PREVIEW: NEW CANOSCAN 9000f & SILVERFAST

When Canon announced a 9600 optical resolution Canoscan 9000f flatbed scanner, I got on the phone and got a loaner to test and report on. For all the enthusiast photographers with film collections they want to scan into digital files, this new Canoscan made me wonder, is it an ideal answer? It’s priced right with a list of $249. But how well does it work and what quality of scans does it reproduce from 35mm film? Of course from my mail I knew many readers would be interested, but I didn’t get an assignment to do a user report.

THE CANON CANOSCAN 9000f FEATURES

This new 9000f model Canon flatbed photo scanner is not essentially different from their 8800f model, it looks a little sleeker and has higher resolution and scans 8.5x11 inch reflective documents and prints (at 4800dpi), as well as both 35mm and 120 photographic film (at 9600dpi). Film scanning is supported by an infrared FARE 3 sensing of dust, dirt and scratch for automatic software cleaning. Like the most contemporary scanners, the Canoscan 9000f uses white LED’s for scan illumination. The scan sensor is a 12-line CCD. The 9000f scans in 48-bits and will also output 48-bit files. It connects with your computer via a USB specified as the fastest available your PC’s support.

I also contacted Lasersoft and obtained their new version of SilverFast for the Canoscan 9000f in the most complete Ai6 version. My first scan was made with Canon’s ScanGear software, a scan of a letter-sized portrait print. Easy and quick, but then there is little ‘interpretation’ between different media involved scanning a good print. The result without any manual adjustment was pretty accurate. Then I switched to scan four different color negative film images, and quickly found that quick and easy has its limits. All the preview scans, presented in four thumbnails on one screen were usable, and pretty good dynamic interpretations of different color negative film bases.

USING LASERSOFT SILVERFAST TO RUN THE CANOSCAN 9000f

The first thing I did before making a scan with the 9000f and SilverFast was to use IT-8, and put a 35mm target slide in the scanner and ran the profiling of the scanner, It didn’t take even a few minutes or any effort, it was done automatically with the software in seconds. Let’s then get on with scanning. Since I tested the Plustek 7600i I have been doing a lot of personal scanning of my 35mm film library, a job I will never live long enough to finish. I had a lot of 35mm film frames selected, a wide variety of subjects and different kinds of films, and I just grabbed a bunch, maybe 100 to 150 images, and dove into scanning with the 9000f using all of the methods supported by SilverFast; using the software conventionally and traditionally, making high-bit raw scan files, and using the newest and most efficient kind of batch scanning, the SilverFast Archival Suite method. This is something a large number of readers have written about, what is an efficient and fast way to get scanning done. Quick and easy alone doesn’t do it because the price is poor image quality or very long and tedious work color correcting 48-bit scan files with an image editor. I think many experienced photographers don’t realize that color correcting and translating between different films both positive and negative is far from straightforward and simple as film images vary in density and with negatives making an inversion to a positive image, and also eliminating the dye color in the film base, is a complicated path to get to a digital image that will make a high quality print or display on-screen.

But lets start with the most common, scanning positive color slides to a digital image that will make a good print reproduction. With SilverFast the first step in color correction and adjustment is the one that is done easily by automation to get to the Histogram process that maps the much greater range of typical slide densities to the 256-step gamut of a digital image. Once an image has been previewed, and the scan frame is adjusted within the image leaving just image information inside, at the top left of the SilverFast control window click the second from the far left icon that looks like an aperture. Then open the Histogram with the third icon from the left, and in the window and at the bottom is to me the most valuable adjustment for Removing Color Cast. Many film images may have a colorcast from light reflections, smog or smoke in the atmosphere, and frequently a color in the film base or a tint from less than perfect processing. The Color Cast slider allows adjusting the color cast removal by perception seeing the adjusted image free of any colorcast.

RESULTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The Canon Canscan 9000f looks and feels like a really well designed and finely made machine. And once you begin using it, it is smooth, quiet and quick unlike many scanners I have used in the past the scanner self-initialization and calibration has been made extremely efficient, so little time is wasted between scans, and depending on the file size of output, it scans very rapidly. I think a lot of photographers with film libraries have hoped for a flatbed that will scan prints, as well as both 120 and 35mm film as well as a dedicated film scanner, has just been a dream. Well the Canon Canoscan with SilverFast running it is just about there – the dream has been realized to a very large extent. I did most of my testing with 35mm film images including a lot I know are difficult to scan. The results are so close to those I have obtained with the Plustek OpticFilm 7600i it is hard to tell which is better. But there are differences, some odd and older films reveal that the Canon Flare 3 works best with newer E-6 and C-41 process films, but not as well with earlier process films, and of course not at all with silver B&W or Kodachrome, but no infrared cleaning sensor does.

Another flatbed distinction is the unusual design of 12 line CCD’s that produce a raw file that requires twice to four times as much software sharpening compared to a traditional 3 line CCD sensor of a dedicated film scanner. Is this a problem? Mostly not, but it does create an image appearance that is a little different, and can be an advantage because graininess is less apparent. In other words I have encountered problems getting good scans with some films with both dedicated film scanners and this new Canoscan 9000f, no more or less, just a little different with each, as both have their advantages and disadvantages, just somewhat dissimilar and distinct. The bottom line is the Canoscan 9000f with SilverFast is really a good scanner especially considering it does prints, medium format and 35mm and the total cost with SilverFast SE added is under $300. That’s really good news in times like these.

The complete report that will be published in Shutterbug is fully illustrated and more detailed, but you don’t have to wait, this is the best in flatbed film scanning.

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