I simply love the Canon CanoScan 4200F flat scanner for prints and films. It's fast (both in scanning and transfering to the PC), quiet, and has superb scan quality, esp. on 35mm negatives. (I haven't tried scanning 35mm slide films.)
Setting the 4200F up is pretty much a breeze, assuming you have Windows XP. (Windows 98 users will need to follow the instructions very carefully.) You first install the software -- the scanner driver and the scan toolbar (called "toolbox") are the only programs necessary for using the scanner; the other applications (photo editing, OCR and Adobe Acrobat) are optional. After restarting your machine (so the scanner driver loads and runs as a service), just connect the USB 2.0 hi-speed cable, and you are set to go.
Using the scanner is also quite simple. You can scan in three ways: directly from your photo organizing or editing program (assuming it supports the universal TWAIN interface, which most imaging programs worth their pennies do); using the Canon Scan Toolbox; or pressing one of the four buttons on the scanner itself, which calls up the toolbox and automatically initiates a scan.
The four buttons are:
- Copy. Your PC must be connected to a powered-on printer for this to work. When you press copy, the Canon scans and sends the file directly to your printer.
- Scan. This is the button for scanning. When you press it, the Canon scans and sends the scanned image to your designated photo editing program, which you specify once via the toolbox. (This button corresponds to the "Scan 1" icon on the toolbox.)
- PDF. This turns the scanned image into a PDF file.
- E-mail. This button scans and then calls up Outlook Express or Outlook with the image embedded as a JPEG attachment.
The toolbox (toolbar) has more options for scanning. All are pretty straightforward. Each option can be configured in detail, or you can specify that all the settings be done in the driver itself. (The toolbox is simply an interface to the driver.) If you configure things in the driver, you'll even be able to adjust how the scanned image should look, in terms of color, contrast, sharpness, etc., etc. The options are endless, but in the beginning, using the toolbox makes scanning a breeze and less intimidating.
One thing cool about the Canon is how it makes it easy to understand what resolution you should scan in. First, the 4200F is capable of 3200x6400 dpi (dots per inch). The 3200 dpi is its true optical resolution; that's how much fine details it can detect. The second number, 6400 dpi, refers to its "stepping" levels, which basically means the sensor can sample each inch 6400 times, but only detects up to 3200 dots. When you scan, the Canon asks you what *output* resolution and size you want, and then calculates the necessary input resolution for you. Say you are scanning a 4x6" photo but want to be able to print it 4 times as large (or twice the width and length, i.e., 8x12") and print at 300 dpi. The Canon will then automatically set the correct scan resolution of 600 dpi -- which is twice as much as printing 4x6 at 300 dpi. So you'll get a 2400x3600 file in pixels, which can then be printed at 8x12" at 300 dpi (2400/8=3600/12=300dpi). This concept of specifying output resolution rather than worrying about input resolution works esp. well for scanning negatives. Say you are scanning a 35mm negative. It'd be a pain to figure out which scanning resolution is best. But if you know you'd eventually want to print a 4x6" photo in 200 dpi, just tell the driver so, and the driver will do all the work for you and scan properly.
Another feature I love is multi-scan, which lets you scan in several pictures at once and the driver automatically separates them. Here's how I use my 4200F:
I set up the scan button so it's linked to Adobe Photoshop Elements 3's organizer. (You can link the button to any TWAIN-compatible program.) When I press the button, the scanner automatically scans multiple pictures I place on the glass, and separates them (and straightens them if necessary) into individual pictures. I have a checkbox called "confirmation of EXIF" checked, which allows me an opportunity to scan in more pictures before sending them all at once to Photoshop Elements 3. This really saves me a lot of time, without having to switch between the scanner driver and Photoshop Elements after each scan. Finally, when I'm done with scanning all the photos, I click the Forward button, and the driver automatically launches Adobe Photoshop Elements (if it's not already open) or switches to it, and sends over the newly scanned pictures. This process works equally well for photo prints and negatives. It sounds longer than it actually is. As with any scanning, it's replacing the photos on the glass or in the negative holder that is the most time-consuming part.
Compared to my previous scanners and even many more expensive scannesr on the market today, the CanoScan 4200F is lightyears ahead in scan quality, speed and quietness. The driver software has both a "simple mode" for easy scanning and an "advanced mode" for more fine-tuned scanning. The driver has been totally stable. I simply love this scanner. Finally, I will be able to scan in all my old photos.
The only downside I can think of is the lack of a printed user's manual. The 4200F comes with a quick-start guide that covers installing the software and doing a test scan. The HTML user's guide has lots of details, but because it's not PDF, it's almost impossible to print out.