The SprintScan 4000 is Polaroid's top-of-the-range slide scanner, with its most obvious feature in the name – it's capable of scanning at an optical resolution of 4,000 pixels per inch. This makes it the highest resolution desktop slide scanner available, and of great interest for pre-press professionals wishing to scan 35mm transparencies and slides for print.
Such resolution benefits would be irrelevant , if the SprintScan's colour handling, usability, and construction quality wasn't up to scratch. Happily though, they are. I was especially impressed with the sturdy build-quality of the device. Rather than manually loading individual slides into the scanner, up to four mounted slides, or a six-image strip, can be fed in, using a supplied holder. This ensures that the transparencies are positioned accurately over the CCD – the 'eyes' of the scanner. An optional holder allows the scanning of APS films.
The CCD uses a trilinear array – one each for red, green and blue – and a cold-cathode light source, resulting in an optical density range of 3.4, at 12-bits per channel. It also has true 36-bit colour depth. This gives scans richness of colour and better displays of shadows and other opaque areas.
The SprintScan is undeniably a fine piece of optical electronics. However, this is only one half of the equation, the other being the scanning software. The SprintScan comes with Polaroid's Insight software, a stand-alone scanning utility. A Photoshop plug-in allows you to Acquire an image from the SprintScan, but this just launches the Insight application.
The software take's a fair amount of experimentation to optimize for your particular requirements. I found it annoying that, by default, my scans were cropped, and that the colour balance in the preview scan bears no resemblance to the final scan. However, with some tweaking, you can soon get it outputting some superb quality images, and save your settings for future reference. The SprintScan boasts automatic level of dust and scratch removal, important features when your source is less than one-inch square.
At 4,000dpi, a typical scan will take just under a minute to complete, and saved as a TIFF will be approximately 40MB. This is comparable with most flatbed scanners, and should be fine for use in most DTP situations at letter size or under.
The scanner connects to the Mac with a standard SCSI interface – a USB version would be a welcome addition for users with newer G3 Macs. At £1,500, it's not the cheapest slide scanner on the market, but Polaroid has put the extra cost where it matters most – resolution.