SmartScan 2700 USB Scanner
Review

On January 6, 2003, in Review, by John Nemerovski

SmartScan 2700 Slide and Negative 35mm Film USB Scanner
Company: SmartDisk Corporation

Price: $249.99
http://www.smartdisk.com

SHORT REVIEW: This is a fine product, capable of creating high-resolution digital images from your 35mm slides and negatives. It’s a worthwhile investment that will become indispensable. FOUR MAC MICE (But wait, there’s more!)

LONG REVIEW: Curl up with a large mug of cocoa, friends, because Nemo has plenty to say.

Evaluation specifications: iMac 400MHz DV Slot-loading, OS 9.2.2, Adobe Photoshop Elements 2; additional test hardware and software to follow (see end of review for explanation).

Let’s begin with an itemization of setup, installation, and initial operation.

1. Played new audio CD to keep me company last night: “Where the Hits Are,” by Connie Francis, #MAL-2003-CD. I haven’t given a thought to this singer in 40 years, but one of my computer tutor clients was using it to test her new CD-RW burner, and I liked what I heard. I’ll need to dupe a disc (for educational non-commercial purposes only, of course) using SmartDisk’s FireWire CD-RW unit reviewed previously.

2. Unpacked carton containing: USB cable, power supply, custom software CD, user guide, Adobe Photoshop Elements v.1 CD with serial number, and stylish (unusually shaped) SmartScan 2700 unit.

3. I read the MacOS Installation section (you MUST read it). Did not install Elements software, because Elements v.2 is already on my hard drive. I had checked previously with SmartDisk to confirm everything works with any and all current versions of Photoshop.

4. Installed CyberView scanner driver from SS2700 CD. I read the ReadMe (you MUST read it too), specifying minimum 300 MHz, 128 MB memory to Photoshop (that’s a huge amount!), and Mac OS 8.6 or later. Full manuals and documentation are in separate PDF files. The scanner driver took a couple of minutes to install (be patient), while I glanced through the printed user guide and listened to Connie Francis sing the inane tune “V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N,” which I remember vaguely from my youth.

Question: what is ASF ROC 1.0.1? It installs, but no explanation is given of its features. Answer: I found its PDF documentation, explaining that ROC is a plug-in for automatically restoring, balancing, and correcting color quality in a scanned image. Worth investigating, but not tonight.

5. After choosing Easy Install, I selected the first of three “Import/Export” options, whatever that means (remember this step, careful readers). Followed instructions to click OK in new “Scan Button Setting” window. Plugged in power and USB cables from scanner to iMac then turned on scanner (power switch right rear).

6. Followed printed directions for scanning my first mounted slide: inserted slide into front of unit, launched Elements 2, moused to File -> Import -> CyberView. Nothing happened. Connie Francis sang “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” On my own initiative, without access to any printed, online, or live tech help on a Saturday night, I used Sherlock 2 to locate “CyberView Agent.” It was in my Startup Items folder, of all places. Bizarre.

7. Moused to Scan -> Scan Image, which opened a window called CyberView 32 v2.50. Clicked on Scan, and nothing happened. Two strikes. I navigated from CyberView’s “Scan to Application” button to attempt to use a reliable legacy application, ColorIt! 3.2, to open automatically with each scan, but all I got were Connie Francis telling me “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool.”

8. Do I need to (somehow) get CyberView’s plug-ins working with Elements 2? I re-inserted the SmartScan software CD, and couldn’t access the ReadMe I had read a few minutes earlier, due to an annoying screen-blocking error message; one of the bugs/features in CyberView Agent. Connie sang “Crying Time.” The 27 page PDF for CyberView 32 was not helpful, so I ejected its CD. Using Sherlock 2 I looked for folders called “plug-ins,” found several, then noticed a CyberView plug-in inside the “Import/Export” (remember?) folder of Photoshop 6. Here’s what had happened: by selecting the first Import/Export option during Easy Installation, I had parked all my important new scanner plug-ins in the wrong application’s folder. More on my opinions of the installer at the end of this review. Connie broke into “Who’s Sorry Now?”

9. I launched Photoshop 6 (with much less than 128 MB of memory allocated), then moused to File -> Import -> (hold your breath) CyberView 32 2.5.0 for Mac – USB, then I clicked on Preview button in CyberView window, and nothing happened. Strike three? Not so fast, Nemo. I clicked on Scan in the same window, and good stuff occurred:

  • Message said “Warming Up,” and scanner made gentle grinding noise, then …
  • Scanning progress bar slid slowly from left to right.I thought:
  • I’ll need to move or duplicate the four CyberView plug-ins into my Elements 2 Plug-Ins folder, and…
  • A FireWire slide/film scanner will do the job faster, if necessary, but what’s the hurry, Nemo?While “Transferring Image” occurred, Connie Francis sang “Stupid Cupid.”

    10. There it is: Photoshop 6 window opened with my first scanned image! Hooray. It works after all. Saved the 26.3 MB file (remember it’s scanning at 2700 pixels per inch, which is an enormous resolution), opened it in Elements 2, and got ready to boogie with Butzie. (That’s the nickname of my late mother-in-law. I was using the slide scanner in a real-world project to help Barbara make a birthday book for my sister-in-law.)

    11. Oops. Need to quit, and then increase Elements 2’s RAM allocation from 50000 to 128000 in OS 9. Done, after I force quit CyberView Agent (why was this necessary, SmartDisk? — answer revealed near bottom of review). Annoying! Restart. Listen to Connie sing “Torn Between Two Lovers.”

    12. Moved CyberView from Startup Items folder to Desktop, temporarily, until I’m confident it works properly. Moved four CyberView plug-ins from Photoshop 6 location to Elements 2’s Import/Export folder. How is the average user supposed to know what to do? Connie sang, “Breakin’ In A Brand New Broken Heart.”

    13. Now, with more RAM available and the correct plug-ins, I began working with the slide of Butzie: File -> Import -> Scan. (I tried to change CyberView’s default Scan Button Setting to Photoshop 6 or Elements 2, from ColorIt!, but that didn’t make any difference.) Connie sang “Second Hand Love.”

    Here’s one of the best-scanned, improved slides: “Three Sisters, Two Drinks.”

    During the following three hours I successfully scanned many of Barbara’s family slides into Elements 2 using “Simple Mode” in CyberView, then manipulating and printing them for the birthday book. Results were excellent every time. Connie’s last song was “My Heart Has A Mind of Its Own,” and I didn’t notice the music ended until I locked my office for the night. Two important questions remain:

  • How do I quit CyberView Agent, without having to use Force Quit?ANSWER: CyberView Agent runs in the background of Photoshop and/or Elements, and goes away only when you quit your image editing application. I do not like this feature/bug, SmartDisk.
  • Why is each image scanned once perfectly, then twice more imperfectly, every time?ANSWER: Tim Fischer of SmartDisk tech support is looking into this matter. I don’t want to hold up our review, because no other users have reported similar problems.

    IN CONCLUSION: Impressions of SmartScan 2700 after first real world usage session:

    A. Hardware works perfectly.

    B. Installer is clumsy and not fully informative, unable to distinguish between different “Import/Export” folders on hard drive.

    C. CyberView software does some strange things. It appears to be buggy in this version and Mac OS 9.2.2. CyberView Agent is unable to quit on its own, but the scanning application performs beautifully in spite of any shortcomings. No updater was posted on Version Tracker.

    D. Experience and training with Photoshop and/or Elements are necessary. Read a book, take a class, or hire a tutor, then learn to use your image editing software.

    E. It is very exciting to be able to turn slides into digital images.

    F. Scanning negatives is as easy as working with slides, based on the few tests I performed.

    G. How useful is SmartDisk’s tech support? Very responsive, from my few phone contacts with Tim Fischer.

    H. USB scanning at 2700 pixels per inch is slow, but accurate. FireWire scans should be much quicker, for impatient users. Check the SmartDisk web site for info on a FireWire unit.

    I. Installation and initial usage of SS2700 are too complicated for new or casual users. The procedures need to be much more transparent (oops — terrible pun) and straightforward.

    J. Experienced and advanced users will be able to operate this hardware and software quickly, working with the controls and options in CyberView’s Advanced mode.

    K. A Jaguar/X version is under development, to be released soon.


    RATINGS:

    SmartScan 2700 hardware = MacMice Rating: 5 out of 5.

    Setup procedure for experienced users = MacMice Rating: 4 out of 5

    Installation and setup for newbies = MacMice Rating: 2 out of 5

    CyberView software = somewhere between 2 and 4 MacMice Rating, depending on a user’s experience level. Work with it, and you will be handsomely rewarded.


    John Nemerovski
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