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I don't know how long "a few years ago" is on your scale. Nor do I know your ambitions. But I have a feeling that you are in the same league as those who think that it has no value to digitize worn, scratchy vinyl records unless you do it at minimum 96 kHz sampling rate (preferably 192 kHz) at minimum 24 bit sample with. Anything less will result in garbage sound, no matter how worn and torn the old vinyls are...
Five years ago, you could buy quite cheap scanners that in reality preserved everything that was possible to preserve from badly expose, badly preserved amateur photos. Even for correctly exposed and well preserved amateur photos! Tenyears ago, the scanners were as good, but moderately priced, not "cheap". I bought my first film scanner more than twenty years ago - I don't remember its price tag, but it didn't have significant effect on our family budget. With high ISO films, I could see the silver grains. (The reason why I gave that scanner away is that I said farwell to SCSI interfaces.)
Those who care about old-time photography should look up some old issues of "Modern Photography" and "Popular Photography" from the 1960s and 70s, with special attention to the lab test of both lenses and film. By modern standards, the resolution was shockingly low. The dynamic tone range was "quite limited" too, to phrase it politely. Even though some films boasted an exposure latitude of 3-4 f-stops (i.e. a factor of 10-50), the essential requiement at the end of these ranges were that you were able to recognize what the camera was pointed at. Noone expected a soft tone scale at the outer end of the exposure range.
To be blunt, we are talking about "throwing pearls before swine" if we require more than 9600 bpi spatial resolution and at least 24 bits per channel. Setting up such requirements will lead to a lot of people just throwing away those old historical photos. Scanning them at 1200 dpi at 12 bits, or even 8 bits, per channel, is far better than not scanning them at all! Fact is that noone will conmplain about the quality! (except those who look at the metadata for the image file, claiming that is it not up to their technical standards).
I agree with all you say. My mantra is, "First, get it digitized and let the bits take care of themselves." I have a lot of phone or old point-and-shoot camera digitizations of paper based stuff. Why? Because just clicking a camera is quick and easy and the picture is phenomenal, if begging for post-processing ... someday.
My slide scan-o-thon was from 2014 to ~2016.
ScanCafe slide scans were notably better than the various other methods I tried. Keep in mind I can't physically perceive the kinds of nuances the committed "X-phile" (or even average-aged person) can sense. Just getting noise, dirt, and color-balance in half-way decent shape is worth it, though. Too, scanning thousands of slides can take serious time. Rankling though it was to spend roughly the same nominal money on digitization as I had on the original Kodak slides, there was no way I could do it burning my own time. YMMV.
It might also be that the scanner software isn't allowing enough adjustment.
I'd recommend VueScan (www.hamrick.com). It allows numerous adjustments for scanning, or a simple mode if preferred. It also supports older scanners that the vendor (Canon in my case) no longer support on Windows 10 with their official software. It is not free, but there is a free trial.
I've used it to scan a number of slides I inherited from my father, though none of them were poorly exposed so I didn't use any of the available tweaks.
It's been a while, but if I recall it also could handle scanning and cropping multiple slides in one pass.
He probably just came to realize the gravity of the situation.
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