|Canon FS-4000 Scanner
Canon brings razor-sharp 4000 dpi scanning to the "prosumer" market with this affordable unit!
(Review first posted 06/26/2001)
||High end "personal", (very) inexpensive "professional" film scanner|
||4000 dpi resolution (65 meg file from 35mm negative!)|
||14 bits per channel|
||Dual USB & SCSI interface|
Canon is one of the true giants of the optical/photographic industry. They're well known for their full range of cameras and lenses, in both the film and digital worlds, and also produce a range of other products including printers, scanners, and office equipment. The common thread that unites all their products is imaging, a core strength of the company.
In the digital world, Canon has developed one of the broader lines of digital cameras, spanning the range from entry level point and shoot models to a professional SLR model. (The EOS D30 is officially marketed as a "semi-pro" camera, but it's found its way into the camera bags of a great many professionals.) Canon has both flatbed and film scanners, emanating from two different divisions of the company, competing strongly in their respective niches.
The CanoScan FS-4000 that's the subject of this review is the latest in their line of film scanners, sporting high-end specs of 4000 dpi scanning resolution and 14-bit digitization at a very affordable price relative to other models on the market with similar specifications. The FS-4000 is a bit slower than the fastest film scanners we've tested, but that's about the only parameter in which its performance is the least bit off true professional standards. This is a remarkably capable film scanner at a very aggressive price point that's surely going to cause the competition to sit up and notice. Despite it's "prosumer" positioning, it actually has the distinction of having the highest resolution we've yet seen in a film scanner at any price point, and its optics appear to be superior to anything we've seen in any competing unit.
- Color or black and white 35mm negatives and positives, APS with optional adapter.
- 4000 dpi maximum input resolution
- 14 bits per channel digitization accuracy
- Very effective Infrared-based dust removal technology
- Dual USB and SCSI interfaces for fast, easy interface to most computers.
- Long-life cold cathode fluorescent light source
- Ships with Photoshop LE and CanoScan acquire plug-in for both Mac and Windows
The CanoScan FS4000US is a typical size for a desktop film scanner, although its elongated shape means it's difficult to make our standard comparison to a thick book standing on its spine. The FS4000 has about the same cross-section as a book, but is a good bit longer, with overall dimensions of 3.6 x 14.5 x 5.7 inches (92 x 368 x 144 mm). It weighs about 5.3 pounds (2.4 kg). While it's longer than some scanners, the film holders don't project out the back of the unit as those of some models do, meaning you don't need to allow any more space at the back of the unit than is required to provide clearance for the connecting cables.
Speaking of connections, the FS4000US has both SCSI-2 and USB interface ports on its rear panel, the SCSI connection presumably being somewhat higher-speed than the USB one. (We only tested our evaluation unit using the SCSI connection.) Older Macs (beige PowerMacs and before) come with SCSI ports built in, other computers will require the addition of a SCSI interface card if you want to take advantage of the higher-speed interface. Most current computers, whether Macs or PCs have USB ports though, so the scanner should be able to be used "out of the box" with just about any computer built in the last few years.
The scanner ships with a nice set of software on the accompanying CD, with good support of both Mac and PC computing platforms. Both Mac and PC users will find a copy of Adobe's excellent Photoshop LE, along with Canon's FilmGet FS acquire plug-in that operates the scanner. (The scanner is operated from within Photoshop, allowing immediate adjustment or editing of the images as soon as they're acquired.) Arcsoft's PhotoBase image database program is also provided for both platforms. For printing, the two platforms diverge slightly, with Canon's ImageBrowser offered to meet Mac users' printing needs, and Canon's PhotoRecord dedicated photo-printing package provided for Windows users. Of the two, PhotoRecord provides much more flexible printing capabilities, ImageBrowser being mainly intended for use as a photo-organizer tool. Still, it's nice to see support as well-balanced between Mac and PC platforms as it is.
Scanning resolution can be as high as 4000dpi, producing a maximum image size of 5888 x 4000 pixels with 35mm film, for a file size of 64 megabytes. Beyond its basic scanning resolution though, we also found the FS4000's lens system to be one of the sharpest we've seen to date, and the overall resolution and detail delivered by the scanner is among the highest we've seen to date. (June, 2001.)
Bit depth is another important parameter for scanners, as a measure of both color accuracy and the maximum density range a scanner can recognize. (8 bits per channel is average 10 better, and12 quite good. A few scanners are now beginning to appear with 14 bits per channel of digitization accuracy.) The CanoScan FS4000 captures a full 14 bits per channel, and furthermore allows you to import the full 42 bit image (14 bits in each of three color channels) into Photoshop.
We've reviewed several scanners in the past that offer automated dust-removal systems. Some use purely software-based techniques that we've found to be of little benefit: If they remove the dust, they also remove most of the fine subject detail. If they leave the subject detail, they leave the dust too. The most successful methods use infrared light to generate a "defect mask" that then guides sophisticated processing in the scanner's firmware and software. The idea is that the infrared light passes through the film's emulsion layers more or less untouched, but is blocked by dust or scratches. We've found infrared-based methods to be quite effective in removing dust and scratches from your scans. (Note though, that since Kodachrome and black & white emulsions are largely opaque to infrared, these methods don't work with films of those types.)
Thus far, the only infrared-based technology for dust removal has been "Digital ICE" by Applied Science Fiction, licensed to both Nikon and Minolta for use in their film scanners. With the FS4000US, Canon has now introduced their own dust/scratch removal technology, called "FARE" (Film Automatic Retouching and Enhancement. This is an IR-based approach, distinguished by the almost zero impact it has on underlying subject detail. Previously, even the best implementations of IR-based dust removal resulted in at least some softening of the image. You could generally get back most of the sharpness by careful application of unsharp masking in an image editing program, but there was always at least some loss of detail, no matter what you did.
With FARE, we found that there was really no loss of detail that we could discern, possibly just a tiny bit of softening when the control was set to "Strong" in the control software.
Of course, there's still no free lunch: We found that FARE wasn't *quite* as effective in removing dust and defects as the best implementations of Digital ICE, but we'd personally opt for the reduced impact on the underlying image that FARE seems to offer.
The illustration at right shows the effect of FARE on a very dirty piece of color negative film. The scan was done at 4000 dpi, results were quite similar at 1000 dpi. The composite photo at right is reduced somewhat to fit our layout. Click on it to see the full-sized version in a separate browser window.
FARE also has enhancement capabilities that we didn't experiment with much. It apparently can do a fairly gentle color restoration to faded images, and also has intelligence built in that allows it to partially compensate for the blown-out subjects common in amateur flash photography.
With FARE, Canon has not only advanced the state of the art of automatic defect removal, but they've brought it down market into a very affordable scanner. Very impressive!
Scanner Optics and Light Path
Film scanners have either fixed focus or variable focus optics in them. The FS4000US is a variable focus design, and the lens autofocuses automatically prior to each scan by default. If you have badly curled film, or a poorly focused original that's difficult for the scanner to focus on, you can disable the autofocus option and adjust focus manually. In our experience, this can be a lifesaver if you have a bad piece of film, but you also need to be prepared to exercise extreme patience if you must resort to this approach: To accurately set focus, you'll really need to do a maximum-resolution scan (even if only of a portion of the frame) after each focus change, to see the effects of the adjustment. This is extremely time-consuming, but much better than the alternative of simply not getting the scan at all. In our testing, the FS4000US' autofocus did an excellent job on all our targets other than the @#! USAF resolution test, which is on a thick glass substrate that seems to give scanner's optical systems fits. (Diffraction in the support glass seems to result in a lot of lens flare, pretty much across the board for all the scanners we've tested with it.) Even on the USAF target though, the FS4000 delivered a sharper image than all but a handful of scanners, and the highest resolution we've seen on that target to date. (June, 2001.)
While some other manufacturers have called particular attention to their scanning optics, Canon hasn't made that big a deal of that aspect of the FS4000US' design in either their marketing or product packaging. They easily could have though, as we found its lens to be one of the sharpest we've yet seen in a desktop film scanner. Not only did the FS4000 resolve more detail at the center of the frame than most scanners we've tested, but it was razor-sharp all the way to the corners as well. (While a few scanners were as sharp at the center of the frame, none beat it in the corners.) Overall, we were unusually impressed with the resolution and sharpness the FS4000US delivered.
Like many other scanners we've tested, the CanoScan FS4000US uses a cold-cathode fluorescent light source to illuminate the film. In the past, we've seen scanners with fluorescent illumination produce somewhat "softer" scans than those using more collimated light sources. With the FS4000US though, we saw no hint of softness in any of its scans, and in fact it's one the sharpest scanners we've tested to date. (June, 2001)
Like most film scanners we've tested, the CanoScan FS4000US uses sturdy plastic slide and filmstrip holders to carry the film through the scanner. Operation is simple, you first place the media to be scanned into the holder, then insert the holder into the scanner. APS film is provided for by a small mechanized adapter that accepts the APS cartridge and is itself inserted into the front of the scanner.
The film holders slide easily into the front of the scanner, sliding home past slight resistance. Once a holder is a little ways into the scanner throat, the feed motor starts up and pulls it the rest of the way in, and then moves it back and forth a bit until it's properly registered and ready to scan the first frame. You can remove the holders at any time by simply tugging on them: There's a slight resistance, but it doesn't appear to harm the frame-advance stepper motor at all to override its while the scanner is idle. The scanner body is open on the front only, as the film holders are entirely contained within the unit while scanning is in progress.
The film strip holder is a fairly standard clamshell arrangement, of the design that is hinged at the front and opens lengthwise. ("Alligator mouth" rather than "clamshell"?) A series of raised bars on either side of the film opening position the film side to side, and gaps in the body of the holder near either end give access to the film sprocket holds, letting you nudge the film back and forth with a straightened paper clip or other small object to align it. The photo above shows a portion of the film holder. The photo on the left shows the film bed with the holder open, while the photo on the right shows it closed. They're not terribly obvious, but you can see the two slots (top and bottom) that provide access to the film's sprocket holes for adjusting its position. The film adapter generally worked well, but we did find that we had a bit of trouble with film that was badly curled lengthwise. It was hard to hold down the film while closing the clamshell, and the little ridges meant to guide the film laterally weren't always where they needed to be to catch the ends of the film and keep it aligned. (Our favorite design for film holders is to have a continuous recess running the full length of the adapter. This really helps with curled film.) The ability to get at the film's sprocket holes to make fine adjustments in frame alignment was very handy though.
The slide holder has four recesses into which slides can be loaded. A pair of spring-loaded fingers presses the edge of each slide mount against the body of the holder. We liked this arrangement because on the one hand, we could get the slides perfectly square by bottoming them out against the ridges at the base of the spring fingers. At the same time though, there was enough side to side play to get about a degree or so of rotation between the slide and the holder. This is useful for correcting for the slight rotation we've sometimes found between film and mount on poorly mounted slides. Another nice aspect of the FS4000's slide holder is that it's very forgiving of unusually thick mounts, such as our glass USAF resolution slide, or bulky glass-and-plastic mounts.
The CanoScan FS4000US is unusual in that Canon has included an APS film adapter right in the box with it. This is a small motorized magazine that accepts an APS cartridge into a compartment accessed from its top, and which in turn is inserted into the front of the scanner, after opening a hinged door. The photos above show the adapter being loaded with a cartridge, and then being inserted into the front of the scanner. While APS film isn't terribly common these days, we applaud Canon's inclusion of the APS adapter in the box with the scanner. While many manufacturers offer APS adapters for their scanners, it's often nearly impossible to find them at retail, requiring that they be ordered direct from the manufacture. (More of a hassle than it should be.)
Software Operation and User Interface
Canon's FilmGet FS is an Adobe Photoshop plugin that runs the scanner, providing a variety of image adjustments and scanning options. Once installed, you launch FilmGet FS via the "Import" option of the Photoshop "File" pulldown menu. FilmGet FS loads and displays the Preview and Thumbnail windows. Following our usual practice, we'll step through the various user interface screens, in roughly the order you'd encounter them during normal scanning.
The Thumbnail window automatically pops up when FilmGet FS is launched, and is the mechanism for viewing thumbnail images of the film in the film tray, as well as selecting the frame to prescan. The main thumbnail display features as many thumbnail slots as there are spaces in the film holder being used. A scroll bar on the right side of the window accesses additional rows of thumbnails if there are too many to fit in the display window. The film holder can hold as many as six images (four images on the slide tray) while the Advanced Photo System (APS) canister holds an entire Kodak APS cartridge. (Up to 40 exposures per APS roll.) There are three labeled buttons across the top of the Thumbnail window, performing the following functions:
- Select All: Selects all frames of the film tray or APS canister, placing a red border around each selected frame.
- Transfer Thumbnails: Transfers all thumbnail images to the selected application program (Adobe Photoshop, Canon ZoomBrowser, etc.) to be printed as an index page.
- Thumbnail Scan: Scans the entire tray of film or APS cartridge, displaying a thumbnail of each frame.
Once thumbnails have been created, you can select an individual image to prescan by clicking on the image. A red border appears around the selected frame (a second click deselects the thumbnail). Four orientation buttons at the top of the window let you rotate or flip the thumbnail image before prescanning, though you can also rotate or flip images in the Preview window. To do a prescan, you select the thumbnail image, then click on the main preview window and hit the Preview button. We would have preferred to see a Preview button on the Thumbnail window, which would automatically prescan the image and drop you right into the Preview window, as a more intuitive user interface design. (We confess we initially found many features of the FilmGet FS interface to be a little confusing, although operation was simple enough once we read through the manual and got accustomed to the program.)
The Preview window is where the remaining scanning actions take place. At the top of the window are the Film Type and Color Mode pulldown menus. Film options include Color Positives, Color Negatives, and Monochrome Negatives. The software automatically sets the film type when the film tray is loaded into the scanner, but you can change it manually if necessary. Color Mode options include a 42-bit color setting, which records all 14 bits of data of all three channels, allowing you to save it in the TIFF or RAW format. Remaining color options are 24-bit color, 14-bit grayscale, 8-bit grayscale, and black and white. (Note that the TIFF format is a 48-bit format, storing 16 bits per channel. The data captured by the scanner is 14 bits "deep," so the extra bits are just padded with zeros.)
On the right side of the Preview window is the image preview area, which displays the prescanned image and shows the frame number at the top of the window. Along the left side of the prescanned image are a number of adjustment tools, for altering the image orientation, zooming the view, etc. The top tool is for cropping, and selecting: It turns the mouse cursor into a crosshair for drawing the crop area. The hand tool allows you to move around within the enlarged preview image. The next three tools control the zoom, with the plain magnifying glass tool serving as the zoom reset, which returns to the initial preview view. Beneath the zoom tools are four image orientation tools, for rotating and flipping the image. The next tool, an eyedropper with stars, is the Auto Correct tool, which automatically adjusts the highlights, shadows, brightness, and color of the image. The final control in the bar is the Eject button, which ejects the film tray from the scanner.
The next step in scanning is to establish the image dimensions and resolution. In the top left corner of the Preview window are five buttons (just beneath the Film and Color pulldown menus), which control the scan mode. From left to right across the top, the buttons are Custom, File, Text/Printer/Fax, Display, and Photo Size. In all modes except for Custom, the software allows you to control the file size, resolution, and display size, depending on the intended use for the scanned image. In Custom mode, FilmGet FS provides six presets. (The shot at right shows the panel with the custom button pressed.)
Clicking on the Custom mode button displays a pulldown menu of presets, with a range of resolutions and output formats to choose from. The "High Res" preset sets resolution at 4,000 dpi (dots per inch). "Medium Res" sets resolution at 2,000 dpi, and "Low Res" sets resolution at 1,000 dpi. "View on Monitor" sets the display size to 60 percent, and you have a range of monitor options to choose from. "Output to Printer" optimizes the scan for printing, specifying paper size, display size (100 percent), output device, and the resolution size (300 dpi). The "Image" preset specifies the photo size, printer destination, and resolution (300 dpi).
The Customize option under the menu lets add or delete presets from the Custom menu. You can even create your own set of preferences and save it as a preset for the Custom menu, notice our "Dave's High Res" preset in the listing. (Scanning adjustments can be saved from any of the other four mode windows and added to the Custom preset list.)
In File mode, FilmGet FS allows you to set the Input resolution (top box), Output Resolution (second box), and the image dimensions. A variety of measurement units are available, including pixels, inches, centimeters, and millimeters. The file size is then automatically calculated so you have an idea of how large or small your scan will be. When selecting the input and output resolutions, you can either choose a preset value from the list or type in your own number. An odd quirk of the FilmGet FS software is that once you type in a value, you have to hit the Tab key on the keyboard for it to make the change. If you press Enter or simply click on another area of the screen, the change is not kept. The C/H/P/F button (labeled "F" on our screen shot) to the left of the image dimensions text boxes specifies the photo paper size, and mainly refers to scans from APS cartridges. The "C/H/P" refers to three specific photographic paper sizes used by APS: Standard, Hi-Vision, and Panoramic. Since we're currently in File mode, the photo size remains at "F." All of the mode screens feature the Add button at the bottom, with the exception of the Custom mode. Clicking on the Add button allows you to save a set of preferences as a preset, which will appear in the Custom preset list.
In Text/Printer/Fax mode, FilmGet FS provides a range of output settings. You can establish the paper size, display size (the size of the image in proportion to the selected paper size), and the destination printer. The image dimensions and file size are automatically calculated, based on the specified paper size. Though you can't adjust the dimensions, you can control the display size. For example, selecting 100 percent would cause the image to take up all of the printable area of the paper, while selecting 50 percent would decrease the image size by half.
In Display mode, you can set the monitor resolution and display size, and scan to produce files matching those dimensions. Available monitor resolutions go from 640 x 480 to 1,600 x 1,200 pixels. There is an option for "My Monitor," which automatically sets the resolution to match the monitor currently in use. As with Text/Printer/Fax mode, the image dimension boxes are grayed out, meaning that you must adjust the display size to increase or decrease the image size.
Photo Size Mode
The final settings mode is Photo Size, which optimizes the scan for making photo prints. You can adjust the photographic paper size and destination printer. The paper size list is more extensive than the offerings of the Kodak APS system, offering a wider range of aspect ratios. Under the destination printer list, you can specify "Connected Printer," or choose a resolution setting from the list.
In the bottom left corner of the Preview window is a series of adjustment tabs, which access several image editing tools. The first of these is the Histogram tab, which features a histogram display of the image, a sliding adjustment bar, and two eyedropper tools. The histogram is a graph of the tonal distribution of the image, displaying the number of pixel having each tonal value, from pure black to pure white. Four buttons along the left side of the histogram alter the display, selecting either the Red, Green, or Blue channels, or a composite of all three (Master display). This allows you to examine and adjust the tonal distribution for each of the individual channels, as well as for all three together. The slider bar beneath the histogram adjusts the highlight and shadow cutoff points. As you slide the points in, the tonal range is redistributed to reflect the change. (A couple of minor interface points: We'd have preferred to see the slider points facing upward, to make the adjustment point a little more clear. We'd also have liked the histogram itself to have more resolution, to make fine adjustments easier.)
You can also use the highlight and shadow eyedroppers to select the brightest and darkest points in the image. Selecting either tool converts the cursor into an eyedropper, and clicking on the image sets the black or white point as appropriate. (Setting a point as the "black" point adjusts the black levels of all three color channels to be set to zero for that point. The white point does the same thing at the other end of the tonal range. (e.g., 255 instead of 0) Setting white and black points is an easy way to fix color casts, poor tonal range, etc.) The text boxes beside each eyedropper allow you to type in a value, just be sure to hit the Tab key to make the change. A Reset arrow button at the bottom of the tab window clears any adjustments in the histogram. As you hold the mouse over specific points in the image, a series of numbers reports the values for that spot in the image, showing the Red, Green, and Blue values that are make up the color under the cursor. This is useful when trying to even out tones or gauge whether or not your midtones are neutral.
Lining the bottom of all four adjustment tabs are three buttons:
- Clear: Clears all the changes made in any of the adjustment tabs, returning to the default settings.
- Load: Lets you recall previously saved settings.
- Save: Lets you save the current set of changes. This is useful when you have a series of scans that all need the same set of adjustments.
Tone Curves Tab
The Tone Curves tab lets you control the brightness values in the image by "remapping"them, according to a graph you adjust by dragging points up or down. The graph shows how the original tonal values (the horizontal or x-axis of the curve) are mapped into new (output) values (the vertical or y-axis of the curve). Like the histogram, you can adjust the tone curves for either the Red, Green, or Blue channels individually, or all together with the Master channel. To make a control point on the curve, simply click anywhere on the line and a small dot appears. Dragging the point changes the curve shape, as well as the brightness of the image. The horizontal location of a point defines the particular brightness value that's being affected, while its vertical location defines the value it will be changed to when the curve is applied to the image. Thus, the lower left corner equates to the darkest values for both input and output and the top right corner to the brightest.
Brightness / Contrast Tab
These controls are probably the most understandable for novices, but are less useful in practice than the histogram and curve controls we discussed above. As the name of the control panel suggests, these slider bars adjust the overall brightness and contrast of the image. To change either attribute, just click on the slider and drag it to the desired level. Two text boxes at the ends of the bars report the amount of adjustment. You can enter your own adjustment numbers in these boxes, hitting the Tab key to record the changes. Again, the Reset button clears the changes, setting both adjustments at zero.
Color Balance Tab
If your preview image shows a strong color cast, the Color Balance tab provides slider bar adjustments for adding and subtracting Red, Green, or Blue values. The text boxes at the end of the slider bars report the amount of change, which you can edit. These controls adjust color across the board, affecting highlights, midtones, and shadows proportionately. Holding the mouse over the image reports the values for each channel, showing you how much of each value makes up the selected color. The Reset button clears all changes. This tab is only available when the color mode is set to 42-Bit or 24-Bit Color.
Three pulldown menus stretch across the top of the Preview window: Settings, Device, and Help. The Settings menu allows you to make several other adjustments to the prescan image. One important point here is that each time a Settings menu item is changed, FilmGet FS requires a new prescan to reflect the change. It's a good idea to make these changes first and then perform the remaining brightness and color corrections in the adjustment tabs.
The first setting in the list is Exposure Settings, which offers an Auto Gain function for automatically correcting the exposure. Adjusting the exposure from -2 to +2 controls how much light passes through the film, making the overall image darker or lighter. This is useful when dealing with either very thin or very dense slides or negatives.
The Clean Dust / Scratches option offers Standard and Strong dust removal choices, which analyze the image and attempt to soften the effects of imperfections in the film. As noted previously, we were impressed by how little image degradation occurred when the Clean Dust option was engaged.
You can also adjust the focus of the scanner. By deselecting Autofocus and sliding the slider bar, you can control the focus to compensate for warped or distorted film. This is a time-consuming process, as each adjustment requires a new prescan to see the results.
The Color Matching option of the Settings menu automatically corrects any color differences between the scanner and the monitor in use. (Provided of course, that an ICC color profile is available for the monitor.) Color Matching is only available for 24-Bit and 42-Bit Color modes, and automatically disables the histogram and remaining image adjustment tabs. FilmGet FS uses ColorGear to match Windows systems, and ColorSync for Macintosh systems. The status of the Color Matching option is reported at the bottom of each adjustment tab, to the right of the Reset button, and the default setting is Off.
The Monitor Gamma setting adjusts the brightness of the preview image on the monitor to match the brightness of the original media. You can choose from four common gamma settings, or click "Custom" to adjust gamma with the slider bar. Most monitors have gamma values between 1.4 and 2.2, which may reproduce colors slightly darker than the original film. By default, FilmGet FS sets the gamma at 1.8 for both Windows and Macintosh systems.
Under the Preferences option, FilmGet FS provides a few basic adjustments for operating the software. The Preview Size matches the preview window to fit the monitor that you are using, allowing you to select from a list of resolutions or select "My Monitor." Under the Scan section, you can set the maximum combined file size, useful when scanning batches of images, as well as set FilmGet FS to close automatically after the final scan (which returns you to Photoshop to view the scanned image). The final preference, under "Other," specifies whether or not the previous preview image remains in the preview area when the software is launched.
The Power Save option allows you to set the period of inactive time before the FS4000US scanner turns off its lamp, since it remains on even after the preview and scan are completed.
This final Settings menu option resets all of FilmGet FS settings to their defaults.
The Device menu contains options for controlling the scanner.
The first option is the Self Test feature, which instructs the FS4000US scanner unit to perform a self diagnostic test. Any errors or messages are reported in the text box, along with instructions to correct the problem. (You can also look up error messages in the user guide.)
Scanner Info simply reports the scanner's ROM information. (Not shown)
The Help menu accesses an information screen reporting specifics about the FS4000US's software version and copyright information.
With its capabilities and specifications, the FS4000US will fit portions of the professional photography market, while its price makes it suitable for use by amateurs. Its performance seems to be somewhere between the two: It produces excellent scans with a minimum of fiddling, but its scanning speeds are a notch below what we'd consider to be pro-class. If you scan a few images at a time, or aren't overly concerned about high scanning throughput, the FS4000US offers exceptional value. On the other hand, if you're in an environment where you need to crank through dozens of scans per day, you'd probably want a faster unit (and most likely could also justify the higher cost of one).
Preview scans (producing low-resolution views of the film being scanned, to assist with cropping and color/tone adjustment) routinely took about 30 seconds to perform. This is about in the middle of the pack of scanners we've tested, some taking as little as 12 seconds for this function, others as long as a minute. Once a prescan had been generated, we could generally make all the color/tone adjustments we wanted, without the need to do another preview scan. (This is a nice feature - some scanners require a fresh preview scan whenever you want to see the effects of your adjustments, which can really eat up the time.) The scanner does force you to generate new preview scans though, whenever you change the bit depth, scan type (positive/negative), exposure level, or dust removal setting.
While it doesn't force you to do a fresh preview scan after each color/tone adjustment, the scanning software does take a while to recompute and update the displayed image after each and every adjustment, and the program makes you wait until it's done. This slows the color correction process a fair bit. (Note to the Canon engineers: Making the preview redraw interruptible would really improve the user interaction.)
Small scans performed without the dust removal option engaged generally took a minute or two to complete. Full-frame, full-resolution scans took 5-6 minutes without dust removal, and as much as 9 minutes with. Max res 42-bit (14 bit per channel) scans take 11-13 minutes.
Following are some typical times we recorded for various operations. In our testing, we had the CanoScan connected via its SCSI port to a slightly aging PowerMac G3 433 MHz CPU, with 192 MB of RAM, and the scanning software running in a 170 MB partition. Here are the times we measured for a maximum-resolution RGB scan of our black/white resolution target film:
|14 MB scan, partial frame, 4000 dpi||
|Max res scan, full frame, 24 bit, no dust removal||
|Max res scan, full frame, 24 bit, with dust removal||
|Max res scan, full frame, 42 bit, no dust removal||
|Max res scan, full frame, 42 bit, with dust removal||
One factor not reported on above is the scanner's calibration time. This was highly variable, but in most instances quite tolerable. The first frame after the scanner was turned on and the scanning plugin launched would take a minute or two (!) to calibrate. Subsequent scans took as little as five seconds for the calibration process though, so it didn't end up being a significant productivity issue once we were up and running.
Overall, the FS4000US wasn't as fast as competing 4000dpi units we've tested. On the other hand, it carries a much lower selling price, works on both SCSI and USB connections, and includes an APS film adapter that most companies charge more for. A great value if the speed is adequate for your needs.
For a full analysis of the results we obtained with the CanoScan F4000US, check our sample pictures page for it. - You'll find a full analysis of each of our standard test scans there, as well as the sample images themselves. For now, a brief summary of what we found:
The CanoScan FS4000US occupies an interesting position between the amateur and professional photographic worlds. It offers excellent value, combining advanced features like 4000 dpi resolution 14-bit digitization, and infrared-based dust-removal technology, but at a price hundreds of dollars below units with similar specifications. Overall, we found it had very good color rendition and dynamic range, and had a capable, easy to use software application. It's IR-based dust removal technology was unusual in the almost total lack of impact it had on image sharpness. - This is a dust-removal system you can easily apply to every scan you do, without having to trade off any aspect of image quality.
The CanoScan's software design permitted pretty good productivity, in that it let you do quite a bit of adjustment work with a single preview scan. (Some scanners require a new preview scan to see the effect of any color adjustment, greatly slowing the scanning process. Not so the CanoScan.) We'd have liked to see a faster and/or interruptible preview refresh after color/tone changes though, as we often found ourselves having to wait after even minor adjustments.
The CanoScan did pretty well with our ultra-dense "Train" image, thanks to its 14-bit A/D converter. It wasn't quite up to the best of the field in this respect though, as it showed more shadow noise than the best professional 35mm scanners we've tested. On the other hand, it was well ahead of essentially all the12 bit scanners, and as such offers good performance for the money.
We were very impressed with the CanoScan FS4000US' resolution and image sharpness: It resolved more detail than any other scanner we've tested to date (June, 2001), and was also very sharp all the way to the extreme corners of the frame. No doubt about it, this is a very high-resolution scanner!
Overall, we liked the CanoScan FS4000US quite a bit. We'd personally like to see finer control in the software, with more resolution and a midtone slider on the histogram display, but think that the average user will find the software package very approachable and useful. Scanning speed is a bit slower than some pro-level units it competes with, but when you take into consideration that the FS4000US is a full 40% cheaper than those models, the longer scanning times become much easier to tolerate. If you're looking for a high-end "personal" scanner, or a high quality scanner for low-volume professional digitization (with an easy learning curve), the CanoScan FS4000US could be the unit for you.
There's a lot more to say about the details of the test scans we captured, and we say it all on the sample pictures page. Check it out! This is an impressive little scanner, and a very good deal to boot, at current (June, 2001) market prices.
The Bottom Line
Combining some of the most advanced features on the market (14 bit A/D, 4000 dpi, IR-based dust removal technology) with a sub-$1,000 price point, the CanoScan FS4000US sets a new benchmark for affordable, high quality film scanning. We were amazed by how close it comes to the high end of the desktop scanner field, at a price literally only 60% of that of competing units. Its scan speeds are slower than other top-end models, but for low- to medium-volume work, it's an unbeatable bargain!
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Main - Sample Pictures