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SilverFast Archive Suite 8 Review

Stephen Waller looks at SilverFast Archive Suite 8 to see how it compares to the competition.


|  LaserSoft Imaging SilverFast Ai Studio 8.2 in Other Software
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Features and Performance
Verdict

SilverFast Ai Studio 8.2

SilverFast Archive Suite 8 combines the well known scanner software SilverFast Ai Studio 8 and the image editing software SilverFast HDR Studio 8. Archiving analogue film: You can’t stop film emulsion deteriorating over time. Digitising your film by scanning is a solution that freezes your images in their current state. Scanning is a time consuming pursuit but should collect as much information as possible from each frame. Multiple scans allow for greater exposure, extracting more information from the darker areas, and infrared scans reveal dust and scratches. The multi exposure information is combined and infrared information saved separately. For archival purposes the scans should maintain their original state without adjustment for processing at a later time and saved in a raw lossless format. These concepts are sound, but the implementation by the software under review produces subtle variations. The programs I am comparing are Lasersoft Imagings SilverFast, Hamrick VueScan and Nikon Scan, (the basic software supplied) as they perform with my Nikon Coolscan V (LS50).

SilverFast Archive Suite 8 Features and Performance

The biggest problem with most software is the learning curve involved to be able to use it effectively. Fortunately with internet access finding the instructions on how to make that happen is no big deal.

The aim is still to do jobs as quickly as possible. The programs that make all this happen are seldom free and we like to get good value from our money. This review comes at a time when Lasersoft Imaging has revised its price structure and software functionality and the user interface. Both Lasersoft Imaging and Hamrick refine and update their software continually, giving the user the opportunity to update when launching the program. No further development is being carried out on Nikon Scan 4, and other scanner software for discontinued scanners.

SilverFast supports many scanner models, but the activation code is scanner specific. Lasersoft Imaging price structuring used to reflect scanner capabilities, however at the time of writing the discount being offered on the full version of Archive Suite 8 brings all versions in line @ €499. For example SiverFast Ai Studio 8 for the LS 4000ED / Super Coolscan 40 is discounted from €906 to €499, and the bundle for the LS 50 ED discounted from €756 to €499. There are also SE 8, SE Plus 8, Ai Studio 8 and Archive Suite SE 8 versions with differing capabilities, with prices starting from €49 for the entry level version of SilverFast SE 8.

Compare Sf8 En Compare As En
   

Fortunately demo versions of the Lasersoft Imaging programs are downloadable from here. Hamrick VueScan is available for $89, and a download is available here to give you a feel for the software. There are also tutorials and documentation available on line for the both products.

Archiving File Formats:

Both programs will output to either Tiff or DNG with 64bit RGB and separate Infrared channels, however the data formats are incompatible with each others software. Hamrick VueScan has the facility in post process mode to extract the infrared channel into a separate file offering added flexibility.

Batch Scanning:

As scanning requires the most resources, a scanner with batch scanning capabilities for both film strips and slides will aid productivity more than any post processing batch capabilities. My Nikon Coolscan V LS50 ED supports batch scanning of film strips with up to six frames, but not for slides (auto feed batch slide attachment is not supported on the LS50). A list of compatible Nikon attachments and scanners can be seen here.

SilverFast Ai Studio

For the purposes of this review I used the work flow pilot for the individual slides, selecting ‘archive’, ‘multi exposure’ and 64Bit HDRi. When ‘multi exposure’ is selected the preview does two passes, one for each exposure. The work flow pilot does not support batch scanning. For the strip film selecting ‘overview’ (last item of the central options) will performs a quick scan of the strip and invoke the ‘Job Manager’ from which relevant frames may be selected for further action.  Each frame is again ‘preview’ scanned when selected. When all settings are complete, the job manager batch scan is set in action. Alternatively, film type, final resolution, quality and file format should be selected before going to ‘image’ / ‘batch scan’ which will automatically scan, align and save each frame. Alignment with this process was moderately successful, but was tidied up with post processing. Care is required to ensure the final scans end up in the preferred location.  When saving to RAW format, negatives are saved as such by both programs. Post processing is performed in a separate module, SilverFast HDR.

Ai BatchNegScan
Ai Batch Negative Scan

Hamrick VueScan

In Advanced mode when the strip-film adapter is attached, Hamrick VueScan batch scan options on, off, auto and list on the ‘input’ tab become available. To scan a strip of film select ‘list’ and fill in the batch list box with the number of frames to be scanned. There is a convenient ‘preview’ button.  Once scanned, the images can be individually or globally manipulated, by selecting the desired option from the appropriate adjustment tab. Auto frame finder functioned relatively well and only needed minor adjustments on some frames. Anomalies on my system were that raw images saved in portrait and not in the selected landscape mode. While not as flashy as a lot of other programs, the VueScan philosophy is “form follows function”. The program is developed cross-platform (runs on Mac, Windows and Linux) so operates efficiently on all computers. The appearance from a programming perspective is kept deliberately simple.

VS Input Params
VS Input Params

Nikon Scan 4

Nikon Scan batch scanning is accessed off the top right side of the small control panel, a small protrusion that appears when the strip-film adapter is inserted into the scanner. (Not easy to see) It didn’t find the start of the first frame well, but by the fourth, alignment was good. The auto crop also required manual intervention. Other than Tiff, there is no provision for saving in RAW mode, nor multi exposure.

Nikon Scan Batch File Save Options
Nikon Scan Batch File Save Options

Multi-Exposure

The idea behind this is that with greater exposure, digital noise can be resolved more accurately, (similar to using a lower ISO on a digital camera) and somewhat reduced in the final combined images. Issues may arise if the scanner does not scan the separate images in exactly the same alignment. For the best results the scanning mechanism needs to be in a good condition. The additional scan exposure is set by the software, and has no user settings.

Ai Multi AutoiRD Bride |
Ai Multi AutoiRD Bride | 100% Crop Ai HDR Multi Exposure Auto iRDS

VS Multi LightIR Bride |
VS Multi LightIR Bride | 100% Crop Hamrick VueScan Multi Exposure Light IR Clean

NS FineICE Bride |
NS FineICE Bride | 100% Crop Nikon Scan Fine ICE

The difference in extra detail in the dark areas of the multi exposure scans is not particularly great. Additional scans can be found in the Equipment Database.

Batch processing:

Instructions for the adjustments to all the frames are set into a batch file. With SilverFast it is possible to save these for actioning at a later time. This batch process runs in the background enabling you to work on other projects at the same time. With Hamrick VueScan adjustments are made to the images, and the batch process proceeds when the ‘scan’ button is selected. Processing is very quick and my system would complete 20 images in less than two minutes making batch post processing less justifiable.

SilverFast HDR

VLT (Virtual light table) can be used to preview archived images and selected for post processing in the JobManager console. The colour correction modules are easy to use and mostly quite intuitive. 

Ai VLT JobManager 01
VLT file explorer with JobManager

Hamrick VueScan

On the input tab, you select ‘file’ as the source material, and brows to their location, selecting all the ones you want to post process. Check whether your images are slides or negatives, and change the input media to the appropriate one. Now you can select ‘on’ for the batch scan option, and select preview and it will import all selected files ready for adjusting.

Ai Gull ISRD |
Ai Gull ISRD | 100% Crop Ai Gull Crop iSRD

VS Gull LightIRClean |
VS Gull LightIRClean | 100% Crop Hamrick VueScan Gull Crop Light IR Clean

NK Gull FineICE |
NK Gull FineICE | 100% Crop Nikon Scan Gull Crop Fine ICE

NK Gull NOICE |
NK Gull NOICE | 100% Crop Nikon Scan Gull Crop No ICE.

SilverFast Archive Suite 8 Verdict

Overall batch scanning worked with all programs, but each had to be set up in its own peculiar manner, (not what could be described as intuitive). Nikon Scan was the least reliable in that it had difficulties finding the bounds of the first frame of a strip film.

Post processing with SilverFast HDR and Hamrick VueScan with RAW images as source material enabled adjustments and the viewing of their outcome far more effectively than if it had been done at the scanning stage. In SilverFast HDR the iSRD manual control of ‘extension’ (expert mode) seemed very coarse, and I did not find SRD very effective if the scan had no infrared channel. Infrared dust and scratch removal worked in all programs to varying degrees. It certainly produces better results with it than without.

Multi exposure improved resolution in dark areas and reduced digital noise to some extent, though the evidence was hard to detect. Aligning two separate multi exposure scans can be problematic if the mechanism of the equipment is not in the best shape.

Each program will save the raw data as captured by your scanner and each program is capable of processing batches of scanned images. SilverFast has a slight technical edge, as it is possible to save the batch file for processing at a later time. Each program requires time to become familiar with it before it does as you want it to every time. SilverFasts post processing colour controls are more pleasing to use, as they are more visual, but VueScan has as much flexibility in that area. The capabilities of your scanners software should be explored fully, as it may already have many of the features promoted by the software on review. In my case, the Nikon software was only lacking in the multi exposure options and the output was virtually the same. I did not come across thin or dense transparencies where the software on review showed a distinct advantage of multi-exposures in combination with my scanner.

SilverFast Archive Suite 8 Pros

IT8 scanner calibration  
64bit Infrared RAW
Multi exposure                                                      
ICC Profiling                                                        
Versatile colour manipulation

SilverFast Archive Suite 8 Cons

No proof printing option
Infrared RAW export format proprietary
No Linux support

FEATURES  
EASE OF USE  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

 

SilverFast Archive Suite 8 provides reliable batch scanning with effective post processing in SilverFast HDR.

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