Please Don’t Take My Kodachrome Away; New & Better Profiled Kodachrome Scanning Page 2

It wasn’t very long until I found out the solution LaserSoft would offer in SilverFast scanning software was in an upgraded version of SilverFast Ai 6, which now includes a new Kodachrome film option ( I really don’t know what programming is “under the hood” but how it must work is a bit like making a translation from one profile to another. In short, when a scanner has a profile based on an Ektachrome IT-8 and you select the Kodachrome film scanning option, the colors identified in the scanner’s profile are translated to what they should be if the profile were based on a Kodachrome film IT-8 target.

An informal afternoon yacht race off Marina del Rey, California, was as good a place as any to shoot some tests, and on this occasion my camera was loaded with Kodachrome. The resulting slides have been as difficult to scan in the past as any with an Ektachrome based scanner profile. Switching to the Kodak K3 Kodachrome IT-8 (1999) based profile made scanning these Kodachrome slides much easier, and resulted in dramatically improved image values in the resulting photo files.

I was already armed with test results using scanner profiles I had made with the Kodak K3 Kodachrome IT-8 target reference, so after downloading this new version of SilverFast Ai with the Kodachrome option, I then scanned some of the same Kodachrome slides. The color results were quite similar to my Kodachrome based profiles and a definite advantage compared to scanning with a scanner profile made with an Ektachrome IT-8 target.

LaserSoft, in their SilverFast Ai 6.6 version, offers the effect of using a Kodachrome IT-8 based profile by including an option in the SilverFast General setup options to choose Kodachrome instead of either Positive or Negative when you are scanning a Kodachrome slide film image. It works in some respects better than the Kodak K3 Kodachrome IT-8 (1999) based profile, and is a vast improvement over scanning Kodachrome film with a standard Ektachrome IT-8 based profile.

The Solution Is Found
Although Karl-Heinz Zahorsky mentioned in passing he would like to have LaserSoft produce its own Kodachrome IT-8 reference target slides, as they have been producing IT-8 target slides on E-6 film for sometime, I was taken by surprise when I received news that LaserSoft Imaging had begun manufacturing IT-8 reference target slides on Kodachrome film (

A scene like this, shot with a moderately long lens across the Valley Of Fire north of Las Vegas, Nevada, uses up the exposure latitude of most films, particularly the Kodachrome slide film this shot was recorded on. LaserSoft’s new Kodachrome IT-8 target, used to profile my scanner using SilverFast and its IT-8 utility, made it possible to scan this image to reproduce the full range of values with good detail from highlights to shadows, as well as replicate accurately the unique color interpretation only Kodachrome offers.
One of my favorite images of a favorite model shot in my daylight studio by window light on Kodachrome was ideally reproduced in a digital file using my LaserSoft Kodachrome IT-8 profiled Plustek OpticFilm 7500i scanner running SilverFast. In this monochromatic study it is essential to maintain both color and tone separation from highlights to shadows, and this digital representation captured everything in the original Kodachrome slide accurately and faithfully.

Soon after, I received one for my use and evaluation. I stopped everything I was doing and immediately profiled my two dedicated 35mm scanners with this new LaserSoft Kodachrome IT-8 target slide. Test scans of Kodachrome slides followed very shortly. My scan results were even more consistently advantageous over scanning Kodachrome with an Ektachrome based profile. Comparing this new LaserSoft Kodachrome IT-8 to the Kodak K3 Kodachrome IT-8 of ’99, there are differences that show up in an analysis of and use of the profile. In particular, the scanned raw images with the new IT-8 profile have less color casts that need correction, and the overall color correction of the raw preview scan makes it even easier to obtain an ideal image adjustment and resulting image file.

If you go through my library of photographs you will find quite a few taken in graveyards, and it’s not because I have a morbid streak but because I find that graveyards contain striking subjects that often say something about the human spirit. This rather stark image made on Kodachrome in a Bisbee, Arizona, graveyard contains a range of values challenging to scan successfully. It was accomplished effectively and rather easily using a Plustek OpticFilm 7500i scanner with SilverFast and profiled with the new LaserSoft Kodachrome IT-8 reference target slide.

In addition, a profile made from a LaserSoft Kodachrome film IT-8 target rather than Ektachrome includes the contrast curve characteristics of Kodachrome film, which differs from Ektachrome quite significantly, so getting better shadow and highlight information in scans of Kodachrome film images resulted. Test results using profiles made from the Kodak K3 Kodachrome IT-8, compared to the much improved performance and consistency of results with the new LaserSoft Kodachrome IT-8 film target, explains why Kodak never officially announced its availability. It has some irregularities either in the film target itself or in the Index File that is used in conjunction with IT-8 targets. The Kodak K3 was better than Ektachrome, but after using the current LaserSoft target the Kodak manufactured Kodachrome IT-8 is not as good as it should have been. That may be because the technology involved has had 10 years since the Kodak K3 was made in ’99.

Almost two hours east of Los Angeles where these streetcars once ran, they still sit on tracks in an outdoor museum. With all kinds of reds, from the brilliant paint of the car from the famous Red Line between L.A. and Long Beach to older, more muted shades of red paint to the rusty tracks and desert soil, Kodachrome favors these subject colors. These values were precisely rendered in a digital scan file using the LaserSoft Kodachrome IT-8 target slide to profile the scanner.

There may be some concern that the LaserSoft IT-8, made with current Kodachrome slide film, may produce a profile that does not work so well with other versions of Kodachrome. Unlike all other slide films, Kodachrome does not contain the dye couplers in the film as they are actually in the film processing. So all of the Kodachrome films that are K-14 process, which goes back to the mid-70s, have the same basic dye colors, and even the older K-12 process Kodachromes do not differ significantly as far as the color palette of the images is concerned. Films like Kodachrome 25 and Kodachrome 200 differed in image appearance attributes compared to Kodachrome 64, but those differences related mostly to contrast/exposure latitude and graininess. Fortunately from ’75-’90 I did a lot of film tests for publication and always made a few frames exposed to a ColorChecker test target and since I have been scanning those slides have been very useful. I could see no substantial color difference in scans in how the LaserSoft Kodachrome IT-8 interpreted and reproduced color in any of the Kodachromes, even some going back to the late ’50s. Note that although there may be considerable differences in how the image has to be adjusted for tonal curve and contrast/brightness adjustment, one exception may be Kodachrome-X, which is one film I never liked or used.

I live in an area called “The Valley of Flowers” because it once was a center of flower seed growing. Some years ago driving around the valley I saw this field of multicolored California poppies and of course I had to photograph the field. I am glad I got the shot on Kodachrome, and even more pleased I have been able to reproduce the colors exactly in a scan using the LaserSoft Kodachrome IT-8 to profile my scanner.

The Bottom Line On Scanning Kodachrome
A good part of the motivation that kept me going for months with this project, and that got me past both frustrations and disappointments, is that I have a large library of film I made during a lifetime’s work as a photographer and a good part of it is on Kodachrome slide film. While this Kodachrome project was somewhat self-serving, I also kept those readers in mind who have written me that they, too, are either scanning or wanting to scan their own film libraries, many of which consist of Kodachrome slides.

I was doing a story assignment about a photo workshop at a dude ranch in eastern Oregon, and took an afternoon off from the weeklong event. I found this lake in the Cascade Mountains, and made several shots on Kodachrome. I call it Lost Lake because I never could find it again. I have scanned this slide several times and usually one band of tone goes off the color reservation—in other words, I’ve never been satisfied with a digitized reproduction of the slide. At least not until I scanned it with my scanner profiled with the LaserSoft Kodachrome IT-8 target. Now I’m happy and don’t have to look for the lake again.
There are few natural resources in Hollywood, but every so often a model agency head would send me someone new in town to photograph. One day this tall, elegant blonde with luminous gray eyes who spoke like Marlene Dietrich showed up fresh from Europe. So I said to myself, simplicity is the only way to do her justice and opened the curtain of the studio window, moved in a black background, and loaded the camera with Kodachrome. She looked just as good on film as she did in the studio, minus the intriguing voice of course. Now with my scanner equipped with a LaserSoft Kodachrome IT-8 profile I have a digital file that captures everything in the Kodachrome film.

So the bottom line is, if you want to get the kind of Kodachrome images Paul Simon sang about, if you want your scanned images to reproduce that famous Kodachrome look, then take this advice: profile your scanner with the new LaserSoft Kodachrome IT-8 reference. The ticket price for a LaserSoft Kodachrome IT-8 ICC reference target slide is $50 (that does not include software). It can be used with any LaserSoft SilverFast Ai scanner software that includes IT-8 support to custom profile your scanner, as well as other brands of ICC scanner profiling software, like the Kodak utility that was supplied with Microtek’s ArtixScan scanners. Of course I believe from long experience you’ll get the best results scanning your Kodachrome slides using LaserSoft’s SilverFast Ai software to run your scanner.