Vincent Oliver: SilverFast Ai with Canon 9950F - The Scans
The scans

OK, so I gave Canon a hard time over their ScanGear software, I don't take any of it back. Put some decent software in the driving seat for the 9950F and the scanner takes off, the performance has improved ten fold. You don't believe me, take a look for yourselves. I have included ScanGear and SilverFast scans side by side so you can make up your own mind.

SilverFast scans ScanGear scans
guardSF guardsCS
guard2SF guard2CS
The detail on the ScanGear scans jump of the page - WOW! fantastic.

Now look closer, the piping (white area on tunic) looks like it has been drawn with a heavy duty marker pen. Look at the SilverFast scan and the gradation in subtle tone is all there, albeit it does not have the contrast that Scangear has. Look at the Chin strap and see the detail in the highlight. Look at the white strap on the rifle.

Move down to the next pair, the gold cuff on the SilverFast shows greater detail, the ScanGear scan has white halos at the edges. The hand on ScanGear is almost blowing out. Yes, the ScanGear has greater contrast.

bay1SF bay1CS
bay3SF Bay3CS

The top pair with the Chandlers sign, look at the detail that is lost on the white paint work, especially on the windows. Look at the white halo on the drainpipe. Next pair down, see the extra detail on the water in the SilverFast scan, look at the boats name and see the clearer lettering. Observe the subtle detail on the white life belt cover. etc.
HydraSF HydraCS
h2SF hsCS

There is more detail in the trees in the SilverFast shot, the windmill blade also looks sharper than the ScanGear scan. The next pair show how SilverFast can bring out more detail in the shadow area and yet still keep the detail in the highlight. The Name Anna in the bottom pair doesn't need comment from me, SilverFast has kept the detail without spreading the colours.

The last group of pictures (Hydra Harbour) were scanned in at the same resolution and both had sharpening applied from within the scanning software. I kept the SilverFast sharpening to the Auto setting just so it would give a like for like scan. The SilverFast scans show a marked improvement over the ScanGear scans - even when you take into consideration that you will not be seeing the full quality due to jpeg compression for the web.

To see if it was the sharpening software that was making the difference, I scanned the following pictures in without any USM and applied the same amount of Smart Sharpening within Photoshop CS2. This set of pictures are far more subtle, but look closer and you will see a small improvement. Check out the dark blue plume on the horse.
SilverFast scans ScanGear scans
rh1SF rh1CS
rh2SF rh2CS
rh4SF rh4CS

I am not sure what is going on within SilverFast but it is producing better scans each time, I think a lot of the sharpness improvements can be put down to a better implementation of USM The Photoshop USM scans are more or less the same, although SilverFast has managed to pull out more detail in both the shadows and highlights.

(Source: photo-i, Vincent Oliver, 2005)