Polaroid Insight 3.0 is an automated color
correction software module providing optional manual control
of image appearance in an easy to use interface (Windows).
Photos © 1999, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved
This new Polaroid Sprint-Scan
4000 is the first 35mm consumer model offered to the individual user
that goes beyond 2700-2800dpi resolution. It is an all new model, not
just a resolution upgrade to previous SprintScan models, and it also
offers a very effective new film and slide transport system, batch scanning,
as well as very fast physical performance. Although the overall shape
of this new 4000 is similar to earlier SprintScans, it is a shade larger
and somewhat heavier. The density range of 3.4 remains the same as SprintScan
35 Plus, and the 4000 also scans at 36-bit color depth. The strip film
holder now handles six film frames, and the slide holder has spaces
for four mounted slides.
The SprintScan 4000 also comes with entirely new Polaroid Insight 3.0
software. It is a stand-alone application on the Windows platform, and
works through the Adobe Photoshop plug-in architecture on a Mac. Insight
3.0 is a highly automated approach to adjusting scans which also provides
a series of screen window views supporting user adjustment choice of
brightness/contrast, color balance, curve characteristics, and sharpening.
In addition, Polaroid Insight 3.0 includes a very effective dirt and
scratch removal function. The entire package, SprintScan 4000 and Insight
3.0 software, has a list price of $2495, less than $300 over the price
of their previous top of the line 35 Plus scanner.
Using The Polaroid SprintScan 4000. The installation
and set up of the Polaroid SprintScan 4000 was simple, straightforward,
and I was ready to make my first scan in just minutes. This use and
testing of the SprintScan 4000 coincided with also using the new Epson
Stylus Photo 1200, so I set the Insight 3.0 software to output high-resolution
scans resulting in 12x18" print files at 300dpi from the outset.
I scanned slide and color as well as black and white negatives with
the 4000, the latter using the gray scale setting as well as scanning
as a color negative. Using the new four slide holder in particular is
easy and secure, a distinct improvement in handling over any scanner
I've used before.
Although Insight 3.0 is a unique approach to achieving fully adjusted
scan output, the interface is straightforward and logical presenting
the control of each dimension of image quality under separate tabs.
On Windows the workspace is close to full screen providing a generous
easy to see preview. This is aided by an adjustable "bar"
separating the image into before and after sections for easier perceptual
evaluation in making adjustments. Using the controls was easy as they
are largely conventional and logical. However, I soon found the automated
adjustment made by the Insight 3.0 processing rarely resulted in desirable
image qualities, so working with the software amounts mostly to correcting
the automatic correction to a more desirable image appearance. With
some experience doing this I soon had a personal system to work around
the Polaroid concept of what an image should look like and got the software
to produce scans the way I wanted them to look. This largely involved
zeroing any brightness/contrast adjustment the software made, then I
went to the curve tool if the image had areas that were too light or
dark, and adjusted them by shaping the curve appropriately. I would
then back up and make any adjustment necessary to the color balance,
and if there was a neutral in the image which looked off-color I used
the eyedropper to remove the color caste. Setting the sharpness in the
next to last "tab" in the Insight interface was not helped
a lot by the preview screen appearance, but after making a few scans
I soon learned from viewing the result in Photoshop how to set the percent
slider control for sharpening to get a good result.
Evaluation And Recommendation.
The Polaroid SprintScan 4000 hardware functioned flawlessly,
and every aspect of image quality affected by its physical performance
resulted in superb image values. Apparently the 2700-2800dpi maximum of
slide scanners in the past has been somewhat unfortunate. I found as soon
as I moved the resolution just a little over 3000dpi with the 4000 the
noisy appearance of "grain" in some scans I've made
in the past disappears, and the recording of the film grain appearance
in the digital output coincides with its appearance magnified in the original
film. However, with all but very slow, fine-grained films, scans made
at resolutions over 3200-3300dpi seem to gain little in added image information.
So the main advantage of the 4000dpi maximum is to output a file size
sufficient for making large prints at specific sizes. Using that approach
I experienced getting 12x18 images at 300dpi from slide and negative film
images which resulted in some of the best prints from 35mm I've
been able to produce.
Unfortunately there are some flaws in the Polaroid approach as it is manifested
in the Insight 3.0 software. The most significant shortcoming, besides
the fact the software processing is extremely time consuming sabotaging
the scanner's fast physical performance, is that there is no way
to control and assure the output utilizes the full gamut. In other words,
the Insight software does not provide a histogram or any way to control
gamut optimization like you can with Photoshop's levels tool. Second,
Polaroid has chosen not to support ICC/ICM color management. So, for a
user of Photoshop 5.0.2, the files have to be converted to Photoshop's
colorspace when opened, adding more time to processing. Third, the Polaroid
Insight 3.0 software does not support saving a raw scan so the scanner
cannot be custom profiled so it can be integrated into a color managed
system. Nor does Insight 3.0 support saving a raw scan in the full 36-bit
color depth captured by the CCD so it can be opened in Photoshop's
48-bit mode for manual color correction. These shortcomings would not
be all that significant if Insight 3.0's auto-processing output
accurately color corrected image files. Unfortunately I found nearly every
scan file I opened in Photoshop required major additional color correction,
including a levels adjustment of up to 30-35 percent to optimize gamut
On the positive side of this incongruity between the hardware's
superb capabilities and the software's faults, is the fact Polaroid
is open and apparently committed to making the 4000 work for all of us.
Version 3.5 of the Insight software should be available by the time this
report is in print, which fixes some of the problems including faster
auto-processing, and the ability to output raw data, also in 36-bit format.
Hopefully all of the potential of the 4000 will be accessible, and experienced
Photoshop users will be supported and able to access all of the potential
of this powerful, high-performance scanner before long. For the many others
who want easy to use automated scanning, the 4000 produces very good image
quality with careful use of the Insight software that will please a lot
of users I'm sure. For more information, call (800) 816-2611, extension
D001, or visit the web site at: www.polaroid.com.
Scan Media: 35mm
and APS film, positive and negative
Optical Resolution: 4000dpi
Color Depth: 12 bits per RGB channel (36 bit)
Density Range: 0-3.4
Scan Time: Under one minute
Scan Method: Single pass
Interface: SCSI 2
Compatibility: Windows and Macintosh
Weight: 8 lbs
List Price: $2495