© 2004 KenRockwell.com
about these reviews
Mandatory: learn all about scanners and how to select the right scanner here
see comparative review of $320 Epson 1640 SU Photo here
See review of UMAX 2100U here
I got this scanner after the Epson 1640SU in the hopes of more consistent color and density from Velvia film scans. Since no one had this set up at retail to try I just ordered one from the cheapest vendor I could find over the Internet. Today I'd get it from Amazon since they have a 30 day any reason return policy.
The Microtek 1100 gave film scans far, far better than the Epson.
My first sample gave poor scans of flat art and the second was fine.. To be honest, you don't need a scanner this good for flat art like photo prints. Any cheap flatbed is fine, and the newest Microteks with ICE will even fix prints with creases in them.
The Microtek software allows the knowledgeable user get great results.
Unlike the Epson, this scanner includes color calibration software and reflective and transmissive targets for regular use. This scanner is serious about great color.
Also unlike the Epson scanner, the Microtek 1100 delivered uncannily good color right out of the box. In other words, I was shocked at how the colors on my uncalibrated Viewsonic PF815 CRT monitor matched the transparencies on my light box. I never did bother to calibrate it. Of course I have a Mac with ColorSync (standard on all Macs) , heaven only help you if you are foolish enough to be trying to use a Windows PC for careful photographic work.
Great. Scanned transparencies look just like the original film.
I found the autofocus just fine. Others worry about the ability to get sharp results with wiggly film. I got swell results, even with 6x6 and 6x7 in the 6x9 holders.
The film handling was great, unlike laying film on top of the Epson as you would lay film on top of a copying machine. The Microtek has a drawer into which you insert film holders, just like a real film scanner. I found popping 4x5s or mounted slides into the holders was a breeze and didn't get my fingers all over the film as one does with the Epson.
One has to cut 120 film, unlike the Epson.
The Microtek can take 12 mounted 35mm slides at a time, or four 120s or two 4x5s. The scanner's software makes it easy to tell the scanner what to scan how and then leave it alone to do all the scanning. My real film scanner can't do that since it does not hold as much film. In fact, for most web use where you need throughput this flatbed is better than a dedicated film scanner since you can load it up and walk away without having to attend to each piece of film one-by-one.
The bad news is that the included software, ScanWizzard 1.21, did not run with Photoshop 6 without crashing my dual-processor 450MHz Mac G4. I had to call Microtek who showed me where to load a patch from their website, and it still crashed my Mac more in a day than the Mac had crashed the whole rest of the time I owned it. Microtek then sent me a CD of ScanWizzard 6 that worked just fine. Microtek needs to include this with the scanner in the first place, not expect us to do their beta testing for them.
The first sample of Microtek arrived looking poorly made. Specifically, there were fingerprints and dust and slop inside the scanner visible through the glass. This looks very sloppy compared to the perfectly clean Epson 1640SU.
It only has the obsolete SCSI interface; not a modern Firewire (also called IEEE1394, and iLink by others) or even USB connection. At least Microtek includes a SCSI board for your computer, but you still can't use it with an iMac or G4 cube unless you screw with external firewire convertors. The newer Microtek scanners like the 8700 have firewire, but not the scanning quality of this 1100.
A 4x5 transparency took three minutes to scan at 1000 DPI on my dual-processor Mac G4 through the included SCSI board.
Note that Microtek, just like most manufacturers, lies about scan speed. It was claimed to do it in 50 seconds. I suspect these lies are based on defining "scan time" as some devious partial operation related to scanning, and exclude other things for which you still have to wait in the process of making a scan. My measurements are from when I clicked the SCAN button to when the image appeared in Photoshop 6, and that's on a screaming Mac dual processor G4 with 3/4 gigs (768k) of RAM .
Noise and Dmax
So how good was the rest of it, besides the colors? Quality is more important than quantity. Hopefully you understand that the most important issue by far is whether or not you get the right pixels (colors and density) before you start worrying about how many pixels (resolution).
This stuff below really has no real effect on the quality of the scans.
I found that the Dmax ability of my first sample was worse than the Epson 1640. Honest, it's amazing what you discover when you do your own tests with open eyes. Drat, the 3.9 Dmax spec was the main reason I bought this scanner. There was more noise in the shadows then on the Epson, and to make things worse, the noise came in obvious lines instead of smooth noise as in the Epson. Ha Ha on me! it turns out that the second scanner I tried was fine.
I sent examples of my first sample to Microtek and asked them what gives. Lo and behold, they told me I had a defective scanner. I sent it back.
It was an honest 1000 DPI. It had the same real resolution as the Epson 1640 SU which claims a higher 1600 DPI, just as I suspected. In other words, Microtek meets their resolution spec, and Epson doesn't quite hit it due to poorer optics or just plain lying. These are the things that make the difference between scanners costing five times as much as one another.
Note that there is no published spec called "Quality." You only can see that by scanning for real and looking at the results. This is where the high-dollar scanners clean up. They have the same printed specs as the crummy scanners.
After my experiences with the buggy software I did get great scans even with my first defective sample. Heck, most of the images you see in my gallery sections were scanned on this defective scanner and I have won major photo contests with prints made from the same defective scanner!
You ought to come over and see what a 4k x 5k image looks like on my 22" monitor. For now you'll have to just see the small versions of these images at the California, La Jolla and France galleries. California and La Jolla were scanned from 4x5" Velvia, and France from 6x7 cm Velvia on the first defective Microtek 1100.