The New ArtixScan 4000t

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The Microtek ScanWizard Pro TX software for the ArtixScan 4000t provides a flexible workspace with separate windows for the control functions, including an image information readout, job panel showing all the overview thumbnails in a scan batch, and a pop-up image adjustment window.
Photos © David B. Brooks, 2000

The era of beige boxes is over. The contour and coloring of a stealth fighter combined with the design of the outer shell of the new Microtek ArtixScan 4000t signifies a new generation of high-performance personal 35mm scanners. As the century has turned, my testing and review of this new scanner has also confirmed that an era of uncompromised digital darkroom performance is upon us. The high optical resolution of 4000dpi 35mm scanning the ArtixScan provides, and an interpolated boost to 8000dpi, makes real the most grandiose print sizes any photographer would want to reproduce from a 35mm image. In other words the ArtixScan 4000t is an ideal complement to the graphics computers and printers that are the core of a digital darkroom to begin the 21st century in style.

One of my first scans with the ArtixScan 4000t was a Kodachrome I soon learned had seen much better days. Dirty, scratched, just messed up in general, and not too sharp in the first place, once scanned it was an image file needing much more work. I put the time in and then reduced the image size to 10" long at 300dpi resulting in a very useful photograph after all.

In addition to copious pixels in each scan, the ArtixScan 4000t's features and specifications are, in all respects, up to the task. The 4000t scans at a full 36-bit color depth and supports 8-bit and 12-bit per channel image file output. The ArtixScan also handles film images with a density range up to 3.4 Dmax. Batch slide and film strip holders support loading either four mounted slides or a strip of six frames of film at a time. The new Microtek ScanWizard Pro TX software also supports these batch holders to adjust easily each frame based on an overview of all or a preview of each, then either scanning each individually or selecting hands-off batch scanning of either all four or six images. This new ScanWizard Pro TX software supports either the Macintosh or Windows operating systems, providing a plug-in for the Mac and a stand-alone scan module with TWAIN driver for Windows. Scanner calibration and custom profiling is also supported with the provision of Kodak Digital Science color man-agement software, as well as a Kodak Ektachrome IT-8 reference slide. For Mac users this color management facility includes the full support of Colorsync.

I have an extensive series of Kodachrome 25 slides of light effects. These are images which include a full range of tones from clear film base white to Dmax. I then scanned a selection and the result was the capture of all of the image information quite accurately and successfully with the 4000t, attesting to the effectiveness of its sensor range.

Over the past 10 years I have used a large number of different scanners, many of them 35mm. That experience has impressed upon me the fact that the scanner's software is as important if not more critical to obtaining good scans than is the hardware. In fact there are many scanners which have good physical performance, but few that have equally good software. The ArtixScan 4000t's Microtek ScanWizard Pro TX is definitely a good match for the hardware. This is due in part to the fact the user has several options available as to how to use it. You can choose fully or partially automated scan adjustments, with dimension of image auto adjustment readily variable in terms of the kind of results required. Second, it is just as easy to manually adjust each dimension of image quality separately, or from within a single window dialog. And, finally you can choose to output the entire 36-bit scan data and save it as an archived file, or transfer the full 12-bit per channel data to another application like Photoshop to do the color correction editing.

The ScanWizard Pro TX interface, which is almost identical on a Mac or Windows, is very conveniently laid out. The controls are in free floating dialog windows that can be closed if not needed, and moved around in the most convenient arrangement within a monitor's screen workspace. The preview window can be sized to take the greatest possible advantage of screen real estate desired for any particular monitor resolution. Access to the image adjustment tools is logically placed in a vertical arrangement of buttons in the order in which they should be used top to bottom. The first is an unusual control offering manual or automatic definition of the dynamic range of the image to input just from within that range. There is also a control to set white and black points (gamut), Tone Curve, Brightness and Contrast, Color Correction and Filter selection, including a highly adjustable UnsharpMask. Negative film scanning is supported by film terms for a substantial list of popular color negative films.

Among my selection of images to test scan were a number of landscapes recorded on Fuji Reala film. In the past I had limited success scanning this film, but the ArtixScan did a superior job capturing the full range of tone and detail.

Using The ArtixScan 4000t. I began my test work with the 4000t installing it on a modest Windows PC. After a quick and faultless install, I was delighted to find the PC version of ScanWizard Pro TX is a stand-alone application as well as a TWAIN driver that can be accessed from within any TWAIN compliant application. The stand-alone really makes the 4000t batch scanning combined with scanning at 36-bit output for archiving, easy and efficient. Before getting into any serious scanning I ran the Kodak Digital Science profiling software to calibrate the software, and any easy wizard-driven function.

My scanning involved archiving slide and color negative images output in 36-bit RGB TIFF files. For this purpose I set all of the adjustment controls except Density Range to "no adjustment," and turned on standard sharpening. I then switched to the TWAIN driver accessed from Photoshop 5.5 and scanned similar images from the same sets of film using both automated, and alternately, manual adjustment of the image values. After checking the results in Photoshop for gamut (Levels) as well as local contrast, and whether further adjustment of Curves was required, I then saved the images in standard TIFF format. Then I opened the 36-bit images in Photoshop and color corrected each as finely as possible. While comparing the two sets of images I found that there was little gained in color correction advantage using Photoshop over what I was able to do with the ScanWizard Pro TX color correction tools, at least affecting the primary dimensions of image quality. However, ScanWizard Pro TX color adjustment is much less precise and sophisticated in comparison to Photoshop's Color Balance and Hue/Saturation tools. This is not a critical shortcoming, as post-scan tweaking of color in Photoshop using Color Balance and the Hue/ Saturation tools rarely involves significant data loss.

This is one view of a near ghost town in Central Oregon, one of many images I made on Fuji Reala film. Although some extra post-scan color balance tweaking was required I was able to get good color fidelity in the final image including the very subtle near neutral tones in the old buildings.

I then installed ScanWizard Pro TX on my Mac G3. Using the ScanWizard plug-in from within Photoshop, once the Colorsync profiles were selected, I had a slightly better set of results scanning slides and color negatives. I assess this entirely to the fact my Mac's monitor is more precisely calibrated and Colorsync is a more effective color management environment in which to do scanning. I believe this is mostly due to the fact there is a better match between what is perceived in the ScanWizard Pro TX preview and how the image appeared once scanned and opened in Photoshop's workspace. The only frustration I had in this entire scanning experience was related to the fact there is not a film term supplied by Microtek that matches my favorite color negative film, Fuji Reala. This required applying a fair amount of work tweaking the color in Photoshop after scanning.

Switching to Ektachrome slides, I scanned a selection of heavily saturated images of autumn leaves. Although this series included images with almost every color imaginable represented, the full range of tones reproduced by the ArtixScan 4000t displayed excellent fidelity without any need for post-scan adjustment.

Evaluation And Recommendation. The standout feature of the ArtixScan 4000t is its much higher optical resolution. Of course this supports making much larger prints than the 2700/ 2800dpi optical resolution that was tops for affordable desktop scanner not long ago. I found it has even more benefits, however. For almost 20 years I have preferred shooting color negative film over slides, so I have quite a bit of experience scanning negatives, and with a lot of frustration. Very often the results seem excessively grainy, a problem many other photographers have related in Internet forums in discussions of scanning. Scanning these same negatives at 4000dpi with the ArtixScan that excessive graininess is noticeably reduced. So, apparently at 2700/2800dpi there is a relationship between the pixel size and grain size which becomes exaggerated, possibly only in negatives because density range of the film image is often close to just half that of a slide image. A less pronounced, but still valuable advantage of 4000dpi scanning applies to slides, and even if I'm only going to make a letter-size print, the 4000dpi images produce generally smoother print tones.

From the autumn leaves collection of images scanned with the 4000t, I chose one rather subtle photo and reprocessed it using three different natural effects filters in Corel PHOTO-PAINT 9 to result in three separate files. I then copied one file on top of the other adjusting the transparency between each to obtain a blend of the different filter effects. The result is a file that makes a very pleasant 12x18" art print.

Obviously these very favorable results set the Microtek ArtixScan 4000t high in my estimation. Add to that the fact the software is flexible, and efficiently effective whether you want to choose manual, automatic, or a mix of both, you can even output 36-bit raw data, it works that well. The scanning process is also quite rapid considering at 4000dpi it is producing 50 some megabyte file sizes in 24-bit RGB and well over a 100MB in 36-bit mode. The ArtixScan 4000t is a very strong scanning package in hardware and software, particularly at the suggested retail price of $1795. For more information contact Microtek, Inc., 195 Baypointe Parkway, San Jose, CA 95134; (408) 955-9355, fax (408) 955-9360; www.artix.com.

Technical Specifications
Scanner Type: Single-pass 35mm and APS color film scanner
Sensor: Tri-linear RGB CCD, 5300 elements/array
Illumination: Cold Cathode Fluorescent
Interface: SCSI -- 2

The new Microtek ArtixScan 4000t high-resolution 35mm and APS film scanner.

Bit Depth: 36-bit/24-bit color, 12-bit/8-bit gray scale
Sample Depth: 12-bit per RGB channel
Dynamic Range: .1.5-3.4 (Dmax)
Data Transfer Rate: 2MB per sec
Calibration: ICC Profiler calibration software with Kodak Q-60 target included
Maximum Interpolated Resolution: 8000dpi
Maximum Optical Resolution: 4000dpi
Dimensions And Weight: 150x360x100mm, 8 lbs
Suggested Retail Price: $1795

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