If you’ve ever had to scan an original much larger than 8-1/2-inches by 11-inches on a standard desktop scanner, you’re likely to have wished for a large format scanner. Unlike their smaller desktop brethren, large format scanning devices allow you to scan the entire piece of oversized artwork–whether it’s a survey, architectural rendering, poster, maps, or what have you–in just one pass (rather than many passes). Not only is the large format device faster to scan, it’s faster once you get into Photoshop, as it avoids stitching together all of those chunks ‘o art.
Once upon a time (in the early 90s), I had the good fortune to have a large format scanner in my corporate design shop. We all thought it was pretty cool that the device could handle 11-inch by 17-inch artwork without a hitch. While it wasn’t a super high-end prepress scanner, it did all we asked of it. But as cool as it was back then, scanning technology has rocketed over this past decade or so, and the prices have plunged …
The scanner we had in our shop was a PixelCraft flatbed. It was made by Xerox, and was fairly unique in its day. PixelCraft is long gone, but there are still a number of large format flatbed prepress scanners out there today, including the Purup-Eskofot Esko Scan, Heidelberg 2400, Screen USA Cezanne Elite, and the Scitex EverSmart Supreme.
Large format desktop scanners can be had from the likes of Epson and others. I always recommend going with a solid brand. The Epson GT-15000 Professional Scanner is certainly worth a look, as is the Epson Expression 1640XL Special Edition Scanner. But don’t overlook the Microtek ScanMaker 9800XL. If you’re shopping on prince, Mustek offers one of the most inexpensive models capable of handling an 11-inch by 17-inch scanning area.
Flatbeds are not the only type of large format scanners these days. Thanks to Hewlett-Packard and other companies, ultra-wide large format sheet-fed and roll-fed scanning have become commonplace. And while you might not find the HP DesignJet 4200 large format scanners at your local CompUSA or BestBuy, you can order them from leading catalog retailers. But don’t expect that 42-inches of scanning goodness to come cheap … the price of the HP DesignJet 4200 rivals that of a nicely-equipped compact car. If you’re in the market for a large format scanner, you might also want to take a look at Contex–their scanners range from 25-inches up to 54-inches wide.