Last year, when my belovéd HP 4600 scanner bit the dust, I replaced it with the Canon CanoScan LiDE 700F. I've since received an Epson Perfection V370 Photo for review. Because they have similar features and pricing, I've decided to write a single review comparing and contrasting them. This review replaces the previous review of the Canon 700F.
IMPORTANT This printer originally cost $60 to $120. (I seem to remember paying $75, including shipping.) As good as it is, it is not a $400 printer.
The HP 4600 was a classic scanner. You could lift the scanner from its base and lay it on whatever you wanted to scan, viewing the "whatever" >>through the scanner<<. I know of no other scanner that offers this feature -- it is sorely missed (especially as stitching software makes large-area scans practical). (I recently tried to scan a book with the Canon. It was close to impossible to get a well-aligned scan without a gutter shadow. This would have been little or no problem with the HP. I'll probably put the book in holder and photograph it, page by page.)
The HP 4600 also set a standard for compactness >>and<< sturdiness. You couldn't pound nails with it, but there was no sense of flimsiness.
Neither the Canon nor the Epson reach this standard. The Canon's lid (which, in fairness, is not a structural element) seems decidedly flimsy. It bends too easily. "First impressions" count, and Canon should have made it thicker and stiffer. (My NSECTs are made of thicker plastic.)
The Epson comes across as a heavy -- and not well-balanced -- plastic box. The lid has an articulating hinge to accommodate thick books, but lifting the lid to do so is actually a less-prepossessing experience than it is with the Canon -- the hinge wobbles. (In compensation, the Epson accommodates thicker books than the Canon, before additional mass is needed to flatten them.)
If I were buying an inexpensive scanner for a small office, I'd go with the Epson, as the Canon seems more-likely to be damaged by careless users -- especially by being knocked off the desk. (I did not perform the obvious drop test.)
I've put this near the top because it will be the deciding factor for some buyers. Windows Image Acquisition (or Windows Imaging Architecture) is a standardized interface for imaging hardware (including cameras and printers). Programs that support it can scan and import images directly from a scanner.
I tried it with Photoshop CS6. There was no problem with the Canon. A few mouse clicks, and the photo on the platen was scanned and loaded into Photoshop, ready to edit. With the Epson, the V370 was recognized, but no WIA interface was available.
WIA is important if you want to edit photographic prints, negatives, slides, etc, >>with advanced software like Photoshop and PaintShop<<. There's no need to separately scan, save, and import. Of course, if you're happy with the editing utilities that come with these scanners, you don't need WIA.
In my original Canon review, I paraphrased Oscar Wilde: "There is no such thing as a good scanner or bad scanner. There is merely good or bad scanner >>software<<." One might also paraphrase Hamlet: "Scanners are neither good nor bad, but their software makes them so."
Unless you're content with fully automatic scanning, you'll have to get familiar with the supplied software. Both have the same basic features -- the ability to select image type and size, resolution, brightness/contrast, directory and file type, and so on.
Generally speaking, the Epson software is organized by the type of image you're scanning -- photo, letter, negative. The Canon software organizes scanning by the destination -- screen image, JPG, PDF. Both, however, let you switch to a "professional" mode that lets you set almost everything manually. (The Canon's pro mode isn't available until you click the "use printer scanner" checkbox.)
Much to my surprise, the Epson software provides more, and a wider range of, image-editing features. (You'd think Canon would lead in this area.)
For example, Epson lets you set JPEG compression from 1 to 100 (least to most), while provides gives only three levels (least, average, most). Epson lets you select the degree of unsharp masking and the dpi of the descreening. Canon gives only one setting for each.
Canon's color-balance adjustments are made with a "ring-around" display that shows the scan at the center, surrounded by "corrected" versions of different hues. Epson, on the other hand, offers a more-powerful system that lets you fine-tune the correction -- but without any reference (other than seeing the change on the original scan). The Canon system is inherently obvious, while the Epson arrangement was thoroughly confusing -- and Epson's help was not very helpful.
Canon lets you reorder your scans before placing all of them in a single PDF file. Epson does not permit reordering -- you have to delete and rescan.
Regardless... The software for both products has a lot of features, not all of which are intuitive. Don't wait until you have a major project to learn how these programs work.
I tested the scanners with two color images. One was the cover of "Make: Lego and Arduino Projects" I just reviewed, plus a highly detailed 8x10 photo of a friend. My monitor is a factory-calibrated ASUS PA 248Q. To compare the scans with the originals, I turned off the room lights and illuminated the originals with a Lowel ego light.
I used manual settings for both scanners to make sure the images were scanned and processed the same way. Both were scanned at 100%, with the scan area limited to the actual object size. Unsharp masking and descreening (for the book cover) were enabled. All images were saved as JPEGs with minimal compression.
Out of the box, both scanners showed a slight shift to the blue, with Canon's error slightly greater. Both very slightly overexposed both images.
To judge sharpness and detail, the scans were viewed in Windows Photo Viewer at high magnification. They were essentially indistinguishable.
Both descreened the book cover perfectly, even though the Canon doesn't have an adjustable setting. Unfortunately, the Canon software doesn't permit using unsharp masking and descreening at the same time.
The Canon manual is "classic Japanese" -- it explains all the details (the what), while ignoring the broader view (the why). The Epson manual is surprisingly weak on details -- I often found its Help confusing or seemingly incomplete -- but it has step-by-step procedures for most scan types.
Regardless, if you plan to perform anything other than automatic scans, be prepared to get familiar with your scanner's features and functions.
In terms of daily use, the Canon wins in almost every department. It's slightly shorter and much thinner than the Epson. It's easy to pick up with one hand. (I keep the it on a rack next to my desk and grab it when needed.) The Epson is much heavier, and not well-balanced for single-handed pickup.
The Epson's platen sits within a four-walled well. The Canon has only three walls; the long left-hand "side" is flat. This means that, in some cases, you'll have less trouble "flattening" books.
The Canon is powered by the USB port; a power supply isn't needed. It works fine with my notebook computer running on its battery. If you want to copy documents at the library, the Canon is absolutely the way to go. The Epson has an external power supply which, as other reviewers noted, is so wide it's likely to overlap the adjacent socket.
In imitation of the HP 4670, the Canon has a kick stand that lets it stand almost vertically, saving desk space. If you use the Canon mostly to copy letters, you need only drop the letter in, close the lid, and click Copy or Scan.
The Epson scans both 35mm negatives and slides. The Canon scans only negatives.
The Epson doesn't support WIA, so you can't scan directly to image-editing software. On the other hand, the wider range of Epson's software adjustments might minimize the need to use such software.
It's a toss-up. The image quality of the Canon and Epson are essentially indistinguishable. If the Canon had the software features of the Epson, or the Epson had the physical elegance and WIA functionality of the Canon, it might be possible to declare a "winner". (My own preference is for the Canon.) You'll have to decide on the basis of hardware function and software features.