HP Scanjet G4050 review: HP Scanjet G4050

A stiff metal cover snaps snugly over the transparency adapter built into the lid, and HP supplies several templates for laying out sixteen 35mm, one 4x5, or four 120mm positives and four 6-frame negative strips. All but the slide template function as traditional holders, which allow the originals to snap into place. For some reason, the slide template simply provides a grid to lay out the slides on the bed; that means the template and the slides have to be removed separately, providing the user with copious opportunities to spread fingerprints all over the glass. As you'd expect, the lid lifts vertically to accommodate book scanning, and the hinge is stiff enough that it can rest at a 45-degree angle without slamming down on your hands.

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HP G4050's feature set and scan quality.

Even when set to fully automatic mode, the HP driver can be a bit confusing to use. It's never quite clear how the interface operates and how the different settings interact. For example, if you choose the Adaptive Lighting adjustment, it should, in theory, change or disable any modifications you made with the Highlight, Shadow, and Midtone controls, or at least indicate what parts of the image each affects. Furthermore, Adaptive Lighting has a slider that defaults to 25. It's not clear what happens when you slide away from that--does it change the strength of the algorithm (weaker/stronger), or make it brighter or darker, or change the radius of the pixels it processes, or what? Though you can save settings, it reverts to the defaults after every scan, and you can't change defaults for resolution and scaling. I also encountered some glitches involving TWAIN, the interface between the image-processing software and the scanner. Most notably, batch scanning doesn't seem to work via Photoshop, though it works from the bundled Photosmart Premier software.

Performance ranges from decent to interminable. Scanning a page to PDF takes only about 30 seconds, although it appears about half of that is the time it takes Acrobat to launch. Two slides scanned at the default settings--400 percent scaling and 200dpi, for an output size of 4x5--takes about a minute. There's some overhead, however: it takes about 33 seconds for the scanner to warm up. Turning on autoexposure and bumping up to 4,800dpi (maximum optical resolution) at 100 percent scaling increases that to about 3.5 minutes per slide. I tried to pile on the works, including high resolution, dust and scratch removal, and six-channel scanning, but gave up timing when the first slide was only half done after 10 minutes--definitely a turn-it-on-and-go-to-lunch kind of operation. Keep in mind that these are on my oh-so-real-world work system, a 2.4GHz P4 with 1.25GB RAM, via a USB 2.0 connection. Your mileage may vary.

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