Price: £3,049 plus VAT
While printer manufacturers spend time and effort creating new case designs, scanner builders aren’t as bothered. Microtek’s ArtixScan 2500f is a case in point, looking identical to earlier incarnations of the ArtixScan professional A4 series, but with a different hardware package inside. Principal among the changed internal specification is a new Kodak CCD. Generally capable of a dynamic range 3.7D, the Kodak CCD has a maximum potential of 3.9D, which pushes it into prepress territory. The higher density value indicates a superior ability to discern fine-shading differences – and therefore detail – in shadow areas for transparency scans. This is important for blow-ups where you don’t want dark features to turn flat or appear full of noise. Also new to the product is “anti-Newton-ring glass”. Like Agfa’s professional scanners, most of Microtek’s ArtixScan range employs a twin-plate system, whereby reflective scans are conducted on a conventional glass plate under a lid, but transparency originals are scanned inside the unit itself. This internal scanning plate is accessed by fitting your transparencies into special plastic holders that insert into the scanner case on a horizontal sliding tray at the front. Holders for 35mm slides, filmstrips, 5-x-4in and medium format transparencies are provided, the great advantage being that there’s no glass between the original and the scanning head. Potential problems with glass in high-res image capture, such as specs of dust and Newton rings, are eliminated. Now there’s an issue with outsize or non-standard film sizes. 10-x-8inch and other loose transparencies that don’t conform to any of the plastic holders must be loaded onto a special plain-glass tray, which then kills off the glass-free concept. Making the best of it, the ArtixScan 2500f comes with a glass tray which uses the anti-Newton-ring glass to least minimize the risk further in those scans. These features help the scanner squeeze the most resolution out of its base optical-sampling rate of 1,250dpi. As well as offering a dual-plate system, the device supports a twin-lens power function that doubles up the sampling rate along a reduced-width path. This isn’t a great boon for reflective scans, because the hi-res path is only 101mm wide (albeit 356mm long), but is likely to be useful for high-quality capture of standard-size transparencies. Scanning 35mm at a resolution of 2,500dpi would be sufficient for a full-page blow-up at prepress quality. On this note, bear in mind the maximum reflective scanning area is only 203-x-356mm: this is longer than, but not as wide as, A4. It shouldn’t be an issue for professional image capture, but would present a problem if you want to use the machine for everyday scanning of A4 office documents as well. Connecting Another key upgrade feature with regard to the ArtixScan series is the provision of both FireWire and SCSI-II interfaces as standard on this model. Better still, Microtek has included PCI cards for both in the box. This is just as well, because we had trouble persuading the built-in FireWire ports on a Power Mac G4 to recognize the scanner. PCI card interfaces presented no such trouble – on Macs or PCs. The software bundle has been upgraded. It features LaserSoft’s SilverFast Ai 5.5. This scanning package, which works as a TWAIN module or Photoshop plug-in, is well rounded and deceptively powerful. But also included is Microtek’s ScanWizard Pro 6 that, although no match for SilverFast, is ICC profile-aware and batch-capable. Detailed lab tests reveal a high-quality scanner that lives up to its promise, with good resolution, reliable results and (often overlooked) rugged build. Designers looking for a decent general-purpose A4 prepress scanner will not be disappointed.