Price: £2,950 plus VAT
ArtixScan 4500t is a film scanner for all sizes up to 4-x-5 inches, with a maximum resolution of 2,500dpi. That’s enough to blow a 4-x-5-inch film up to 846-x-1,058mm at a magazine quality 300dpi (giving a mammoth file size of 285MB). It’s big compared with a 35mm scanner: about the same size as an A4 reflection scanner – the fan’s fairly noisy too. This is a SCSI device, supplied with a PCI card for PCs and Macs that need one. Apart from minor external differences, the hardware is exactly the same as the Polaroid SprintScan 45 Ultra (reviewed in Digit 29). Likewise, the Polaroid SprintScan 4000 and Microtek ArtixScan 4000t are sisters under the skin. Polaroid never admits it officially, but Microtek’s US Artix factory builds the hardware for both. The software is different though – Polaroid supplies PolaColor Insight Pro, and Microtek provides its own ScanWizard Pro TX. Software Microtek also includes a copy of LaserSoft SilverFast Ai 5, a high-quality scanning utility that’s an alternative to ScanWizard Pro. This runs as an import plug-in within Photoshop, though you get the option of saving straight to file rather than to the Photoshop window. It’s supplied with a 4-x-5 inch Kodak IT8 film calibration target that is used to create an ICC profile for the individual scanner. SilverFast has a good reputation for better automatic and manual controls than standard scanner software, though in my tests it produced much the same results in full auto-RGB as ScanWizard. The latest SilverFast 5 has an improved CMYK preview that matches the Photoshop preview. The SilverFast manual controls are more comprehensive if you’re a real expert, but there’s nothing much wrong with ScanWizard. The only tool I missed was an eyedropper to set neutral greys within the image, which SilverFast has. It also provides B&W point eyedroppers, again missing from ScanWizard Pro but less vital as you can use the W&B Point histogram to set these. SilverFast can optionally be set to HDR option to capture the full dynamic range of the scanner, allowing you to correct the results in Photoshop. ScanWizard Pro often makes you wait five minutes while the lamp warms up if you’ve not used it for a while, even if the scanner has been on all day. This may save power, but it’s irritating. You can cancel the warm-up, but it may not match its profile. The 4500t’s maximum optical resolution of 2,500dpi is fairly modest compared with the 4,000dpi of top Nikon and Microtek/Polaroid 35mm scanners, but it’s scanning a much larger area. You don’t need ultra-high resolution for medium format films. 2,500dpi is respectable for a 35mm frame – it’s enough to enlarge to A4 for print or desktop inkjet quality. The dynamic range of 3.8 is better than most scanners, so it’s good with shadow tones. You get a choice of 8- or 16-bits per channel output. Three film holders are supplied. One can accept up to four mounted 35mm slides; another is a glassless multi-format holder for 4-x-5 inch that also takes inserts for unmounted 2.25-inch square or 6-x-7 cm film or one mounted 35mm slide – the unmounted film is held flat by magnetic strips. The third holder is a glass mount that can take odd-sized film up to 4-x-5 inches, which is held flat on the glass by vinyl strips, though getting it square can be tricky. Unlike dedicated 35mm scanners there’s no holder for strips of unmounted 35mm film, though you can put three short strips of three frames onto the glass holder. If you use a multiple film holder, you can set up batch scanning in ScanWizard or SilverFast, with each image given individual exposure, scale, crop and resolutions, then scanned in sequence with automatic numbering of file names. Scanning speed depends on the film size, resolution and quality chosen. A 2.25-inch square film to fill 80MB takes 2 mins 24 secs, while a 20MB max-res 35mm scan takes 1 min and 16 seconds. This 4500t is an excellent scanner if you work with medium format films. If you only ever work with 35mm though it’s better to go for a 35mm model at half the price or less.