The 5530 completed our 48bit A4 colour scan test at 300dpi in a respectable 29 seconds. However, a 600dpi scan of the same area took three minutes 24 seconds, which is more than five times slower than the Epson Perfection 3170 Photo that we reviewed back in January 2004. Scanning times at 2,400dpi for colour negatives and slides were equally disappointing when compared to the results obtained from the Epson scanner. However, scanning speed isn’t everything.
We were generally quite impressed with the quality of the scanned photo prints. Both tonal and colour reproduction were good and scanned images were generally noise free with plenty of detail. Unfortunately, scanning from negatives did not produce equally impressive results. The 5530 struggled to correctly judge the required exposure with images often appearing too light and washed out, although this can be corrected manually using the scanning software. As for the scan of our 35mm test transparency, it didn’t look as sharp as the scan produced by the Epson Perfection 3170 Photo, nor could it compete in terms of colour balance, clearly suffering from a distinct bluish-green tone.
On a more positive note, the 5530 worked well with the bundled ReadIris OCR software and correctly recognised all the words and formatting on our test page typed with a 9-point Times New Roman font.
Unsurprisingly, the 5530 really comes into its own when the APF - its key selling point - is put to the test. The feeder tray will accept print sizes between 13 x 9cm and 15 x 10cm. Just pop in your prints at one end of the APF, press the scan button on the front panel and away you go. In our tests, the 5530 managed to scan and save 24 15 x 10cm prints at a practical resolution of 300dpi in just under eight minutes (with preview mode turned off). That’s roughly 20 seconds per print, each saved as a 24bit colour jpeg.
Admittedly, you might still want to edit or manually adjust each image afterwards but nevertheless, the APF is still bound to save you precious time in the long run. The only apparent drawback of integrating the feeder into the lid of the 5530 is that the APF mechanism always features in the background of every standard scan you perform. This occasionally confuses the software when it attempts to auto-crop an image, and a few of our scans had to be manually re-cropped afterwards in order to cut out this structure. As to why HP does not include some form of removable white background to mask this structure is unclear, but it does seem the obvious thing to do.
To sum up, the HP Scanjet 5530 Photosmart produced good results with reflective scans and the inclusion of the excellent Automatic Photo Feeder will undoubtedly appeal to those who need to scan lots of photo prints on a regular basis. However, the irksome driver, the lack of a medium format transparency adapter and some questionable 35mm transparency results ultimately affect the 5530’s desirability.