Reflecta MemoScan £130
20th Jun 2011 | 15:15
Reflecta's CMOS scanner is fast, but is its 3.8MP resolution enough?
Reflecta MemoScan Review: Overview
The Reflecta MemoScan is one of a growing number of film scanning devices that do away with the traditional approach to digitizing film in favour of a new approach.
Rather that moving a linear array of CCD sensors over the frame, a CMOS sensor looks at the whole frame in one go while it is back-lit by a number of white LEDs.
This approach is akin to having a webcam look at a back-lit piece of film, and the main advantage is the short time taken to scan a picture.
The CMOS sensor sees everything at once, reducing scan times down to a few seconds, even at full resolution
Reflecta MemoScan Review: Features
Sadly, full resolution is not that huge where the MemoScan is concerned. The unit has a top resolution of 3.8-megapixels, producing 10MB 8-bit files measuring 2361 x 1613pixels.
This is about enough for a 7x5-inch print, or use on the web, but film-shooting photographers wanting to produce high resolution files will want to look for a unit offering more than this.
To be fair though the MemoScan is aimed more at those with a big box of film-based family memories that they'd like to share with others using email or put on the web.
It's a simply designed piece of kit too: the lightweight plastic casing has only one button on it, which can be pressed to start a scan once the scanner is connected to your PC or Mac and the software is running.
At least in theory anyway: installing the software that accompanies to MemoScan was one of the most frustrating experience we've had in a long time. The specification on the MemoScan's box says the software is PC-only, not Mac compatible.
Furthermore, multiple attempts to install the driver and CyberView CS software resulted in failure, and a trip to the Reflecta website was necessary to download a different version of the software. Where we also found that you can get a Mac version after all.
This is a shame, because once the MemoScan is installed it is very easy to use, and a joy to use. Two film holders are supplied –one for four mounted transparencies and one for a strip of six 35mm frames.
These insert into the rear of the unit, and a Live View style feed from the CMOS camera is shown in the software. Line up the frame properly, and click the scan button or press the button on the outside of the scanner.
We struggled with lining up the frames accurately because the software's Live View feed doesn't show 100 per cent of the frame, but other than that the process works well.
Something offered by the MemoScan that is not often seen on CMOS type scanners is anti dust and scratch technology – called MagicTouch technology by Reflecta.
This is hardware-based and uses infrared light to identify the location of dust and scratches and create a mask from this information.
Reflecta MemoScan Review: Performance
Quick and easy the MemoScan might be, but a top-end scanner it ain't. You get what you pay for with film scanners and this unit delivers images that are average, rather than stunning.
As well as limited resolution, image files have a very digital look about them, more like still frames from a video.
Additionally, the MemoScan has a limited ability to penetrate the dark areas of image, especially when scanning transparency film. Highlights are better controlled than some other CMOS scanners we've seen though, including those in the Reflecta range, such as the Scan-x5.
It's not that the MemoScan's performance is bad; it's just important to get your expectations in line with what this scanner is all about.
Film scans won't look as good as shots from your digital camera, but if you just want to stick old family snapshots on Facebook then you'll be happy.
The scanner's MagicTouch anti dust technology is effective on some dust marks, but unfortunately not all of them. It can be left switched on by default as it doesn't harm image quality, but DigitalICE seen on other scanners do seem to be more effective.
Thanks to it's CMOS design the MemoScan is certainly quick. Basic scans take around five seconds, though this varies a little from computer to computer depending on processor speed.
Engage the MagicTouch dust removal feature and the scan time doubles to around 10 seconds.
Reflecta MemoScan Review: Sample images
Reflecta MemoScan Review: Verdict
If you want a scanner to digitize old family memories, then the MemoScan has a lot to offer. Once you've installed the software it's easy to use and its rapid scan times mean you can get through a load of negs or trannies quickly.
The MagicTouch anti dust feature is good but we're not confident it works in all situations, with larger dust particles persisting.
Based on current technologies, CMOS scanners will always lag behind conventional scanner designs when it comes to image quality, although the MemoScan is better than some models we've seen.