VueScan Best Practice B/W Film Negative


I’m trying to digitize some 35mm B/W negatives with Vuescan. I’m quite pleased with the results but wanted to know if somebody more experienced has some best practice. It’s a Kentmere 400 film and it’s not listed in the color tab of Vuescan. So, any help would be nice. I use a Canon 9000F Mark 2.

Here’s a jpeg-example. I use Tiff and 9600dpi but they’re too large for upload.

First, I would test if the extreme resolution gives you a real benefit. I am scanning at 3600 dpi which yields 18 MP for a 35 mm film picture, and I see no improved image resolution when scanning at higher scanner resolutions. 18 MP “raw” scans are already hard to handle with 150 MB per picture.

However, as your scanner is a flatbed type and not a dedicated film scanner, maybe the higher resolution helps. I did not get very good results with my own flatbed scanner, even my cheapish CrystalScan 7200 gives much better results.

My typical workflow uses vuescan without any postprocessing and saving infrared scan as alpha channel for colour images.

For scratch removal I am using g’mic (search for “ice” here on pixls for more information). Then darktable for the rest.

ICE cannot be used for B&W negatives due to the silver content.

I tried the G’MIC script for a slide scanned with VueScan, unfortunately it is very slow.

Concerning the resolution, the gain using 9600 ppi is only marginal, see the graph here. And you never really get rid of the excessive number of pixels without loosing resolution again!

I completely agree, that results from a flatbed scanner are inferior to those from a dedicated slide scanner! But usage also depends on the quality of the negatives and the intended purpose of the scans, of course.

I have no problems with my scans at 5000 ppi which are 260 MByte / image.


That’s true for most b/w negatives, but not all. E.g., Ilford XP2 negatives are based on dye and do not have this issue. However, Kentmere 400 seems to be a “regular” b/w film.

  1. Yes, I do need to replace my X240 by a new laptop, and
  2. it depends.

Processing power is one thing, and storage another. Depending on how many of these files you have to handle, the additional 100 MB compared to my 18 MP files will easily require additional hard disks. I have about 1500 negatives and 500 slides, which would make a difference of 200 GB. That’s something one might easily handle, but even then, if there is no benefit of higher resolution it might make sense to not use additional space. My father in law has probably 50000 slides (a rough guess, but it’s a huge cabinet full of magazines) …

As all of my pictures are color, I need to store each image twice, as I need the scratch-removed negative to be fed into darktable. This makes things even more cumbersome. However, I hope that one day I will be able to do even the scratch removal in darktable. For now I am using all sorts of workarounds to deal with the huge amount of data in a sensible way.

Processing power for me is not the limiting factor, since it takes more time to individually adjust the tools for each image. This is 5 minutes/image at a minimum. I have a total of about 11000 images (slides, color and B/W negatives) which with 260 MByte / image amount to 2.6 Terabyte on a hard disk. I have 4 external ones as backup and an internal working disk.

To select the images worth of dealing with in detail, I ran all 11000 images through SilverFast in a batch job and created small JPGs with no individual but automatic tool settings. The final JPG images are typically 2 - 3 MByte in size, so they are negligible compared to the linear scans mentioned above.


Consumer flatbed scanners like the Canon 9000F are not going to give you good results for 35mm. Effective resolution for this scanner is only 1700 ppi, so scanning at 9600 ppi is just adding a lot of bloat with no more information. You’ll get much better results with using a DSLR or mirrorless with a macro lens.


Thank you for your replies. I scan the whole film with 200 dpi and jpg and only the good ones in high resolution. So diskspace is not an issue but if there is not much benefit in using 9600 dpi over 1700 I’ll safe a lot of time as well. So I’ll give it a try. I didn’t try to process them yet but my x220 could have some difficulties with the huge files : D. Thinkin about buying a new laptop but it’s the best one i ever had. Had a mac book pro for a while but sold it so i could use my old one again.
The Scanner is just borrowed from a friend but I thought of buying one for negatives. So, do you have advice for a good 35 mm Scanner with vuescan? Are there also some capable of scanning medium Format as well?


Hm, this is a huge topic … My thoughts are:

  1. Stay away from cheapish film “scanners” that are using a bad camera for digitizing. I used such a ~ $50 device to get an initial overview before doing “real” scans, but only because I got it used from an uncle.
  2. Upper class flat-bed scanners are reasonable for medium or large format scans, if you don’t want to get the entire resolution of the film. Also, they can include framing/sprocket holes, which may be a reason going this route. However, I am talking about scanners such as the Epson v850 pro, or other scanners in the > $500 range. But for optimal results, it may be necessary to add special film adapters that raise the film to the ideal focal plane of the scanner, and you can also read stories about wet mounting.
  3. Cheaper film scanners such as some from reflecta/pacific image (e.g. the one I use, crystalscan 7200) are in the range between $200 and $500 and they are doing the job. Depending on the actual model, you are a bit limited by the features (no autofocus/focus setting, no multi pass with different brightness, manual film transport, etc.), but the most important features are available and functional (e.g. infrared scan). The results are great compared to flatbed scans, but of course there are pricier options that deliver more quality.
  4. There are a bit pricier options from the same manufacturers for special purposes, such as automatic slide magazine scanners. I think the same as above holds for these.
  5. I don’t exactly know about the plustek brand, but I know some people here have such a device. These have a reasonable price and are looking very interesting. Post-pandemic, I really want to ask them about a comparison session, scanning the same negatives and compare the results.
  6. The best quality you may get with one of the coolscan scanners from Nikon, however, only the latest generations have USB and these are extremely pricey as they are no longer built for a while already. Expect > $1000 for a 35 mm scanner (coolscan V, coolscan 5000), and $2500 to $5000 for a medium format scanner (coolscan 9000).
  7. The Pacon f-135 (plus) is a very special device as it “only” scans uncut 35 mm film, it’s typically < $1000, but offers very limited resolution and needs special software.
  8. Drum scans are another option, but the hardware is extremely pricey and also requires special software. Typically, the film is wet mounted, which reduces the impact of scratches a bit (but I personally think infrared scanning and automated inpainting gives even better results and more control). Resulutions and dynamic range are insane, as the cost :smile:.
  9. Hasselblad’s flextight scanners are another pricey option. Due to special optics, they approach drum scan quality without wet mounting, with reduced impact of dust, but they offer no infrared scanning. I am not sure about software choices here.
  10. Digitizing with a camera and a light source is the final option that comes to my mind. Big drawback is missing infrared scanning, and extreme dependency on the light source (here on it was discussed that less-white spectrum (more separated RGB colours) may give better results), lens, camera, etc. Results can be great anyway, but or me personally, it does not feel right for 35 mm, but feels reasonable for pocketfilm and medium/large format. But that’s my weird brain …

Hope that helps.

I’ve had several slide scanners and flatbed scanners over the years, using Vuescan Pro. The last ones I owned were an Epson 4990 and a Minolta Dimage Multi Scan Pro. The Epson did a credible job on medium format, but not on 35mm. The Minolta was an excellent scanner. When I started experimenting with using a DSLR and macro lens and carefully compared the results to the Minolta I sold the Minolta.

Part of the advantage of DSLR or mirrorless camera scanning is the software. Shooting raw and processing with RawTherapee of darktable gives you so much more control than Vuescan. As well, you can digitize any film size as you’re not limited to the scanner design. You should be able to pick up a good used Nikon D800 or D810 plus macro lens for under $1000 US.

Thank you @chris for your extensive reply. I didn’t want to spend too much money on scanners. But I had a look at the plustek-scanners and I think these or similar ones could be interesting and in my budget. I almost forgot about the option with macro-lens und camera. I already have a XT-3 and if I buy the 80mm macro I would have a macro and a film-scanner-option. So this could be nice as well. Propably I’m gonna rent this lens and test it. Imagine it to be a bit more complicated to get it flat on the light-plate. But you don’t need an extra-scanner. Thank you @troodon.

The best way to align the camera to the film is with a mirror. I covered a bit about camera scanning in this thread from 2019. I’ve made a few modifications since then, including avoiding having to use a Manfrotto Super Clamp. DIY copy stand for DSLR scanning

I wonder what is stopping you from doing a “raw” scan in vuescan (scanning to tiff in maximum quality, but not using the “raw” flag, but that’s another story) and doing the post processing in the software of your choice? At least that’s what I do and it works pretty well :smile:.

Edit: I checked and I am currently using the raw flag without any issues.


I wonder what is stopping you from doing a “raw” scan in vuescan (scanning to tiff in maximum quality, but not using the “raw” flag, but that’s another story) and doing the post processing in the software of your choice?

I used to do that, and still have a pro licence of Vuescan. When using Vuescan I’d scan to raw (which is apparently not really a raw file like raw files from a camera sensor), and save as 16-bit tiff to work on further. If the original was a colour transparency I’d also add in the infrared channel to the raw so I could play with different levels of infrared cleaning, but that of course didn’t apply to B&W film.

The reason I switched to camera scanning and RawTherapee is for greater quality and control than I can get with Vuescan.

But this way you loose the ability to remove defects by means of the IR-channel.


Yes that’s true. Without IR cleaning, it means I take more care to physically clean the film before digitizing. It takes me 15-20 seconds to press on 3M Magic Tape to both sides of a 35mm slide which lifts off almost all embedded dirt, but it’s well worth it. It also avoids the slight softening of the image from IR cleaning and issues that IR causes on fine detail such as faces. After I’ve digitized an image I do the spotting of an remaining dirt and scratches in two stages. First is just for screen resolution, which can be done quickly. Then, if I need to print an image I’ll do a further cleanup at a resolution suitable for the print.

And, of course, IR cleaning doesn’t work for silver-based B&W films.

How does this Raw-scan work in Vuescan. I Scanner all in TIFF without the raw checkbox. Is there a big benefit to use it? Aparently I thought I’m done but now I think about rescanning in raw?!

Raw scanning in Vuescan allows you to “re-scan” from the digital raw file using different settings. It’s much faster than scanning the original film again, and allows you to experiment with different settings for things such as colour and IR cleaning. But of course you can’t use IR cleaning on B&W silver-based films.

BTW, Vuescan will also process raw files from a camera. I did some tests using DSLR scans of colour negatives (Nikon .nef) and found Vuescan did a credible job converting the colour negatives. The quality varied, but it was better than I expected. I still prefer using RawTherapee for this, however.

Ah thanks. I’ll try that.

Do you mean the vuescan implementation? Because if you are saving the IR channel, you can use a much better algorithm than what vuescan provides.

I am wondering for a while already if it would work doing an IR channel when photographing the negative with a regular camera. The questions are:

  • Is e.g. a flash capable of emitting enough light in the relevant IR spectrum, or what light source that is easy to get would work?
  • What kind of IR filter could be used (which spectrum is needed)?
  • Would an IR filter be best placed between light source and film, or between film and camera?
  • Is the different optical behaviour of the lens at the different frequency an issue? I guess a slight blur would be acceptable for the IR channel.
  • Is enough light received by the camera in this particular spectrum, given a reasonable light source? The requirements on dynamic range are probably much more relaxed for the IR image than for the visible color image …

At least my cellphone’s camera is very sensitive to the IR light of a TV remote, but figuring out good parameters for the setup described above may require a bit more effort …