This post is a work in process to discuss best practices for using RAW Planar files from a Pakon scanner, and converting and editing inside Negative Lab Pro.
The basic procedure is as follows:
- Scan with TLXClientDemo and save output as Planar RAW files
- Convert the Planar RAWs to readable Tiffs
- Import into Lightroom and convert/edit with Negative Lab Pro
Let’s look at each of these more in-depth.
1. Scan with TLXClientDemo and save as Planar RAWs
If you’re scanning with a Pakon, you are probably aware that there are two available programs for scanning: the “Normal” PSI program, and then the TLXClientDemo.
While both of these are capable of saving Planar RAW file from your Pakon, only the TLXClientDemo is capable of saving the full 16bit TIF files (The PSI program can only save as 8bit). This will make a huge difference in the quality of the conversion, so it is strongly recommended to use the TLXClientDemo if you plan on this method. Here’s how to do it:
- Run TLXClientDemo
Scan with the following settings:
a. Film Color: Negative
b. Choose the resolution, frames per strip, and scratch removal options you want
c. Click “Scan”
- Click "Move Oldest Roll in Scan Group to Save Group"
Click “Save” with the following options set:
a. “All Pictures (except hidden)”
b. Original Height and Width
c. “Other options”: uncheck everything except for “use Scratch Removal” if you enabled that earlier.
d. “Type of Operation” - “To Client Memory”
e. “Planar” (you can have with or without “Add File Header”
The 16-bit Planar RAW files will be saved to the “
C:\Temp” directory. You will want to move these files to the directory of your choice.
2. Convert Planar RAW files into readable TIF files.
At this point, you have the Planar RAW files, but they are not in a format that can be processed because of the way the data is stored in the file. You need to process these in a way that makes them readable to other software (in this case, Lightroom), but also keeps them as a negative (so that you can convert and edit using Negative Lab Pro).
This can be accomplished a few ways:
Method 1: Use Photoshop to create readable tifs (RECOMMENDED)
This is probably the easiest way to get your planar RAW files converted (the other methods require some knowledge of using the command line - which can be faster if you know what you are doing, but could also be quite frustrating).
Here’s how to do it:
Download this simple, free photoshop action set I made
–> Pakon Photoshop Action Set
- Double-click on the Pakon.atn file to install it
- Open Photoshop
In Photoshop go to "File > Scripts > Image Processor" - then follow these settings:
a. Select the folder where your Planar RAWs are
b. Enable “Open First image to apply settings”
c. Select the location to save the processed images
d. “Save as TIFF” - “LZW Compression”
e. Enable “Run Action” - select “Pakon” group, then “Gamma + AutoLevel” (there’s also ‘gamma 2.2.’ and 'gamma +‘normalize’ option if you want to play with it. I’ll talk more about what these do later).
- When your settings match, hit “RUN” to start the processing
You should then see the “Photoshop Raw Options” dialog. Add the following options:
a. Set the dimensions to 3000x2000 (unless you used custom dimensions in the TLXClientDemo, in which case you should add those here)
b. Set the “Channels” to 3
c. Make sure “Interleaved” is NOT checked.
d. Depth : 16bit
e. Byte order: IBM PC
- Now hit “OK” - Photoshop will now batch process all the RAW Planar images in that folder, and output them to the folder you choose.
That’s it! If you do this, you can now skip ahead to the section on converting and editing in Negative Lab Pro.
Method 2: You could use Pakon Planar Raw Convertor (PPRC).
This is a really useful and fast utility, but you will need to be somewhat computer savvy to do this, as there as some steps to the installation process that might be new if you are not familiar with using the command-line. If you’ve never heard of “homebrew” (the package manager, not the beverage), it’s likely that this will take a good chunk of your day to figure out. IF you do get this figured out, it’s important that you use the
--no-negfix option when running PPRC (so that it remains a negative that you can adjust in Negative Lab Pro).
So, if you install PPRC, your workflow to converting to tiffs would look like this:
- Open the terminal
- Navigate in the terminal to the directory where your Planar RAW files are
Enter the command:
pprc --no-negfix --e6 --dimensions 3000x2000
(If you used custom dimensions in TLXClientDemo, enter that instead of 3000x2000 – also, the
--e6tag is optional, but this will add an “auto-level” to the data, similar to the action we used in the photoshop method.
- This will create a directory named “out” which will contain all the TIFs it creates from your raws.
Method 3: Use the TLX-Finalize Script for Windows
Again, this method assumes some familiarity with running and editing scripts. And this particular script only runs in Windows. But it has some nice features built-in.
When you run the script, it will move the files from the TLX temp folder to an output folder (so in this case, you will want to leave the planar RAW files in the C:\Temp directory before using). By default, the output folder is “C:\PakonOut”
It will also ask you for the “Film Type”. I recommend the “C41” option (1) here. It will change the gamma to 2.2 then “auto-level” the image (stretching the brightest pixel to white and the darkest pixel to black). This is equivalent to the “Gamma + Autolevel” photoshop action in Pakon Photoshop action set.
The “E6” option (4) will change the gamma to 2.2, then “normalize” the image (stretch the brightest areas until at most 1% is clipping, and stretch the darkest areas until at most 2% is clipping). This is equivalent to the “Gamma + Normalize” action in Pakon Photoshop action set.
Be careful of the “E6” option here (Gamma + Normalize). It may appear better on some conversions right out of the gate, BUT it will be destructively clipping details in your TIF. If you want a “bold” look with pure whites and pure blacks, just increase the blackclip and whiteclip points in Negative Lab Pro later - this will produce similar final results, but in a way that is non-destructive and more flexible for different image scenes).
3. Convert and Edit in Negative Lab Pro
Now that you have your TIF using one of the methods above, it’s time to import into Lightroom and convert using Negative Lab Pro!
Here’s how to do that:
- Import your TIFs into Lightroom Classic or Lightroom 6
Select the image(s) you want to convert
(Do NOT white-balance prior to conversion!!!)
- Open Negative Lab Pro. It should already have “TIF” selected as the input source.
- Hit "Convert"
- Adjust the tones and colors to your liking. I’d recommend starting out with the Linear + Deep tone profile, and “AutoColor - Warming” as your autocolor setting.
Don’t be surprised if you need to make some adjustments. The initial conversion from Negative Lab Pro is just the starting point, but there is plenty of editability there to match the Pakon nearly exactly (if that’s what you want) or to simply edit to achieve your vision of the photo.
"Do I need to use Lightroom’s white balance tool before converting?"
NO. This could mess up the colors in your image. The white balance tool works differently on TIFs vs RAW files, so I don’t recommend using it before converting any TIFs. Also, the Pakon F135 uses blue filtered light that already balances out much of the orange mask. Don’t be surprised if you have
"Do I need to crop before converting?"
NO. Generally you won’t need to worry about cropping your images prior to conversion since they should already be pretty closely cropped from the scanner
Sample Image Comparisons
Pakon JPG: The JPG from the Pakon had a lot of blown details in the brightest area of Pink Spoonbill. It also felt like the highlights were a little cold and unnatural.
Pakon RAW Planar processed with Negative Lab Pro. In the 16-bit RAW Planar, all the highlight detail there, and you see the feathers now in the brightest area of the Spoonbill. Using the color balancing controls in Negative Lab Pro, I’m also able to get a more natural color balance through the scene.
Pakon JPG from PSI: I really wanted the colorful bright pink pastel colors to come through, but they get washed out here from the Pakon’s image processor. The sky is also taking on an unnatural cyan cast, and the shadows are very sharp and abrupt.
Pakon RAW Planar processed with Negative Lab Pro. Working with the 16-bit TIF from the RAW Planar file in Negative Lab Pro, I’m able to bring back the beautiful pastel tones in the building, as well as achieve a more natural sky hue, and softer shadows.