on March 2, 2014
A much reviewed product. Also, some very good tech reviews on other web sites. I thought I might have something to add?
I bought this scanner because my new printer/scanner "all in one" (a canon mx340) does not do a good job scanner photos (prints). I had a Mustek several years ago that stopped working, so without getting technical (yet), it was obvious that "all in one" was not very good.
I borrowed an Epson V600 from a friend, and I could see easily that one can get much better scanner for <$200. And you can scan negatives/slides with some flatbed scanners, including both the 9000F and the V600. I expected this to be a bonus, but since they can scan negatives, I wanted to buy the best of the two. And that is all you should expect, the best of the class.
Result. It is a 5 star value for scanning prints, not so good for negatives. I lot of this review is about negatives, because that is where the problems are.
Reviews from serious photographic professionals make it clear that no flatbed scanner is very good at scanning small transparent originals (negatives or slides of 35mm and less). The problem is not just the resolution, but the dynamic range. This scanner can almost pick up everything you can see on a print, in fact everything a print records, but it cannot record the range of dark and light that a slide or negative holds. And you can use this extra light and dark information to fine tune your photographs with software like Photoshop or Lightroom (and many other packages). So do not let someone tell you it does not matter. There is information on slide or negative you can not even see with your eyes. This is much more important than you think, even if you are just going to adjust the brightness and contrast, very important if you plan to make adjustment to highlights are blacks etc.. Modern software lets you adjust things digitally (you needed to use dodging tools and filters to achieve in a dark room). But little can be done if the full range of brightness and color the negative records is not available. In fact, some of your negatives may not have been exposed optimally, the person printing them years ago (or the machine) may have adjusted the exposure of the prints (adjusted the brightness of your prints). OK maybe your perfect, but most people have shots that the exposure of the paper was adjusted to make the print better. Maybe it is true it does not matter to everyone, if you just want to recognize the faces and look at the perfectly exposed parts of the image on a computer screen... Otherwise this is a compromise. The scanners dynamic range is good enough for prints, but not optimal for negatives and slides. Still it might be the best in its class, it would still be worth 5 stars.
I decided to try the 9000F mark II because it supports a feature which "might" slightly improve the scanning of negatives. Third party software like SilverFast and VueScan Pro can control exposure used for negatives and slides. These programs can even automatically combine two scans (high and low exposure) to produce a single file with more dynamic range. Vuescan calls this multi-exposure, and states it may be "sometimes" usefull. Silverfast calls it a similar name, and claims it makes the 9000F mark II work much better, according to SilverFast you really need multi-exposure. If the Epson V600 supports this type of operation, it is not clear to me, I tried VueScan and it did not list the capability (but that might be a "bug" in Vuescan). This in the end, is why I decided to try the Canon.
Even with this feature, it is not a perfect scanner for negatives, slightly better than another flatbed that does not support exposure control. But the price is similar, and I'm used to canon software.
The biggest fault to me is the resolution scandal. Canon claimed 9600dpi resolution is both true and very misleading. So misleading I cannot give it 5 stars. It really does scan at very high resolution (higher than most dedicated film scanners). But it is pointless, you cannot see film grain in the results because the focus of the optics is not good enough to make any use of 9600 dpi resolution (well not to produce very high resolution scans, but if you like pointlessly large files you will be happy.) There are dedicated "home" film scanners (for less than $300) that have better dynamic range, and better "real" resolution (you can often see the film grain on 400 speed film). These have true resolution of about 3000 dpi. The Epson V600 is not much better, I would not give it 5 starts either. I had read this in several good technical reviews, and I can confirm it now. @2400 dpi is just about as good as 9600dpi with this scanner. In fact, the included canon software (ij scan) refuses to scan a full 35mm image in 9600dpi, you have to find a very odd setting to enable such large images (not in canon software ij scan utility itself but in the shell program that launches ij scan utility). Even then, you still get warnings about such "huge" images. Very funny, they advertise 9600dpi, and then try to stop you from doing it? The Engineers may not be too happy with the Marketing department? The lie makes the scanner not worth 5 stars, it is not what it is advertised to be. The scanner is also so slow in 9600 dpi mode, it is painful. It is not the only fault with the scanner, but the most serious one in a less than $200 dollar scanner.
BTW, it seems from my research (actually I read some stuff) that if you already own a full frame digital 35mm SLR camera with more than 14M. You already own a good scanner for 35mm slides and negatives. You Just need two other things, a good macro-lens and a slide copier. In fact, a digital camera might be the best scanner available for 35 slides and negatives if you build your own slide copier. Makes sense, you have a very high end camera chip and a lot of control. You can use HDR techniques, and the type of software that creates panoramic images from multiple shots to capture all the resolution and dynamic range that the film or negative holds. But maybe not so convenient? After I'm done digging through old negatives, I plan to try the camera thing, but only with my best negatives. Some day when I have time?... Like, after I'm dead. Canon or Nikon should make a kit for the crop frame SLRs and full frame SLR. They have the skill and it mostly just a combination of there own equipment.
I like this scanner for scanning prints very much, and I think it is about equal to Epson V600 (I have scanned a few things with both.) The only thing that might be better is the noise. There is noise in the scans that does not average out with multiple scans, or averaging away when high resolution scans or converted to medium resolution. But at $200, I think this is very, very good. The packaged software is good enough. Canon does send a lot of extra software that is not really useful, at least to someone who also has all in one printer/scanner and Lightroom. It is mostly intended to make routine things like photocopying easier, but for me it is waste, and I would rather it be easy to install just IJ scan. I'm not saying it is bad software, I do not use it or need it. Silverfast and Vuescan support this scanner. But unless you are needed to calibrate the scanner with a color standard, I do not see anything useful for scanning prints. The built in color correction does a nice job, the scanned images look very much like the originals on my monitor. Printing is another matter, but this is not a printer. Some say the scanning software is hard to use. To me it seems pretty good. It allows 24 and 48 color bit Tiff files, 16-bit bw tiff, as well as other formats.
The warm up time is as advertised nearly instant. Basically you can scan in 1-3 seconds after turning it on. Very nice.
One small fault is about the color balance. The build in software does not correct for different types of color negative films at all (at least I do not see it). This would be nice, because different types of film are different. A slide and a print get looked at by the human eye. Negatives were not meant for this, and the chemists take advantage of this. The Silverfast demo did well with several types of Kodak Royal Gold and Max films, but Vuescan did not (although at least it attempts too). I understand it comes bundled with Silverfast in Europe. I can see why. But Silverfast is as expensive as this scanner and will only work with one scanner (you select it to get a license). Vuescan is about $75 dollars and works with all the scanners you have with free lifetime upgrades. I actually already owned it from years ago. Since it supports multi-exposure with this scanner it is what I used for negatives.
For scanning negatives I have found that indeed the multi-exposure feature in VueScan does help the dynamic range a little. Just a little, less than I hoped. I have happened to have few large prints that I had developed in a series of exposures, prints made from the same negative with different exposures of the paper. So a sort of paper multi-exposure that has been waiting to be digitized. Using a free HDR like program (Enfuse) I combined scans of these prints. This result was a better dynamic range then I got from using the multi-exposure feature in Vuescan pro when I scanned the original negative. The multi-exposure of the negative did allow better adjustments of highlights in Lightroom than the simple scan. So multi-exposure is good, but not great. And I find that I can very slightly tell the difference between a 2400dpi scan and a 4800dpi scan. But the 4800dpi scan is reasonable fast, so I used it. So, it is good "enough" for most 35mm negative that do not require much brightness and contrast adjustment, and which you do not plan to print in 8x10" (or larger format). And good enough to tell which negatives are worth more work. Maybe send a few to a scanning service. I did not get a chance to try Silverfast with the 9000F mark II, my free trial expired while I was playing with the Epson V600. But Vuescan works fairly well.
I think I found a bug in Vuescan that is very hard to live with because it affects the only reason I bought it. I first upgraded to version 9.5.24. The program has a 64-bit version and 32-bit version (for Windows 32-bit X86). A few days later I was offered 9.5.25. When I upgraded the 64-bit version, I stopped seeing the multi-exposer option. Or maybe it never worked in 64-bit; I do not remember which shortcut I was using. Now I have to use the 32-bit (not upgraded) version, it works OK, but I'm afraid to upgrade it and free upgrades are included for life!
The Near Infrared based dust removal works well for me. (Dust removal on the Epson V600 was equal). The Near IR only works for negatives and some slides, but this is a great feature in a <$200 scanner.
So far I noticed a few times when the software has stopped, and I had to turn the scanner on and off. But this is not as bad as with the old scanner I owned years ago. It also happened when I tried out the V600. It happened with both cannon software and Vuescan, but Vuesan is more of a problem. Turn the scanner off and Vuescan generally unfreezes.
I do not have many faded and stretched items to scan, so I cannot comment on that part of the software. I would likely use software that is not bundled with the scanner for this anyway, I have a few programs. Reading other reviews, it seems most people like the canon software for the price.
The OCR works as well as I expected. Wish is not very good. Much better than a few years ago. And it might be very useful. It actually worked better than the OCR on my all in one scanner/printer. Not sure why? It is a Canon and it is has a paper-feeder, just the right hardware for OCR.
I always read 1 start reviews. If a lot of them are about the item failing in the first weeks, I assume the percent of one star reviews is an indication of the quality. But I also want to see if the complaints are valid.
Some of the only 1 star reviews do seem to be concerned with broken scanners, some arrived defected. But several concern the fact the negative trays might break. One person gave it one star based entirely on the opinion that that they were easy to break and hard to replace. Although, his are not broken? (1 star??). Yet I would not be surprised if the plastic might break someday. Indeed I find them expensive and difficult to replace (see some links below). There are third party trays, but the cost at least 25% of the scanner price. You need something like these holders for negatives. You do not want to just put them on the glass; they would have nothing on top of them and will curve, touching the glass plate in just one spot, and not giving a uniform scan focus. You could place a glass plate on top, but that causes artifacts and rings that can be very bad. So a good holder is needed to prevent Newton rings and other artifacts.
BTW, the negative holder is not very good at stopping the film from curling toward the emulsion side. (The emulsion (the not so shiny) side goes down in the scanner, you can see the difference in large flat areas of negatives, like blue sky). The holder helps, but my negatives are still a little curved. So far, I have not scanned a negative with a critically perfect focus to worry about. (I take a lot of photos of waterfalls and rivers with long exposures, they are focus but soft, and I have started with these.) Of course many pictures of family and friends (not the kind of thing you want a super hard focus in the center for). So the curvature is not too bad for me... yet. I do have some negatives that I really want to capture all the sharpness possible. One of the links below is about a trick with toothpicks to fix the curvature problem; another is for a special kind of glass that does not cause problems, it can flatten the curvature of the negatives. I have not tried any of these yet, just passing along the info. If the holder brakes, I sure I could rig something.
Curved negatives links and film holder links:
European website that sells oem 35mm negative/film strip holder (could not find a US site, but one is listed in the comment section of a 1 star review)
After market negative holders, even for odd sizes like 110.