VueScan RAW + RT Film Negative = Good Colours

In March, I experimented with using a DSLR to digitise negatives and liked the results more than those obtained from my low-end Epson Perfection V200 scanner. However, this sentiment is now reversed, since I can produce better images from the scanner.

Previously, I scanned a negative with VueScan (using Lock Exposure and Lock Base Color features to neutralise the colour of the film base), saving the frames as TIFF images, and refined colours with Curves in GIMP. That method relied on my ability to correctly judge neutral colours and was therefore subjective.

The Film Negative module in RawTherapee uses maths to balance colours from film negatives, which is more consistent than human judgment. But until recently, it worked only with RAW files produced by DSLRs. Now the added support for TIFF files in RawTherapee 5.10 enables me to process negatives with it.

My new workflow is to scan each frame of a negative as a RAW image and to save it as a TIFF file. A RAW image is the direct output of the scanner and does not contain any image processing. I can work with the TIFF image in RawTherapee in the same way as I do with a RAW image from a DSLR. But Film Negative does the heavy lifting. Most of the time, it automatically finds the correct colours, but it can also get a good outcome from two user-selected points of neutral colour from a frame.

So far, I am very pleased with the performance of Film Negative. The picture above, which was used in my previous comparison, is the output of Film Negative. It is true to life: The skin, black jacket, grey dashboard, and red car look much more natural than in previous images from both the scanner and the DSLR digitisation. The photos in my previous post were obtained in the same way.

Theoretically, Film Negative works similarly on both a TIFF image from VueScan and a RAW image from a DSLR. However, experimenting with the DSLR method today, I could not get satisfying results. I am now reconsidering the purchase of The Lobster Holder, which I’ve wanted since my DSLR digitisation experiment.

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