclusion after running a range of image types both ways. NegaFix is a good tool - especially the ability to fine tune their provided profiles.

Cheers,

Mark S.


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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #11 on: December 26, 2009, 01:06:45 PM »
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I use Silverfast AI Studio regularly. In fact I'm using it as I type this.  I've investigated HDR, but I can't see it is worth the money unless - maybe - you're working in a high volume pro setup with several people involved in scanning and correcting.

I can get a pretty good 48bit scan out of AI Studio. Usually I don't use much other than auto color correction, in most cases as a starting point to levels and curves adjustments. I do the rest in Photoshop.  For negatives I find NegaFix fairly hit & miss, to be frank.  Mostly miss, in fact. But I don't shoot much in negative so it doesn't really matter.

HDR would be nice to have if it was, say, a $100 upgrade to Studio. But at double the price for the minimal ability to reopen a file ? Come on.... Even Adobe would blush at such price gouging.

I'd be interested to know if iSRD is better or worse that ICE - it seems to do pretty much the same thing, with the added ability to adjust the sensitivity - but honestly, if it is as fiddly to use as SRD, I can't imagine it's worth it.

It is nice to see a substantial article on Silverfast, and scanning in general, at the end of 2009. But with all due respect, it does seem to me to be letting Lasersoft off extremely lightly. They haven't made any meaningful progress on the software for years.
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« Reply #12 on: December 26, 2009, 04:01:31 PM »
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Quote from: drm
I'd be interested to know if iSRD is better or worse that ICE - it seems to do pretty much the same thing, with the added ability to adjust the sensitivity - but honestly, if it is as fiddly to use as SRD, I can't imagine it's worth it.

iSRD allows for more customized selection and ellimination of debris than ICE does (ICE is one-shot all or nothing) and it works on Kodachrome (ICE does not support Kodachrome, although it works on Kodachromes I've tested). iSRD also works on some B&W film types. It is considerably easier to use than SRD, with better results - from my experience, not "fiddly" - that's why I was positive about it in my article.

I won't be evaluating what's worth what money - that's a subjective judgment which depends on individual needs, workflow preferences and budget. All I would suggest is that anyone contemplating investing in this or any other software, or between differently priced versions of the same software should do their research carefully and thoroughly feature by feature, experimenting with the free demos and then decide for themselves about the balance between incremental value-added relative to incremental costs.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2009, 09:05:28 AM »
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Quote from: drm
But with all due respect, it does seem to me to be letting Lasersoft off extremely lightly. They haven't made any meaningful progress on the software for years.

David, just a passing comment on this piece of your post -  when I wrote the article, LSI in my mind was never "on" anything which I in partticular needed to let them "off" of. If you go back and check the context and purpose of the article that should be clear. I should also clarify that the features I wrote-up in the article ARE either new or improved relative to what existed at the time of my previous articles on SilverFast in February 2006. Whether these features are "meaningful" or worth paying for, of course is a subjective evaluation to be made by the user. Obviously some people would find them more or less worthwhile than others, and - OK - you've stated your view!
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2009, 06:51:26 AM »
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Quote from: Mark D Segal
David, just a passing comment on this piece of your post -  when I wrote the article, LSI in my mind was never "on" anything which I in partticular needed to let them "off" of. If you go back and check the context and purpose of the article that should be clear. I should also clarify that the features I wrote-up in the article ARE either new or improved relative to what existed at the time of my previous articles on SilverFast in February 2006. Whether these features are "meaningful" or worth paying for, of course is a subjective evaluation to be made by the user. Obviously some people would find them more or less worthwhile than others, and - OK - you've stated your view!

Well this ties in with you not getting into the merits or otherwise of value for money - which is absolutely your right.  But you article does encourage people to go for the full "HDR" workflow, and I do think some debate of this is justified.

It is a difficult elephant to ignore in the room: if they just added (dare I say "enabled") code to reopen 48/64bit HDR scans in AI Studio, there would be no need for Silverfast HDR.  And since a license for HDR costs pretty much the same as one for AI - which itself is tied to one model of scanner, unlike Vuescan, in my opinion we are verging on "outrageous", especially as the only real reason (in my opinion) to use HDR at all is to add flexibility to the workflow. You can scan in 48 bit color mode and treat that pretty much as an archival scan.

My scanner doesn't support iSRD, therefore I can't judge, but frankly if iSRD does work well, it is the first new "feature" in Silverfast to do so in quite some time. Look at their last headline feature, multisampling - I doubt you'd find many people happy with it.  It simply doesn't work.

I could tolerate Silverfast's pricing as the inevitable result of a shrinking market and diminishing revenue if I could see some evidence that they respond to user feedback rather than just pile on gimmick after gimmick.  The UI is an absolute disgrace - there is NO reason you need to click 5 times to enable iSRD other than pure designer/developer laziness, incompetence and lack of investment in the software.  How much does it suck that, for example, the "Eject Slide Holder" button is tiny and sits right next to the "focus" button, which itself includes a quite unique UI widget - the focus mode flyout menu - yes, a flyout from a button!

It's been this way for _years_ - really, is the codebase so godawful that they can't fix it, or can they just not be bothered ?

(tongue in cheek mode on)
I do note you're using Windows ... maybe you're more tolerant of appalling UI design
(tongue in cheek mode off)

Fixing the UI would go a long way to improving and speeding up workflow. Adding a "reopen" feature, and filling HDR as a separate application, would together make for a valid and justifiable version 7 at a reasonable upgrade price. Just piling on new features in a way that would embarrass even Photoshop Marketing is going to kill them.

Just to be clear: I am a regular user of Silverfast AI, and I believe it is the best solution on the market. It can produce wonderful results if you stick with it. But the tragedy is both the software and the company (I'm thinking of the very cranky attitude of LSI support staff here) have vast room for improvement.
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« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2009, 10:13:18 AM »
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David, OK, let's spend a moment on HDR/HDRi. You need to roll your mind back to the time before this software addition was marketed. SilverFast was purely a scanning application. You scan your media, put the output on your hard-drive and use whatever else you have for cataloguing it and making further adjustments to it. It remains the case today, that if you just use Ai Studio, turn off all image adjustments, set gamma to 1.0 in Options and for negatives turn-off colour inversion, you can reproduce the equivalent of an HDR scan, and if you have other applications you prefer using for both DAM (including preservation of the  so-called "raw" scan in a non-destructive workflow environment) as well as image adjustment, you don't really need the HDR add-on. The HDR add-on allows people to stick within the SilverFast workflow and have both a cataloguing function and a re-processing function of the raw scan (which remains preserved as such); HDRi preserves the 64-bit scan (i.e. the infra-red channel is retained in the "raw" archived image). I won't get into what money these options are worth, because that's subjective. Suffice to say here that it has a raison d'etre. Some people will go for it, others may prefer to just buy Ai Studio and use other applications for everything else. My article spent a lot of time discussing alternative processing options from a technical perspective.

Multi-exposure: I too had difficulty getting a visually incremental result from it. The principle behind it seems valid, so I'm not sure what the issue here is; perhaps it only shows its merit for certain kinds of images and not others. Perhaps more work is needed to drill-down into the value of this function, and I have raised it with LSI. As the jury is still out, I decided to move on and leave my mind open about it.

I agree with you that SilverFast's GUI leaves a great deal to be desired - in fact it deserves a total overhaul. I made this point back in 2006 so nothing new or different here, and to repeat, my article focuses on what's changed. No doubt LSI has a full grasp of the range of customer views and usage of their GUI; but what, if anything, they chose to do about it is a corporate policy matter which also no doubt depends on their perception of the costs and benefits. however from a user perspective, as I said back then, yes indeed, it is partly responsible for quite a learning curve.

We won't branch-off into a discussions about Windows GUI - not relevant, but a footnote - neither I nor hundreds of millions of other people have major problems using it for just about anything one routinely does with an OS interface. But you're talking to someone who is pretty agnostic about all this stuff. I like things that work and I don't like things that don't work, whatever the brand name. If I see fit to switch to Mac - and that could well happen, I'd do it almost "in a flash". Most of the debating on web forums about Mac versus PC anbd Nikon versus Canon etc is just a lot of wasted bandwidth. Let's leave it at that.

Cheers,

Mark


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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2009, 02:37:19 PM »
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Mark,

Actually I think we're pretty much in violent agreement here.  My take on multisampling is that it simply isn't / wasn't ready for prime time when it was released. Note that the 4x option quietly vanished...  With my Minolta MultiPro, multsampling is faster than (hardware) multipass, and when it works it delivers equally good results. So speed would be a big benefit. But at least 50% of the time it delivers misaligned results, which for a scanner where the film doesn't move is a bit alarming.

Of course this doesn't detract from the excellence of the core feature set, but it doesn't do much for the reputation of the company.

My final word on HDR is basically to stick to my guns - a "reopen raw scan" feature in AI would be trivial. And frankly I don't see any benefit at all in the aberration that is VLT when I've got far better DAM tools at my disposal.  But, well, I'm happy if it works for you!

The Mac/PC thing was a joke. Actually I have a suspicion that the UI is slightly better, or makes more sense, with Windows.  I do this stuff for a living and have a policy of equal opportunity dislike for both platforms....

Thanks again for the article, it is good to revive debate on this "obsolete" stuff :-)

David
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« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2009, 03:31:19 PM »
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You are welcome David, glad you enjoyed the article.

All the Best for 2010.

Mark
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« Reply #18 on: December 30, 2009, 01:38:40 PM »
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Hello,

Just would like to ask for a clarification. As far as I know, In silverfast multisampling and multiexposure are two different things. The new one is multiexposure and it does only 2 scans. The multisampling allows up to 16 scans and depending on the hardware there may be some misalignment.
I think that DRM was referring to multisampling and Mark Segal was refering to multiexposure.

Thanks for the article Mark.
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« Reply #19 on: December 30, 2009, 04:01:38 PM »
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We were both talking about multi exposure.
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