When we first looked at Polaroid’s SprintScan 4000, we concluded that it was a decent piece of hardware hampered by nearly unusable software (see “”Slide Scanners Show Off”,” September 1999). We’re happy to report that the updated PolaColor Insight, although still imperfect, makes the SprintScan 4000 a serious contender among midrange 35mm film scanners.
PolaColor Insight 3.5’s predecessor, version 3.0, had several problems. Unlike other scanning packages, it didn’t process data from the scanner in real time; instead, it scanned the raw image to a scratch file and then applied any corrections made in the prescan, resulting in very slow scanning. Color-management features were sorely lacking, and you couldn’t get scans into an Adobe Photoshop working space without doing many image-degrading conversions on a 24-bit file.
Although the SprintScan still scans to a scratch file, Insight 3.5 adjusts the image while writing to that file. As a result, the process is a great deal faster: on a 400MHz Power Macintosh G3 with Fast SCSI-2, scanning a full-frame, 4,000-dpi, 36-bit image took slightly over two minutes.
The color-management improvements are less obvious. You can now capture raw 36-bit scanner data and open it in Photoshop, but Insight still takes a passive-aggressive approach to ColorSync color matching. It ships with input profiles for various film types and lets you load a monitor profile, but it uses its own profiles folder rather than the ColorSync profiles folder; you need to copy your monitor’s profile to Insight’s folder. Also, Insight still can’t scan to a Photoshop working space while displaying the image correctly on the monitor. Instead, Polaroid recommends scanning to monitor RGB, embedding the monitor profile, and then converting the file to Photoshop’s working space when you open it in the image editor, meaning that you lose some information.
Although PolaColor Insight still needs improvement, version 3.5 is a step in the right direction. We were able to get excellent scans by opening a raw, high-bit file in Photoshop and converting it to the Photoshop working space, and we got pretty good scans when we used Polaroid’s recommended workflow. The dynamic range of 3.4 seems conservativestarting with high-contrast slides, we obtained results with shadow detail comparable to that in scans from scanners with a quoted dynamic range of 3.6and at 4,000 dpi, the scanner offers the highest resolution in its class.