The New UMAX PowerLook 1100

The UMAX PowerLook 1100 FireWire flat-bed scanner with film scanning built-in.
Photos © David B. Brooks, 2000

To those familiar with the UMAX scanner line, the new Power-Look 1100 appears quite similar to the popular PowerLook III. It has many similarities, including the same configuration with film scanning standard; 1200x2400 hardware resolution; 3.4 dynamic range; and 14-bit input and output. This new UMAX PowerLook 1100 is also a significantly improved and enhanced model; it now has a FireWire/IEEE-1394 interface providing fast scanner to host communication that can be plugged in and turned on with your computer running. It requires no interface adapter card for use with Macintosh G3/G4s and some iMacs, as well as many of the newest PCs. In addition to increasing scan speed and convenience of access, FireWire also supports connection to more than one computer. The internal electronics of the 1100 have been upgraded, as well as the UMAX Bit Enhancement Technology providing even sharper, more detailed output.

The UMAX MagicScan software driver interface is easily configured to fit your workspace providing convenient access to the tools you may require for scanning. The Enhancement dialog has four tabs to adjust dynamic range, curve, selective and overall color balance.

The UMAX PowerLook 1100 is a letter-sized flat-bed with a well designed transparency illumination scanner cover light included. UMAX provides a full set of substantial, well designed film holders for all standard formats. It also supports film scanning covering 8.5x10", which permits proofing an entire roll of 36 exposure 35mm as well as 120 film in one scan. The 14-bit color depth of both input and selectable output, along with a high 3.4 dynamic range, assures top quality film scanning. The UMAX MagicScan software driver also offers automated color adjustment, as well as full manual control of all the primary dimensions of image quality for precise color correction on the basis of an adjustable preview image size and resolution that can be customized for any monitor configuration.

The UMAX PowerLook 1100 purchasing options and pricing also make its well-balanced feature set a very good value. The scanner may be purchased by those who already have an image-editing software application they prefer to use, with just the UMAX magicScan driver at a $999 price point. For those who do not have a professional image-editing application, UMAX adds the full version of Adobe Photoshop 5.5 for just $400 more.

The UMAX PowerLook 1100 is readily adept at proofing roll film, with its 8.5x10" transparency scan area, making it a natural for scanning and printing proof sheets of an entire roll of 35mm or 120 film.

Using The UMAX PowerLook 1100.
I continue to hear frequent comments indicating people are still intimidated by the complexity and difficulty of computers and digital photography. This must be based on hearsay and assumptions from the past because setting up, installing, and obtaining a first scan with the UMAX PowerLook 1100 was quite simple and easy. I'll admit the learning and practice required to make finely tuned manually color corrected professional quality scans is a bit of an investment in time and concentration, but even that gets easier and easier. For example, in less than an hour after the box arrived with the PowerLook 1100 I had several perfectly satisfactory scans made with the image files saved to my hard drive.

One of the first things I did with this new UMAX was to make proof sheets of the test film I'd just had processed, Kodak's Portra and Supra films. In fact these films made the process easier than ever. Placing an entire roll cut in six frame strips on the UMAX scan surface, I just clicked on the scanner Negative selection and chose the Kodak option, along with auto adjustment at 300dpi resolution. After obtaining a preview image on-screen, I cropped to the edges of the six film strips, and hit the Scan command button. A quite well-adjusted image soon opened in Photoshop. I simply clicked on Page Setup, setting it, and then clicked Print and my Epson Stylus Photo 1270 spit out a most useable proof sheet. In about 90 minutes I had all 15 rolls from the test shoot scanned and printed as proof sheets.

The UMAX PowerLook 1100 has a set of specifications making it a very good performer scanning medium and large format transparency film images. It will also do well scanning 35mm slides and negatives for print sizes up to 5x7" or image files for use on the web.

Before doing any serious film scanning, I used the UMAX PowerLook 1100 with the Monaco EZ Color software application to read and calibrate test prints made on fine arts papers, to build custom profiles for printing. This worked seamlessly and provided very effective profiles quite quickly and simply, making the test printing I was doing concurrently with my work evaluating the scanner a more successful effort.

With a good experience proofing color negative films I was encouraged, and dug out a set of 120 Vericolor negatives, portraits shot in available light. Although the Kodak film term did not work as effectively with these older films, it did not take any significant manual color correction after using the MagicScan highlight and shadow eyedroppers to set the black and white points in the image. Even some Agfacolor CN-17 negatives of even greater antiquity were within a reasonable degree of good color correction with the same simple technique, with just some minor Color Balance adjustment in Photoshop post scan. The ISO 160 medium format version of Fuji Reala shot when it was first introduced was more of a challenge, but no more so than Reala in 35mm has been to scan with several different dedicated 35mm scanners. Black and white negatives however, did not produce image results with smooth tone gradations in the shadows. More on that in my section on LaserSoft SilverFast Ai 5.02.

The UMAX PowerLook's exceptional sharpness is a particular advantage scanning black and white silver-base films. The adjustment control of the scan values is significantly improved providing unusually smooth tone gradations using the LaserSoft SilverFast Ai software to run the scanner.

I moved on to some scans of 120 and 4x5 transparency films. This revealed that the 14-bit color depth and 3.4 dynamic range combined with the scanner's good sharpness, produces high quality image files. There was no problem in achieving an effective color correction with a variety of different films, even the relatively short-lived 120 Kodachrome, which tends toward overly contrasty subject interpretations.

Evaluation And Recommendation. The UMAX PowerLook 1100 is a very straightforward flat-bed with transparency illuminator lid that's well built and easy to work with. The software MagicScan software driver provided is also a pragmatic design and provides a flexible interface and a full array of automatic and manual tools that is hard to better in this price category of flat-bed scanners. The new configuration and FireWire interface provide a much more convenient and accessible tool for your personal computer, that is also very fast and efficient to use. Up to its maximum hardware resolution, and particularly under 1200dpi, the UMAX PowerLook 1100 produces particularly sharp scanned images, with well-defined detail across the image brightness range. Although not all personal computers have built-in FireWire support, especially Windows PCs, I would still recommend this FireWire scanner if you are running a current version operating system (necessary for the required FireWire support), as the extra cost (about $125) of a FireWire interface card is sufficiently modest to still make the UMAX PowerLook 1100 a good buy.

For more information, contact UMAX Technologies, Inc., 3561 Gateway Blvd., Fremont, CA 94538; (510) 651-4000; fax: (510) 651-8834; www.umax.com.

LaserSoft SilverFast Ai 5.02 For The UMAX PowerLook 1100
About halfway through my test work with the PowerLook 1100 I received LaserSoft's newly released Version 5.02 of SilverFast Ai software for the scanner. With each new version upgrade LaserSoft has added immensely to the power and ease of use of SilverFast, providing the most effective access to producing professional quality scans with the equipment LaserSoft supports. In this version for the UMAX PowerLook 1100, all of the corrections made with the tools are instantly reflected in changes in the preview in real time. I was immediately made aware that the UMAX supplied .ICM for transparency scanning was off-target for this particular scanner. So, using a 4x5 Kodak Ektachrome IT-8 target, I created a new, custom profile for the scanner. This was then selected in the SilverFast options dialog. There was an immediate and significant improvement in the color matching reflected in the preview image. Then this precisely matched preview was reproduced with a finished scan opened in Photoshop. This critical color management refinement allowed making all of the color corrections in SilverFast of the remaining scans in my test so no tweaking in Photoshop post scan was needed.

Other new SilverFast features include a slider to select how much auto color-caste removal should be applied. The ability to output raw 14-bit data from the scanner and save it to disk in a compressed file format like EPS and DCS is now supported. For those who have transparency images which have in the past scanned with noise and poor image detail in the shadows, SilverFast now provides multi-pass sampling which reduces shadow noise and enhances dark image detail.

LaserSoft SilverFast enhances scanner performance and efficiency by providing a fully color managed, programmable auto adjust, and powerful easy to use manual color correction interface. It proved its worth to me by providing an effective ability to scan black and white fine arts negatives and obtain sharply defined, crisp detail and very smooth tonal gradations. These scans soon resulted in prints superior to those made with great pains years before in a wet darkroom. The SilverFast Ai 5.02 software for the UMAX PowerLook 1100 has a price of $299, and $399 with an IT-8 reference and profiling functionality. For more information and access to a demo version of SilverFast and direct sales of the software, call (941) 383-7496 or visit their web site at: www.silverfast.com.

Technical Specifications

Hardware Resolution: 1200x2400dpi
Scan Method: Single pass, 10,600 element trilinear CCD
Scanner Speed: 9.6ms/line color, quality mode
Maximum Document Size: 8.5x11.7" reflective, 8.5x10" transparency
Dmax: 3.4
Scanning Modes: Color--24 bits per pixel, 42 bits extendible; Gray Scale--8 bits per pixel, 14 bits extendible; Line Art--1 bit per pixel
Data Output: 14 bit (extendible)
Interface: FireWire/IEEE 1394
Dimensions: 21.3x13.2x6.5"
Weight: 26.4 lbs
Price: $999, $1399 with Adobe Photoshop 5.5 full version

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