You may not need a scanner—or, for that matter, a computer—to get high-quality photo scans. With the Scandock ($499 direct) from Atiz Innovations, an iPhone placed in the elegantly designed dock becomes the scanner, and the Scandock app automatically color-corrects your scans, making this apparatus a potential replacement for a flatbed scanner. Most of my test scans of photos, once processed by the app, showed good, true-looking color. For document scanning it’s a mixed bag, and the app could use more detailed instructions.
Atiz—which also sells its BookDrive book scanners to libraries, universities, and other institutions—bills the Scandock as a “post-PC scanner.” The futuristic dock employs an aluminum frame with a dual-track lighting system, with two beams holding 4 two-bulb lamps, one positioned above and outside each corner of the scan area. The light turns on when you place your iPhone in the dock, and turns off when you remove it.
Anatomy of a Post-PC Scanner
The Scandock’s footprint is 17.5 by 20.5 inches, and it is 15 inches tall. This is considerably larger than the Plustek OpticBook 3800, a basic book scanner. Unlike a flatbed scanner like the Plustek OpticBook, the Scandock has an open frame. This means that it’s potentially subject to glare from direct light sources above it or nearby, as I found in my testing. (Ambient light shouldn’t be an issue.) Thus, you’d want to place it away from direct lighting or turn off the lights near it when it’s in use, neither of which may be viable in a business situation. I was able to shield it from stray light with a makeshift hood, by placing a large sheet of cardboard over the dock.
The base consists of a flatbed, slightly larger than letter size, on which you set the page to be scanned. Along one short edge is the Image IQ, a set of grayscale and color swatches that the app uses to auto-correct the scanned image, to ensure that color is correct under different lighting conditions. The item to be scanned is placed on a slightly sticky silicone “flat mat” to hold it in place and minimize folds or curls.
The Scandock ships with two docks, both black: one for the iPhone, and a Universal dock that fits larger phones or phablets (Atiz will soon release an app for Android phones.) I tried the Scandock with both an iPhone 3GS and iPhone 5. To fit my iPhone 5 into the dock, I had to remove it from its tight-fitting case, which proved to be no easy feat, and then squeeze it back into the case when it was done—not a task I’d want to do on a regular basis. A workable alternative is that it can rest on top of the dock; you may need to move the phone around a little for optimal positioning (to make sure the swatches are in the shot).
Although the iPhone 3GS is shorter, it’s the same width as the iPhone 5, so you’d likely run into the same issue of having to remove it from its case to fit in the dock, even with snug, minimalist cases. With a loose iPhone, you have the option of locking it into the dock while you’re using it. When locked in, needless to say, it’s a lot harder to use as a phone should you get a call while you’re scanning, though you could conceivably do so on speakerphone.
Using the Scandock App
The printed User Guide (which is identical to the downloadable version on the Scandock support page) only describes the hardware operation. Although you can adjust settings within the app through a gear icon, the app lacks clear instructions—a tips page only gives you a few basic pointers—and its features aren’t always intuitive. For instance, it took me quite a while to figure out simply how to complete a scan when I’d scanned the desired pages. (Once you’ve scanned a page, a green label appears to the right of the Scan icon, labeled 1 OK, 2 OK, etc., the number changing depending on how many pages you’ve scanned. Tapping that button will stop and display the scan.)
The top part of the Scandock app lets you initiate scans or import a photo from your photo albums. You can either scan individual pages, or scan more than one item (for instance, receipts) at once, and save them on different pages After you’ve scanned, you get some choices (with icons at the screen’s bottom) as to what to do with the scan: email it, save it to PDF, delete it, send it to Twitter, Facebook, save it to your iPhone’s camera roll, print, or copy it. You can also edit it (deleting specific pages).
Along with automatic color correction, you can also manually adjust settings such as brightness, contrast, and paper size. You can manually adjust cropping using a green grid system that’s displayed.
Although iPhone apps such as CamScanner will let you initiate and manage scans with your phone, they lack the dock and the color correction system that Atiz, which also makes high-end book scanners, has developed. I was pleased with the color accuracy that the Scandock provided.
Although you can scan text documents and save them to PDF, it’s the non-searchable image PDF format. Although documents are easier to peel up from the sticky flat mat than photos, the peeling process does add time. If you don’t use the sticky mat (and you can cover it with a sheet of acetone), you could always place a multipage document face-up on the scanner and pull the pages off one by one as you scan them. I tried that and was able to scan a 12-page document in just under a minute, although page alignment and shading suffered for it.
The “grid scan” feature lets you scan multiple documents (receipts, for example) either to separate files or to one file, and then, say, save to image PDF or JPEG. You may be best off in removing the sticky mat for grid-mode scans, as small and delicate documents can get damaged when you pull them up, as happened once in my testing.
For $500, you get the dock (with base and lighting system) and the app; you have to supply the iPhone, of course. The lighting system, which does a good job of providing uniform luminosity across the scan area, is a big plus, as is the color correction system, in which the app, by interpreting scans with the help of the color swatches at the dock’s base, is able to render good-quality photo scans. It can also be used for document scanning, which you can do quickly enough with a bit of practice or in “grid” mode, though you’re limited to scanning to non-searchable image PDF format.
On the downside, the Scandock is larger than conventional flatbed scanners and some flatbed book scanners, and may require shielding from nearby direct lighting. It’s somewhat pricey when you consider that no actual scanner (image sensor) is included. The app lacks clear instructions and is not very intuitive, so it takes some practice to effectively use the app to initiate and manage scans, and it doesn’t scan to searchable PDF.
The Atiz Innovations Scandock is best for individuals or businesses in need of good-quality photo scans, and who may need to do occasional document scanning but not to searchable PDF format. It’s a unique and elegant replacement for a flatbed scanner.
|USB or FireWire Interface||USB|
|Automatic Document Feeder||No|
|Maximum Scan Area||Letter|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc