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Note: This page documented the Acer ScanWit 2720s. Since it was written Acer released the 2740s which is basically the same but adds Infra-Red detection and cleaning of scratched or dirty slides. Acer then renamed themselves as Benq. Many new film scanners have now been released by other manufacturers so the comparisons and prices may not be valid.
First off, this page is intended for amateurs; if you are a professional, or have a large budget then this advice isn't appropriate.
Simple: for good quality at A4 size you need a film scanner. Flatbeds with transparency adapters are great if you are putting images on the web though. If you want to do the calculation: you need 240 dpi for printing, a page is 10 inches or 2400 pixels, a slide is 1 inch so you need a scanner of 2400dpi or better. Note that the Epson Perfection 1200 flatbed claims 2400dpi but is basically a 600dpi scanner, see the test results for details.
How to choose? Here's why I picked the Acer, and why I nearly didn't (!).
Rule number one: ignore the manufacturer's claims. Especially the dynamic range / Dmax figures they quote which often don't use the same reference points.
The ScanWit has 12-bit depth which may seem four times better than the Minolta Scan Dual's 10 bits, but you can vary the exposure time on the Minolta whereas the ScanWit's is fixed (actually determined internally). That's something the web pages don't tell you! Removing the orange cast from negatives is easier if you can vary the exposure time. Hence the ScanWit may be no better than the Minolta for negatives.
Conclusion: the ScanWit is the best value for money if you have a tight budget. If you spend more you will get more, but not proportionately!
Save your pennies and buy LOTS OF RAM since it is so cheap! The hard disk is not so important but you really need 128 MB of memory, 256 MB would be fantastic and 512 MB would be a dream!
NB. Most reports from buyers of the Jenoptik / Tamarack scanner are not favourable. Spend a bit extra and get the ScanWit!
For a very comprehensive review of (and user guide for) the ScanWit see P.L.Andrew's review.
The bundled driver has been updated to work with Windows 95, 98, NT and 2000. Check the Acer web page (link below) for XP support. It also claims Mac compatibility.
Get VueScan and you will have much more control over the output, better quality, speed, ease of use, ...
VueScan works great in Linux too and is also available for the Mac.
You can use any SCSI card, a cheap Adaptec 2904 for 25 pounds (US$ 40) is fast enough, has less compatibility problems than the bundled card, and has an internal SCSI connector too.
Disclaimer: I'm just a satisfied owner!
The ScanWit excels at slides. Which films work best for you and which show too much aliasing? I have found that Fuji Sensia shows too much aliasing, but Fuji Velvia is great. However the latter has a great dynamic range which is difficult to represent properly on screen.
Negatives. I haven't really tried them. Which makes have you found produce the best results? Other people have found that Jessops 200 is bad but Konica is good.
Slide holder. Some people have snapped off the little springs and found it easier to insert and remove slides with no loss of focus. Two of mine have now broken and indeed slide insertion and removal are now easier with no discernable loss of quality. If you need to buy a replacement holder try a special order from Jessops or try contacting BenQ UK, Unit 41, Springvale Industrial Estate, Cwmbran, NP44 5BD, Telephne 01633 628 606.
SCSI terminator. It supposedly works without but you can pick one up quite cheaply if you are worried about SCSI problems.
Software. Consider purchasing Vuescan or SilverFast to get more from the scanner than the supplied MiraScan software. In particular multiscanning can reduce noise, you may get better automatic colour correction.
If you have any questions you can e-mail me or consider joining either the Filmscanners Mailing List or the 2720 User Group (see below for links) where you can contact many other ScanWit owners.