Imacon FlexTight Precision Scanner

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The Imacon ColorFlex software provided with the FlexTight Precision scanner offers easy to learn precise scan control on the Mac or Windows platform.
Photos © 1999, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved

There is a very real difference still between professional scans and what the individual user can achieve even with the latest and best personal scanners. To a large extent this professional level of scanning remains the realm of drum scanners and their highly accomplished professional operators. Imacon with their FlexTight Precision scanner is an exception to this with an unusual CCD scanner design which performs at a high professional level. This alone would be significant, but the FlexTight also supports very efficient operation for high productivity, and its software makes accurate perceptually adjusted color correction as quick and easy as the best of the newest personal scanners currently available.

That the Imacon FlexTight scanner is different is evident at a glance. Besides an unusual shape, its configuration only takes up about half the desk space of a typical flat-bed scanner. The FlexTight design advantage also includes a small "light table" that makes loading film images into the patented holders a simple, rapid action with immediate visual assurance of precise image alignment. The "tower" that rises above the base and loading stage house the CCD element and lens assembly. This provides a straight optical path to the image surface as the film holder is moved by a drum housed in the base. The film holders are made of fine, thin steel, with a magnetized rubber overlay holding the film firmly in place. It is grasped magnetically by the scanner for transport around the drum and past the "scan window" illuminated from below. Depending on the film size as set by the user in the software driver in relation to the holder used, the lens assembly is positioned precisely and appropriately between the drum and the CCD array above.

Three young Constantua women in their finest apparel. From the file of the James Chen collection.

This system supports scanning all film sizes from 35mm, including all 120 formats from 6x4.5cm through 6x12cm to 4x5, as well as up to 8.5x12" reflective art. The FlexTight scanning light source is adaptive and combined with the 3.9 density range of its sensitivity enables making full range scans of even underexposed chromes. This is further aided with 35mm slides by selecting the landscape aperture of the film holder which supports the greatest light transmission through the film. The resulting scans are 14 bit per channel, and the full color depth is displayed in the ColorFlex software preview. The color accuracy of the preview for making precise perceptual color correction in the ColorFlex software is assured by a comprehensive guide to do an optimal monitor calibration as part of the Imacon FlexTight Precision setup. The scanner's power supply is from normal 110/120 AC, but the power supply module is external, removing the effect of heat and electromagnetic noise from the scanner itself.

Traditional couple on a stroll in Korea. From the James Chen collection.

Using The Imacon FlexTight Precision Scanner. Once installed and set up, which was accomplished easily and simply following the well documented instructions, I did a few initial test scans with familiar film images I use for evaluation. I then embarked on an ambitious scanning task feeling confident I could us the ColorFlex software's very straightforward color correction tools effectively. This involved scanning a dozen black and white 21/4x31/4 from a collection of photographs a colleague, James Chen, had acquired from the estate of a world traveler. These images were made in Asia and the Middle East 40-60 years ago, and many were film-pack negatives which had obviously been tray processed. I won't get into how much retouching of dirt and scratches these images required, but once that work was done, the quality of the image files was astoundingly fine especially considering the originals were all over the place in exposure and development. Test prints confirmed the qualities the Imacon FlexTight Precision was able to record, which were particularly rich due to the fact the originals were scanned as if they were color negatives resulting in full 24-bit RGB files.

The rest of my testing was somewhat more conventional, but also included a selection of my own 35mm Kodachromes of low-key subjects I had previously not been able to scan satisfactorily. Using the landscape window in the 35mm film holder of the FlexTight, I made scans of most of these images which were entirely satisfactory in replicating the values visible in the slides. Then, with more conventional transparencies and color negatives in various 120 roll film sizes, as well as some of my own 4x5 black and white negatives and transparencies, I acquired a diverse range of experience using the Imacon FlexTight Precision scanner. All of these images were opened in Photoshop and few required even minor tweaking before I was satisfied that I should make a test print with Epson's latest Stylus Photo ink jet printer model.

Evaluation And Recommendation. The high-end professional competence of the FlexTight Precision indicated by Imacon's high-performance specifications were well born out in the image files I made with the scanner. The physical ease and efficiency of using the scanner loading and unloading film images, as well as the direct and straightforward design of the ColorFlex software controls and image adjustment tools, assures getting an exceptional quantity of work done in the time invested working with the scanner. So, even though the list price of $16,995 is also at the high end of the professional film scanner market range, I would recommend this unusual scanner to any professional photographer who has a sufficient volume of work, or to a photo lab or service bureau that needs to provide quality scanning of photographic originals efficiently and effectively.

For more information, contact Imacon, Inc., 4109 Clipper Court, Fremont, CA 94538; (888) 462-2668, (510) 651-2000; fax: (510) 445-3988; or web site at: www.imacon-usa.com.

Technical Specifications
Optic Sensor: CCD Single pass (3x8000 pixels)
Scanning Sizes: Transparencies: from 35mm to 4x5" (single original and strips); Reflectives (1mm thick): up to 8.5x12" (A4 oversize), positive and negatives, in color, gray scale, and line art
Software: ColorFlex stand-alone for MacOS and Windows with image sharpening (USM); color gradation; cropping/size; Dmin/Dmax; autorange; interpolation; selective color correction; standard "artificial intelligence" settings; load and save image settings
Scan Modes: Color (RGB 24,48 bit, and CMYK 32 bit), gray scale, line art, and TIFF Batch scanning/ Batch image processing
Resolution: From 72 to 5760dpi; True Optical at 20-2400 percent magnification
Image Quality: 14-bit A/D 0~4.1 Dmax
Interface: Standard SCSI
Size And Weight: 9.7x13.8x 25.6"; 27 lbs
Electrical: 100-240v, 50-60Hz

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