6 Tips for Great Kodachrome Scans with Nikon Scan

I’m still learning, but slowly perfecting Kodachrome scans. My preferred software package for working with Kodachrome is the good ‘ol Nikon Scan. If you are running Windows 7 x64, don’t fret, I have a solution for you here.

Okinawa 1952

Okinawa 1952

1. Use the Kodachrome profile in Nikon ScanKodachrome Profile

Nikon has already done the hard work for you and profiled Kodachrome which has a unique color signature. Use this to your advantage and select the “Kodachrome” profile in Nikon Scan to see nicely color corrected scans!

Kodachrome Profile vs Standard

Kodachrome Profile (left) vs uncorrected Epson V330 scan (right)

2. Use the “Fine” Digital ICE setting

Kodachrome is exceptionally challenging film to scan and only the Nikon Super Coolscan 9000 ED is capable of perfect dust & scratch removal. The Coolscan V & Super Coolscan 5000 have a special Kodachrome version of Digital ICE that does a pretty good job of removing dust and scratches without futzing up the detail. Use it! For more damaged slides, change to the default “Positive” profile and select “Normal” Digital ICE. This will lose detail, but also better correct your scans. I find “Normal” Digital ICE correction to be too light handed to be useful in the Kodachrome profile. While using the “positive” profile, your Kodachrome slides will exhibit a dreadful color cast. You can get close to correcting this by enabling “Digital ROC” at level 5 and dialing in -48 red, -44 green, and +4 blue in the Color Balance section.

ICE Comparison

“Positive” with “Normal” ICE (top), “Kodachrome” with “Fine” ICE (middle), “Kodachrome” without ICE (bottom)

3. Scan with the emulsion (dull) side facing down

For the best quality scans, scan with the emulsion side of your slides facing down, towards the sensor. You can tell which side is the emulsion side by looking for the dull side of the film – the other side will be glossy.

4. Clean your slides prior to scanning

Digital ICE is not a golden parachute. Your scans will look better with less correction, so clean them (or at least dust them) prior to scanning. Your scanner will thank you too!

 5. Use the Analog Gain settings to your advantageAnalog Gain

Some slides may be appear to be overexposed or underexposed so badly that they are not salvageable. Fear not! Analog gain changes the backlight intensity / scan speed allowing new life to be breathed into these slides. It works like exposure on a camera – add gain for underexposed, dark slides and subtract gain for overexposed, overly bright slides. You will be surprised what can be recovered! For more advanced users, tune analog gain to be as positive as possible without blowing the highlights to reduce the noise in your scans.

Gain Comparison

+.71 analog gain (left), no gain adjustment (right)

 6. Scan and save using the highest quality available.

Scan using the highest bit-depth available, 14-bit for the Coolscan V and 16-bit for the LS-5000, and save the output as a TIFF. At 4000 DPI, this will create 100+ megabyte files. This allows edits to made using the highest quality source and will render a better final output. Once you are done any edits, the original TIFFs can be deleted – or better, archived for future use.

Nikon Coolscan V and Kodachrome

In conjunction with the telecine project (updates soon!), I purchased a Nikon Coolscan V, also known as the Nikon LS-50, to scan in my Grandfather’s 35mm Kodachrome slides from the early 1950s. The Coolscan V is appealing for its 4000 dpi optical resolution and a fourth version Digital ICE automatic dust removal. However, Digital ICE does not work with all films.

Kodachrome slide from 1952

Kodachrome slide from 1952 with Digital ICE

ASF’s, now Kodak’s, Digital ICE performs automatic dust and scratch removal – the ICE being short for “Image Correction and Enhancement.” It works by scanning a fourth, infrared, color layer in addition to the conventional red, green, and blue layers that is used to create a dust mask which is later subtracted from the scan. The infrared light is expected to pass through the film emulsion but not through dust. So why doesn’t it work with all films? It turns out that black and white film uses silver nitrate for the emulsion layer, and silver nitrate also blocks infrared light, rendering Digital ICE useless. So now you’re probably asking, “So what does all this have to do with Kodachrome? It’s color!”

Kodachrome is not a normal color film and shares more in common with black and white film than color negatives or the typical color reversal (positive) film. This is easily illustrated by looking at a Kodachrome emulsion which has a 3D appearance – these are the color layers in the film, and each color layer is very similar to traditional black and white film. In fact, Kodachrome starts out as black and white only to slowly become color during its long and convoluted development process. These days Kodachrome can no longer be developed as color film because the chemicals necessary for development are long out of production. Owing to its similarity to black and white film, old, undeveloped Kodachrome can still be developed in black and white!

So how does the Coolscan V’s implementation of Digital ICE work with Kodachrome? The answer is “it sort of does.” The Coolscan V does a good job with removing dust and an alright job removing defects from a slide. That’s where the good ends – Digital ICE detects strong contrast areas as defects and tries to remove them, leading to blurry images with noticeable defects at 100% crop. Where real defects, like scratches, exist, a mark is often left on the image although it is significantly less noticeable than an uncorrected scan. Furthermore, I have noticed instances where defects are seemingly introduced to the scan.

100% crop with Digital ICE

100% crop with Digital ICE

Pay particular attention to the orange handle and the sailors’ faces. ICE detects these fine details as defects and completely mangles the image. I think the Coolscan V still manages to extract more detail with ICE enabled than my Epson V330 flatbed does without ICE.

100% crop without Digital ICE

100% crop without Digital ICE

Digital ICE reduces images sharpness when fully enabled, even when used properly with color negatives. This side effect is worsened with Kodachrome – even at web sizes, the loss of sharpness is clearly apparent.

With and without ICE

ICE (Fine) on the left, without ICE on the right. Scanned using the “Positive” setting, not Kodachrome.

Even with the Coolscan V’s more advanced fourth version of Digital ICE, it is clear that Kodachrome does not play well. Home users will likely be happy with the results, but a professional will not. There is exactly one scanner on the market that can properly remove dust and scratches from Kodachrome, and that is the Nikon Super Coolscan 9000. I will continue to leave Digital ICE enabled since the corrected, dust free slides look much better than sharp and dusty slides to my eyes.

 

Nikon Coolscan V on Windows 7 x64

Even though Nikon does not officially support their film scanners on Windows 7, they will work with a little effort. I own the Nikon Coolscan V, sometimes referred to as the Nikon LS-50, but these instructions also apply to the some of the other Nikon film scanners such as the the Coolscan 5000 (LS-5000), Coolscan 4000 (LS-4000), Coolscan 8000, and the Coolscan 9000.

Disclaimer – these instructions have been adapted from http://www.exposedvisions.com/Win7%20Scans.htm. You will need to download my .inf for the Coolscan V (itself modified from Steel Chn’s version), but otherwise credit goes to Andrew Minton at exposedvisions.com.

Download the required files

  1. Begin by downloading Nikon Scan 4 from Nikon here. You want the 32-bit Vista edition. Don’t worry, it will install just fine under Windows 7 x64.
  2. Next, download my scanners.inf here. Unzip it in a location of your choosing.

 Install Nikon Scan

(Note – if you have Vuescan installed, uninstall it now. You can reinstall Vuescan later.)

  1. Install Nikon Scan. It should install uneventfully and create the folder C:\Program Files (x86)\Nikon\NkScan4\
  2. Create a new folder inside of NkScan4. Copy your extracted scanners.inf into the new folder you just created. I called my folder “NikonFiles”
  3. Navigate to C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Nikon\Driver\ScanUSB (Scan1394 for Firewire equipped scanners) and copy “NKScnUSD.dll” to the folder you created in step 2. You should now see “scanners.inf” and “NKScnUSD.dll” in this folder.
  4. If you haven’t already, plug in your scanner, being sure it is turned on.
  5. If windows asks you for a driver, you can point it to the scanners.inf file located in the folder you created in step 2. Otherwise, open your device manager (start -> right click on my computer -> manage -> device manager), open “other devices”, the right click on “unknown device” and select “Update Driver Software.” This device will have a yellow exclamation icon next to it. Select the second, bottom option  labeled “Browse my computer for driver software” then enter “C:\Program Files (x86)\Nikon\NkScan4\NikonFiles” as the location, substituting “NikonFiles” for the folder you created in step two. Press next and the scanner will install. If a warning comes up that says the driver/software cannot be validated (I forget the exact message), select continue.
  6. The scanner should now be installed and Nikon Scan should work as intended. If you use Vuescan, you can install it now.

 

35mm Film Scan

35mm film scan of my 318i convertible in 2006

 

eBay 24v e30 longtube header update

After fitting the longtube headers per this post, I had to fabricate the rest of the header back exhaust. I completely green fielded this exhaust and opted to go completely custom rather than try to adapt an e30 or e36 catback. My plan was to Y the headers together into a single 3″ exhaust pipe and run a rather loud Thrush 17661 Welded Muffler. Due to packaging challenges, I wanted to make the Y section removable so that the headers can be removed or installed with the engine in the car.

Trying to wear out the credit card

Exhaust parts – or trying to wear out the credit card

Close Up

Exhaust parts - Close up

 

So, what all did I order?

  1. 24x 7mm copper exhaust nuts (exact item on amazon)
  2. 2″ Stainless Steel Mandrel Bend 45 Degree Elbow(eBay)
  3. 2x 2″ stainless steel v-bands (eBay)
  4. 3.0″ Stainless Steel V-Band (eBay)
  5. 3.0″ Mild Steel V-Band (eBay)
  6. ER309L Stainless Steel MIG Welding Wire 2-Lb Spool 0.030″ (0.8mm)(.023 pictured, .030 is probably more appropriate)
  7. 3″ Stainless Steel Straight Tubing – 1 Foot (12″)
  8. 3″ Mild Steel, 180 Degree Mandrel Bent Elbow (didn’t use)
  9. 3″ aluminized / mild steel exhaust tubing
  10. Thrush 17661 Welded Muffler
  11. O2 Sensor Ring, Weld-on, Mild Steel, 18mm x 1.50 Pitch

I started by breaking out a spare head and mounting the headers so that I could mock the Y section up off the car.

Mocking up exhaust - Part 1Note that these cheap headers neck down to 1.75″ on side but stay 2″ on the other side… very odd indeed. I tacked on the first 2″ v-band for fitment in this picture. Also notice that the 1.75″ side has a bend that causes it to intersect & interfere with the other side. This is fixed by cutting it at the bend.

header mock-up part 2

 

And another angle

header mock-up part 3

I should also take the time to mention that I have very little experience with welding, so please take it easy on me! The 2″ sleeve clamp pictured came with the headers and I actually decided to use it after seeing how tight the clearance would be with two v-bands – perhaps I’ll update the design to use both v-bands in the future. I continued to work on the Y and used the 2″ stainless tubing with the 45″ mandrel bend to make the Y.

Y mockup

 

This was then dumped into a 3″ stainless steel tube. I clamped one end of the 3″ tubing in a vice until it was flattened to 2″ on one side.

Flattened 3" tubing

 

Then it was all welded up, and a 3″ stainless v-band was welded on.

Y

 

I didn’t want to spend a lot of money at this time, so I continued the rest of the exhaust in aluminized, mild steel. Stainless steel and mild steel expand at different rates and should not be welded together, although ER309L can do it. Because they expand at different rates, any welds between stainless & mild steel tend to crack after they have been heat cycled many times. I addressed this problem by using the v-band as the transition point. I bought identical 3″ stainless & mild-steel v-bands, then used one stainless v-band and one mild steel v-band to join the mild steel exhaust to the stainless exhaust. The mild steel exhaust section is not pictured as it is very simplistic.

Y under the car

Fitment under the car

And showing where the 3″ section begins under the car

Fitment under the car part 2

Finally, here’s the end product

E30 exhaust

Video:

Closing notes – the exhaust is LOUD and raspy. When I say, I actually got pulled over on the way back from the alignment shop, maybe 12 miles after the car was running. The LEO said, and I quote, “Dude, your exhaust is WAY too loud. I heard you a mile away!” I would suggest getting a different muffler or at least adding a resonator. The 3″ tubing is also very large. 2x 2″ exhaust actually flows better, but it doesn’t hang as low under the car. The 3″ hangs low under the rear subframe and looks like it could easily scrape. Other than that, it worked out pretty well!

 

10 Useful Tools Every Mechanic Should Own

  1. Tap and Die Set

Craftsman Standard Tap & Die Set

Craftsman Standard Tap & Die Set

Tap and die sets help keep your projects on track. When a cross threaded or rusty fastener threatens derailment, a die will clean the threads right up! Taps make for tidy and convenient fastener solutions rather than using a through bolt and nut. I even tapped my Holset HX35 turbo so that I could use an off-the-shelf oil feed. This is a tool that is useful to more than just mechanics and can be used for home repairs and other hobbyist projects; I also tapped the custom backplate on the 8mm projector rather than use nuts. (Note: While I linked to a Bosch tap and die set, I personally use a Craftsman set. Craftsman has recently switched to Chinese production and the Bosch set looks to be a quality set.)

  1. Pickle Fork

Modified pickle fork

Modified pickle fork

Pickle forks are generally used to remove spent ball joints & tie rod ends that will not be reused (because the fork often destroys the dust boots). On the BMW side, many people elect to use a ball joint puller instead of the pickle fork, but I find ball joint pullers take longer to perform the same job. Ball joint pullers also deprive you of the stress relieving satisfaction of beating the living tar out of your car :-p In addition to ball joints and tie rods, I have found many other unexpected uses for my heavily modified pickle fork. Combined with the power of the BFH, almost nothing is safe from destruction removal! This often useful at the junkyard where preservation is not a priority. From windshield wipers (who needs a special removal tool now!?) to ECU box lids to master cylinders, I have leveraged the powers of my pickle fork.

  1. B.F.H.

4lb hammer

Four pound hammer

No self-respecting mechanic would ever be caught without their B.F.H. If you don’t already know, BFH is short for “big [expletive] hammer” and they are used to beat things into submission. Exhaust needs “adjustment?” How about that axle that just doesn’t want to seat? Caution must be exercised when using the BFH to prevent unwanted collateral damage.

  1. 72-Tooth 3/8″ Drive Ratchet

kobalt 72 tooth ratchet

72-tooth Kobalt ratchet

For years I used coarse tooth (30-32 tooth) ratchets and worse yet, I often used very cheap ratchets with the exception of an OG ⅜” Snap-On ratchet. Let me tell you – if you have not used a 72-tooth or better fine tooth ratchet, try one immediately. More teeth means the ratchet requires less movement before it “clicks” into the next position making work in tight spaces much, much more tolerable. I’ve been using a Kobalt ratchet that I paid around $30 for and it has been worth EVERY PENNY. Keep in mind that most fine tooth ratchets will break under less torque than their coarse tooth cousins, so keep a breaker bar or cheap ratchet around.

  1. Deep Socket Set

13mm Craftsman Deep Socket

13mm Craftsman Deep Socket

My first experience with deep sockets came when I received my Craftsman toolkit as a gift. Ever since that moment, I have hardly ever put them down – especially the 13mm (pictured) and 10mm sockets. The make short work of nuts on threaded rods and also work pretty well on your standard nuts and bolts. While the slip off a bit easier, they act like a short extension and leave knuckle room. If you don’t already own a deep socket set, I highly recommend you pick them up!

  1. Vise-Grips

Well used Vise Grips

Well used Vise-Grips

Vise-Grips are the ultimate in infinitely useful tools. Buy the Irwin “Vise-Grip” branded vise-grips as they are the best quality on the market and you will use them in ways you won’t believe. You will often see vise-grips being put to use in my DIY articles; one such example is when I used them to hold the Porsche 944 booster rods in place while the rod was being threaded with the tap and die set. They are useful as extremely versatile and strong clamps, pliers, etc and can be used to muscle parts into position and hold them their. I found them extremely useful while installing the swaybar in my e30 – I used them like pliers to pull the brackets together and then locked them in place to clamp the brackets together while I installed the sway bar bracket bolts.

  1. Bench Vise

Wilton "Shop King" Vise

Wilton “Shop King” Vise

A vise is another tool everyone, and I mean everyone, should have. Vise’s are great when you absolutely need to hold a part in place for cutting, filing, sanding, welding, and so forth. Vise’s transcend auto mechanics and are also useful for arts and crafts, home repairs, bicycle work, and more.

  1. Angle Grinder

Cal-Hawk Angle Grinder

Cal-Hawk Angle Grinder

Another destructive tool, I have found the angle grinder to be among my most used power tools. I originally bought my angle grinder to cut and shape exhaust tubing for my 540i, but have hardly put it away since then. When I parted a rusty Oldsmobile Bravada, I used it to cut the transmission crossmember out of the way and gain access to the transfer case. Any time I do exhaust work, I buy new hardware and just cut the old hardware off (it usually breaks anyway from being seized) making the angle grinder a huge time saver. The 944 booster even got in on the angle grinder action when I shorted the threaded rod after extending the threads. Think of it like a hacksaw on steroids, all for the low, low price of $30!

 9. Dremel MultiPro Rotary Tool

Dremel Multipro Model 395

Dremel MultiPro Model 395

Dremel’s are such a quintessential tool that the very name has become a verb not unlike Google or Xerox. As the above illustration clearly shows, my personal dremel has been heavily used through the years and now wears its grime and battle scars with pride. I commonly pair it with the reinforced cut-off wheels [insert link] to make an angle grinder in miniature, but it can also be used to drill, sand, or otherwise shape objects into anything you desire. Dremel’s are nearly indestructible workhorses and make for a worthy addition to your tool chest.

10. Linesman Pliers

BHM Lineman's Pliers

BHM Lineman’s Pliers

A quality set of pliers is a must for any handyman, including automotive enthusiasts. They are used to pull, twist, and cut wires. Lineman use these for heavy electrical work, but these pliers are remarkably well suited for automotive and household work. Whether you use them to wire up sagging exhaust on your beater or to cut new lengths of wire to length, you are sure to find a use for a quality pair of Lineman’s Pliers.