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Thread: Drum scanner doubts

  1. #1

    Drum scanner doubts

    Hi everybody from a cold and rainy Italy! )))

    I've been offered an Howtek 4000 by my lab to scan my 8x10" trannies, but I have some thouhgts/doubts...

    Based on what I see on the web, expecially the "A collaborative scanner comparison" here in the LF website, I don't see such enormous differeces between the Howtek 4500 scans and the ones you can obtain with an high end CCD flatbed, while I see enormous differences and ostanding quality while looking at the ICG scans and Heidelberg Tango scans, and I know why, these drum scanners are much better than the Howtek ))))...

    Now, my doubt is: is it worth to face all the difficulties and the steep learnig curve of drum scanning purchasing an Howtek 4000 if I can obtain very close results with a refurbished Creo at almost the same price?

    Or maybe it's better to save money and find a refurbished ICG or Tango if one is seriously interested in drum scanning? (btw, I've been offered an ICG 350 too, but is mauch more expensive than the Howtek!!)...just to give you an idea of my printing needs: I usually don't enlarge more than 5x my 8x10 originals (40x50" prints) but I have a particular work in mind that "requires" enlargements in the 8x-9x range (72x90" prints )...

    If somenone could give me some "real life" advices I'll really appreciate that...

    Thank you.



  2. #2

    Drum scanner doubts


    Call Aztek. I just had a conversation with one of the tech guys there (extremely knowledgable) and he wasn't thrilled with the scanner you mention. Give him a call or drop them a note. I can tell you I recently had some drum scans made with their scanner (8x10 black and white negs) and was blown away! I've seen that comparison article you refer too and agree with your assessment. I think you'll find your answers by talking to these people.

    Good Luck!


  3. #3

    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Vancouver, BC

    Drum scanner doubts


    Like a camera, a scanner is only a tool. I've seen some awful scans made from some great equipment. Sure the equipment is important but the scanner operator is more important than the equipment.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    San Francisco

    Drum scanner doubts

    Don't buy anything you have doubts about. Even if it seems cheap now, very likely it will turn out to be wasted money.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Mar 2004

    Drum scanner doubts

    Hi Marco,

    Having owned a Howtek 4000 I could not have been more pleased with the results I was able to obtain from it. Technically it is a very capable scanner and has features such as 12 aperture settings for optimizing spot size to grain size (important with color and B&W negs), very true and respectable DMAX and resolution and decent bit depth (12 bits). In my own comparisons it beat out all of the consumer/prosumer flatbeds (including wet mounting) and the consumer/prosumer dedicated negative scanners. If the price is right (I put together my system for $1800 US including new Lasersoft Imaging software) and the scanner you are considering has been well maintained I think you'll be very happy with the results, especially coming from 8x10 originals.



  6. #6

    Join Date
    Feb 2002

    Drum scanner doubts

    Eric is right....the 4000 and more specifically the 4500 are excellent scanners if properly tuned and working up to par and using the right software and a knowledgeable operator. for the money most sell for you, you can't touch the quality. The 4500 / 8500 have consistently outperformed the Tango, which was an early version drum scanner, which was quickly superceded by others before the entire field went belly up. The biggest risk with the old drums is good repair, and you pretty much lost the investment. Considering ICG's sell new for $50k, well, it shoudl be good! I still question the results on this web site regarding that scanner, anything could have happened, but I doubt it should outperform that much better, assuming all parameters were equal....

  7. #7
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    USA, North Carolina

    Drum scanner doubts

    The web pages are useful tools. But you can't make definitive judgements about final print quality without looking at prints. It is in prints that you will see the real differences between different scanners, software, and operators.

    Which scanner to pick depends largely on what you want to scan. If you are only scanning trannies, all the drum scanners do very well. Trannies was their primary mission. If you also want to scan negatives, including B&W, then you should look to the "table top" scanners like the Howteks, Optronics CologGetters, Screens, and ScanMates. Their mission was more as general purpose machines, and their software often handles negatives better. I'd include the ICGs in there as well, but IIRC their software is strictly 8 bit, which is insufficient for negative work IMHO, especially for B&W. I'd include the Tango, but it's minimum aperture is just 11 microns making it less sharp than the others, and it's software is supposed to make negative work difficult.

    Then, part of it depends on what enlargement factor you want to scan to, and what the limitations are from the scanner hardware/software and computer OS. In other words, you aren't going to be scanning 10x8 color film at 360ppi output, at 10x enlargement. The resulting file size is considerably bigger than modern computers can handle. Anything over about 2GB is going to be nearly impossible to work with until PC/MAC OS software, and Photoshop, go fully 64 bit. Do the math and see how big a file you think you can live with.

    Why is this important? It bears on whether or not you should go with a pro level flatbed or a drum scanner. If all you can do is a 5x enlargement, then the flatbeds should be sufficient. Drum scanners don't really begin to shine until you are in the 8x or more enlargement levels.

    For context, I own and run a ColorGetter 3 Pro with ColorByte's ColorRight Pro 2.0 software. Like wg, I think my scans are better than Tango scans. But your getting the right scanner for you depends on your knowing what you actually need.

    Bruce Watson

  8. #8
    Founder QT Luong's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 1997
    San Jose, CA

    Drum scanner doubts

    How come that several well-regarded labs such as Nancy Scans and WCI use the Tango and claim that it is the best thing since sliced bread (well, maybe not, but at least the best scanner) ? Calypso used to have an ICG that produced results that looked pretty good to me, but recently switched to a Tango, and also said that it was a big improvement. I am not questioning Bruce and WG's wisdom, just curious.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Feb 2002

    Drum scanner doubts

    QT, this is my guess of what happened.....

    When the Tango was released, I beleive 1997, it was a breakthrough scanner at a breakthrough price, only $60 - 80k vs. prior drums in the 150k + price range. However, its supremacy was quickly surpassed in 98 - 00, but Tangos marketing hype was never forgotten. When Sybold ran a comparative test around 00, the Tango performed from mid to poor against competing flatbeds and I beleive one or two drums (Howtek was not in the test, as they were not a pre press company) The only reason i quote the Seybold test.... it allowed each manufacturer to provide the scanner and their own operator to run a serious of tests on the same targets, then the results were numbered, not named, then judges compared the scans in several different aspects, so this test was as unbiased as you can get. I have seen no such tests since that point in time, as scanners in general began to fade.

    As for Tango vs. Howteks, the Howtek has a much smaller aperture to record data, I think 2 or 3 microns smaller, which eqauted to about 30% in size, which enabled sharper scans at the same dpi. The same is true of the ICG scanners. But even with all this, the Screen Cezzane Elite flatbed out performed them all, within the Seybold test parameters.

    But not all Howteks are created equal...I have owned 3 of them, and the image quality varied for different reasons. Howtek was always on a tight budget and had very poor quality control (if any at all) ....this is what Aztek added to the equation, they tweaked the scanners and required them to pass certain tests before they were sold as Aztek. This does not mean a Howtek can not equal the quality of a Aztek, its just hit-or-miss as the industry just could not fund itself, and Howtek bailed out of scanners as did Heidleberg. I think the Tangos life ended in 00 or maybe 01, short lived indeed.

    I veiwed many Tango scans from WCI, and re scanned them on a howtek 4500 and 8000 and the howteks were noticeable better, but my Howtek was well tuned. Not knocking WCI in anyway, from what I hear, people are happy with their customer service. Anyway, thats my take on it!

  10. #10

    Drum scanner doubts

    Thanks for all the useful answers, lots of stuff to think about, thank you!!

    Ok, so the main "problem" with the Howtek is that I could buy a "poor" fine tuned unit due to the "poor" quality control (mmmhhh, it seems like a russian roulette ))))) )...but, having no experience with drum scanning, is there a way so that I can understand if the unit I'm purchasing is fine tuned or not?

    Thank you



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