VueScan: don’t even bother

by Todd on May 1, 2012

VueScan software is garbage. I’m sure that statement is controversial, right? I’ve seen many people on the web get great scans from it, while admitting to usability and configuration issues. I had issues when I first got it, and I was impatient to see some scans, so I set it aside and figured I’d learn how to use it later.

Well, I’ve tried it about seventeen times now, and every time ends in frustration, with me returning to the default Epson software. I’ve tried the wizard. I’ve tried going it alone, with attention to every drop-down menu and checkbox. I’ve referred to the so-called “User Guide” many times to try and clarify something. I’m not an idiot. I use countless pieces of software, many of them very advanced and complicated. I’ve programmed HP calculators, for Christ’s sake. I’ve even successfully done off-camera lighting with an SB-600 flash (try getting any info from the manual on that!). I can almost always get where I need to go by testing and tweaking and RTFM, and if that fails, I find an answer on a web site somewhere, and I make it work. Even complicated stuff with shitty UIs.

This has not been the case with VueScan. Sure, I can get scans from it. I can make a manual selection from a Preview, and manually save it with an individually-specified file name. And I can fiddle with the settings enough that the scan doesn’t even look too bad. But I can’t get ANY automation to work. If my negative holder has twelve negatives in it, I want them all scanned and saved with successively-numbered filenames. With the Epson, I make sure the Thumbnail box is checked, and I click Preview. I get all my previews, then I can cycle through them (if I want to) and tweak settings. Then I click Scan and walk away. They’re all saves right where they should be, with no intervention from me at any point. The equivalent functionality doesn’t seem to be possible with VueScan. It saves the first one, then scans the second. And when it gets to the second, it asks if I want to overwrite the first, which it just finished scanning. Of course not. That would be stupid. OK, so I click cancel. This is the point where I should be offered the opportunity to provide an alternate filename, right? Sorry, nope. Error! I’ll just delete that scan from my cache and move on to the next one! Fail. So I go to the User Guide and find out about using ‘+’ to add extensions to the filename, which will increment automatically. Supposedly. But, no, same ridiculous error, with inept handling.

It might be a different story if the scans looked great, but in fact they look like shit. Low contrast, overexposed, etc. I think they might not even be in focus, but I really don’t have the patience to do a comparison. VueScan accurately identifies my scanner, so that’s not the issue. This software also seems very recalcitrant to stably maintaining almost any of its offered settings. There’s a drop-down that allows me to change the output to sRGB. I set it up like that, and my scans are output in 8-bit gray. Random. I hate this software. Pretty sure I’m done using it, and that the money I paid for a lifetime license was a complete loss. No return beyond frustration and wasted time. I guess since I can always get upgrades, maybe the developer will make it better in the next 5 or 10 years. Once there isn’t even anymore film available.

As I said before, there are plenty of people out there who seem to like this software. So maybe I just have some sort of mental block. But if anyone asked me about VueScan, I’d personally make an emphatic recommendation against it, especially when I look at how easy it is to do this with the software, and get reasonably good results. If anyone ever enlightens me to all the secret methods I clearly have to use to coax decent scans from VueScan, or if I figure it out myself (highly unlikely, since I’ll have to have a pretty damn convincing reason to even try again), I’ll happily retract everything I’ve said. I’d be perfectly thrilled if someone came along and told me just how wrong I was about VueScan, and helped me figure out why pretty much nothing about works for me.

Leave a Comment

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

me May 12, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Wish I would have seen your post before buying this crap. The guy doesn’t even refund you…says something about some stupid log file. This no return policy for software that doesn’t work well is bad business.

Reply

mchgst June 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm

had the same problem. compared 2 shots and the one from vuescan was out of focus and blown out, no detail. trashed

Reply

John December 7, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Completely agree. The fact that there is no option to see thumbnails of a strip of negatives makes no sense. Will only scan up to 4000dpi on my 5000dpi Nikon Coolscan 5000ED. Bought this crap software because Nikon Scan 4 will not work on current Mac OS so had no choice. Anyone out there know of any software that I can use? Otherwise I have a useless and very expensive scanner :(

Reply

Todd December 7, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Sort of glad to see I’m not the only one here! On the other hand, I was hoping someone might come along and tell me something that would make the application “click” for me. Or tell me a wonderful upgrade had just been released. Haha!

Reply

GMak April 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Sorry, guys, but I have to disagree with most of what’s been said here, some of which is completely inaccurate. I have an Epson V500 Photo and use both the Epson software (very limited and clunky but does work) and the VueScan. VueScan is much more flexible and has many more options than Epson.
-Preview strips of negatives or positives is certainly easily done. Just click “Preview.” You don’t have to do it each time, but if I get a strip of negatives or slides that don’t seem correct, I will preview them first and make any adjustments to the filter or other settings.
-File names most certainly can be automatically progressive simply by adding ” 0001 +” to the end of the file name. No problem. Awkward, yes, problem, no. if you DON’T put this in the file name, you will get the result that the first commentator made, asking to overwrite the slide.
- VueScan offers a tremendous amount of settings, admittedly, some of which can be confusing. You need to play around. And you need to set the film properly. Again, VueScan offers a large variety of specific film settings.
- Regarding the scan resolution, bit depth, etc., VueScan offers settings that will render your image anywhere from 2-3MB to 250MG per file. Frankly, there is a lot written on file settings and what the reasonable balance of scan resolution, color bit depth, file size and practical editable requirements and viewable results. You can set this to 64 bit and 6400 dpi and get a file size that will use up your hard drive with one roll – the question is – will you be able to actually see it? The answer is “no.” What is the useable/viewable settings to achieve viewable results.
- Regarding focus, this is a problem with all scanning software. At this close range, even slight bends in film render parts of it out of focus. Anyone who has done macro work understands that the in-focus DoF area is inversely related to distance. At far distances, slight variations in focus don’t matter much; at close distances they matter a lot. There are some sophisticated pieces of sw out there that can compensate for individual bends and curves in negatives/slides, but this is useful only for that Pulitzer prize winner slide or negative or only shot of great-great-great grandpa you have, not for individually doing rolls and rolls of vacation slides.
-Regarding exposure, it seems to take the exposure/color balance off the first slide, and then apply it to the other slides in the tray. I’m not sure about this, but it sometimes throws off an entire tray if the first slide/negative has odd characteristics. To adjust that, simply move the dotted outline that appears in the preview to another slide, and the exposure/color balance will key off of that.
- Finally, I don’t know what you paid for this, but I paid $40 and it works fine, and is a good deal at this price. Even if it didn’t work up to my expectations – and a lot of software doesn’t – as long as it performs some functions better than other similar software, then it’s one more solution in my photographic armamentarium. All of us have multiple photo editing software precisely for this reason. No software does everything best.

Hope these corrections help.

Reply

Todd April 8, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Hello, and thanks for the alternative view. I’m glad to have it, and honestly I was surprised it didn’t show up sooner. When I posted this nearly a year ago, it was for two main reasons. First, the software didn’t do anything I wanted it to; I felt like I had been duped, and I was annoyed. Second, based on my poor expereince, I wanted to provide a counterweight to what I saw as the prevailing opinion at the time (that VueScan was maybe a little bit hard to learn, but if I made the effort, I’d be rewareded by a better workflow and higher quality scans).

My opinion hasn’t changed, but of course I haven’t given VueScan another chance, so I wouldn’t expect it to. Nothing you wrote applies to my own initial experience. Specifically:

- I followed the instructions to the letter about adding the number and the + to my filenames. It just didn’t work.

- I did plenty of “playing around,” although that doesn’t qualify IMO as a valid way to learn a piece of software, and if “playing around” is required, there’s a problem. Indeed, the software design is the biggest part of my criticism.

- Your comment about resolution is broadly accurate, and those settings never entered into my complaint.

- I did not do further tests on the focus, but I don’t have an issue with the film not being set right. I’ve set it with the stock Epson trays as well as the tray and glass plate from betterscanning.com.

- I do understand the potential errors that can result from exposure algorithms, and I did eventually get reasonable scans from this software. But only through manual, individual adjustments that VueScan seemed incapable of remembering. The main problems I’ve identified with this software relate to workflow and usability. And that part of it was so bent up I didn’t have the patience to evaluate the actual scan quality in sufficient depth to make any strong statements about it.

It’s clear that for me, VueScan did not behave in the same ways it did for you. It’s possible that could be attributed to a difference of OS brand or version, but when I paid $80 for this software, the claim was that my OS was supported. And yet, some things did not work as the instructions led me to believe.

I really do intend to revisit it one day and give it another look, but I simply don’t have the time right now. Sadly, I haven’t even had the time lately to use the much faster Epson software, and I’ve just been having cheap low-resolution scans done at Walgreen’s. :(

When I get around to trying it again, I’ll post about my experience. I haven’t even been back to the web site to see if there’s an updated version.

Reply

Loimus August 11, 2013 at 10:51 am

Here’s a positive, non-troll, review of Vuescan.

I couldn’t agree with GMak more. I use Vuescan on my Mac and PCs to scan from an Epson V700 and Microtek 120tf, and have used many others, including Nikons and Canons, over the years. In addition, I have Silverfast AI for both. The Silverfast is pretty much useless even for RAW/HDR – terrible color shifts. For gross scanning of non-critical photographs, such as family snaps, it gives satisfactory results at 2000-2400ppi, but you have to be willing to accept the inevitable clipping and gamma shifts in each color channel.

I scan B&W and color/Polaroid prints, negs, color reversal, and color negative films up to 4×5″. I have used the stock Epson and Microtek carriers as well as custom carriers, and scanned film on the glass with the Epson – no wet scanning..

No focus problems – ever. Consistent RAW/linear output every time. Yes, scanning twenty-four film images with the Epson carrier is a pain (I just do them one at a time), but the output isn’t clipped like the EpsonScan or Silverfast scans. Film is best scanned between AN glass anyway. Colors are easily corrected in Photoshop, Photoline, GIMP or ImageJ using built-in controls or third-party $$ plugins. Even on Epson and Silverfast you have to dick with the settings for each slide – and even then the output is ugly. Silverfast has focus problems on the Microtek that Microtek’s ScanSoft and Vuescan don’t.

Admittedly, the learning curve was pretty steep with Vuescan, but the output isn’t be matched by any other scanning software I have used. The workflows in the User Guide DO work as described. Resetting to Defaults FIRST resolves most configuration problems easily – no three-fingered resets like Silverfast, Photoshop, Bridge, etc.

The software does exactly what it was designed to do.

Reply

Todd August 11, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Thanks for another view from the positive side, and I’m glad to see the discussion is still going. Truly, even after my initial rant, which might have been somewhat tainted by frustration, I’ve never been given any good reason to doubt that VueScan is capable of high-quality scans. I’ll stress again that my biggest complaint lies in usability. I wish that after all this time I could say I’d revisited it, but I have not. I’ve barely had time to shoot film lately. I’d love to download the latest version and try again, when I have the time. For now, the bottom line (for me personally) is still this: if I have some film to scan, I know I can get it done quickly with the Epson software, and the results, while probably deserving of some critique, are pretty good, and certainly good enough for my own purposes. Almost everything on this blog has been scanned that way. And I know that if I re-approach VueScan, it’s going to take some time and energy, and quite likely involve some frustration.

Still, I will get to it one of these damn days… :)

joseph d April 12, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Completely agree with your view Todd.

What annoyed me most is that there seems to be no improvements between all the different versions of this software, despite I have successfully fixed, or bypassed all the problems of one version and produced a few successful scans, now the new version came out and all the stupid problems came back again! And I cannot trace back to the version that I used.

What’s more, being a Chinese user, I’m being righteous enough to ignore myriads of cracks and serials online and purchased a authentic code. However, after I put in my own email and password the stupid software still insisted to add the watermark and prompt me to upgrade and pay more money!

Reply

Mike May 29, 2013 at 4:17 am

Very well said. This mirrors exactly my own experience of trying negative scanning. Deleting Vuescan now. I’m just glad I wasn’t tempted to pay for it!

Reply

Pierre Arnaud December 26, 2013 at 9:42 am

This post is a year old, so maybe I’m coming too late. But I just ran into it looking for something else.

File naming issue : vuescan can auto number files : say you are using tiff, in the output settings, filename field, add for instance : 01+.tiff. Vuescan will start numbering files 01.tiif, 02.tiff, 03.tif, etc.

sRGB : this is the output colorspace setting. Doesn’t affect the output per se, just adds the colorspace chosen. The actual output is in the output settings. If you choose tiff, you go to the tiff filetype menu and select 8 or 16 bit gray, 24 or 48 bit RGB, etc.

Exposure and contrast : under the color settings, first choose your film. Selecting different C.I. settings in there has a dramatic effect on overall contrast, in BW.

Contrast is changed with black and white point, and curve low / curve high. I usually use this to get the right contrast, and only resort to changes in black/white points when curve low/high is not enough, at least in BW. For color negative scans, my experience is you have to use the the black/white settings.

curve low : 0.4 / curve high : 0.6 gives you relatively high contrast. As you decrease curve low and increase curve high, you reduce contrast.

Hope that helps.

I’ve been using Vuescan with a canon FS4000 and a nikon 5000 for years now, with excellent results

Reply

Todd February 23, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Pierre, I really appreciate you taking the time to comment, and apologize that it’s taken me so long to approve it and reply. Have just been overwhelmed with other things lately. The weather should be warming up here in a month or so, and I hope that means I’ll have more time to shoot film, and to pay more attention to this fairly neglected site. When I do, I’ll take another crack at VueScan and see if I can do any better. Thanks!

Reply

Previous post:

Next post: