The ScanSnap formula has been pretty well-established for more than ten years: great document scanners coupled with truly easy-to-use software that makes document scanning as simple as possible. The ScanSnap SV600 follows this formula, except that it’s not really a document scanner. Not in the sense of a sheet-fed scanner that can plow through stacks of paper at a time, anyway. Instead, the SV600 is an overhead-style scanner, which means it can do some special tricks.
It can scan things no other scanner can.
An overhead scanner is perfectly capable of scanning flat documents, but the real benefit is the ability to scan three-dimensional objects — like books, legal pads, and other objects that are 3cm tall or less. Plus, since it doesn’t touch what it is scanning, delicate exhibits are safer than they are when being fed through a document feeder.
Like most of the ScanSnap line, the SV600 comes with Acrobat XI Standard for Windows, the latest version. As a specialty scanner, however, it is quite a bit more expensive: $795 from Fujitsu (Fujitsu is currently out of stock, but you can get the SV600 from its direct market resellers for less than $660). Then again, it can scan things no other scanner can.
Scanning with the SV600
Like all ScanSnaps, the SV600 is surprisingly simple to operate. Install ScanSnap Manager (or update your current version, if you already have a ScanSnap), plug it in, unroll the scanning mat, and push the Scan button. And get your hand out of the way. The head of the SV600 will rotate outward, and you will see the scanner’s light sweep over whatever is in front of it. It’s fast, but it is a manual process; this won’t replace your regular document scanner. It is more like a flatbed scanner than a tray-fed document scanner like the iX500.
Watch this to see me demonstrate what it’s like to scan with the SV600:
When the scan is finished, you will get the chance to adjust your image. This is mandatory for scanning books. I was hoping the ScanSnap Manager would auto-detect the contours of my Moleskine notebook, like it did my phone, but it didn’t. Instead, you have to drag the six points to the corners. Here’s what that looks like (click to see full-size):
It turns out that ScanSnap Manager should actually get the contours of a scanned book. The Fujitsu rep thinks it will work better if the book is placed right up to the scanner, in the center. He also advises holding the pages down with your fingers to reduce curvature and keep them from moving. (The software lets you remove fingers, as well.)
The software will do a pretty good job of finding the contours of your page once you get those square points to the corner, but it is a bit tedious. When you are done, the ScanSnap Manager will try to compensate for any distortion, and the result will be an image like this:
While 3D objects take a little work, scanning flat objects is straightforward. The software will detect the edges with reliable accuracy, and you can just save the file. Here is a selection of scans I made with the SV600:
It doesn’t do a great job detecting the edges of dark objects, since the scanning mat is black. I tried putting my Kindle on a sheet of white paper, but the software stopped at the edges of the white paper, and I had to manually find the edges myself. The same thing happened with the M&M package left over from my daughters’ Halloween candy, although I didn’t try to use a white background. Adjusting the edges manually is made more difficult by the lack of a zoom in/out option when adjusting flat objects (you can zoom in and out on books, though, and it’s possible this is just an unintentional omission from the brand-new Mac version of ScanSnap Manager).
You might also notice the perspective of the scanner in the image of my Kindle. The SV600 is not directly above the scanning mat, so it scans most of the surface at a slight angle, which is just noticeable in some objects by the shading.
The quality of scans of flat objects is on par with other ScanSnaps, here is a scan of the same document I scanned with the ScanSnap iX500, the Panasonic KV-S1026C, and other scanners I have reviewed. Scanning multi-page PDFs is no more difficult with the SV600 than it is with small, portable scanners like the Xerox Mobile Scanner. In other words, you can do it, but you wouldn’t want to scan more than a dozen pages or so in one sitting. On the plus side, you can put multiple items on the mat, and the ScanSnap Manager will assign each one to its own page. So you could come back from a networking event, drop up to ten business cards on the mat at a time, and scan them all in one go. You won’t fit more than two full-size sheets of paper on the mat at the same time, though.
Who should buy the ScanSnap SV600?
It probably would not make much sense to have the SV600 as your primary scanner. As you can see in the video below, scanning more than one thing at a time is slow. Something like the ScanSnap iX500 is what should be sitting on your desk doing daily duty.
But being able to scan 3D objects (as long as they are no taller than 3cm, anyway) comes in really handy. You can capture physical evidences, or notes from your legal pad or notebook — without ripping out the page. Or you can make a digital scan of delicate documents, without mangling them. (As good as the document feeder in the iX500 is, it does occasionally mangle pages.)
In the end, though, you can do most of that with the camera on a good smartphone. Not as well, and not as conveniently, but well enough.
The SV600 is for someone who regularly needs to scan books, notepads, delicate documents, and small objects. If you aren’t likely to use it every day, you would probably be better off with a decent camera (even an iPhone would do the trick) and a DIY lightbox. But I can imagine the SV600 could be really useful for immigration lawyers (passports) and product liability litigators (product exhibits), for example.
It is an extremely easy-to-use scanner for things that will not fit into a regular document scanner — although it will easily handle flat documents, as well. It is not perfect; I wish it did a better job of automatically detecting the contours of book-shaped things and dark objects. But it does scan things other desktop scanners cannot handle.
Summary: The Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600 is an attractively-priced overhead scanner for someone who regularly needs to scan books, notepads, delicate documents, and small objects.
Score: 3.5 (out of 5)
Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600, reviewed by Sam Glover on .