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How essential are scanner specs

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  #1  
Old 11-01-2009, 05:47 PM
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pavel123 pavel123 is offline
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How essential are scanner specs

I apologize if I am asking an obvious (to anybody else) question.

I have a relatively old scanner (going 5 years or so back HP ScanJet 3400, it wasn't a high end scanner at that time). Can say I am happy with the quality of scanned images. Colors are off, images seem darker (which is a big deal is a photo is dark to begin with) and the scanner seem to have a talent to pick and magnify any imperfection.

- Can anything be improved by changing scanning software? ( I am using software package that come with the scanner, HP, software is not HP's strongest suite).

-If changing the scanner is the only option, what would be specs I should be looking at and what models would be preferable?

Thank you in advance.

Pavel
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Old 11-01-2009, 08:27 PM
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Re: How essential are scanner specs

Probably the most important spec of a scanner is Dynamic Range. It is often not highlighted or advertised by the manufacturer and in many cases is not shown on some manufacturers' spec sheets. Dynamic Range is the ratio of the lightest light and darkest dark that a scanner can detect. High dynamic range often means a huge difference in the shadows of a scan - that's usually where you see plugged dark colors and loss of detail. High dynamic range is often an indication of the quality of the sensors and A/D converters ina scanner.
The next very important spec is the precision of the A/D converter of the scanner whose output is stated in number of bits. The values are 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16 with 16 being the highest possible. Most of todays good quality scanners on the market are 12 or 14 bit. I would not get one less than 12 bit.
As for S/W, my recommendation (with one exception) is to completely ignore the manufacturers S/W. I turn OFF all of the manufacter's settings - no descreen, no noise filter, no color correction, no anything. Take the best quality raw scan that you can get / need and send the output directly to Photoshop or other image editing S/W. The only exception is ICE s/w that accompanies slide scanners (clones out dust spots and pinholes on the fly while scanning). You might want to check out Epson brand - they make some really good affordable scanners (flatbed). If you are looking at negative / slide scanners, I would go with Nikon any day over all the others.
Regards, Murray
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Old 11-01-2009, 09:26 PM
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Re: How essential are scanner specs

Quote:
Originally Posted by pavel123 View Post
Colors are off, images seem darker...
Since it's old, it could by your fluorescent tubes are old and need replacing. They have a limited life span, based upon the hours used. It could be something else of course.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pavel123 View Post
and the scanner seem to have a talent to pick and magnify any imperfection.
This is likely just the fact you are scanning at too high a resolution. No need to go over 300 ppi for most scans, and anything over 600 will show all the dust. It's a must to keep your scanner covered when not in use, keep your office clean and dust free, and dust the scanner bed before each use. The new microfiber towels are great for catching the dust and removing any contamination on the bed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pavel123 View Post
Can anything be improved by changing scanning software?
Sometimes. But, most lend themselves to giving you features to make adjustments to the image without needing Photoshop. For instance, Silverfast and others include levels, curves, hue/sat, exposure, split-toning, and so on and so on.... pretty much everything. But, if you are skilled at Photoshop, do as Murray recommends and just use the scanner for obtaining a raw image.

The big advantage would be if you are scanning slides or negatives. Some features of higher end scanners are not built into all vendors' software, due to negotiated rights between the scanner manufacturer and the software manufacturer. For example, the Epson V750M series scanners have an infrared sensor/chip set to allow better functionality of the ICE algorithms for transparent media. However, Lasersofts' Silverfast software is not allowed to use this functionality for their Epson drivers due to legal issues between Epson and ICE. Only the ICE functionality in Epson's own software can use the infrared chip set. So, before laying out a lot of money, do your research.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pavel123 View Post
what would be specs I should be looking at and what models would be preferable?
That depends on how you will use the scanner. Tell us more about that, then we can tell you our opinions or our experience.
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Old 11-01-2009, 09:48 PM
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Re: How essential are scanner specs

Oh yeh, for some plain talk about scanners, read this. I'm sure others will share their good links as well.
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Old 11-02-2009, 05:53 AM
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Re: How essential are scanner specs

Many thanks for detailed info.
I have been using the scanner quite rarely in the past mostly for text and an odd photo or two. I am planning to try a photo retouching/enhancement as a business in the future, at this stage I am trying to plan for eventualities.
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