Robert D Feinman

Optimizing Color Negative Scans on Minolta 5400
and Similar Scanners with Silverfast Ai

As has been pointed out in several other topics here, the software that is provided with the Minolta Elite 5400 and several other models is inadequate for high quality scans of color negatives.

In a previous discussion I showed how to use  a third-party solution: Vuescan from Hamrick software.

We now examine another, more advanced product: Silverfast Ai from
Lasersoft Imaging.

Here is our first attempt with this product. In this case we used one of the provided profiles and adjusted the gray steps along the bottom to be neutral.

Original Image
Scanned with modified profile

The image was scanned so as to avoid clipping in both the shadows and highlights, thus making it appear somewhat washed out.

To make it bolder I applied a curve that moved the black point to about 30.

Now the border around the lower card appears blacker and the colors are more vivid.

The skin tones is too strong, however.

More contrast
Black Point shifted in Photoshop

To fix the skin tones I desaturated the image slightly. The skin tones are better, but most of the colors are now too weak.

This software has several unique features including a built-in ICC color profiling tool and the ability to limit the output range to values that can be handled by the printer.

Unfortunately color profiles don't work with color negatives, thus our need for these adjustments.

Returning to the scanner program I used the selective color tool to intensify the row of vertical colors.

This screen shot shows the basic tool. Select one of the six (or twelve) colors along the top row in the matrix, then drag out from the center dot in the circle to shift the color in that direction or drag from the edge dots toward the center to subtract the tint. Changes can also be made numerically in the matrix directly.

Read the documentation for more details.
selective color dialog
Selective Color Dialog SilverFast
Here is the result of the selective adjustments. The colors are now much closer to the actual values. The skin tone is also acceptable. I have not modified the black point, but this is about how the scene appeared. Because of the strong sunlight only the shadows behind the book looked black.
Notice how much better the colors in the Macbeth chart are as well.
Stronger colors
Selective Color Applied in SilverFast

For comparison here are the final images from my other attempts.
The Silverfast has the truest color in the vertical samples. This is due to the extra step available in this software for selective color adjustments. Probably it would be possible to achieve similar results on the other scans using the similar feature in Photoshop.

However, in this case we would need to save the settings and apply to each image scanned, rather than having the corrections be part of the default scanning procedure.

Note that all the images due poorly on the right two patches in the second row of the Macbeth chart. These should be yellow-green and yellow-orange.

It would take additional tests with other brands of film to see where the problem lies.
Keep in mind that the differences in color saturation are partially lost due to the limitations of the jpeg format.
Printed output will be more apparent.

final image
Final Image using Vuescan
fixed in photoshop
Minolta Software Final Image
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© 2003 Robert D Feinman