The Canoscan 8400F is one of Canon's better specified home office scanners and thus we were expecting good things. After testing it we have to say we're a little disappointed. The 8400F claims to offer almost everything anyone could possibly want from a scanner, but ultimately fails to deliver.
- Useful shortcut buttons
- Could be a tad quicker, poor quality film negative scanning
Good at scanning photos and documents, fails miserably at scanning film
Price$ 349.00 (AUD)
Canon is aiming the 8400F at demanding home and small business users. The scanner contains all the features you would expect to find: four shortcut buttons on the front, USB 2.0 connectivity and a transparency adapter to enable film scanning. The lid is also loose-hinged to allow large items such as books to be scanned.
On the whole, Canon products are usually well made and the 8400F is no exception. Finished in an attractive silver/black combo the 8400F will sit nicely on any desk, although being a high quality unit, the Canoscan 8400F has a slightly bulky form and a large footprint. If you plan to set this up in a home office make sure you've got a fair amount of free space near your computer.
Using the 8400F is incredibly simple; installation is straightforward and once this is accomplished scanning documents is simply a matter of pressing the shortcut buttons. The four buttons are Copy, Scan, PDF and Email. All are initially setup to be automatic so you can throw whatever type of document you like at the 8400F - text, photos, 35mm negatives - and it will automatically detect them and change its settings correspondingly.
Pressing 'Copy' scans the document and prints it out (provided your printer is set up properly), Pressing 'Scan' simply saves the image on your computer, using the PDF button unsurprisingly converts the file to a PDF file and the Email function adds the image as an email attachment. The scanner is initially set up to scan at 300dpi which takes just over 15 seconds. Pretty quick, but not the fastest we have seen by a long shot.
Canon's default software is very easy to use but if you want to really take control of your images you'll need to use the bundled scanner driver, Scangear CS. Using this you'll be able to get the maximum flexibility out of the 8400F and increase the quality to whatever setting you like. The 8400F can scan images up to a maximum of 1600dpi, and film negatives up to a reasonable 3200dpi, though at this resolution an A4 image will come out at over 730MB, you'll need a hefty computer to process that one. Images and text are reproduced clearly and accurately, with well balanced colours and crisp borders . Canon has included ArcSoft Photostudio 5.5 and Adobe PhotoShop Elements 2.0 to edit images, the latter being especially useful. Using the bundled Optical Character Recognition software (OCR) you can easily scan and convert text from paper in to a Word document. We scanned a few documents and couldn't fault the software, the text was 100% faithful to the original.
Canon has raved about the 8400F's abilities to scan film negatives. While the popularity of film cameras is definitely on the wane most people will have dozens of old photos hanging around that they would like to create digital copies of. When scanning in old photos it is much better from a quality point of view to make scans from the negative than from a 6x4 print. Photographic paper will deteriorate much faster than negatives and if you've taken your prints to a cheap developing and processing joint then they probably don't look too hot anyway.
The 8400F allows 35mm film and slides as well as 120 format film to be scanned easily. There are two methods employed by scanners to read negatives. The first of these uses a light built in to the lid of the scanner. This shines through the negatives and allows the scanner to continue as normal. The second, more elaborate way of doing things is to have a second motorised arm in the lid, which moves along shining light through the images. This method is generally better as it allows more negatives to be scanned simultaneously and does not place a limit on the size of your film. With the 8400F Canon have opted for the first method; scanners employing the second method generally cost twice as much. Unfortunately, the 8400F fails dismally when scanning negatives. We tested both monochrome and colour film, using both positives and negatives. On all fronts the result was disappointing. Images came out so blurred and lacking detail that we though we must have switched on a drastic dust correction or grain removal feature. The truth was that the 8400F simply lacks the clarity necessary to truly reproduce negatives. We ran the Canon scanner alongside one of Epson's top scanners, the Perfection 4990 Photo. This scanner employs the more expensive technology and the Epson simply blew away the Canon. Comparing the result of the 8400F's scans to our professional prints also did not do the Canon any favours. Photographers hoping to get high quality scans will be bitterly disappointed.
With its abundance of features and simplicity of use the 8400F would perhaps be acceptable for the very casual user, but there are cheaper options that are just as good. It's not fast enough to be of use to the truly demanding professional, and its film scanning quality is certainly lacking.
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