Scanning Film under Linux

When I installed Linux I had a few issues to sort out. One of those issues was that I needed to get the film scanner working. When I finally got around to it, it became a case of 2 steps forward then 1 step back but the final result was positive.

I have a Canon FS2710 film scanner that connects to the computer via SCSI. For those who aren’t familiar with SCSI, it was the standard interface for hardware that required large amounts of data to be moved. It is only recently that ide hard drives have caught up with the speed of SCSI drives. While Macs had a standard SCSI port pcs usually needed a card. I had the original card so that wasn’t a problem.

Setting up the scanner was actually easier under Linux than Windows XP. While Windows 98 SE supported SCSI that support has been removed from XP. So I needed to find and install SCSI drivers before installing drivers for the scanners. Fortunately the Canon website had the details.

Linux supports SCSI and the scanimage -L command reported the scanner. However SANE, the scanner drivers, didn’t find it. I found it was necessary to edit the canon.conf file, I simply uncommented the line with the SCSI device number and changed the number to the correct one, 4 in my case as the card reader had used the lower numbers. SANE then recognised the scanner and I was away.

Remember the step back? Well I scanned a slide and it was fine but when I scanned a negative the result was very poor, washed out and noisy. I tried 2 scanning interfaces xsane and xscanimage. The results were the same.

Negatives are difficult to scan well. When you look at a negative you see the colour of the film and the colours in the picture are the reverse of the real colours. The scanner must “see” past the film colour and each film brand is a different colour. The scanner or the software must then reverse the colours in the picture. This is one reason I mainly shoot slides these days but I have a lot of older negatives. About 80% of pictures I have been posting on my photo blog are from negatives so the ability to scan negatives well is important to me.

I had heard of Vuescan, a commercial program, that had good reports. They provide a trial version so I downloaded that and tried it. The results are very good. It is available for Windows and Macs as well as Linux and supports hundreds of scanners and digital cameras. The trial version puts dollar sign watermarks all over the scanned image but you can see what the results will be. The control of the scan is greater than any other program I have used.

One other test I tried was to see how it scanned slides, some reports I have seen suggest Vuescan outperforms the Canon software. Vuescan also supports the transfer of files from many digital cameras. Those same reports suggest it is superior to the software supplied with many digital cameras to process their raw files. I can’t test this as my FujiFilm digital camera is not supported under Linux at this stage.

My choice was to purchase Vuescan or continue the hassle of rebooting in Windows to scan negatives. After a few days of rebooting I registered my trial copy of Vuescan and am still happy with it.


Author: Jim

A sixty something living in the Hawkesbury Valley on the edge of Sydney Australia.

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