Digital Help
Q&A For Digital Photography

This department will attempt to provide solutions to problems readers may have getting into and using digital cameras, scanning, and using digital photographic images with a computer and different kinds of software. All questions sent to me will be answered with the most appropriate information I can access and provide. However, not all questions and answers will appear in this department. Readers can send questions to me addressed to Shutterbug magazine, through the Shutterbug website, directly via e-mail to: or or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.

The Best & Most Efficient Way To Use A Scanner
Q. You answered my previous e-mail (via Shutterbug) with the following suggestions: "The best 35mm film scanner I have used to date, and one I purchased for myself after reporting on it is the Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400. It is currently selling for under $800 if you shop carefully. For 120 film and 4x5, the new Epson Perfection 4870 Pro at under $600 is quite incredible, especially with Digital ICE for medium and large format transparency scans."
I've always left all scanner controls at neutral (Nikon LS2000) and do all the work in Photoshop. Do I need the extra SilverFast software for the Minolta DiMAGE? (Not cheap--the Epson 4870 comes with it.)
Keith Trumbo

A. One of the most popular and successful scanner lines is Epson. Even though Epson provides their own software drivers for their highest performance scanner models they also bundle LaserSoft's SilverFast Ai with the product. In fact, quite a number of years ago I became acquainted with LaserSoft's SilverFast and its owner and founder Karl Heinz Zahorsky when his relationship with Epson began with Epson's first high-performance professional scanner, the Expression 836XL.
As for using Photoshop to do raw scan file color correction and adjustment, for the amount of scanning I do, I would never get any sleep if I did all my scan adjustment and correction work in Photoshop. In addition, Adobe has been riding on its laurels too long and has not kept up with developing their image adjustment tools. In my opinion they have fallen far behind LaserSoft in efficiency and sophistication. Finally, it is grossly inefficient to have to scan to file in 48 bit, creating (with either of the scanners I recommended) huge files of over 200MB, and then in Photoshop the entire file must be open and each adjustment made to that entire file for every correction. Even with my fairly fast Macs, it would slow my work down enormously, and then the final result would not be as good as I get easily with SilverFast.
I do not recommend anything which I do not use day in, day out myself, and with complete confidence and satisfaction.
SilverFast Ai 6 comes with the Epson Perfection 4870 Pro. It is extra and each SilverFast is exclusive to each scanner because the scanner command controls are different for each scanner. But you can try the Minolta software. Unlike the Nikon software it works reasonably well, and is not that difficult to use, nor does it lack efficiency. Then, after using SilverFast for a while with the Epson (if you get it) I am sure you will also want SilverFast for the Minolta.