Double feature

The Epson Perfection 3200 & Canon 9900F

Is the market Flat for scanners?

Within the next couple of years most people will be shooting the majority of their pictures with a digital camera. This means that they are not going to need a scanner to get images into a computer, so is the scanner market on a decline, or is there still some life left in these desk huggers?

Both Epson and Canon have launched their own highly specified scanner. Although flatbed scanners are primarily designed for high quality copy work, the two models we are reviewing have a very high film scanning capability. In fact, the specifications on both scanners are higher than those on my aging Nikon LS2000 film scanner, and they can both scan film formats up to 5x4 inches. These scanners could be used as a bridging gap for photographers who still have large collection of negatives and are still sitting on the fence when it comes to digital capture, and for designers who demand a high quality scan for layouts etc.,, Both scanners are promoting quality previously only seen on units costing in excess of £1000+ .

What is reassuring is that both manufacturers have recognised a need from their customers, for a product that can deliver on quality in a variety of scanning requirements without having to take out a second mortgage.

Why a Flatbed scanner?

I have always thought of a flatbed scanner as being limited in use from a photographer's point of view. Yes, you can scan in those old prints for restoration work, and there is still a lot of money to be made from offering this service. Pictures can be scanned and duplicated (handy if you can't find the negatives). You can place small 3D objects or flowers on the glass and scan them, I did this for some product shots in the days before I had a digital camera and they worked quite well. More mundane uses for a scanner are straightforward copying work, scanners are usually supplied with software that enables a scan of a document to be sent straight to a printer, handy for copying your tax returns etc.
Flatbed scanners are also useful for scanning in printed material, I scan in my published work, then I don't have to hang on to piles of old magazines (I don't have to, but I still do). On most scanners there is a de screening facility, this takes out the Moire Pattern which always plagues scans of printed material. I will try to find as many uses and lateral uses for scanners as I progress through the reviews.

What about Quality?

The one thing we are not short of is cheap scanners, you can buy one for as little as £40. But generally speaking you tend to get what you pay for, cheap scanners are OK for doing document copies but when it comes to photographs, they are not up to the task. The expensive units have scanning software that makes the scanning process a very accurate art, having the right tools from the outset will pay dividends. The optics in cheaper units usually give the game away, I have reviewed scanners which have been out of focus or suffer with out of register colours. Better specified (and more expensive) units tend to have a higher quality control and better scanning software. I will be putting the film scanning capability on both scanners through some though paces and will compare the results next to those obtained using equipment costing considerably more. Perhaps this is unfair, but don't we all want to know what the extra £???? is going to give us?


The review.

I hadn't expected both scanners to be available at the same time, in fact I only heard about the Canon 9900F this week. I personally hate side by side comparisons, I would prefer to read about one scanner (or other equipment) in greater detail. However, I am aware that for some people comparing equipment side by side can help them decide which is going to be better suited to their own needs. So for this review I am offering a compromise. I will run the review on each unit independently, but will merge and part again at certain key stages.

The reviews are interactive, which means you can put whatever question or task to me and I will do my best to accommodate, please use the photo-i forum rather than emailing me, a direct link can be found at the bottom of each page.

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© Vincent Oliver 2003
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