Product: Astra 1200S color flatbed scanner
From: UMAX (www.umax.com)
Street Price: C$269
Includes: Photoshop LE, Xerox Pagis pro 97 (OCR software), ISA SCSI interface (PC version), SCSI terminator, drivers. The 1200S is faster than 1220 series units.
Pros: 600x1200 resolution. Good image fidelity, inexpensive. Excellent VistaScan software. Includes bit enhancement technology for better scans. Optional transparency adapter. Scans legal-size docs.
Cons: 30-bit color. (The 1220 is a newer model with 36 bit color.)
Primary Competitor: Microtek X6EL. The X6EL is a faster 36 bit scanner and comes with a better busmastering PCI SCSI card. However, the 1200S produces scans of comparable quality.
Umax Astra 1200S
As we noted in our review of the Astra 600S, Umax makes some of the most highly regarded flatbed scanners in their price range. Coming as they do from a company that used to make Macintosh clones, it is not surprising that this unit, like the 600S, is available in both Mac and PC configurations. If you prefer a USB scanner, a unit called the 1220U unit is available that most users report favorable experiences with, despite being a bit slower and somewhat less "heavy duty" in construction than the 1200. The 1220 is a letter size scanner, unlike the legal size 1200S.
A Parallel version is also available (1210P), but is considered, as one Usenet poster put it, "...the only real dog in Umax's Astra line. It's letter sized, slow and requires special drivers. It uses an older scanning mechanism that provides 600x600 resolution as opposed the 1200S's 600x1200. And it doesn't have bit enhancement technology that's included with the 1200S."
The unit derives power from a 12V external power supply "brick." Recent models for the PC include a revised SCSI interface with easily changeable jumpers, allowing the IRQ to be altered if necessary. We'd recommend ensuring that the card in the 1200S package has this capability before buying. The SCSI version of the PC package is compatible with Windows 95/98 and NT. The Mac version runs on SCSI-quipped Macs and PowerMacs, including G3 models running Mac OS 8.x.
Linux users have noted limited success with the unit. It scans, but the resultant images are, as one S.u.S.E. Linux user noted, "distorted [with] lots of lines across the image and the color messed up."
The supplied VistaScan driver software includes a "MagicMatch" option that can help you produce better images. An AutoAdjust function sets the gamma to a suitable level. You can also use MagicScan, supplied with some other UMAX models and available at the tech support link listed below, if you prefer. Some users say they prefer the TWAIN scanner driver program that is provided with it, to the one shipped with VistaScan. In either case, please note that this unit, like other low-cost scanners, shouldn't be expected to produce the kind of colour fidelity usually provided a higher-priced professional quality scanner. This is a consumer unit, as its price tag and "Limited Edition" Photoshop bundle denotes.
Photoshop LE lacks the ability to produce colour separations and lacks some other advanced features, such as the ability to save alpha channels or perform certain filter operations. Still, Photoshop is a wonderful program, and a worthy complement to this unit.
The Mac version of the package lacks the SCSI interface card that allows the scanner to connect to an IBM-compatible PC, but includes a different capability: an extension called UMAXShare allows a group of Macs on a network to see the scanner. Each of these must be running the UMAXShare extension. To access the unit, you simply click on the UMAX icon in the chooser and -- hopefully -- the scanner will become available.
We did not test the optional transparency adapter. However, our experience with such adapters has generally been poor. For example, a 600 dpi scan will result in an image size of 567x850 pixels from a 35 mm slide. At best, this yields a decent print size of about 3x5 inches. Thus, such images are best suited for small "fair quality" print illustrations or full-screen display on a computer screen or website. Flatbed transparency adapter are most suitable for larger negatives than 35 mm. If you are serious about scanning slides, get a dedicated slide scanner.
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