Concentrated in the home and small business markets, scanners are fast joining printers as an item considered necessary on the desktop. Durelle Fry spoke to several manufacturers to find out their position in the market, and offers a look at the latest products on offerAgfaThe range of Agfa scanners includes both 30-bit and newer 36-bit units. In the former category are the SnapScan EZ (RRP $339) and SnapScan 310 (RRP $379), the SnapScan 600 (RRP $729), the SnapScan 600 ArtLine (RRP $779), and the StudioStar (RRP $1637). The last three have transparency and automatic document feeder options.
Agfa's 36- bit scanners are the Arcus II (RRP $2919), the DuoScan (RRP $6600), and the DuoScan T2000 XL A3 scanner (RRP $17,114). Each comes with an Agfa Scanner CD and bundled software. The software included depends on the scanner.
Street prices on these products vary, but with Agfa's retail range of scanners and cameras, the company's policy is to have all software (applications as well as drivers) in the original purchase, to reduce "hidden" costs to consumers). An SCSI card is also bundled with the scanner where appropriate.
Agfa told ARN that the company holds approximately 30 per cent of the worldwide mid-range scanner market (scanners priced above $US1000 ex tax). The company believes the release of the new products in Australia will enhance its market presence, and anticipates that an even greater growth pattern will emerge from this sector of the scanner market.
The greatest growth market by volume for Agfa is in the SOHO retail sector, with the highest number of sales in the recently introduced SnapScan EZ EPP scanner at an RRP of $339. Over the next few years the company expects sales volume to rise as the price point of the better quality scanners continues to fall and end users recognise the value in a marginally more expensive scanner.
In the area of new technologies, Agfa predicts that as USB connections become more readily available in the computer market, a higher proportion of easily connected scanners will emerge. Other predictions are that the lack of colour management will become a major issue with some of the scanner vendors trying to evolve into the mid range DTP market. Agfa also believes that higher bit depth scanners will emerge.
Agfa offers a 12 month return to base warranty with free 1800 help desk support for 12 months. Resellers can act as an agent on behalf of end users in the case of warranty claims and support, but this is not normally necessary if the end user contacts an Agfa service centre located in each capital city.
Agfa's newest scanners are the DuoScan T1200 and the T2500.
The DuoScan T1200, due to begin first customer shipments in early October, is a 36-bit scanner which integrates Agfa's TwinPlate technology with optical character recognition (OCR), FotoLook 3.0 intuitive scanning software and Corel PhotoPaint 8. The product is designed to give users in the general business or educational environment, as well as freelancers and start-up designers, an all-in-one scanning package. Users can scan different types of reflective and transparent images at optimal settings to use in brochures, documents, Web pages, multimedia presentations, or to store in an image database. The DuoScan T1200 can also be used to scan text for editing or to capture pages for document management.
TwinPlate technology provides separate beds for scanning transparencies and reflective images so that optimum results can be achieved for each type of original.
The transparency plate on the T1200 can be prepared offline and users can prepare reflective originals while the transparencies are scanning, or vice versa. In addition, the scanner can be opened while the transparencies are being scanned.
The scanner is a true 36-bit (12 bit per colour) A4+ product with a 600 x 1200ppi optical resolution, with maximum output resolution of 2400ppi for colour and 3600ppi for line art. Maximum transparency size is 8 x 10in. The RRP of the DuoScan 1200 will be $2257.
The DuoScan T2500 is a high-resolution scanner which has been designed for photographers, designers and prepress professionals. The scanner incorporates TwinPlate technology and a dual-lens optical system in an A4 product. The entire DuoScan system is designed to ensure high-quality results on the first scan. Agfa's FotoLook and ColourTune scanning and colour-management software enhance this with highly accurate default settings.
Agfa has designed a batch slide holder to work without a glass plate, eliminating distortion caused by the glass, and ensuring sharper scans and more accurate colour capture.
Both standard and high resolution scans are possible with technology to eliminate distortion and deliver sharp, colour-correct images.
The 36-bit flatbed scanner has a maximum true optical resolution of 2500 x 2500ppi, interpolated to 5000ppi. Density range is 3.3. The maximum scanning area is 8 x 12in for transparencies and 8 x 14in for reflective originals. The RRP of the Agfa DuoScan T2500 will be $9144 and the first shipments are expected in November.
The current products in Epson's scanner range include the GT-9500 (RRP from $2035) and the GT-12000 (RRP from $7182) flatbeds, as well as the FS-200 (RRP $957) film scanner. The scanners can scan reflective material including photographs and pages of text. Using the optional transparency adaptor, they can scan x-rays, slides and transparencies. Using the document feeder, they can scan multiple sheet documents.
The area of highest market growth of Epson scanners is the home market and SME. The company points out that the latter often includes people starting up home-based graphic design businesses. The highest number of sales is at the entry level of home and small business and Epson doesn't expect this situation to change in the next few years.
Epson has identified new technology at the entry level as LED. "This is an inexpensive method of production which is what entry level customers are really after," according to a company spokesperson.
With prices of Epson scanners coming down, the profit margin, claims the company, is entirely up to the reseller. Some, who are able to provide support, charge a premium for the product while others charge the lowest price to get the deal. They may make up lost margin on a scanner through the sale of other devices.
Danny Calder, Epson's product manager for Corporate and Imaging Products, notes that if the reseller is unable to provide the level of support required by the end user, "Epson will always help out". Calder says that in many cases the reseller is unable to provide an adequate level of support for applications such as Photoshop, so the company has also made training available to dealers and end users via authorised application training companies such as Multimedia Tree for Adobe products.
Canon has just announced two colour scanners that feature new technologies pioneered by Canon. The company has already applied its original Base-Stored Image sensor (BASIS) in the development of auto-focus sensors for cameras, line-of-sight detection sensors and monochrome contact sensors for fax machines. The Contact Image Censor (CIS), found in the new scanners, uses the CMOS sensor to achieve high colour gradation and high-speed colour contact sensing using a switching method for each of the primary colour LED light sources.
The use of LED light sources makes it possible to read an original faster than scanning methods which use cold-cathode tubes. High colour productivity is possible through the use of LEDs of the optimum issued wavelength for colour reading. Canon has called this new technology LED InDirect Exposure (LIDE) because of the sensor feature which indirectly illuminates an original with light from the LED by way of a semiconductor.
In CIS, small rod lenses are placed across the scanning line to create a high resolution image that is read by the new sensor. The sensor is the same width as the main scanning direction, 216mm, so it is able to scan every detail of the original without distortion. Canon claims that this new sensor, referred to as the Linear Image Sensor, "is widely regarded as the next generation of sensors and replacement for the CCD".
The two new products employing these technologies are the CanoScan FB310P and the CanoScan FB620P. Both models are slimline and compact - the top face is slightly arger than A4 size and at 6cm height, they are 25 per cent more shallow than previous Canon models. The scanners weigh 2kg, feature 10-bit input and have selectable resolutions up to 2400dpi. The FB310P provides a true optical resolution of 300 x 300dpi, and the FB620P offers a true optical resolution of 600 x 600dpi.
Canon claims that its LIDE technology enhances performance while reducing size and power consumption. Power consumption is claimed to be 90 per cent less than with previous Canon scanners.
Both scanners have a standard parallel port connection to a computer or can be plugged in-line with a printer. Power supply and parallel cable is supplied. Bundled software includes a CD-ROM with a step-by-step guide, as well as a tutorial; ScanCraft CS-P scanning utility; iPhoto Express photo-editing software; and Caere's OmniPage LE for converting text-based materials into usable text data.
The FB310P is available now at an RRP of $229. The FB620P will be available in October for $299 RRP. Both products come with a one year warranty which is upgradeable to three years.
HP's range includes scanners for reflective originals (such as photos printed on paper), and some with slide adaptors. Those without the adaptors include the ScanJet 4100C for home use at an RRP of $329; and the ScanJet 5100C for business at $449 RRP. Paper scanners which come with a 35mm slide adaptor are the ScanJet 5100C for business at $499 RRP and the ScanJet 6200C and 6250C for professionals at $700 and $999 RRP. HP's Photosmart scanner operates with 35mm, negatives and 6 x 4 photos (RRP $927).
HP is experiencing its largest growth in the home market, with the highest number of sales in the SOHO segment.
The latest developments in technology from HP are aimed at making scanners simpler to use. The company refers to this as "Intelligent Scanning Technology". The technology, used in the SJ 5100C, optimises text and images in a single scan automatically, delivering very high quality for line-art and providing push-button productivity for a variety of projects. Wong claims that Intelligent Scanning Technology speeds up the scanning process by up to four times due to its simplicity.
According to Wong, prices of scanners are coming down but HP sees a stabilisation over the next 12 months at the $199 price point.
Hewlett-Packard introduced two new scanners in mid August. The ScanJet 6200C Professional Series colour scanners feature Intelligent Scanning Technology.
Features include: HP PrecisionScan Pro software which automatically recognises and optimises multiple image types, giving business users the opportunity for advanced image manipulation; HP PrecisionScan LAN software, which allows users to share scanning capabilities over an office network; drag and drop function which allows users to place scanned images directly into applications of choice; 35mm slide adaptor for additional photo-scanning capabilities; an automatic document feeder which handles up to legal-sized paper and enables users to scan up to 25 pages at a time; and Versatile connectivity with USB port or SCSI capability.
Intelligent Scanning Technology features the HP ScanJet Coach. This is an interactive "wizard" that guides users through each scanning step and in many instances, performs the tasks automatically. Imaging benefits of this technology include unlimited enhanced resolution and automatic conversion of black-and-white line art into infinitely scalable vector files.
Users can enlarge or shrink logos directly from their application without distortion.
A CD-ROM containing scanning software ships with the product. The HP ScanJet 4100C for home users also features Intelligent Scanning Technology, as well as USB connectivity, separate scan and copy buttons, and a recessed cabling design to save space. Bundled software includes HP's Precision Scan LT for one-step scanning with automated Optical Character Recognition software from Caere. Also included is Adobe PhotoDeluxe Image Editor for enhancing photos and HP's ScanJet Color Copy Utility.
The ScanJet 4100C is available in October.
Maxwell Optical Industries
Maxwell Optical Industries distributes Nikon scanners. Nikon, known for the optical and performance qualities of its 35mm cameras, has marketed slide/negative scanners for over 10 years. Nikon Slide-neg scanners are used by professional photographers, prepress houses, Web creators and publishers of magazines and newspapers. The scanners typically feature 2700dpi, 24-bit colour and "dynamic ranges substantially in excess of flatbed scanners".
Maxwell has three Nikon scanners: the Nikon LS-4500 multi-format scanner for formats from 35mm to large format 4 x 5in (RRP $10534); the Nikon LS-30 Coolscan 2000, 35mm and Advanced Photo System film (APS) capable slide/neg scanner (RRP $1735); and the Nikon LS-2000 Coolscan 2000, which is both 35mm and APS capable and also features multi-sampling with Digital Ice scratch removal technology (RRP $2790).
John Swainston, managing director of Maxwell, told ARN that the area of greatest market growth for Nikon scanners has been in small business, professional and amateur photography, and with Web designers. Swainston says that home users have been slower to acquire slide/neg scanners in part because of the instant attraction of flatbed scanners and the large cost difference.
"Quickly though, people discover the colour, sharpness and dynamic range limits of typical domestically priced flatbed scanners," he said.
Sales of Nikon scanners are equally mixed between industrial/ commercial photo-imaging resellers, and specialist computer resellers, "particularly AppleCentre Masters of Media-type stores". Catalogue outlets are also a significant component of sales, says Swainston.
Swainston adds that as prices fall, more and more people will see the attractiveness of linking film capture and digital display/storage/transmission. APS film comes in a "thruster-style" cartridge and the Coolscan 30 and Coolscan 2000 can both be fitted with APS film adapters, allowing for thumbnail preview batch scans in moments, and complete roll scans if required. This facility allows users to repurpose film for digital image use on the Web, in reports, and for family pictures.
Users then have the dual advantages of film with a long life and a low colour shift when printed chemically, and a digital file, which has all the transmission and publishing advantages. Swainston compares digital cameras, which he says tend to be more expensive to acquire, very costly to run if using alkaline batt-eries, and have print-life limitations when using typical inkjet home printers.
"Ultimately, scanners will appeal to people seeking higher quality and longer life. Digital capture and inkjet output will appeal to those happy with lower quality, but seek-ing instant image availability and electronic transmission capacity."
New developments and technologies from Nikon include APS film capability; batch scanning with film scanners; scratch removal; and multi-sampling for the extended dynamic range. Multi-sampling scans images up to 16 times and sifts out noise components using algorithms.
The purchase price of a Nikon scanner is essentially the same as the cost because the necessary software for use of the product, image acquisition and retouch is supplied, as well as sufficient help files to get the product up and running. When looking at total cost of ownership though, Swainston points out that usually, owners find they have to add removable drives for storage, as each TIF file scanned at full resolution creates an 18MB file.
"Even in an era of 2 and 3 GB drives on the most modest computers, this won't last long," he warned.
Final prices of Nikon scanners are determined by retailers and Maxwell sells direct to resellers without warehouse distributors. Swainston claims that typically, this allows between 18 and 20 per cent margins. contacts:
Tel (02) 9391 6611
Tel (02) 9805 2000
Tel (02) 9903 9000
Maxwell Optical Industries (distributor for Nikon)Tel (02) 9390 0200