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filmscanners: Canon FS4000 scanner 'review'

OK, here goes.  (Long email follows, hit the Trash bin if you aren't 
interested in this scanner or my view of it!)

Before I start, for those that suggested possible solutions to the noise by 
using Vuescan multi mode, the bad news is that the machine they set the 
scanner up on was a very weird looking creature with hot-swappable drives, 
Windows 2000, etc, and the !@#$% 3.5 drive wasn't working, so my copy of 
Vuescan had to sit there untried, damn.  And the Canon is now back in the 
box, and I'm not buying it, so I doubt I will get another 
chance.  Sorry..  Now, I'm waiting to see if the guy can get his 3.5 drive 
working so I can go and get a few cropped JPGs off it to show people what I 

Anyway, back to the scanner:

- General Impressions
Looks good! - quiet, has a 'well-engineered' sound. Small box (about half a 
small shoebox), but requires lots of space in front of the unit as it pokes 
the carriers outwards. Slide/film carriers look a bit flimsy, but were 
well-designed, very easy to load and would cope with thin or thick slide 
mounts.  Unit has no eject button which is annoying - the software has to 
be running to eject the carrier.  Dumb.

- Software
Hmm.  Runs as Twain app from PS LE (bundled).  It's OK, I guess, and 
includes histogram, curves etc, but the workflow didn't seem very smooth - 
I was continually flicking back and forth from the thumbnail view to the 
scan program and you couldn't adjust the program while viewing the thumbs - 
maybe I was just doing it wrong though..  Seemed to be no way to flick back 
to Photoshop to view previously scanned images without shutting down the 
scan app.  Does an awful lot of stuff in memory, so 512K RAM at least 
required.  No built in help file, and a message of 'FARE Failed. Error - 
address 00x00f900' doesn't immediately point to a solution (it means 'crop 
your image before trying to use FARE', I think - pretty obvious really! 
:-).  Didn't try batch scanning, but I think I would be jumping straight 
over to Vuescan for that..

- Performance
On well-exposed slides and negatives, the results were very impressive - (I 
wasn't using a test target, but some of my kchromes are pretty 
testing..).  On negatives especially, the scanners first go at color 
balance seemed to be exceptionally good (admittedly I only tried Kodak Gold 
100, Superia 100 and Reala 100).  But when I stuck in an underexposed 
sunset (shot on kchrome 25), the catch appeared.  Initially the scan looked 
excellent - it dragged out more shadow detail than I had seen from this 
slide before.  But when I dragged the curve up a bit to look at the detail 
more closely, the noise was pretty obvious.  If it had only been in the 
very deepest areas, I would have forgiven it, but it seems to pervade all 
deep shadow areas.  The shadow definition I get out of my Acer 2720 is much 
more usable.  I didn't have time to test this issue out on negatives, but I 
didn't notice it when I first ran the negs through, and if my experience 
with other scanners (not much!) is any guide it would be far less of a 
problem due to the lower density of negatives and the fact it will be in 
light areas.  As I mentioned, the noise is very fine and not streaky, so it 
is not too objectionable, but there is a bit too much of it for my 
liking.  And it is annoying because what appeared to be an excellent 
dynamic range was spoilt.  Now bear in mind that this was a quick test, and 
there could be some issue like a bad profile that I was unaware of..  And 
Vuescan's multiscan modes may well solve the problem, but I couldn't try 
it.  Perhaps Ed can comment on his experience?  One other catch is that 
scans are indeed quite slow - even at low-resolution this scanner isn't a 
speed demon, so multi-scanning may be a bit painful.

- Optics/Focus
Sharp, no obvious flare or other lens aberrations that I could see.  Coped 
well with a really bowed cardboard-mount slide I scanned.  It began to lose 
focus only in the very outermost edges of the image, within about 0.5mm of 
the frame.  Had no problems autofocussing on any images.  There is a manual 
setting but I had no need or time to try it.

- Dust/Scratch Removal (FARE)
I had to limit my testing of this to a few quick scans at low resolution 
but I confess that I was impressed, even though I'm one of those who 
doesn't mind the time despotting..  It worked very well on dust, a little 
less well on scratches - it just left some of the scratches untouched.  I 
have no experience with ICE, so I can't compare it, but the results looked 
good.  I noticed no softening of edges, but at half resolution that is 
probably not a useful comment.  From the samples I have seen on the web 
though, it looks as good as ICE/dICE.  Like ICE, it doesn't work on 
kodachromes apparently.

Now please note:
- My experience with different scanners is limited, but I've certainly 
spent a long time getting to know mine!
- Nevertheless I spend a lot of time on the web loking at samples and 
tests, so I think I know a good scan from a bad one, even at 4000 dpi
- This was a test over just one hour with software and equipment I have 
never used before..

So bear that in mind when I summarise with -

I think this would be a very fine scanner for those who do mainly negative 
work, and/or who don't tend to make a career out of underexposing their 
slides... :-)

For me, the small increase in resolution over a 2700 dpi image, and even 
the FARE ability, just wasn't enough of an attraction to me, given the 
problem I would have had with underexposed transparencies.  Maybe Vuescan 
is a solution, or I may have missed something quite obvioous, but that's 
the best I can offer..

Hope this is of some use - if anyone wishes to discuss issues off-list, 
feel free.

Regards to all combatants (er I mean list members :-), mark t


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