Scanning gray scale by hand – Logitech ScanMan 256 handheld scanner – evaluation
Steven C.M. Chen
AT A GLANCE: Easy to use handheld scanner capable of capturing 256 levels of gray.
DOCUMENTATION: Very good; explains all features and functions.
SETUP: Straightforward, simple.
SUPPORT: About average; prepare for a lot of busy signlas. Available via phone or bulleting board; both are toll calls.
LIST PRICE: $499
STREET PRICE RANGES: $300-$350
MANUFACTURER: Logitech, 6506 Kaiser Dr., Fremont, CA 94555; (415) 795-8500 in the United States; (800) 552-8885 in California only; (800) 231-7717 outside California; (800) 283-7717 in Canada
HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS: 286-based IBM compatible (or higher) with either a PC-type (8-bit) or AT-type (16-bit) slot available; 1MB of RAM; 5MB of free disk space, plus space for scanned images; mouse
SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: Windows 3.0
RESOLUTION: 100, 200, 300, 400 dpi
MAXIMUM SCANNING WIDTH: 4.13 inches
GRAY-SCALE LEVELS: 16, 64, or 256
SOFTWARE INCLUDED: ANSEL, Windows 3.0-based image editing/scanning software; also DOW-based scanning-only software with restricted features.
WARRANTY: One year
Scanning has increased in popularity over the past few years, mostly because of the plethora of low-cost handheld scanners hitting the market. These inexpensive scanners can match higher priced flat-bed scanners in most categories. Optical character recognition (OCR) accuracy and limited image-scanning size are the two weakest points of handhelds.
Why buy a handheld scanner? For example, you can quickly add line art or photos to your promotional mateirals and presentations. A newsletter or brochure packs a stronger punch when graphics are used to illustrate your point or your product.
The Logitech ScanMan 256 hardware includes an expansion card and the scanner unit. Installing the card is simple and straightforward. You just place the card in an available expansion slot. It may be necessary to change the DIP switch settings, but in most cases you won’t have to. The installation guide leads you through each step.
Those who have experimented with scanning and have ended up with distorted images will be interested to know that Logitech has improved the rollers underneath the scanner. You also no longer have to hold the scanning button down the entire time ou are scanning–just press it once to start and once to stop. Both factors reduce the tendency to waver during scanning.
Experimentation is required to determine optimal settings for different image-scan results. I discovered the highest setting (400 dpi and 256 gray levels) is not always the best. A four-by-four-inch image can take up more than 2.5MB to store at this resolution. The same image, if scanned in at 200 dpi, takes up only 640K. Degradation is noticeable in low-contrast images, but it’s not serious.
Seeing it right. It order to view your results accurately, your display has to support 256 gray levels on the screen. If your system supports only 16 colors, you can still scan an image at 256 levels of gray–it just won’t look as good on screen. The Logitech ScanMan 256 did an excellent job scanning both color and black-and-white images. The accompanying editing and scanning software is excellent: ANSEL offers performance that’s comparable to a stand-alone software package such as Picture Publisher or PC Paintbrush IV.
A few factors to remember. The 1MB memory requirement allows the scanner to work, but I recommend at least 4MB–8MB for an active Windows user (aren’t you glad that RAM prices have fallen to about $60 per megabyte?). And gray-scale images take a lot longer to print. My usually speedy QMS PS-410 came to a standstill as it waited for the computer to send information. Also, depending on the resolution of your printer, the printed image may not look as good as the one on-screen. One major draw-back is Logitech’s toll-call technical support. Just hope that you won’t need to have a question answered quickly. Logitech has plans to increase the staff in order to address this problem. Otherwise, this is definitely an excellent product. For many business owners, a handheld scanner like the ScanMan 256 will be a valuable addition.
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