Scanning Kodachrome with a Nikon Coolscan 5000ED.

  12 minute read  



Nikon Coolscan 5000ED with SF200 adapter.
Nikon Coolscan 5000ED with SF200 adapter.

I scan Kodachrome slides with the Nikon Coolscan 50000ED scanner with the SF-200 bulk slide scanning adapter. I also tend to use Nikon Scan software, I feel I get slightly better results with this than I do with Vuescan.

I normally process the scanned files in ON1 Photo RAW. I thus tend to keep the original scanned file relatively untouched and make all my image adjustments in ON1. I also now convert my scanned files from TIFF to DNG format, partly as I had to do this conversion for my B&W scans and like to keep things consistent, and partly because DNG offers better compression of the file. I do keep my original TIFF scans in my archives.

The key steps in my process for scanning Kodachrome slides are:

  • Configure Nikon Scan with a settings profile for Kodachrome.
  • Prepare the slides and then scan them into the PC.
  • Sort the image crop and colour profile in Adobe Photoshop.
  • Convert the files to DNG.
  • Import the slides into ON1 RAW Photo.

Nikon Scan Settings

The first step is to create a profile in Nikon Scan for my preferred settings for scanning Kodachrome. Some of the key settings are:

  • Select Kodachrome as the film type.

  • Select 4x multiscanning.

    I feel this is a reasonable compromise for extracting a little more detail from the shadows. I doubt higher multiscanning settings would provide much more benefit.

  • Select Digital ICE (normal).

    There is a lot of debate whether Digital ICE should be used on Kodachrome slides as the Kodachrome emulsion is not totally transparent to infra-red light, and thus Digital ICE can remove fine details from the scan. However, I feel the benefit of reduced dust marks on the scan are worth this in the majority of cases. For any special slides I want to process further, I can always re-scan them without Digital ICE and retouch the dust spots manually for these special cases.

Main Nikon Scan Settings

In the main Nikon Scan window I select “Edit | Preferences” and set:

  • Color Management:
    • Use Nikon Color Management System: Selected.
    • Monitor Tab: Use factory default monitor profile: Selected.
  • File Locations:
    • The folder where the scans will be stored on the PC.
  • Single Scan:
    • Before scan:
      • Auto focus: Selected.
      • Auto exposure for positive film: Selected.
      • Auto exposure for negative film: Selected.
  • Batch Scan:
    • Before scan:
      • Auto focus: Selected.
      • Auto exposure for positive film: Selected.
      • Auto exposure for negative film: Selected.
    • After each image:
      • Save to disk: Selected.
      • Stop on errors: Selected.
  • File Saving:
    • Default file format: “TIFF”
  • Automatic actions:
    • Perform autofocus when focus point is moved: Selected.
  • Advanced color: Leave as defaults.
  • Preview Settings:
    • Auto focus: Selected.
    • Auto exposure for positive film: Selected.
    • Auto exposure for negative film: Selected.
    • Multi sampling: Not Selected.
    • Digital ICE: Selected.

Nikon Scan Scanner Settings

In Nikon Scan’s scanner window I set:

  • Film type: “Kodachrome”.
  • Colour: “Calibrated RGB”.
Nikon scan film type selection

Nikon Scan Tool Palette Settings

Nikon Coolscan Kodachrome tool palette settings.

In Nikon Scan’s tool palette window I set:

  • Curves: Selected.
  • Color Balance: Not Selected.
  • Unsharp Mask: Not Selected.
  • LCH Editor: Not Selected.
  • Digital ICE4 Advanced:
    • Enable Digital ICE: “On (Normal)”.
    • Enable Post Processing: Not Selected.
    • Enable Digital DEE: Not Selected.
  • Analog Gain: All options set to 0.
  • Scan Image Enhance: Not Selected.
  • Scanner Extras:
    • Multi Sample Scanning: “Fine (4x)”.
    • Scan Bit Depth: “16”.

Finally in the Nikon Scan’s scanner window I select Settings | “Save Settings…” and assign a name for this settings profile such as “Kodachrome”.

Prepare the Slides

The first step is to clean the slides as thoroughly as possible without damaging them. For this I use a soft makeup brush and a Giottos rocket blower.

Film cleaning tools

Then for every slide I use the rocket blower to blow off any dust from each side of the slide.

Blow front
Blow rear

I then gently brush each side. I brush the front of the slide from side to side, followed by top to bottom, keeping the slide vertical to allow any dust to fall away. I then repeat this process for the rear of the slide.

Brush sideways
Brush up and down

Finally, in case brushing has attracted any loose dust, I then blow the front and back of the slide again with the rocket blower.

Blow front again
Blow rear again

Once the slide is clean I place it in the SF-200 bulk slide adapter. The slide is placed so that its narrow side will enter the scanner first, and the viewing side of the slide is towards the top of the scanner (the side visible in the picture below). The number of slides that can be fitted into this adapter will depend on the thickness of the slide mounts; I can typically add 40 slides.

Adding slide to SF-200 adapter

Scan The Slides

Once the slides have been loaded into the scanner adapter, and the scanner switched on, I open Nikon Scan.

In the scanner window, select “Settings” and select the profile created previously. In this case I select the “Kodachrome” profile.

Select settings in Nikon Scan

Select “Preview” to preview the first slide. Adjust the crop to be a bit larger than the slide area, there needs to be a margin extra to accommodate the fact that the image area of other slides in the batch may move around a little as the slides are fed by the batch slide adapter.

Select slide crop

Then, in the Tool Pallet select the focus point icon in “Layout Tools” and position the focus point in the slide image area. I normally place it about a third of the distance from the centre to be at the midpoint of any curvature across the slide, leaving the centre in front and the edges behind the focus point.

Select slide focus point

Set number of slides to scan.

The final step is to check all of the other settings in the Tool Pallet are set correctly

It is necessary to change the value of parameter:

  • “Scanner Extras”
    • “Slide Feeder Scan”
      • “Feed Images”

        Set this to the number of slides in the slide batch adapter (it can also be a higher number).

Nikon Scan is ready to start scanning your slides. Press “Scan”.

Nikon Scan will present two dialogue boxes in turn:

  1. Batch scan options. These should have already been set. Press “OK”.
  2. File naming scheme. Set this to define the filename sequence each scan will be saved in. Press “OK”
Nikon Scan Batch scanning options
Nikon Scan Batch filename settings

At this point the scanner will start scanning each slide. The process is:

  1. A slide is drawn into the scanner.
  2. The scanner will focus.
  3. The scanner performs autoexposure.
  4. The scanner will perform the final scan.
  5. The scanned image is saved to disk.
  6. The slide is ejected from the scanner.

Scanning will take some time. Time to make a cup of tea. Maybe two cups…



Nikon Scan will have saved the scans of the slides to the PC in the following format:

  • Uncompressed 16-bit TIFF.
  • “Nikon Adobe RGB” colour space.

I will process my slide images in ON1 Photo RAW in the same way I process the images from my digital cameras. I currently have decided to store my master slide scans in the following format:

  • “Adobe RGB (1998)” colour space. This is essentially the same colour space as Nikon Scan saved the scanned image, but Nikon Scan uses its own proprietary version of the Adobe RGB profile: “Nikon Adobe RGB”. To avoid any danger of other programs having an issue in applying the proprietary Nikon colour profile, I convert the scan file to the standard “Adobe RGB (1998)” profile stored in Windows.

  • DNG file format. Many people find converting from TIFF to DNG an abomination but I have decided to do this for the following reasons:

    • I need to convert my B&W scans to DNG anyway as ON1 Photo RAW cannot process the B&W TIFF file format.
    • The DNG compression algorithm provides significantly smaller file sizes than standard TIFF compression algorithms.

    Note: I do retain a copy of the scan TIFF file in my archives.

Converting to Adobe RGB Colour Space

I will convert the colour space for each scan file to “Adobe RGB (1998) using a batch job in Adobe Photoshop CS4.

The first step is to create an Action in Photoshop that will convert the image’s colour space to Adobe RGB.

  1. Open Photoshop and load in a scan image.

  2. Create an Action for the conversion:

    • Open the Actions panel: “Windows | Actions”.
    • Create a new action.
    • Name the action. In this case I called it “Convert AdobeRGB (Kodachrome)”.
      New Action to convert top Adobe RGB
  3. Record the new action:

    • Press the “Record button”.
    • Select “Edit | Convert to Profile”.
    • Set the destination profile to “Adobe RGB (1998)”.
    • Press “OK”.
    • Stop recording the Action.
      Convert to Profile: Adobe RGB
  4. Close the scan image without saving it.

Now a Photoshop batch job can be run with this Action on all of the scan files stored on the PC.

  1. Open Adobe Bridge.
  2. Select all of the scan files in Bridge.
  3. Select “Tools | Photoshop | Batch”. Press “OK”.
    Select Photoshop Batch
  4. Photoshop will now open. Select the Action to be performed. In this case the action is: “Convert AdobeRGB (Kodachrome)”. Then press “OK”.
    Photoshop run batch action: Convert to Adobe RGB (Kodachrome)

At this point all of the scan files selected will be open in Photoshop. I would normally quickly check each image was the correct orientation before saving the file (in its original location and filename overwriting the original scan file).

Converting to DNG

My next step is to convert the scan files from TIFF to DNG. There are several ways of doing this including:

  • Use the free Adobe Digital Negative Converter tool.
  • Use Adobe Lightroom.

I will use Adobe Lightroom. The main reason is that until recently I was using Adobe Lightroom to organise all of my images and have only recently started moving to ON1 Photo RAW. Thus, at this time, there is a little advantage in importing the scans into Lightroom so that they are in Lightroom’s catalogue before I then move to ON1 Photo RAW to do the actual editing of the images. Note: I make sure ON1 Photo RAW is not running at this point as I do not want it to build its own catalogue settings whilst I am still working on the images in Lightroom.

A first step in Adobe Lightroom is to ensure that it will save any edits to an image to the DNG file itself. When processing the scan files in Lightroom I often update some of the Metadata, such as Location, Copyright and date fields. I can edit these in Lightroom where they get written into the file and subsequently picked up by ON1. Thus, in Lightroom:

  • Edit | Catalog Settings
    • Metadata tab.
      • Automatically write changes into XMP: Selected.
      • Write time or date changes into proprietary RAW files: Selected.

To convert the Scan files to DNG I first import the new files into Lightroom. I normally move the files to the correct location where I store these master files. In Lightroom:

  • File | Import Photos and Video…
    • Select the folder where Nikon Scan placed the scan files.
    • Select the pictures to be imported from this folder.
    • Select “Move” as the method to import the files.
    • Select the destination to import the files to.
    • Press “Import”.
      Lightroom import

For me this typically moves the files to date defined folders in my Lightroom catalogue. I will then typically create a new folder in the correct place in my catalogue (and file system) directory for the project these scans belong to and move all the scanned images there:

  • Create a new folder in my catalogue.

  • Name this folder according to my project naming convention.

  • Select all the scan files I have just imported.

  • Right click the new destination folder and select “Move Selected Photos to this Folder”.

    Lightroom move files to project folder

  • Once the files have moved to the new location I will rename all of the files to follow the naming scheme I use for this project.

    • Library | Rename Photos
Lightroom DNG conversion settings.
  • Select all of the scan images.
  • Select: Library | Convert Photos to DNG…
    • Only convert RAW files: Deselected
    • Delete originals after successful conversion: Selected>
    • Use Lossy Compression: Deselected
    • Embed Original Raw file: Deselected
    • Press “OK”.

Initial Edit

Whilst the images are still in Lightroom, I do some basic editing operations on the DNG file:

  • Adjust the orientation of the images (if not already performed in the Photoshop step above).
  • Set the date/time the image was captured.
  • Set any copyright and authorship metadata.
  • Add a location if known (metadata and GPS fields).

Set Image Capture Time

The first challenge is normally to update the image creation timestamp to reflect when an image was taken, not when it was scanned. A danger here is that the order of the pictures will change as timestamps are updated, although at this time the file numbering should still reflect the order the slides were scanned in.

The first step is to update the creation timestamp of all images together to be just after when all of the images were really taken. This bulk update should maintain relative time order yet make the dates close to the actual date which makes final date selection quicker.

  • Select all images.

  • Select: Metadata | Edit Capture time.

    Edit Lightroom image capture time

  • In the “Edit capture Time” dialogue box:

    • Type of Adjustment: Adjust to a specified date and time.
    • Corrected Time: Enter a date after all images where originally taken.
    • Select “Change All”.
      Adjust Lightroom image capture time dialogue box

The second step is to select each image in turn and set the actual date and time for that particular image.

  • Select each image in turn.
  • Select: Metadata | Edit Capture time.
  • Enter the correct time for when the image was taken into the “Edit capture Time” dialogue box.

If the date order is different than the scan order then the images may need to be renumbered depending on the approach used for project numbering.

Set Global Metadata

Metadata that is common for a group of images can be adjusted by selecting all images and then entering the new metadata into the Lightroom metadata fields. Typically this can include:

  • Creator.
  • Copyright and copyright status.

Set Location

The location for an image, or a group of images can be entered as metadata.

Typically the location can be entered as text (sublocation). Select the slides with the same location and enter the correct text for the location.

A GPS location can also be provided if known. What I typically do is use Google Maps to find the area the pictures were taken from. Select the point the image is located at and copy to the clipboard the corresponding latitude and longitude for that point.

GPS location from Google Maps

This can then be pasted into the GPS metadata box in Lightroom.

Insert GPS location into Lightroom

Once the initial edits have been completed, close the Lightroom application.

Final Organisation

I now use ON Photo RAW to organise and do general editing of my photographs. The master image files are organised in the same directory structure as I used for Lightroom. Thus at this point the DNG scan images are already in the location I access them from ON1 photo RAW.

After finishing with Lightroom in the step above, I start ON1 Photo RAW application. The scan images appear in their directory.

The first step is normally to add any further Metadata to the images. For example, ON1 Photo RAW often offers additional location fields such as Country.

The second step is to Edit each image in turn and perform some basic editing to get the image to a useable state:

  • Rotate the image square.
  • Crop the black borders.
  • Adjust exposure, contrast, colour balance etc.