Announced at Photokina last September, Polaroid’s SprintScan 120 proves to be worth the wait. It’s a dedicated film scanner that’s mainly intended to work with the medium-format films used by professional cameras such as Hasselblads, Mamiya 645, or Rollei 6000 series. Polaroid says the target market is ‘commercial, social and portrait photographers’, but it’s equally suited to designers and publishers working with medium format originals for print or the Web.
Although Polaroid’s more expensive SprintScan 45 Ultra (£3,695) is also a medium format film scanner, it’s for a different type of film. The Ultra takes single film frames in the 6x6, 6x7cm and 4x5-inch sizes. It can scan 35mm slides, but not 35mm filmstrips. Its maximum resolution of 2,500dpi is fine for the larger formats, but a bit low for 35mm.
The SprintScan 120 is for 6cm medium-format roll film (in the 120 or 220 sizes), though it can also handle 35mm film strips and mounted 35mm slides. Its maximum resolution of 4,000dpi means that it’s just as good with 35mm as a dedicated 35mm scanner. Three metal film holders are provided: a general purpose medium format holder for 6-x-4.5, 6-x-6, 6-x-7 and 6-x-9cm frames; a 35mm film holder for strips of up to six frames; and a holder for four 35mm mounted slides. The film holders are very solidly built and the 35mm strip holder has a slider arrangement for fine adjustment of the frame divider positions.
The SprintScan 120 has a maximum resolution of 4,000dpi and a respectable dynamic range of 3.9 (it can work with maximum film densities up to 4.2). The sensor captures 14-bits per channel and the scanner can output 16-bits. Auto focus and auto calibration are run for each scan.
A 6-x-6cm scan at 4,000dpi takes takes 8 minutes, 38 seconds, of which half is applying corrections and downloading via SCSI-2, to produce a file size of 160MB. At a more typical 2,000dpi the same image takes 2 minutes, 38 seconds for a 40MB file.
This is a fairly large scanner – bigger than some A4 flatbeds. It’s attractively styled in two-tone blue and it’s very quiet when not scanning. Both SCSI-2 and IEEE1394 (FireWire) ports are built in and cables for both are supplied, though Polaroid warns that IEEE 1394 only works with Windows Me and 2000 (as well as Macs). SCSI-2 and IEEE 1394 cards are not provided.
Three scanning programs are included in the price, all working with Mac OS or Windows 95/98/Me/NT4/ 2000. Polaroid’s own PolaColor Insight Pro is easy to use, and is capable of good results on automatic, but its manual-correction controls could be better designed.
It can embed ICC colour profiles into images or leave them out. PolaColor can be run independently or as a Photoshop acquire plug-in. There’s a basic two-level dust remover that works fairly well.
Binuscan’s PhotoPerfect Advanced is intended for fully automatic colour and density correction suitable for professional print. It takes raw (uncorrected) Insight Pro scans, and processes them according to Binuscan’s own pre-set parameters. There’s an override menu but it’s kept obscure to discourage fiddling. It can optionally convert RGB colour originals to CMYK or corrected greyscale for print.
PhotoPerfect is supposed to automatically correct ‘difficult’ negative originals. I was unimpressed with its efforts with some mildly underexposed negs and positives I tried it with.
LaserSoft Imaging’s Silverfast Ai 5 is also bundled: it’s an excellent package, very good at automatic corrections, with a comprehensive set of global and local manual correction controls. A step-by-step ScanPilot menu helps you do things in order. An IT8 calibration target slide is supplied to set up the initial ICC profile. SilverFast HDR, a separate program, lets you open up stored 16-bit scans and re-edit them.
The SprintScan 120 produces excellent results at a price that’s very reasonable for a medium-format film scanner, particularly when the SilverFast software is used. Its resolution is more than adequate for 35mm too, so it would be a great all rounder if you need to scan both formats.