The ArtixScan has been likened to an item from the TV program Robot Wars and this couldn't be further from the truth. The shape is just like one of those crazy contraptions that hurtle around the stadium floor. The sound it makes when scanning heightens this likeness - all we need to see next is a pick axe or chainsaw flicking out from the side and clubbing your nearby printer to death!
Why Microtek have gone for this shape beats me. The casing of Nikon, Canon and Minolta film scanners may be boring, but the practical shape means theirs can stack neatly with an external CD writer or be housed on a shelf with a Zip drive on top. The Microtek takes up much more space and you can't lay anything on top.
This is, of course, a minor thing to criticise and the main thing is whether its performance lives up to the spec.
This 4000dpi resolution model has 8000dpi interpolation, 36-bit colour depth and a 3.4 dynamic range. The 4000dpi alone leaves the camera makers' film scanners standing amd is the main reason it costs around 1000. The 36-bit colour depth is really as much as you need for excellent colour tonal range and the 3.4 dynamic range is enough to extract the best detail out of emulsions you use. The most extreme results, shot on high dynamic range film such as Fuji Velvia may be let down, but the scanner will cope with any negative film and 99% of all results shot on trannie film.
|The first thing is connecting. Microtek give very good guides to getting things up and running. The 4000t is a SCSI model and an Adaptec 2903B card is provided to fit a PC. If you're a Mac G3 or G4 users you'll need to buy a suitable card. A SCSI lead is provided. I was up and running in minutes and I'd previously had plenty of other SCSI devices attached, so I was expecting trouble. The SCSI ID is easy to get at and change if other peripherals have the same number selected.
The scanner comes with two film carriers, one for four mounted slides and the other for a strip of six uncut frames.
It scans colour or black & white, negative or transparency and comes with two scanning utilities - Microtek's own ScanWizard ProTX and SilverFast 5. Both are capable programs to ensure you get the best scan from your films.
hen the machine is switched on two lights confirm it's ready and you then insert the film carrier. A gentle push makes it engage and drive into place. When you click on scan from the software the carrier moves along making a sound like the moment before your automatic washing machine goes into spin mode. It's not the quietest scanner we've tried!
Using ScanWizard ProTX, the first thing to appear when you start to scan is an overview that makes a small preview of the contents of the film carrier. From this window you can then select a few or all of the images and do a prescan. From here you have access to loads of editing features using the larger pre scan images as reference. You can adjust the contrast by setting the white and black points, change the image curve, adjust brightness and contrast, correct colour casts, and apply a filter such as sharpen or blur. All have their own preview windows showing before and after examples. The sensible thing to do, until you become familiar with the controls, is to use the auto settings. The software then takes care of everything. As you become more familiar with the scanner's characteristics you can create custom filters and apply these. I made one to warm up old Kodak Ektachrome scans so they looked more like Fuji Provia. I also set a very slight unsharp mask to ensure razor sharpness from the scans. All this can be achieved later using Photoshop, but it helps to start with a good scanned file.
hen you are happy with the filters and corrections you've made, set the size that you want the final image and click on Scan to send the machine into action.
he scanner can be set to scan RGB, or direct to CMYK if you intend sending the images straight to repro. You can also set LAB space, Web safe and various grey scale modes.
nother feature for advanced users is a tag mode that lets you place markers on individual pixels which records the colour value. Then when you make corrections you can compare the original value with the new one.
had problems with Photoshop crashing after the scan was made. This appeared to be related to the memory. Make sure you have enough free RAM to run the application and the image editing program.
Although the ScanWizard ProTX software is extremely versatile I prefer to use LaserSoft's SilverFast's because I know it better. Both gave first class results, though. A superb user guide is provided with ScanWizard and SilverFast comes with a PDF electronic manual, which you can print out if you prefer.
Apart from the noise, awkward shape and the initial crashing, problems the scanner produces excellent quality scans. I tried colour and black & white negatives and a selection of slides and it delivered a great set of scans that can print out A3 without any difficulty. The detail in the shadow areas is exceptional - no noise just black where it's needed and tonal values where detail exists.
One thing that should be considered is a dust and scratch remover. Some of my slides have not been looked after as well as they could have and getting rid of the dust marks takes ages. Nikon and Minolta models using ICE 3 have the edge here.
It's easy to draw crop marks around part of an image so you don't have to scan the whole image and be more selective.
The cropped version is sharp andhas loads of detail in the shadows. It's easyto make a good sized enlargment and the result here shows a blown up example on the right. Notice the shadow area is free from noise.
Skin tones are naturally reproduced
A difficult high contrast black & white shot, yet the scanner is able to pull the overexposed detail out from under the bridge.
A home processed Konica colour negativethe grain is hardly.