Flatbed scanners range from about £40 to several thousand pounds, so how does the technology improve as the price increases? The maximum resolution and colour depth of scans increases, facilities like transparency scanning come into play and, perhaps above all, the quality of the scans should improve.
HP’s ScanJet G4050 costs well under £200, but has several features that suggest it’s a high-end device. The main unit has a bulbous lid, supported on a well-sprung hinge, and this contains a secondary scanning sensor. This means that the scanner can handle transmissive media such as transparencies and film, as well as reflective media such as text pages and photographic prints.
Various combinations of slides and negative film can be laid on the flatbed, using the holders supplied, including up to sixteen 35mm transparencies, thirty frames of 35mm film, two medium-format frames or a single 4 x 5-inch negative. Dedicated buttons set into the lid of the scanner start a paper scan, a film scan, a scan for print or a scan to PDF. These functions all work with the HP Scanning driver, so you don’t need to control all scanning tasks from your PC or Mac.
One special feature of the scanner is that it can scan in up to six colours. While the reflected colour from the scanning lamp is still split into red, green and blue components, the scanner has two lamps, and in six-colour mode it makes two passes, one with each lamp, before comparing the results. HP claims more accurate, vibrant scans and in our tests there was an improvement, though you had to look pretty closely to see it.
Most scanners now come with some form of scratch and dust repair software, which looks for these artefacts and automatically fills them in, using colour and texture from pixels surrounding the damage. The results from this ScanJet are reasonably impressive, though in most cases the damage is heavily reduced rather than removed altogether.
This is a USB 2 device, so the interface won’t restrict data transfer speed, but we still found an A4 page took 50 seconds to scan at 300ppi (pixels per inch), the default resolution for OCR, and a 15 x 10cm print took over 70 seconds to scan at 600ppi. Neither of these speeds is particularly impressive.
The maximum resolution of the device is 4,800 x 9,600ppi and it can scan at a colour depth of 96-bit. Both these specifications are higher than normal for a scanner in this price bracket.
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