With a footprint of about 15 by 25 inches and weighing a bit more than 26 pounds, the ScanMaker i900 commands a lot of desk real estate. Once you've loaded the Microtek Scan Wizard Pro software and the requisite drivers on your machine, you must also install the i900's calibration utilities. For optimal performance, Microtek suggests that you recalibrate every 14 days. (For more info on calibration, see this Pixel Perfect column by CNET senior editor Lori Grunin.) You connect the scanner to your machine via USB or FireWire. Based on our tests with scans that ranged in size from 75MB to 300MB, FireWire shaved scan time by about 10 to 25 percent, depending on the computing platform.
The Microtek ScanWizard Pro software is very easy to use and offers a wide range of tools for adjusting scanned images. You have full control over tonal scale and three different ways to make fine color adjustments. The i900 employs Digital ICE Photo Print technology for flatbeds, which corrects dust and scratches but isn't as sophisticated as the Digital ICE4 technology that the Nikon Coolscan V has onboard. It doesn't work on film and won't let you make any adjustments to the sampling rate. Instead of the most current ICE technology, Microtek relies on ColorRescue, which made moderate color-balance corrections to our film and reflective scans. ICE works reasonably well, but you will pay a substantial speed penalty. In our tests, it took almost 10 minutes to scan an 8x10 at 300dpi with ICE turned on. Without ICE, a 300dpi scan of an 8x10 original takes about a minute.
The most notable feature of the ScanMaker i900 is its dual scanbed. Essentially, in addition to the typical flatbed glass plate, it has a second, glassless film scanner with the glass scan surface underneath. By eliminating the glass, the way a standalone film scanner does, the i900 can capture more tonal information from film--from light shades to deep shadows. While still not the equal of a dedicated film scanner, the i900 produced some of the best film scans we've seen from the flatbed models we've tested, making Microtek's quoted optical density of 4.2D seem less fictional than most. Microtek also includes transparency attachments for 8x10 transparencies and batch slide scans.
The scanner's optical resolution of 3,200dpi by 6,400dpi delivers sharp scans that allow for significant print enlargements of film frames and should please even the pickiest of designers. In our tests, scanned photos came very close to matching the originals. If you make more time to fiddle with the adjustments, you will be rewarded with even more outstanding scans.
Microtek posts product-specific manuals, specs, and drivers on its Web site. There's no phone support, but you can e-mail specific questions and concerns via the online technical-support form. Microtek promises to respond to your query within one to two business days. The site also provides several community features, including forums, searchable tips and tricks, and recommended reading from professionals in the business.