September 21, 2012

How to Make Your Nikon Coolscan Film Scanner Work with Your New Computer

If you've been working with digital photography for more than 10 years, then like me, you started out by scanning slides or negatives to develop them in Photoshop. In those days Nikon's line of 35mm film scanners called Coolscan (and later Super Coolscan) were the cream of the crop. 

However, with the success of digital SLR cameras, scanning film fell by the wayside and Nikon stopped supporting new computer systems like Windows 7, Apple OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and later, or any 64-bit system on either platform. (See the Nikon web site at http://tinyurl.com/8lz7cmy.) That left a lot of us photographers with a library of film images out in the cold.

pine trees frame distant view of Bitterroot Mountains in Montana
Scanned from 35mm color negative film
with a Nikon Super Coolscan 4000
running on Windows 7 64-bit

After doing some research on the internet, I discovered a low cost, easy solution for both Windows and Mac owners. It is a program called Vuescan by Hamrick Software. This program comes in two editions: the Standard edition costs $39.95 and provides 1 year of free updates; the Professional edition costs $79.95 and provides unlimited free updates as well as additional features like raw scans and IT8 film calibration. A single license allows you to "use VueScan on up to four different computers that you personally use, with any combination of operating systems, with any number of scanners, both x32 and x64". 

Pine tree leans over Salmon Lake in the Seeley-Swan Valley of western Montana
Scanned from 35mm color slide film
using NikonScan software
with a Nikon Super Coolscan 4000
running on Windows 7 64-bit

I originally purchased the Standard edition of Vuescan to use with my Epson Perfection Photo 3200 flatbed scanner. (No, Epson does not supply a full-featured driver for this scanner either.) Vuescan works flawlessly with my Epson scanner for color or black & white prints, books, and magazines. The software includes the ability to select scan resolution, bit depth, and output file formats (TIFF, JPEG, PDF). There are also levels and curves controls allowing you to adjust the tonal results and a color balance section to adjust the color rendition.The software includes the ability to automatically save scans to a specified folder with an incremental file name, a big time-saver when you're scanning a strip of negatives, for example.

Black & white silver gelatin print
scanned using Vuescan with an
Epson Perfection Photo 3200 flatbed scanner
running on Windows 7 64-bit

Having been satisfied with the program's performance with both my Epson 3200 scanner and the scanner on my HP all-in-one printer/scanner/copier, I recommended it to a colleague who was trying to get her Nikon Coolscan to work with her new Mac. Complete success for her too!.

So I highly recommend Vuescan by Hamrick Sofware to bring your old scanners back to life!

There's even been a book published on how to get the most from your Vuescan software: The Vuescan Bible by Sascha Steinhoff from Rocky Nook Publishing.

Note for Windows Owners

If you still would like to use the original NikonScan software that came with your Coolscan scanner on your new Windows computer, you may want to read the suggestions of Bob Johnson at Earthbound Light. He offers a copy of some computer code that he successfully modified to get his Nikon scanner to work with his Windows Vista computer. Later he updated it successfully to work with his new Windows 7 system. Following his instructions, I also got the NikonScan software and Windows Vista driver from Nikon to work with my Windows 7 64-bit system.

BE WARNED! This process is not for the faint of heart. If the sight of computer code or delving into system files makes you twitchy, this technique is probably not for you. (But might be for your computer geek support person.) While it really only involves some copy and paste work as well as finding and renaming old files, you do need to proceed carefully. If this idea makes you nervous, take the Vuescan route. It's affordable, painless and works!