Test by Richard Clews
Acer may not have a high profile in the photography world, but this American firm is well known as a manufacturer of PCs, servers and displays and their ScanWit 2720S offers comparable resolution to Nikon, Minolta and Canon's 35mm scanners. Acer's costs 300, which is far less expensive than its competitors costing between 450 and 650.
Despite being cheaper, it does not suffer in build quality and comes packaged with a SCSI card, cable, one holder for a negative strip and one for mounted slides and a power cable. It also comes with MiraFoto software, which handles the installation and scanning process, plus Ulead PhotoExpress 3.0 and an instruction manual. MiraFoto 1.0 is not listed as Windows ME-compatible, but in practice runs without problems. The main benefit of version 2.0 is the provision for scanning at 48-bit colour depth, but the 2720S supports a maximum 36-bit and version 2.0 cannot scan at 36-bit, so until Acer makes any substantial alterations to the software it's best left alone.
Acer's choice of SCSI for the 2720S has advantages and drawbacks. SCSI interfaces are found on a lot of professional equipment, but SCSI compatibility issues and card installation can be a headache.
My first encounter with the SCSI card was 'entertaining'. After I installed the card and ran the installation routine from the CD-ROM, the computer failed to recognise the scanner in the 'Scanners and Cameras' folder in the Control Panel. The manual offered little advice, but I found that removing and re-installing the card and the software solved the problem. Another drawback of SCSI is that the 2720S must be powered up before the PC, or the computer won't recognise the scanner as one of its accessories.
Once up and running, MiraFoto is a painless way of importing images into your chosen photo software. The main page shows a maximum of six images running across the top, displayed as slides. To the right of the sixth slide are symbols for Flip and Film Type. Film Type is supposed to compensate for the casts associated with certain films. For instance, you can select Kodak Gold, and the pre-scan will shift in colour balance. The usefulness of this mode is limited by the small number of film types listed. For instance, there is no mention of Kodak Ektar 125, a film that confounded the best efforts of photo printers everywhere.
There is also a colour enhance section, featuring 'Photo Magic'. This presents the prescan in 12 different degrees of sharpness, contrast and colour depth. It's tempting to use this straight away, as scans made on the Acer tend to show low contrast and high brightness. It might also save time if you don't want to manipulate the image any further, but software such as Photoshop is much more versatile for alterations.
As well as Film Type, you can select Image Type, Resolution and Scan Mode. The scanner decides which type of image is being used, depending on the film holder inserted. One drawback is that it cannot differentiate between colour and black & white negatives.
Scanning/previewing speed is reasonably fast, at roughly 15 seconds per frame. Once the scan has been imported into the photo software, MiraFoto needs to be closed before the image can be altered. This is annoying if you intend to make lots of scans in one session. The solution is to decide in advance which images you want to work with and scan them all before going any further.
Another minor irritant is that you must deselect those images you do not wish to scan, otherwise the Acer will scan every frame. Fortunately, you can press cancel to stop it.
Scan quality is extremely good, although there is no equivalent of the Digital ICE technology which comes with Acer's more expensive 2740s model, and various Minolta and Nikon scanners. This means that you will need to use an application such as VueScan to remove dust marks.
Overall, the ScanWit 2720S can be thoroughly recommended. It's debatable whether the ScanWit 2740S, at 400, is worth the extra outlay. Digital ICE is a genuine benefit, but the similar VueScan software has received excellent reviews and is available as an inexpensive download. Despite my battle with the SCSI card, I find the scanner easy to use and reliable.