A scanner will deliver decent results right out of the box, but you can fine-tune your particular scanner by creating a custom profile. Essentially, you scan a test target containing color patches and a grayscale, and the profiling software guides you through the process. The IT8 Calibration feature in LaserSoft’s SilverFast Ai Studio makes this a simple two-step process (see the “Scanning Software” section).
Of course, you want a scanner that can handle the slides, negatives and prints you want to scan. If your archives are all 35mm, a dedicated 35mm film scanner is ideal. If you have medium-format originals, you’ll want a scanner that can handle those. If you have 4×5 sheet film, you’ll need a scanner that can handle that. Scanners that accept larger originals cost more than scanners that don’t, so consider your needs and budget when choosing a unit.
Most newer scanners use LED light sources, which warm up quickly and are energy-efficient. Other light sources can be good, too; the most costly scanner discussed here uses a cold-cathode source. But if you’re choosing between two scanners of equal price class, the one with LEDs would likely be the better choice.
Each scanner comes with scanning software, which you use to operate the device and make scans. SilverFast Ai Studio (now in version 8.5) is an excellent third-party scanning product that works with many scanners, provides more capabilities (including easy profiling) and is a worthwhile investment if you’re going to get into scanning seriously. Some scanners come with a version of SilverFast; if it’s not Ai Studio, there’s usually a discounted upgrade path included. Estimated Street Price: $299. www.silverfast.com
Some scanners are easier to use than others, and some are faster than others. When comparing speed specs, make sure they’re for the same parameters (same size original, highest-quality scan mode, etc.). As for ease of use, check out user reports, or get a demo at your local dealer. Some manufacturers have demo videos on their websites, which give you an idea of what’s involved in using a given scanner.
Some scanners have batch-scanning capabilities—they will accept a stack of slides, or filmstrips, rather than just individual slides or frames. Keep in mind that you’ll probably want to adjust scanning parameters for each image individually for optimum results, but if you have a lot of slides of similar images, batch processing can be a time-saver.