Quality scanners offer easy image fixes

Both Canon CanoScan 8600F and Epson Perfection V350 Photo flatbed scanners are worthwhile

The new US$180 Canon CanoScan 8600F and US$149 Epson Perfection V350 Photo provide excellent tools for creating high-quality scanned images, even from bad originals. Both of these flatbed scanners are worthwhile, but the Canon's faster performance and greater versatility (including more software and larger-capacity film holders) give it an edge over the Epson model.

Both units scan photos and film at a maximum optical resolution of 4800 dpi, feature easy-to-use push buttons, and come with assorted software for image editing, optical character recognition (OCR), and other scanning tasks.

Although the 8600F costs a bit more than the V350, it's also bundled with more software, including two image editors (Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 and ArcSoft PhotoStudio 5) instead of only one (the V350 has ArcSoft PhotoImpression 5), plus a useful document manager (Presto PageManager 7), something the V350 lacks.

In addition, the 8600F has Canon's FARE Level 3 (Film Automatic Retouching and Enhancement) technology, which helps to correct the effects of dust, scratches, and fading. I was especially impressed with the 8600F's ability to reduce dust and scratches from old 35mm slides. The unit performed admirably in scanning photo prints, too, and it accurately reproduced colors with fine details in shadows and highlights.

The V350 also earned good scores for its image quality, producing colorful scans that contained sharp and accurate details. The scanning software now does a better job of removing defects without losing image elements you want to keep. The V350, however, was not as good as the 8600F at cleaning up dirty film.

Right for the job

Choosing the right scanner will depend on your priorities. If you have stacks of 35mm filmstrips that you want to digitize with a minimum amount of effort, the V350 is the better choice due to its easy-to-use built-in Auto Film Loader, which can scan 35mm filmstrips from two to six frames in length. For scanning 35mm slides, though, the 8600F is more productive because it can scan up to four slides at a time, while the V350 can handle only two.

Both scanners performed well at digitizing paper documents and turning pages into PDF files or editable text files. However, the 8600F has more scan-to-PDF push buttons than the V350, and I appreciated the convenience of using them to create final PDF documents without having to reach for my mouse (as I had to with the V350). In overall performance, the 8600F was also the faster of the two scanners. For example, it scanned a 2-by-2-inch color photo (at 1200 dpi) in 23 seconds, while the V350 took 36 seconds to complete the same task. If your top priority is speed, the 8600F is the one to select.

All told, the Canon 8600F's greater versatility, faster performance, and larger software bundle justify its higher rating over the Epson V350. But the V350's lower price and automatic film loader make it a worthwhile alternative.

Canon CanoScan 8600F
Rating:80 -- Very good
Verdict:Scanner offers fast performance and an impressive ability to clean up bad originals.
Price when reviewed:US$180

Epson Perfection V350 Photo
Rating:77 -- good
Verdict:Flatbed model includes a handy automatic film loader, but it's not as versatile as the 8600F.
Price when reviewed:US$149

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