Over the past two or three years a number of companies have introduced relatively low prices film scanners geared toward the consumer market. Hewlett Packard really gave this market a push forward with their Photosmart film scanner (which, however, has a large number of drawbacks).
Since I’ve got a lot of photographs to scan — upwards of 10,000 or so — I wanted to find a film scanner that would give reasonably good output and cost less than $1,000. I initially looked at several models that were in the $700 range when I ran across some reviews of Acer’s Scanwit 2720S. After some investigation of the Acer’s specifications and talking with people who owned the more expensive models I was looking at, I decided to go with the Acer model.
Obviously if scan quality is the absolutely most important thing in the world, the Scanwit at roughly $400 for the scanner plus a SCSI card is definitely not for you. There are a number of film scanners in the $1,500 range that will blow the Scanwit out of the water. On the other hand, for the person who wants to get relatively fast, high quality scans at a bargain price the Scanwit is perfect.
For evaluating the quality of the scans, my primary interest was how well the scans would look going straight from the Scanwit to an 8″ x 10″ print. Even without adjusting the scans, they look great at that output size, although going much bigger than that would probably produce unacceptable prints.
The Scanwit scans at a maximum of 2700 DPI and 16-bit color, and I only scan at those settings. In fact, I use third party software which scans each image twice and then compares the two scans to produce a single best scan which then gets written to my hard drive. At the maximum settings, the Scanwit outputs files that are about 27 megabytes.
The Scanwit tends to produce colors that are a bit washed out and the contrast it produces look horrible, but those problems seem to exist with all consumer-level film scanners. After scanning a roll of film I use an photo editor to batch modify the resulting scans. Once everything’s been adjusted, the images more than meet my expectations.
The scanner is fast. No I haven’t attempted to measure it so I don’t know exactly how fast it is, largely because I’m always batch scanning in the background of some other application. I’d say it takes at most 15-20 minutes the Scanwit to scan a negative strip with four images (and remember I’m scanning each image twice). Fortunately I have no problem at all working on any number of things on my computer while it the scanning runs in the background, though obviously the system would choke if I tried to play Quake III or something.
The only real drawback, which seems ubiquitous with scanners these days, is that the scanning software that comes the unit is complete crap. It looks like the OS X team cut their teeth on designing the interface for the Scanwit before moving on to Apple. The software looks pretty, but I defy anyone to actually get any serious work done with it. You’ll have to use a third party scanning application to get the most out of the scanner.
Over the past few weeks I’ve scanned about 20 rolls of film using the Scanwit and am extremely satisfied with the unit.
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