Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Product Review: Mustek Express A3 1200 Pro

There comes a time in every artist's life when they want to toss their scanner out the window because it's such a pain to scan large paintings into the standard format 8.5x11 Inch scanners. The pieces don't fit together right, the exposure between passes are too different, and it's such a time waster to have to sit and stitch them together in Photoshop. The problem becomes compounded when we go shopping for a large format scanner that can process anything larger and we find that such scanners cost in upwards of $2000!

In my journey to find a solution that wouldn't cost me selling my kidney on the black market, I found a humble scanner called the Mustek Express A3 Pro USB Scanner with a scanning area of 11.7x16.5 Inches (29.7x42.0 Centimeters) at the equally humble price of $150. I bought one from Newegg, which had a comparable price and 30 day money back guarantee. So with little ado (and my love of lists), I present the Pros & Cons of the Mustek Express A3 1200 Pro USB scanner.

The Pros The Cons
The large format is a dream. All that lovely scanning space! (11.7x16.5 Inches total) The scanner is all you get. There are no quick buttons for you quick button fiends out there.
Seems to pick up a decent amount of detail and is particularly effective at picking up color luminosity.Subtle tones are somewhat lost in the scanning. But you can pop those out again with post-processing.
Compatible with Photoshop import options (which is the only thing I use) Like most new scanners, this one is finicky about anything that is not pressed flat against the glass. Anything raised from it will be out of focus.
Scans up to 9600 DPI
Very affordable price tag at around $150
Cover is removable with no lip around the glass, which is handy for scanning oversized pieces.

Image Quality
I currently use an Epson Workforce 500 as my main scanner and will continue to do so unless I need to scan larger format work. Though the Mustek is decent, it does not pick up the more subtle details that my Epson does. I have also been told by my publisher that the Epson is about as close to print quality as can be.

The Skinny
The Mustek is by no means a bad scanner, but it does have its minor shortcomings. However, for the low price, it's a pretty sweet deal if you're in search of an affordable deal on a large format scanner with decent scanning quality.

EDIT: It's also come to my attention the company is no longer making updated drivers for this device! In essence, it can only be used with Windows XP machines, for now.

EDIT 2: They finally came out with a new driver for this one!  You can find it here.


  1. cool. I dont know much about scanners in general but my overall impression is that this is a good deal considering the size. the one I have now (8.5x11) is a scanner/printer combo and cost approx $30 and tho its not top quality it still scans pretty good so I suppose cheap doesnt automatically mean bad. and to that, scanning seems to be a lot about knowing how to properly edit the pic once its scanned. Im thinking Ill be buying one of these.

  2. Ethel is Ethelie btw. lol. ^^

  3. I figured it was you:) You probably saw this on twitter, but I'll mention this here for other readers. I've been informed that another cost effective large format scanner is the Brother MFC-6490CW Multi Function. Not only does it scan large, but it prints large too! And for under $300, gotta love it!

    Wish I had the funds to test that one out too, but I'll stick to lovin on the Mustek for awhile. It will be a trusty tool in the fight against time wasting in Photoshop!

  4. Wow, thank you for this info, that size would be perfect for me. I don't mind a little post scanning work as long as the image is all the same colour throughout, haha.
    I must find a way to buy one of these new scanners.

  5. Angela,
    You know about the File>Automate>Photomerge button in Photoshop, right? You just have to scan each part of the image and click the button and it will merge all the pieces of your image for you. I use a Cannon standard size scanner and have been waiting patiently for my fairy godmother to magically bippity-bopitty-boo it into an Epson 10000XL. Til then I'm Photomerging. Thanks for this product demo post...I am always leary of a deal that is seemingly too good to be true. Seems like a decent product!

  6. Oh yes I know about automerge though I don't like CS2's version of it since it doesn't leave the files in individual layers for you. It's highly improved in CS3 and above. Plus, if I can get it all in one pass, I'd much rather be able to do that instead of piecing things together with whatever means are available. So far this scanner is working wonders for me and allowing me to spend more time painting than sitting and piecing together things. This is especially useful when I'm scanning walkthroughs. I was encouraged to buy this scanner after I spent hours piecing together a 40 step walkthrough of a single 11x14 painting. That was 80 passes overall with the scanner and then piecing it all together.

    Never again x_x

  7. I'm a textile artist scanning in really large designs 24"x30" paintings (martins dye and gouache) and was excited to test the mustek a3 2400 scanner. sadly after testing a large floral painting i'm shocked at how inaccurate the color is. granted my painting is a difficult colorway (oranges and olives) but all the scan tests where i tried to adjust the gamma before scanning where ALL completely off casting to magenta, yellows , were pink etc... so off that in photoshop where of course color adjusting/ tweaking is always expected, i simply could not get the scanned image to resemble the original color... couldn't even get close.
    i'd be very wary or this scanner if true color reproduction is needed.