Did We Really Need SilverFast 9? Well, We Got it!

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The press release for SilverFast 9 came to us last week. I assume most of you will be in one camp or another. Most of you probably don’t know what SilverFast is. The other portion of you is probably a bit surprised. I wouldn’t be shocked if a few of you rolled your eyes. I’ll be honest, I rolled my eyes at the press release. Previous versions of the desktop program have been painfully slow. But more importantly, I don’t think the world really needs it anymore.

SilverFast is primarily designed to work with scanners. So if you’re archiving your film or scanning it, then you’re probably working with this program, Epson’s, or Canon’s options. But it’s always had a number of problems. In their recent press release, they promise a lot of updates which you can read about on their website.

But you’re here on The Phoblographer, and we work to give you an informed opinion. We should probably address a big truth. It’s not that people aren’t really shooting film (we’re all about the film renaissance). But people are using scanners less and less. Why? Quite honestly, they suck. Modern photo scanners have the frustration of a dial-up modem with none of the usefulness. Ever gotten your film developed and scanned? Most scans are pretty lackluster. Some of the best scans we’ve seen in recent times have been from DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. The Nikon D850 is fantastic for it! 

Take a look at the video above and what photographer Alastair Bird did. It’s accompanied by a blog post here on this site.

More importantly, film scanners use small sensors. With a dedicated digital camera, you get a larger sensor. Larger sensors give you better color depth and dynamic range. Sure, SilverFast 9 is promising great dynamic range. But why do that when the sensors just aren’t good enough? I also can’t believe that the processing power of the software is good enough either.

Think of it this way: get a smartphone camera and take a photo. The quality will be good. But use a dedicated camera and the quality will be better. The key to using a phone, though, is convenience. But SilverFast and dedicated film scanners don’t have the convenience or quality of dedicated cameras. 

Combine that with proper light and a solid macro lens, and you’ll get a wonderful image. Plus, you can shoot tethered into Capture One or Lightroom to get the photos and the look you want. In my opinion, you don’t need Silverfast these days. And I think that it’s too little, too late for the company. 

To add salt to the wound, SilverFast 9 is pretty expensive. It’s easy to rack up nearly $700 for the entire package. Now, if the folks at Canon or Epson would create scanners with full-frame or medium format sensors, I think it would be a bit different. But even so, I’d never use Silverfast. Instead, I’d aim to create a plugin for Capture One or Lightroom. Sure, some labs use big drum scanners and Noritsu products. The one local lab by me does a pretty great job. But so too do modern-day cameras.