For those who have yet to bring their older photos into the digital realm, the Canon CanoScan 8600F desktop photo and film scanner is definitely worth a look.

Why would you buy the Canon CanoScan 8600F? With digital cameras being so popular today, fewer photos need to be scanned. And if you're scanning only office documents, multifunction printers with integrated scanners work just fine - and they're cheap.

Nevertheless, standalone scanners such as the CanoScan 8600F do have their advantages. What used to be high-end features - transparency scanning, 4,800dpi optical resolution at 48bit colour depth (trillions of colors), a full complement of bundled software, advanced controls and lightning-fast speeds - are all standard in the affordable Canon CanoScan 8600F.

More on digital photography, film and scanning here

Design and usability

There are seven handy task buttons on top of the Canon CanoScan 8600F - a silver and black flatbed scanner. These automate a number of tasks, such as scanning a document into PDF format, importing photos or slides into the image editor of your choosing, or scanning a document directly to a printer (in essence a copying function).

By default, the Canon CanoScan 8600F's scan Photo/Slides button will bring the scanned image into the included ArcSoft PhotoStudio software, but you can change the settings in the CanoScan Toolbox software to use Photoshop or some other image-editing program. The Canon CanoScan 8600F is Mac compatible, too, which will be handy in cross-platform households.

A transparency unit for scanning film and slides is built into the Canon CanoScan 8600F's lid, and the Canon CanoScan 8600F ships with a film holder for four 35mm slides, a holder for two strips of 35mm film, and a holder for medium-format film.

When scanning multiple transparencies, the Canon CanoScan 8600F is able to detect, crop and display separate thumbnail images for each transparency. You can then choose which image to scan, or batch scan many or all of them at the same time.

Performance

The Canon CanoScan 8600F was a zippy performer once it warmed up. Like most midrange desktop scanners, the Canon CanoScan 8600F uses CCD (charge coupled device) sensors to scan, not CIS (contact image sensors) like those found in compact scanners, many all-in-one printers and copiers.

CCD-based scanners have a reputation for higher quality, but they take longer to warm up and generate more heat than CIS devices. Though seeing the "Scanner warming up" message on screen each time we wanted to scan became annoying, after seeing the resulting scans we'd say it was worth the wait.

Scans of photos were a little dark - nothing a tweak or two in a photo editor couldn't fix - and colours were accurate. The Canon CanoScan 8600F was also able to capture an impressive amount of detail in both our transparency and reflective resolution test charts.

Canon CanoScan 8600F: Specs

  • 4800 x 9600dpi, 48 bit colour depth
  • CCD
  • max media 216 x 297 mm
  • FAU - 6 x 35mm film strip and 4 x 35mm slides
  • fast scan engine
  • QARE Level 3 dust/scratch removal from photos
  • comprehensive software package
  • USB 2.0
  • fast multi-photo mode
  • 287x472x124mm
  • 4.2 kg System requirements: Windows 2000/Me/XP - Pentium III - 566 MHz - RAM 128 MB (Hi-Speed USB), Windows 98/2000/Me/XP - Pentium II - 300 MHz - RAM 128 MB (USB), Mac OS X - PowerPC G3 - RAM 256 MB (Hi-Speed USB)
  • 4800 x 9600dpi, 48 bit colour depth
  • CCD
  • max media 216 x 297 mm
  • FAU - 6 x 35mm film strip and 4 x 35mm slides
  • fast scan engine
  • QARE Level 3 dust/scratch removal from photos
  • comprehensive software package
  • USB 2.0
  • fast multi-photo mode
  • 287x472x124mm
  • 4.2 kg System requirements: Windows 2000/Me/XP - Pentium III - 566 MHz - RAM 128 MB (Hi-Speed USB), Windows 98/2000/Me/XP - Pentium II - 300 MHz - RAM 128 MB (USB), Mac OS X - PowerPC G3 - RAM 256 MB (Hi-Speed USB)

OUR VERDICT

Although it was a little slow to warm up, and its photo scans were a touch dark, the Canon CanoScan 8600F proved to be a very good all-around scanner and should definitely be considered if you are looking for a high-quality photo and document scanner. More on digital photography, film and scanning here

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