Microtek’s ScanMaker i800 Pro Design; A Fully Loaded Legal-Size Flat-Bed Film & Print Scanner Page 2

After digging deep into my black and white film files I came up with a varied selection of subjects made on different kinds of film, each developed somewhat differently as well. Switching film holders, I found the gripping tension designed to keep the film stretched tight in the holder quite effective, though if not set just right it could push and pull the film too much and make it buckle. But I soon got the feel of the holders with different black and white films with varying thickness, so I could begin the scanning. In the past I had found I could obtain the best control of final image values from a scan by making a raw 16-bit grayscale file with the scanner software set to record a positive, which would result in a file that was a negative image. I would then use Levels and Curves in small steps of adjustment before and after inverting the image from a negative to a positive. This method produced a smoother transition and gradation of tones that was more linear than I would get using the scanner driver to do the conversion from a negative on film to a positive, adjusted digital scan image.

Fortuitously a monarch butterfly flew into a greenhouse where I was photographing flowers and lit with spread wings to make a perfect display for my camera. Somewhat less fortunate was the affect of the light on the scene filtered through the fiberglass roof and walls of the greenhouse reproducing a rather strange color cast over the scene. SilverFast, however, has an adjustable control that recognizes color casts and supports the careful removal of the skewing color, leaving the subject in its pristine originality.

Shot on ISO 100 silver-based film, this 6x4.5cm negative readily scanned with the i800 Pro Design and SilverFast to a sharply detailed 16x20"x300dpi file, capturing the intricate detail and complexity of tones in a portrait of this unusual Victorian house.

However, with new hardware and a new version of SilverFast I was compelled to begin my black and white film scanning using SilverFast's NegaFix to make my first scans. I was pleasantly surprised when I obtained a well adjusted and smooth progression of tone, which reproduced the black and white image in a positive displayed in the preview window. This pleasant surprise was confirmed after I made my first batch of black and white scans when I opened them with Photoshop to do any tweaking necessary, which was minimal, and then set to the arduous task of cleaning up any spots from dust or scratches. Sadly, neither Digital ICE nor SilverFast's SRD is of little or no value because they cannot readily distinguish between the film grain and a dust spot. So, "spotting" black and white scans is still a manual piece of drudgery.

Although the range of values is quite high in this scene near the Olympic rain forest largely overcast by clouds, much of the scene is illuminated very softly. This created extremely subtle distinctions of tone defining near and distant detail. The i800 Pro Design and SilverFast partnered effectively to reproduce the values all across the scene, preserving a definition and separation of tone throughout the image in a file 20" square x 300dpi from a 6x6cm 120 negative.

Late one summer afternoon in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon a dirt road I was exploring brought me to this lake. My camera was loaded with Kodachrome so even though the backlight of this scene was pushing the limits of this film I made some shots, and I am glad I did as I have never since been able to find this lake again. Contrasty as the slides are, the i800 Pro Design and SilverFast produced just about the best scan files reproducing this scene I have been able to achieve.

Evaluation And Recommendation
Everything in the way of photo images I threw at the Microtek ScanMaker i800 Pro Design came back as at least good scan files or better, something I can't say for many much more expensive scanners I have used in the past. But harking back to my opening argument that software is as essential to getting good scans as hardware, how do my good results come from using the right software? I wish I could say it proved my point, but then you have to consider the old saw, it takes two to tango, and if you remove one or the other of the dance partners nothing results. All I can say for sure from my experience with the i800 Pro Design is that SilverFast Ai 6 and this scanner do dance well together.

Over the past few years of testing and reporting on scanners of all kinds one trend has been very evident: prices have plummeted and performance has shot up. I sure wish a lot more things in this world had such positive price/value scenarios. At $549 for a "pro" quality scanner, the price is surely moderate compared to anything in the past, but still not as affordable as the basic i800 package. Is it really worth going the Pro Design route? The answer to that is in your needs and requirements and whether you will take advantage of all the tools this model puts at your disposal. If the answer to that is yes, then the cost of the i800 Pro Design is worth it.

Stroboscopic multiple exposures of a fast-moving dancer captured a rather unpredictable range of exposed values on film, often exceeding what the most brightly lit, contrasty landscape records. But even though the brightest values were represented by unusually high negative densities, the dynamic range of the i800 Pro Design and SilverFast was able to record all of the values with good separation of tones in a grayscale file.

For more information, contact Microtek, 16941 Keegan Ave., Carson, CA 90746; (310) 687-5940; www.microtekusa.com.

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