Canon’s CanoScan 9950F
An Impressive Flat-Bed For Those With Mixed Scanning Needs
Canon's new flat-bed scanner, the CanoScan 9950F boasts an impressive feature set that will appeal to photographers who either shoot film or have a collection of film that is waiting to be converted to digital. In this review I'll take a look at how well the scanner performs and whether it earns a place in the digital darkroom.
The 9950F is the first scanner to use Canon's new Hyper CCD IV sensor with a hardware resolution of 4800x9600dpi and up to 19,200x19,200dpi with interpolation. The scanner supports 48-bit color and a maximum scan size of 8.5x11.7". Combined with a large aperture Super Toric lens and a dual lighting system, the 9950F is able to scan negatives and transparencies with more detail than previous flat-bed scanners. Canon includes four film holders to handle 35mm negatives and slides, medium format, and 4x5 sheet film. How good is the 9950F at scanning film? In my tests it performed nearly as well as the Nikon Coolscan 5000 ED and as perhaps a bit better than Canon's 4000FS film scanner. When you add in the convenience of scanning all film sizes as well as normal scanning, Canon has a strong contender with the 9950F.
Canon has obviously put a lot of thought into the design of the film holders. Up to 30 35mm negatives can be scanned at once, while the slide holder will handle up to 12 mounted slides. A unique feature on the 4x5 film holder is an adjustable opening for single frames of medium format film. Unlike many other film holders, this one adjusts for the size needed, helping to keep the film flat for better results.
Also included is Canon's FARE (Film Automatic Retouching and Enhancement) technology, which is similar to the Digital ICE technology used by some Nikon and Konica Minolta products. Essentially, FARE uses an infrared light source during the scanning process to detect dust and scratches which are removed automatically. If you've ever scanned a piece of film without Digital ICE or FARE, you'll immediately understand the advantage of having this work done automatically. It will literally save you hours of editing time. FARE Level 3 also helps correct fading and backlighting.
There are front panel controls for Copy, Scan, PDF, and E-Mail. Pressing Copy scans a document and sends it directly to the printer. PDF scans your document directly to a PDF file, and E-Mail scans with settings appropriate for e-mailing and automatically inserts the image into a blank e-mail message. Scan does the obvious--it scans your document in the conventional manner.
The scanner connects via USB 2.0 or FireWire (Macintosh only). A USB cable is included with the scanner.
The 9950F comes with a complete bundle of software, including Adobe's Photoshop Elements 2.0, ArcSoft's PhotoStudio 5.5, ScanSoft's OmniPage SE for OCR, and NewSoft's Presto! PageManager 6 for document management. The CanoScan Toolbox and ScanGear CS applications provide control over the scanner itself.
CanoScan Toolbox is required if you want to use the front panel controls and provides access to the bundled applications as well. ScanGear CS is where all adjustments to scanner settings are made. While both Simple and Advanced modes are available, to take advantage of the 9950F's features you'll want to stay with Advanced mode.
I tried a variety of scans with the 9950F including black and white negatives, Kodachrome transparencies, and unmounted medium format transparencies. Overall, I was quite impressed with the results. As a comparison, these same images were scanned with the Epson Expression 1680, which costs nearly four times as much as the Canon.
Using FARE increases scan times by about 50 percent which, considering how much work it saves in editing, is well worth the extra time. For comparison, the Nikon Coolscan 5000 ED with Digital ICE enabled nearly tripled scan times.
At the full 4800dpi resolution, be prepared for some huge files. A 4x5 scanned at this resolution will quickly chew up over 1GB of disk space, while a 645 scan will top out at over 225MB and 35mm film outputs a 160MB file. Kodachrome transparencies, which are notoriously difficult for scanners due to their different color formula, came out quite well.
At $399, the CanoScan 9950F is a serious contender for anyone with mixed scanning needs. The high quality of the film scans, combined with FARE Level 3 was very impressive. The only drawbacks to speak of are an adequate but not exceptional scanner interface and the lack of FireWire support for Windows computers. On the software front, LaserSoft has announced that SilverFast Ai will support the 9950F. This will make a strong product even more compelling.
For more information, visit Canon's website at: www.usa.canon.com.
Jon Canfield is a digital imaging instructor and co-author of "Photo Finish: The Digital Photographer's Guide to Printing, Showing, and Selling Images" by Sybex.