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Thousands of people will buy an inappropriate flatbed or 35mm slide scanner this year Print E-mail

This FLAAR network of informative review and tips brings actual real-life experience to help you reach an informed decision. For graphics designers and photographers, selecting the right scanner is the most important first step into the digital era.

The American way of life is to buy on price. In other words, go to CompUSA and buy a cheap scanner. Read a glowing review in some newsstand computer magazine or photo magazine that praises some economical scanner. Then read the web site and ads where the same scanner is premised as "high quality," "professional quality," "clear precise images."

Bait and switch or simply freedom of expression, isn't this potentially false and misleading advertising? You be the judge.

I too have suffered the results of that; you spend a thousand dollars feeling you have a bargain, but in reality that sum is thrown out the window. Sooner or later you have to start all over again and buy what was really needed in the first place, a better scanner.

The first shock is when you find out that the scanner specs were arranged to convince you of a quality that the scanner may not really deliver. For example, most scanners cannot achieve their top rated dpi across the entire surface. Cheap scanners get their scans only down the "sweet spot," a narrow band down the center of the flatbed. On either side the scan may be inferior.

Now you know why a true professional scanner is more costly. Their get their full dpi across the entire surface of the scanner. Scitex is best known for this high end class of prepress scanner.

Next shock is when the happy new buyer tries to scan a 35mm slide and finds out that the 1000 dpi or even 1200 dpi enlarges the 35mm slide barely past letter size! And even here the image is fuzzy and not very impressive.

Nonetheless, with my Scitex EverSmart it is possible to take a 35mm slide and enlarge it to 42 x 36 inches. The entire 42 x 36 inches is photo-realistic and exhibit quality. With the Epson, Microtek/Agfa or Hewlett- Packard scanner you would be hard put to enlarge that same slide up to letter size. Yes, the SilverFast software helps immensely, indeed that is the only reason I consider recommending any scanner under $3000. Without the SilverFast the cheap scanners are just that, a cheap scanner with no brains.

No Epson, Umax, or Microtek scanner, however, works the same way as a Scitex. It is the difference between a small Ford or Chevy compact and a GMC Suburban. Both will get you from Point A to point B, but I prefer the security and features of the Suburban. Actually a Scitex scanner is more like the BMW, Lexus, or Mercedes of the flatbed scanner world.

Main problem is that, yes, people will write great reviews on a low-cost scanner, because that is all they have ever used (this is a polite way to comment on people who are happy with the Epson; I was happy with all three of my Umax scanners until I experienced what a Scitex can do). How many reviews have you read by prepress professionals who have a Microtek scanner in their digital studios? They may have a Microtek or Epson at home for their kids, but their customers would be rather irritated to see their precious images wasted on some cheap scanner.

So if you ever run into a colleague who has actual experience with a true professional scanner, that is when the find out what was missing on the cheaper scanners.

It is mainly in scanning 35mm slides that a normal flatbed is inadequate in every way, shape, and form. Also, normal flatbed's don't do too well with linework either.

Most people who are moving into large format fine art printing are so excited about their fancy new printer they make several fundamental mistakes: 1st, they forget they will eventually need a RIP; 2nd, they try to make do with a cheap scanner.

Here is the major difference in where you buy your fine art printer. If the company that recommends your fine art printer is content with a 1200 dpi scanner this is a good indication that this company itself does not earn its living from having to scan 35mm slides in real life (or even medium format). A 1200 dpi scanner is okay for medium format and fine for 4x5 large format but 2000 dpi is far superior. And for 35mm you need 2300 minimum if a flatbed (Scitex EverSmart Jazz is this your basic fine art scanner for the entry level) and the Scitex EverSmart Pro II or EverSmart Supreme is the high end.

The Creo Eversmart flatbed scanner range includes the Jazz, Jazz+, Pro II, Select, and Supreme. Even with the brand name change from Scitex to Creo-Scitex to Creo, the Eversmart scanners are the same (now with better software).

The wonderful thing about writing reviews for FLAAR is that no one is paying my salary. I don't earn a living from selling scanners, or printers. Thus I don't have to sell my soul to sell a cheap scanner just because I can earn a few bucks from such a sale, irrespective of the fact that this cheap scanner will quickly proof woefully inadequate for serious professional use.

Last checked: Oct. 23, 2003
Previous updates: Jan. 15, 2003, June 2, 2001
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