Problem: your scanner’s software is too simplistic, too hard to use, or outdated. Solution: Hamrick’s VueScan 8.0.11. VueScan opens the door to professional-quality scanner control, and while it won’t make you a pro overnight, it will give you the necessary tools at an amazingly low price.
The program can drive flatbeds, film recorders, and slide scanners using a range of interfaces. And because it replaces default scanner software, it can make older scanners compatible with OS X – no more popping into Classic just to use your venerable scanner. (It even can recognize old SCSI scanners.)
VueScan is available in both Standard ($60) and Professional ($80) versions. At these prices, go pro: colour-calibration tools, choice of colour spaces, and the ability to save raw scan files (so you’ll never have to rescan again) are worth the modest price of admission.
In addition to its versatile controls, VueScan offers colour-balancing presets for many common situations, such as colour distortion from fluorescent or incandescent light; washed-out skies in landscape photos; and distorted skin tones. While the ten presets don’t cover all situations, they can get you close to the exposures you’re after. You can adjust settings for slides and film negatives based on the type of film used.
All the adjustments you make can be previewed using the raw scan data, so you can tweak the individual colour-channel settings, for example, and save variations while keeping the original scan on screen. The preview window is ample and zoomable. An interactive channel-by-channel histogram view of either the preview or the final scan is also available.
VueScan can create ICC profiles for scanners, film, and printers for better colour calibration, and IT8 reference targets are available online for about $10. The program’s tabbed interface is very easy to navigate, but a more fleshed-out manual would be helpful.
VueScan 8.0.11 is a great value. It can’t make great scans automatically, but the Pro version puts them well within reach. Because VueScan works by driving the scanner directly – emulating the command set used by the scanner manufacturers (every command set has to be reverse engineered) – it doesn’t work with all scanners. Check Hamrick’s list before diving in.