Be forewarned this is one of my infamous long posts because this is a worthy topic we all struggle with!
First, Kayemod's Stewart image is incredibly nostalgic and worthy of what I'll drone on about here... I've heard good things about VueScan, here's some other and general ideas for re-inventing our old slides.
I scan most of my 35mm slides with a Nikon 5000ED with a bulk loader. I use NikonScan for the later films like Fuji 50 and Velvia, and it's wonderful how NikonScan handles the gunk with Digital ICE. Once scanned at full-res, I average 2-4 minutes per 60 mb slide to clean and crop with preset 3:2 horizontal and vertical marquee tool crops in Photoshop. The shortcoming of NikonScan is lack of scanning profiles so the scanner recognizes how Kodachrome responds vs. Velvia, despite their "Kodachrome" setting. Luckily Velvia comes our fairly neutral but Kodachromes are still quite cold (blue cast) and the ICE doesn't work with Kodachromes so on to a long dusting of each image. Maddening. Enter SilverFast.
Yes Guys, Nikon did abandon us, bloody terrible as a 25-year user of their equipment. I feel the very same way and almost jumped to Canon for digital bodies (which I've yet to buy, but staying with Nikon with either a D700 or D800). Regarding SilverFast, they make a software version for the Nikon scanners and have no intention of dropping support for them in response to a market for abandoned shooters like us. Their full-boat version includes a function called Multi-Exposure that does two scans and merges them for faaaaaar more shadow detail. The upside of that app is it's current, and you can buy IT8 film targets. Basically, you put the target in the scanner, it's basically a color chart on a slide. The SilverFast IT8s are great, the ones from Wolf Faust are individually-measured for accurate and are a little better (he's a great guy also). The app has a profile creator so you scan the target and it automatically builds a profile that you select for scanning your film type. SilverFast also has canned profiles for several BW films like Tri-X, Pan-X, etc. I've got IT8 targets and custom profiles made now for Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Velvia, and Provia. The difference between these and using NikonScan is enormous in color accuracy per each film type.
The downside, though (always has to be those buggers, Hey???) is SilverFast doesn't include Digital ICE, at least not in the Mac version. They have their own patented methods but I still find it slow and too prone to operator error compared to ICE. I was a teenager for my oldest shots and didn't care well enough for them, many, many slide shows and general lack of knowledge left me with some dirty and scratched images. A couple things I do is wash with film cleaner with cotton balls, and then cotton swabs to clean to edges along the mounts. Actually, I use a product called KAMI Scanner Mounting Fluid which I stock for reasons below. Pre-cleaning like this probably saves 80% in cleanup time, and it's fairly benign, meaning I have yet to have it damage any slides partly as it evaporates quickly and cleanly.
For a really filthy and scratched image, I use a technique taught me by a lab owner. It's scary as heck initially, but all you need is chrome tape, some distilled water, cotton balls, and a hair dryer. You unmount the slide (Carefully, especially with cardboard mounts!), do a quick clean with film cleaner or scanning fluid (I soak a cotton ball and work the film between my thumb and fingers to wash it, and give a quick dry with dry cotton), then seal the image to a clean light table or smooth surface with the tape. Drench the cotton in the distilled water, and wash the image lightly but thoroughly for a minute or so. Roll the cotton ball into a bedroll shape and squeegee off the excess water. Put the hairdryer on LOW, just a semi-warm setting on high speed, and dry it until it's shiny again. You will be well shocked, if there's no scratches it looks like the day the lab gave it to you. On the base side you'll still have deep scratches (except for 4x5 Velvia because it has an "emulsion-like" layer on the base side), but when you un-tape it and wash/dry the emulsion side it will fill all but the deepest scratches in the emulsion. One trick here is to fingernail-seal the tape overlaps, you don't want any water seeping under (though it won't really hurt anything, it just means you have to re-do the first side).
Okay, still awake??? Good. I also use an Epson V750M-Pro scanner, bought to scan 4x5s but of late it's proving a lifesaver with old Kodachromes. Quickest solution I've found and I've been looking for 10 years. The reason is you can wet-scan! You unmount the image or several of them, or a film strip, lay down a piece of clear mylar, squirt the KAMI fluid and slip in the slide. You then "squeegee" out the air bubbles with Photex Scanner Wipes, and the SilverFast software squares up each image regardless of how level you laid them down. You can even pre-scan a batch and then walk away while they scan to your preset. I've re-done some images that took an hour to clean and now they take a couple minutes like with NikonScan and Velvias. This scanner was $800 and the app around $300 I think, a lot of money for sure, but with my wanting [Edit: NOT wanting
] to spend the rest of my life scanning it was worth every penny to me. One more thing I haven't researched is there's manufacturers out there who make "wet-scan slide mounts" which might be just the thing for using the Nikon scanner with old chromes. Worthy of exploration for sure.
Per Dust & Scratch features, Photoshop has those for you. The Median and Reduce Noise functions are also great with grainy images. With bad scratches, you can use the Lasoo tool in Photoshop and just outline (select) the scratch and apply a Median filter to the scratch, works well in most cases for hiding the scratch somewhat. I dupe the Background layer if it needs major help, or to make as a Sharpening layer once cleaned. The background Layer itself is never corrected throughout my processes except for normal dusting. I do all my corrections in Layers, typically a Curve layer, a Hue/Saturation Layer above that, and a Selective Color Layer at top (which is awesome!), and I save as LZW tiff which takes away maybe a third of file size but at no loss to quality whatsoever (the only compression I know of that can say that). As always these functions do reduce clarity a hair, but for getting these done before we die it's worth it.
I'm happy to help if I can, we're all in the same boat.
Edited by E1pix, 28 August 2012 - 23:25.