Scan Correct Color Smooth Texture Reduce Noise Remove Dust Repair Crop

There are several scanning programs out there, and a plethora of settings you can make for each program. But which program and what settings are best for scanning old family photos? Neither books nor articles on the web are of much help here.

I have used and tested Canon ScanGear, Epson Scan, and VueScan. Results of my tests and my recommended settings for each program are below.

Scanning Issues

The ultimate goal in scanning is a good scanned image. A quality image should have good brightness, contrast, and color. There should be very little to no clipping. As I talk about in the Clipping section on the Info page, clipping results in permanent loss of detail. This may happen in the darkest and lightest areas of the image where it's most noticeable.

The quality of a scanned image can be affected by scanning software, scan settings, scanner profile, and desired color space. For all of these issues, I set out to find the optimum program and settings for the best image.


Scanner Profile

Different models of scanners uses different lamps, LEDs, and sensors. Because of this, every model of scanner senses light and color in different ways. Scanning software uses scanner profiles to normalize these colors. As far as I know, nearly all scanning programs use built-in scanner profiles, and some will let you create an ICC profile for your particular scanner. This is also known as scanner profiling or IT8 calibration. Profiling your scanner is only necessary if the built-in profile is not doing a good job.

The scanning programs I mention on this page use various profiles. Canon's ScanGear apparently uses a built-in Canon scanner profile. Epson Scan apparently uses a built-in Epson scanner profile. The standard edition of VueScan apparently uses a built-in generic scanner profile, but does not do scanner profiling. The professional edition of VueScan adds scanner profiling, so you can create a scanner profile for your particular scanner.

Creating a profile for VueScan is straightforward but requires getting an IT8 target. A fellow by the name of Wolf Faust sells these targets at a reasonable price at Scanner Calibration Targets. He charges $10 for a reflective scanner target on Kodak professional paper (R1) and $10 for shipping. Information on creating a profile can be found at How to Profile a Scanner in VueScan by Paul Salmon on TechnicallyEasy.net.


Output Color Space

If you are a professional graphic artist and plan on using AdobeRGB or similar color space, this section can be ignored.

As I talk about on the Info page, most modern computer systems use a default gamma of 2.2 and a default color space of sRGB. Additionally, the most common color spaces are sRGB for color images and Gray Gamma 2.2 for grayscale images.

For Canon ScanGear, images will never be saved with a profile. As I mention in the Default Color Space paragraphs under Color Standards, Windows and Mac OS use a default color space of sRGB for images without profiles.

For Epson Scan, if you use the Color Control setting or set the ColorSync Target setting to sRGB, grayscale images will be saved with an "EPSON Gray - Gamma 2.2" profile, and color images will be saved with an "EPSON sRGB" profile. Official documentation on whether these are identical to "Gray Gamma 2.2" and "sRGB IEC 61966-2.1" does not appear to exist. However, a post on dpreview.com titled Check profile values using PS Custom RGB dialog by mrollins says that "EPSON sRGB" and sRGB have exactly the same gamut. From my own testing of hundreds of images, I have found no changes to the appearance or histogram of an image when converting it from "EPSON sRGB" to sRGB. So, it appears that "EPSON sRGB" is either essentially the same or easily convertible to "sRGB IEC 61966-2.1".

For VueScan, if you select sRGB for the Output Color Space menu in the Color Tab, images will be saved with an "sRGB IEC 61966-2.1" profile.

For other scanning programs, I suggest selecting sRGB as the output color space.

In summary, after a photo is scanned, the resulting scanned image file should ideally be one of the following (from most recommended to least recommended): If you plan to print scanned images on a high-end printer or publish images in a book, you may wish to use a color space such as AdobeRGB. I do not cover color spaces on this website other than sRGB.


Types of Scans

These are the three main types of scans to choose from:
For more information on each type of scan, check out Types of Scans on the Info page.

Test Methodology

This section only covers settings tests. Notes on comparison tests are found in The Face-Off section near the bottom of this page.


Initial & Extensive Tests

Before running extensive tests on settings, I run some initial tests to set the desired color mode or target color space, and to check to see what profile gets attached to the scanned image files.

I then run some extensive tests on settings. The purpose of my extensive tests is to find the best settings for straight scans as well as color corrected scans.

In my tests, I use a set of 21 motley photos in assorted condition: Some newer, some older, some bluer, some bolder. Some photos are in excellent shape, a couple dark photos, a couple light photos, a bright orange photo, and a photo faded beyond belief. There are 14 main photos labeled from "armi" to "xbsh", and 7 additional photos labeled from "deer" to "toys".


Results of Tests

Results of my extensive tests are shown in a table. Each photo has its own column. The two grayscale photos "bukt" and "road" have  gray  labels. The other photos are in color. Lightly faded photos have  teal  labels and are usually recent photos in good shape, but may have a bit of yellowing. Moderately to heavily faded photos have  light teal  labels and are usually a few decades old, so they may have weak contrast and strong color casts.

Test results are shown for each photo in the table. I use simple terms such as poor, fair, good, great, and excel (excellent). I further explain what each term means for each test I perform.

I also use background colors to indicate clipping.  Yellow  means minor clipping (from 1% up to 3% clipped pixels),  orange  means moderate (from 3% up to 7%), and  red  means major (7% or more). See Clipping in the Info page for more information.


Not Tested

The following settings will not be tested:

Canon IJ Scan Utility - ScanGear

Scan Modes

There is an included My Image Garden application which has an Auto Photo Fix function. This function does automatic level adjustments and other minor automatic and manual adjustments. It does not do color correction, so I won't be testing it.

The main Canon IJ Scan Utility window displays a number of scan modes. The mode you select can affect features such as color depth and auto color correction. I ran some tests to find any differences between the modes.

My tests of the various scan modes revealed the following: ScanGear is the only scan mode that works with 48-bit color scans, and so the rest of my testing uses ScanGear.


User Modes

ScanGear has two user modes, basic mode and advanced mode. With basic mode, you are not able to set the dpi, color depth, or strength of color correction. Therefore, the rest of my testing uses Advanced Mode.


Color Modes

There are three color modes in the Color Settings tab of the Preferences dialog box for ScanGear: Enhancements can be made only with the Recommended mode. Two notable enhancements are Backlight Correction and Fading Correction. Backlight Correction increases the brightness of the image. Fading Correction automatically corrects color. Both enhancements have low, medium, and high settings.


Scanner Profile

ScanGear apparently uses a built-in Canon scanner profile by default. If you want to use a custom ICC profile for your scanner, you will need to use the Color Matching mode.


Version Variation

Canon ScanGear 1.0.3 (Sep 2014) has remained unchanged in over 3 years. I have not seen any variation in scanned images from installs on various computers running different macOS versions.


Initial Testing

I ran some initial tests and quickly found out that profiles are never attached to images. This should only be a problem if you are planning on using a color space other than sRGB.

Images without profiles (aka unprofiled or untagged images) are unlikely to be a problem when Color Settings are set to Recommended, or Color Settings are set to Color Matching and the Target (desired color space) is set to sRGB. In either case, the image is likely to be in the sRGB color space even though no profile is attached. For unprofiled images, Windows and Mac OS will use a default color space of sRGB.

Images without profiles will probably be a problem if you are using Color Settings set to Color Matching and the Target (desired color space) is set to a color space other than sRGB. For example, if the Target is set to AdobeRGB, the result is an image in the AdobeRGB color space but without a profile. Since Windows and Mac OS will use a default color space of sRGB for unprofiled images, the image will not be displayed correctly. It may be possible to fix this problem by using another program to assign (rather than convert to) an AdobeRGB profile to the image. You may wish to check out Dealing with Untagged RGB Files by Bob Johnson on earthboundlight.com for more information on unprofiled images.
color settings profile attached
Color Settings=None (no profile)
Color Settings=Recommended (no profile)
Color Settings=Color Matching, Target=sRGB (no profile)
Color Settings=Color Matching, Target=Adobe RGB (no profile)
The Recommended color mode appears to output sRGB image files without attaching an sRGB profile. Since enhancements (such as Fading Correction and Image Adjustment) can only be made in the Recommended color mode, I will be using the Recommended color mode for all further tests.


Raw Scan Settings

The color mode (Color Settings) is set to "None" for raw scans.

According to James Kennedy in his guide to Canon ScanGear options on archivehistory.jeksite.org, images scanned with this mode result in raw images.

Images scanned with this mode are dull and dingy with unsaturated colors. The gamma, scanner profile, and color space are unspecified. This mode very much resembles Epson Scan's color mode "No Color Correction".


Straight Scan Settings

The color mode (Color Settings) is set to "Recommended" for straight scans.

The Image Adjustment setting has several options. The two that relate to photos are None and Photo. There are similar settings in other scan programs, but no other program has a None option. As this affects the exposure, I wanted to test this setting.

In the table of results below, fair means the image looks similar to the original but has slight differences (such as less contrast, less shadow detail, etc), good means the image looks very similar to the original, and excel means the image looks almost as good as the original. A  yellow  background means minor clipping,  orange  means moderate, and  red  means major. Best results in each column are displayed in blue.
Color Bal. armi blue bukt cake crek dog flod gma hous kkar road seas wgn xbsh
iAdjust=none good good good good good fair excel fair fair good good excel fair excel
iAdjust=photo fair good excel good good good excel good good good excel excel good good
Results were most often better when Image Adjustment was set to Photo rather than None, usually because of better contrast.


Color Corrected Scan Settings

The color mode (Color Settings) is set to "Recommended" for color corrected scans.

This is a test for automatic color correction within ScanGear, so color correction settings have been added to the test. I scanned all 14 photos with all settings shown in the table below. I checked the scanned images for appearance and clipping.

In the table of results below, poor means the image looks worse after correction, fair means the image looks about the same or slightly better, good means the image looks much better, and excel means the image looks very much better. A  yellow  background means minor clipping,  orange  means moderate, and  red  means major. Best results in each column are displayed in blue.
Color Bal. armi blue bukt cake crek dog flod gma hous kkar road seas wgn xbsh
Fading=low,
iAdjust=none
fair poor n/a fair good good good good good fair n/a fair good good
Fading=low,
iAdjust=photo
fair poor n/a fair excel excel good excel excel fair n/a fair excel excel
Fading=med,
iAdjust=none
good poor n/a excel fair fair fair fair fair good n/a good fair fair
Fading=med,
iAdjust=photo
excel poor n/a good fair fair fair fair fair excel n/a excel fair fair
Note that the "blue" photo was an anomaly. It was a studio shot in good condition with someone wearing a blue shirt in front of a blue background. Fading Correction did not work with this oddball photo.

Except for one result in the table above, best results were only obtained when Image Adjustment was set to Photo rather than None.

Visual results are too mixed to determine whether Fading Correction should be Low or Medium. I added seven more faded photos to this test.
Color Balance deer hedg lake pant pick slid toys
Fading=low,
iAdjust=photo
poor good good good excel good good
Fading=med,
iAdjust=photo
poor excel fair fair good fair excel
Overall, more photos fared better and had less clipping when Fading Correction was set to Low.


Summary

Suggested Settings for ScanGear

Straight Scans
Color Settings = Recommended, Image Adjustment = Photo

Color Corrected Scans
Color Settings = Recommended, Image Adjustment = Photo,
Fading Correction = Low

Epson Scan

User Modes

The user mode can affect other settings, such as color depth and auto color correction. I ran some tests to find any differences between the modes.

My tests of the Epson Scan user modes revealed the following: This means that Professional Mode is the only user mode that works with 48-bit color scans. The rest of my testing uses Professional Mode.


Color Modes

There are three Color modes in the Configuration dialog box. Enhancements can be made with either the Color Control or the ColorSync/ICM options. When using these options, the Auto Exposure Level slider can be adjusted.

The Auto Exposure Level slider controls the amount of exposure. The leftmost position sets the exposure to minimum. Moving the slider to the right increases the brightness and contrast. As the exposure is increased, the color curve will shift and expand and center at the midpoint of the histogram. Moving it higher than the middle position modifies the color curves and greatly increases the contrast.

Auto exposure only takes effect if the Auto Exposure icon in the main window is turned On. This icon is a little box containing a small sphere with two red triangles. When the triangles are touching the sphere, auto exposure is On, otherwise it's Off.


Scanner Profile

Epson Scan apparently uses a built-in Epson scanner profile by default. If you want to use a custom ICC profile for your scanner, you will need to use the ColorSync/ICM mode.


Version Variation

Epson Scan 5.1.1f2 (Sep 2012) has remained unchanged in over 5 years. I have not seen any variation in scanned images from installs on various computers running different macOS versions.


Initial Tests

This is a quick test of the three Color Modes (Color Control, ColorSync/ICM, and No Color Correction) and various color profile options. This test is to determine the combinations of options that can affect the resulting attached color profile. Note that the profile "EPSON sRGB" is easily convertible to sRGB.
color configuration settings profile attached
No Color Correction (no profile)
Color Control: Embed ICC Profile=off (no profile)
Color Control: Embed ICC Profile=on EPSON sRGB
ColorSync: Embed ICC Profile=on, Target=sRGB EPSON sRGB
ColorSync: Embed ICC Profile=on, Target=Adobe RGB Adobe RGB (1998)
ColorSync: Embed ICC Profile=on, Target=Apple RGB Apple RGB
ColorSync: Embed ICC Profile=on, Target=Monitor RGB iMac
ColorSync: Embed ICC Profile=on, Source=SFprofK (Perf. v600), Target=sRGB EPSON sRGB
Both ColorSync mode (with Target set to sRGB) and Color Control mode resulted in EPSON sRGB profiles attached. However, I noticed significantly less clipping when using Color Control mode. I will therefore be using Color Control (with Embed ICC Profile always checked on) to perform all further tests.


Raw Scan Settings

The color mode (Color Settings) is set to "No Color Correction" for raw scans.

According to James Kennedy in his guide to Epson Scan options on archivehistory.jeksite.org, images scanned with this mode result in raw images with an apparent gamma of 1.8.

Images scanned with this mode were dull and dingy with unsaturated colors. The gamma, scanner profile, and color space are unspecified. This mode very much resembles Canon ScanGears's color mode "None".


Straight Scan Settings

The color mode (Color Settings) is set to "Color Control" for straight scans.

I tested all exposure settings up to the middle notch, as previous testing of higher notches resulted in images with extreme contrast.

In the table of results below, good means the image looks very similar to the original, excel means the image looks almost as good as the original, and con means the image has too much contrast. A  yellow  background means minor clipping. Best results in each column are displayed in blue.
Settings armi blue bukt cake crek dog flod gma hous kkar road seas wgn xbsh
Exposure=1 excel excel excel good good good good good good good excel excel good good
Exposure=2 good good excel excel good good excel excel excel good good good excel excel
Exposure=3 con con good good con good good good good excel con good good excel
Exposure=4 con con good con con con con con con good con con con con
Results are close. Some photos that had slightly too much contrast with the second notch had good contrast with the first notch. However, other photos that had slightly weak color with the first notch had good color with the second notch. Since, there are 5 excellent results with the first notch and 7 excellent results with the second notch, I would say using the second notch is better overall.

The "road" photo is an extremely old and faded historical grayscale photo. The contrast of the scanned image was closest to the original photo when the first notch was used. It may be best to scan historical grayscale photos with the first notch to minimize contrast changes.

Clipping was virtually non-existent either the first or second notch.


Color Corrected Scan Settings

The color mode (Color Settings) is set to "Color Control" for exposure and color corrected scans.

This is a test for automatic color correction within Epson Scan, so Color Restoration has been added to the test. I scanned all 14 photos with all settings shown in the table below. I checked the scanned images for appearance and clipping.

In the table of results below, poor means the image looks worse after correction, fair means the image looks about the same or slightly better, good means the image looks much better, excel means the image looks very much better, and con means the image became too contrasty. A  yellow  background means minor clipping,  orange  means moderate, and  red  means major. Best results in each column are displayed in blue.
Settings armi blue bukt cake crek dog flod gma hous kkar road seas wgn xbsh
Exposure=1
Color Rest.
good excel n/a good excel good good good good fair n/a good good good
Exposure=2
Color Rest.
good poor n/a excel excel excel excel excel good excel n/a excel excel excel
Exposure=3
Color Rest.
excel poor n/a good con good excel good con excel n/a good con con
Exposure=4
Color Rest.
excel poor n/a con con con con con con con n/a con con con
Note that the "blue" photo was an anomaly. It was a studio shot in good condition with someone wearing a blue shirt in front of a blue background. Color Restoration using the second or higher notch did not work with this oddball photo.

Using the second exposure notch resulted in the best outcome in the majority of cases. Still, to be sure, I tested 7 more faded photos.
Settings deer hedg lake pant pick slid toys
Exposure=1
Color Restoration
good good good good good good good
Exposure=2
Color Restoration
excel excel excel excel excel excel excel
Exposure=3
Color Restoration
good good con good good con excel
Exposure=4
Color Restoration
con con con con con con con
And now I'm sure that setting exposure to the second notch works best in most cases.

I have found that most of the basic color correction (ie, aligning the black and white points and adjusting the color curves of the three individual colors) was done even with the exposure set to the lowest setting in most cases. Increased exposure settings caused noticeable changes to the contrast and very minor changes to the color curves past the first notch for most photos.

Even though basic color correction appeared to work at any exposure setting in most cases, I did notice a shift in colors between the lowest exposure setting and other exposure settings for two particular photos, the "blue" photo and the "kkar" photo. When the exposure was raised from the first notch to the second, the "blue" photo got vastly worse while the "kkar" photo got vastly better.

Other than the "armi" and "blue" photos, setting the exposure to the second notch has resulted in the best color correction for all photos tested. For scans that turn out a bit weak, it's easy enough to bump up the contrast or color in an image editor if needed.


Summary

Suggested Settings for Epson Scan

Straight Scans
Color Control = on, Continuous Auto Exposure = on, Auto Exposure = second notch
(for historical grayscale photos, try the first notch to minimize any change in contrast)


Color Corrected Scans
Color Control = on, Continuous Auto Exposure = on, Auto Exposure = second notch,
Color Restoration = on
Turning on Continuous Auto Exposure simply ensures that Auto Exposure is always on and working.

VueScan

User Modes

VueScan does not have user modes, but there is a menu to limit the number of options displayed to the user. This menu is called Options and is found under the Input tab. The Options menu merely shows or hides more advanced options. These options can be shown or hidden at any time. To show all options, select Professional.


Color Modes

VueScan has no color modes to contend with. All settings are easily accessible with the main window.


Scanner Profile

After scanning a number of photos with VueScan, I started to notice oddities in the appearance of some of the images. Although many of the images looked okay, a few of them had more intense colors than the images scanned by Epson Scan. The yellows and reds were brighter, and the red would get a purple tint to it in places. In one image, blue pants were almost purple. In another image, orange shoes were red. I tried various settings and used different color spaces. Nothing helped.

After doing some research on the web, I came to the conclusion that this may have been a scanner profile issue, rather than a settings issue. Apparently each model of scanner sees colors slightly differently than other models of scanners. To improve the image from VueScan, I ordered an IT8 target and made an ICC profile for my scanner, using the links in the Scanner Profile Issues section above.

I rescanned the problem photos with the new ICC profile and, sure enough, the images no longer had the problems I saw earlier. I scanned in dozens of photos, and in every single photo there was a significant improvement using the new profile. Not only was the appearance improved, clipping was greatly reduced. Some images with moderate clipping before the ICC profile had very little to no clipping after.

For a final test, I wanted to see if the process of making ICC profiles was consistently reliable. So I made a second ICC profile using the same procedure as the first. I scanned in some photos with both profiles and compared each pair of images. For each pair, I could see an extremely tiny change in the histogram but the images themselves looked perfectly identical. So it appears that making ICC profiles is a very consistent process.

So, it looks like making an ICC profile for your scanner is very important if you decide to use VueScan. If you want to make an ICC profile, you will need the version of VueScan that works with scanner profiles.


Version Variation

VueScan is updated on a continual basis. There have been hundreds of updates since VueScan originally came out. Release notes for VueScan repeatedly mention improved quality or color for several of the updates. Because of this, I checked to see if there has been any change in the appearance of scanned images over the past couple of years.

Shown below are scans from three representative versions from the past two years. Scans from version 9.4.67, version 9.5.22, and version 9.5.84 are shown from left to right. The top row are scans using the default built-in scanner profile, and the bottom row are scans using an ICC profile custom made with an IT8 target. Other than the difference in scanner profiles, I have used the same scanner software settings for all scans.
VueScan Versions

9.4.67 (default profile)

9.5.22 (default profile)

9.5.84 (default profile)

9.4.67 (ICC profile)

9.5.22 (ICC profile)

9.5.84 (ICC profile)
The top row shows a difference between a scan made with version 9.5.84 and scans made with earlier versions. The scan from the newer version looks lighter and slightly washed out compared to scans with older versions of VueScan. The scans in the top row are scans made with the default built-in scanner profile.

The bottom row shows no difference between any of the three scans. These are scans made with a custom made ICC profile.

To avoid variations in quality of scans from different versions, it is therefore important to either use the same version of scanner software for all of your scanning, or to make your own ICC profile so that every one of your scans is consistently good.


Initial Tests

All VueScan tests have been performed on an Epson Perfection v600 using an ICC profile made for my scanner.
output color space setting profile attached
Output Color Space=sRGB sRGB
Output Color Space=Wide Wide
Output Color Space=Adobe RGB Adobe RGB
Output Color Space=Apple RGB Apple RGB
Initial tests indicated that the profiles attached are the ones I specified, and there was very little clipping with any color space setting. Since I want sRGB image files, I will be setting the Output Color Space to sRGB for all further testing.

I also performed some initial tests on the Restore Colors setting. After scanning dozens and dozens of images with this setting, I found that every single image would get a garish over-saturated look. I've not seen a single photo where this setting helped. I therefore won't be using this setting in any further testing.


General Scan Settings

I recommend that the scanner be profiled and I recommend using the following settings: Scanner Color Space set to ICC Profile, Scanner ICC Profile set to the desired icc profile, Scanner IT8 Data set to the desired it8 data file, and Output Color Space set to sRGB (ignored for raw scans).

I also recommend using the defaults for the following settings in the Color pane: Curve Low set to .25 (default), Curve High set to .75 (default), all 4 brightness settings set to 1 (defaults). Using settings other than these defaults would result in enhanced scans rather than straight scans.


Raw Scan Settings

Instructions on how to save raw files can be found in the Using Raw Scan Files section of the VueScan manual on www.hamrick.com.


Straight Scan Settings

After scanning a lot of photos with Color Balance set to None, I noticed that the images turned out far too dim and washed out. Setting the Color Balance to Neutral fixed the problem with brightness and contrast without changing the color balance.

The following is a test of Color Balance set to Neutral with black and white points set to .00 and to .01

In the table of results below, fair means the image looks similar to the original but has slight differences (such as darker shadows, brighter highlights, more saturation, etc), good means the image looks very similar to the original, and excel means the image looks almost as good as the original. Best results in each column are displayed in blue.
Color Bal. armi blue bukt cake crek dog flod gma hous kkar road seas wgn xbsh
Neutral, b&w=.00 excel excel good excel excel excel good excel excel excel excel excel good excel
Neutral, b&w=.01 excel excel excel good good excel good excel excel excel fair fair excel excel
The Neutral setting with black & white points both set to .00 had the best overall results with "good" or better results for every photo.


Color Corrected Scan Settings

This is a test for automatic exposure and color correction within VueScan, so I have added color correction settings to the test. I scanned all 14 photos with all settings shown in the table below. I checked the scanned images for appearance and clipping.

In the table of results below, poor means the image looks worse after correction, fair means the image looks about the same or slightly better, good means the image looks much better, and excel means the image looks very much better. A  yellow  background means minor clipping. Best results in each column are displayed in blue.
Color Bal. armi blue bukt cake crek dog flod gma hous kkar road seas wgn xbsh
WhiteBal, b&w=.00 fair poor n/a poor fair good fair fair fair poor n/a fair good good
WhiteBal, b&w=.01 fair poor n/a poor fair good fair fair fair poor n/a fair good good
AutoLevels, b&w=.00 fair fair n/a fair good good fair fair good fair n/a fair good good
AutoLevels, b&w=.01 fair excel n/a good excel good good good good good n/a good excel good
AutoLevels, b&w=.01
Restore Fading
excel poor n/a excel poor fair poor excel good poor n/a excel good fair
Note that the "blue" photo was an anomaly. It was a studio shot in good condition with someone wearing a blue shirt in front of a blue background.

When the Color Balance was set to Auto Levels and the black & white points were both set to .01, there was a significant improvement in every image. These settings did a great job in partially or completely fixing faded and color-shifted photos.

For the unfaded photos, Restore Fading often introduced color casts.

For the faded photos, Restore Fading had inconsistent results. It was just as likely to make the images dramatically better as it was to make them dramatically worse. Restore Fading completely got rid of the heavy orange cast in the "armi" photo, and the green cast in the "cake" photo. On the other hand, Restore Fading gave green casts to the "flod" and "kkar" photo.

I just had to run a few more tests on a new batch of old photos...
Color Balance deer hedg lake pant pick slid toys
AutoLevels, b&w=.01 fair good excel good good good good
AutoLevels, b&w=.01
Restore Fading
fair excel fair good excel excel excel
If you combine all results from both batches when using Auto Levels set to .01 for both black & white points, Restore Fading worked well only for about half the photos. Additionally, four photos turned out poor when using Restore Fading, while none turned out poor when not using Restore Fading. Because there was always improvement when Restore Fading was not used, I recommend only using Restore Fading on a case-by-case basis.

For a final test, I wanted to see if using a number higher than .01 for the black & white points helped improve the result. I tested values of .02, .05, and .10 for 21 photos. Only one particular photo had better results with a setting higher than .01 and only when I increased the setting to .10. This was a photo with a damaged corner that had turned pure white. Since the setting of .01 was fine for all the undamaged photos, I recommend using that setting.

The Restore Fading setting can be found on the Filter settings page.


Summary

Suggested Settings for VueScan

Straight Scans
Output Color Space = sRGB
Color Balance = Neutral, Black Point = 0, White Point = 0


Color Corrected Scans
Output Color Space = sRGB
Color Balance = Auto Levels, Black Point = 0.01, White Point = 0.01
(for badly faded photos, try turning on Restore Fading)

The Face-Off

It's time for the face-off. This is a comparison test for straight scans. For this comparison, I used six colorful photos containing red trucks, yellow balls, green grass, blue coats, purple shirts, and brown cows. All photos were in excellent shape. I made straight scans for all photos.

This test included these programs running on macOS 10.9: Testing was completed in February 2017 and used these settings: Compatibility testing across different macOS versions was also performed. A sampling of photos were scanned using the programs listed above on Mac OS X 10.6 and 10.9 and macOS 10.12. Results were the same regardless of macOS version.

Consistency across different versions of scanning programs was also checked. While the installation packages are periodically updated, the core Canon ScanGear and Epson Scan programs have not changed in several years. I have never seen any variation of the appearance of scanned images for either of these programs. On the other hand, images scanned by different versions of VueScan may vary depending on whether you have profiled your scanner or not. When using the default VueScan scanner profile, scans made with recent versions of VueScan will appear slightly brighter than scans made with the version tested here. When using an ICC profile custom made with an IT8 target, scans made with newer versions of VueScan should match scans made with older versions.


Scanned Image Samples

The following are scanned images using the above programs and settings. No tweaks have been applied. For quicker page loading, the original tifs have been downsized and converted into (watermarked) jpegs. While the colors have been converted accurately, any clipping is no longer apparent in the jpeg histograms.

The images below are best viewed with this window opened as wide as possible.
coat

Canon ScanGear (IA = photo)

Epson Scan (exp = 2)

VueScan (ICC profile)

Canon ScanGear (IA = none)

Epson Scan (exp = 1)

VueScan (default profile)
cow

Canon ScanGear (IA = photo)

Epson Scan (exp = 2)

VueScan (ICC profile)

Canon ScanGear (IA = none)

Epson Scan (exp = 1)

VueScan (default profile)
creek

Canon ScanGear (IA = photo)

Epson Scan (exp = 2)

VueScan (ICC profile)

Canon ScanGear (IA = none)

Epson Scan (exp = 1)

VueScan (default profile)
dog

Canon ScanGear (IA = photo)

Epson Scan (exp = 2)

VueScan (ICC profile)

Canon ScanGear (IA = none)

Epson Scan (exp = 1)

VueScan (default profile)
house

Canon ScanGear (IA = photo)

Epson Scan (exp = 2)

VueScan (ICC profile)

Canon ScanGear (IA = none)

Epson Scan (exp = 1)

VueScan (default profile)
xmas tree

Canon ScanGear (IA = photo)

Epson Scan (exp = 2)

VueScan (ICC profile)

Canon ScanGear (IA = none)

Epson Scan (exp = 1)

VueScan (default profile)

Test Results

To evaluate the above image results, I checked for clipping in the histograms and visually compared all images to the original print (using a white full-spectrum LED light). After analyzing the images, I summarized my opinions in the table and paragraphs below.

I found slight contrast differences between Image Adjustment (IA) settings of "None" and "Photo" for Canon ScanGear. When IA was set to "Photo", the whites and off-whites were a bit brighter and better for the coat, cow, and creek photos.

I found few differences between exposure settings of 1 (first notch) and 2 (second notch) for Epson Scan. With the second notch, shadows were a touch darker but not significantly (black fur on dog, dark areas near the water on the creek photo), while highlights were a bit brighter (the sky in the creek photo was a bit too bright). In addition, using the second notch slightly improved color saturation for all six photos, but two photos became a tiny bit redder.

Finally, I found noticeable differences in the colors between the ICC profile and the default profile for VueScan. Colors were generally significantly better when using the ICC profile created by profiling the scanner with an IT8 target.

 Excellent results  are images that look very similar to the original with very little to no clipping.  Great results  are for images with subtle differences in the appearance.  Good results  are for images with noticeable differences in the appearance.
Description Canon ScanGear
(IA = None)
Canon 9000F MkII
Canon ScanGear
(IA = Photo)
Canon 9000F MkII
Epson Scan
(exp = 1)
Epson v600
Epson Scan
(exp = 2)
Epson v600
VueScan
(default profile)
Epson v600
VueScan
(ICC profile)
Epson v600
Coat: woman and the coat of many colors. Well-exposed photo, coat has bright blue and red stripes. hard to see coat creases, bit vivid (red/blue in coat), whites slightly dim hard to see coat creases, bit vivid (red/blue in coat) excellent brightness, good colors, good details excellent brightness, a bit reddish, good details excellent brightness, good details, moderate clipping in red and light blue part of coat a bit bright, good colors, moderate clipping in blue parts of coat
Cow: bovine #52. Tomato red and white truck, indigo jeans. darkish (pants, cow belly, shadows), truck too cherry red darkish (pants, cow belly, blackish shadows), truck too cherry red excellent brightness & contrast, good colors (truck is tomato red) but a touch weak excellent brightness & contrast, good colors (truck is tomato red) truck too cherry red, moderate clipping in red paint excellent brightness & contrast, good colors (truck is tomato red)
Creek: hillside & creek on very overcast dreary day. very good contrast, greenery somewhat bluish excellent contrast, greenery somewhat bluish excellent brightness & contrast & colors slightly contrasty (bright clouds), greenery is a bit reddish a bit bright, shadows are not dark enough, greenery is a bit reddish a bit bright, shadows are not dark enough, greenery is a bit bluish
Dog: german shepherd and jumbo tennis ball. Ball is bright yellow, bush is darkish green, fur well-detailed murky shadows (fur, pipe area), hard to see fur detail, bit vivid (ball, bush) murky shadows (fur, pipe area), hard to see fur detail, bit vivid (ball, bush), good contrast good brightness & contrast & color good brightness & contrast & color good brightness & contrast, bricks & concrete a touch reddish a touch bright, good contrast, bush a bit bluish
House: bright house in the foothills. Dog partly visible in dark shadows, wall very bright. murky shadows (hard to see dog), sky is slightly off-color murky shadows (hard to see dog), good contrast excellent brightness & contrast, sky is slightly off-color and weak excellent brightness & contrast, sky is slightly off-color white wall a bit bright, sky is slightly off-color white wall a bit bright, good colors
Xmas Tree: Christmas tree with presents. good brightness & contrast, color a touch strong (red presents, wood, tree) good brightness & contrast, color a touch strong (red presents, wood, tree) a touch dim, good contrast & color good brightness & contrast & color good brightness & contrast, a bit reddish (red presents, wood) good brightness & contrast & color
Epson Scan had consistently great results when the automatic exposure was set to either the first or second notch. The difference between the two notches was very slight and could easily be fixed with a tweak to the levels. VueScan also had great results when the color balance was set to neutral, but only for a profiled scanner.

The difference between excellent and great is minor. A great result can become excellent in seconds with a quick adjustment to the levels.
The Bottom Line: Epson Scan brings it! So does VueScan, but only if you profile your scanner (by making your own ICC profile using an IT8 target).