Stand-alone scanners still have their advantages

For those who have yet to bring their older photos into the digital realm, the CanoScan 8600F desktop photo and film scanner is definitely worth a look

With digital cameras being so popular, fewer and fewer photos need to be scanned. And if you’re just scanning office documents, multifunction printers with integrated scanners work just fine and start at under $200. Nevertheless, stand-alone scanners like the CanoScan 8600F do have their advantages.

What used to be high-end features — transparency scanning, 4,800 dpi optical resolution at 48-bit colour depth (trillions of colours), a full complement of bundled software, advanced controls, and lightning-fast speeds — are all standard in this very affordable package. For those who have yet to bring their older photos into the digital realm, this desktop photo and film scanner is definitely worth a look.

There are seven handy task buttons on top of this silver and black flatbed scanner; these automate a number of tasks, such as scanning a document into PDF format, importing photos or slides into the image editor of your choosing, or scanning a document directly to a printer (essentially a copying function).

By default, the scan Photo/Slides button will bring the scanned image into the included ArcSoft PhotoStudio software, but you can change the settings in the CanoScan Toolbox software to use Photoshop or some other image-editing program. Thankfully, unlike in years past — when full Mac compatibility was never certain — all buttons on the scanner worked with our Mac Pro.

A transparency unit for scanning film and slides is built into the 8600F’s lid, and the scanner ships with a film holder for four 35mm slides, a holder for two strips of 35mm film, and a holder for medium-format film. When scanning multiple transparencies, the 8600F is able to detect, crop and display separate thumbnail images for each transparency. You can then choose which image to scan, or batch scan many or all of them at the same time.

The 8600F was a zippy performer once it warmed up. Like most mid-range desktop scanners, it uses CCD (charge coupled device) sensors to scan, not CIS (contact image sensors) like those found in compact scanners, many all-in-one printers, and copiers. CCD-based scanners have a reputation for higher quality, but they take longer to warm up and generate more heat than CIS devices.

Though seeing the “scanner warming up” message on screen each time I wanted to scan became annoying, after seeing the resulting scans I’d say it was worth the wait. Scans of photos were a little dark — nothing a tweak or two in a photo editor couldn’t fix — and colours were accurate. The 8600F was also able to capture an impressive amount of detail in both our transparency and reflective resolution test charts.

The CanoScan 8600F proved to be a very good all-around scanner and should definitely be considered if you are looking for a high-quality photo and document scanner.

RRP for the CanoScan 8600F is $399.

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