Overtaxed by its features

Dec 29, 2009
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Inexpensive, acceptable scan quality and speed on paper objects

Cons:Insufficient image quality for scanning negatives, awful software, unreliable

The Bottom Line: Based on my experience, try any competitive product instead. Too frustrating.

I bought this product with high hopes, but it's seriously damaged my faith in HP's imaging products.  It was a letdown both of hardware and software, and is worse than my excellent experience with the printer would've led me to hope for.

I bought this scanner primarily to scan film.  It was obviously not the best choice to begin with, but it was by far the cheapest scanner which offers any viable film scanning capability.  Sadly, that ability was added largely as an afterthought, and it should be considered unsuitable to any meaningful workflow scanning film.

As a flatbed scanner of paper only, it would be fine, with some reliability caveats.  Every opaque scan that I ever made looked very good.  Color fidelity on opaque scans was excellent, and it did a good enough job that color and contrast adjustments could be made without resulting in color banding.  The contrast range scanned for opaque items was covered well.

When scanning film, basically this scanner doesn't have the dynamic range to make a photographic-looking picture without doing multiple scans.  The included software isn't capable of averaging multiple scans.  Because a negative has masking color and occupies a different contrast range than visible images, a good negative scan has to have the ability to differentiate many colors that look identical in the compressed visual range of the negative.  Doing multiple averaged scans allows effectively a higher bit depth scan than the scanner itself can do, progressively improved with each scan.  10 would be ideal, but my usual method for scanning negatives involved scanning each one six times, and even that wasn't always enough to get the shadow or highlight detail, but usually looked "photographic."  Without scanning at least six times, there would be obvious color banding, contrast problems, and no highlight or shadow detail.  Doing 6 scans of a 6 frame strip of color negatives took hours, so it took all day to scan a roll of film.  That got satisfactory results, but was a lot of work.  Black and White negatives took about 1/3 as long, which is as expected.

My workflow involved using a program called VueScan, which is not very expensive.  This was necessary because the included software was simply impossible to get good results from.  Like a lot of software today, the consumer-oriented features and user interface are simply impossible for someone with imaging experience to work around.  Its heavy-handed color and dust correction always defaulted to on, and didn't do a good job.  It would be frustrating at best to impossible for an amateur to ever get a good scan of a negative, which would probably discourage them from doing it at all.  That's sad, because many people would probably like to scan old family pictures and such but would find it too discouraging.

The included HP software also tended to crash frequently during the week or so that I tried to use it.  Once a scan was started, trying to abort a scan before it was finished was a guaranteed crash.  Although the software was supposed to allow one-button scanning, copying, and OCR, I would never trust it to do a task without extensive user input.  Attempting an automatic copy from a negative to print would be a guaranteed disappointment.  Despite my computer and most of its peripherals being HP brand, it seemed to have conflicts with some of them, too.

Lastly, I'm disappointed in both the reliability and service.  When my first one went out, still within warranty, I spent over 3 hours on the online chat trying to convince the person that it needed replaced.  It had a couple of weak pixels on the CCD that caused lines across the pictures, especially in dark areas.  The support person demanded that I do several scans while on with her and email them showing the lines.  She wanted all software reinstalled, which I did.  She at first suggested that the transparency adaptor was faulty, but I told her that it wasn't capable of causing that problem as it's basically only a light.  She then wanted the process repeated with the included software.  In frustration, I finally told her that it wouldn't matter whether the included software still made lines as I could never get a satisfactory result at all.  This got me escalated to a supervisor who quickly examined the emailed documents and agreed to replace the scanner base.  The replacement refurbished scanner arrived quickly and worked properly.

However, I'm now several more months down the road, and the scanner is making lines again.  This time, they're far worse than before as the pixels are dead rather than just weak, and they're all adjacent, but not the same color.  They are not consistent in color or arrangement, despite resets and allowing it to cool.  This rose suddenly last night.  These lines are prominent enough to show up even on opaque scans, though it goes right through the middle of the stripe scanned in negative mode.  I'm not happy, and it's out of warranty now.  I'm not even going to try to get it replaced as I now have an excuse to simply replace it.  I'll chalk it up as a not too expensive mistake, but a big disappointment.

Based on my physical problems with the hardware, I cannot recommend this scanner at all.  If someone were to get a reliable example, it would be an acceptable document or photo scanner for opaque objects.  Without additional software, it would never be acceptable for even occasional negative/slide use.

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