by Sergey Samarin
10/03/2005 | 11:32 AM
Today our test lab received a sample of the CanoScan 5200F scanner from the renowned Canon. What’s so interesting about this model?
Although it doesn’t boast a very high optical resolution, it is equipped with a special technology for removing dust and scratches. The technology goes under the name of FARE Level 2 and you may remember that EPSON’s top models have something like that, too (I mean EPSON’s Digital ICE, of course). So this technology needs checking and testing in practice. I will also check the functionality of the driver and the software that accompanies the scanner.
By the way, the CanoScan 5200F is the first scanner from Canon to be tested in our labs. As usual, let’s first read its official specification.
So, the Canon CanoScan 5200F features an optical resolution of 2400dpi and a mechanical resolution of 4800ppi. It is equipped with a slide-adapter for scanning films; its lamp is integrated into the lid. Besides a standard light source (a cold-cathode fluorescent lamp), the device has a source of infrared light to identify dust and scratches in photo films. The FARE Level 2 technology – which is analogous to EPSON’s Digital ICE – places the CanoScan 5200F into the category of semi-professional scanner models.
The enclosed CD contains the following software components:
The CanoScan 5200F has a cute-looking case made of dark stiff plastic. A holographic logo and a symbol of the FARE technology can be found on the lid. This is a kind of certificate that this technology is employed in this scanner model.
The scanner has four “quick scan” buttons (Copy, Scan, PDF and E-mail) on the front panel for performing typical scanning tasks.
The buttons work with the preinstalled scanner applications and have intuitive names. The exclusive software allows assigning any task of your choosing to any of the buttons.
Using this simple interface any user can quickly set up the quick buttons for his/her particular needs. The functions of the buttons are displayed in the CanoScan Toolbox utility:
When you bind an application to a particular button, the appropriate icon appears in this panel.
The CanoScan 5200F is equipped with a USB 2.0 Hi-Speed interface which, among other things, contributes to the high scanning speed of this model. You’ll see in the test section how high exactly the speed is.
The CanoScan 5200F can scan 35mm film (in strips or in slides) using an additional fluorescent lamp in its lid. The lamp is covered with a protecting sheet that you should remove following the direction of the arrow on it. To digitize a transparent original you must first connect the cable from that additional lamp to the appropriate connector on the scanner’s rear panel. Then, with the protecting sheet removed, you should place the film strip or slide into a holder and make your choices in the scanning program.
The main software shell for controlling the scanning process is called ScanGear CS. It has two interfaces: Simple Mode for novices and Advanced Mode for power users.
The Simple Mode lets you do the scanning without bothering about any settings. You only have to indicate the type of the original (a photo, a figure in a magazine, a film, etc), the output device (a printer or monitor), and the size of the resulting image. After the pre-scan procedure the user can also manually outline the borders of the scanned original if they have been incorrectly determined by the scanner (I should say that the scanner determines the position of the original quite accurately, so you don’t often have to correct the machine).
You may have noticed a Multi-Scan button, besides just Scan, on the screenshot of the Simple Mode window. This button activates a batch scanning mode for digitizing several originals lying on the bed at once. On your clicking the Multi-Scan button an additional window appears asking you to choose the output resolution of the image.
When the scanning operation is over, the receiving application is given as many image files as there are originals on the scanner’s bed. The borders of the originals are determined automatically.
The Advanced Mode is, on the contrary, for experienced users and gives you full control over the scan settings. Let’s see what options are available in this window.
There are three sections here: Input Settings, Output Settings and Image Settings. The Input Settings allow you to choose the scanning type (reflective originals from the platen, negative/positive color films or negative/positive monochrome films) and the size of the original, and to automatically identify the size of the originals at multi-scanning (Multi-Crop). The Output Settings include the scan mode (Color, Grayscale, Black and White, Text Enhanced), resolution and the desired size of the original. The bulk of fine-tuning scanner options are gathered in the Image Settings section, however. You can turn them on immediately before the digitization operation:
Below is a button that evokes the scanner calibration feature. The calibration can be set to Execute at Every Scan, if necessary. Generally speaking, the scanner needs calibration only to compensate for a deviation in the spectrum characteristics of the lamp which may become apparent after long use. If this function is activated, the scanner will automatically set up the white point before the scanning operation. This will ensure a more accurate reproduction of the colors of the scanned image.
Beneath the above-described sections, there is a row of icons each of which allows to additionally adjust the image parameters. Each icon opens up an appropriate dialog box.
So, all the tools are easily accessed and logically structured. The user has an abundance of settings to play with thanks to the highest functionality of the Canon driver.
Let’s now see what additional options are available in the Preferences window:
On the Preview tab you can opt to use manual or automatic pre-scanning and image cropping and choose the size of the displayed thumbnail.
The Scan tab permits you to scan in 48-bit color, to enable a high-contrast mode for scanning text, and to indicate if the driver window must close after the scanning operation is over.
The third tab of the Preferences window allows you to choose the main digitization mode. There are three items here:
The last tab contains miscellaneous options like setting the time after which the lamp must turn off, choosing the folder to save the scans in, assigning sounds to scan operations, testing the scanner’s operability, and turning the Quiet mode on. The noise from the scanner is reduced from 53 to 47dB in this mode – I must confess it’s the first time I meet such a curious technology.
The progress of each scan operation is displayed in the following window:
Beside the progress proper, the window also shows you the scan settings currently in use.
As I wrote above, the scanner features FARE Level 2 technology (Film Automatic Retouching & Enhancement) whose purpose is to automatically eliminate dust and scratches from photo film. To do that, the scanner is equipped with an additional, infrared light source. When scanning film with FARE Level 2 activated in the driver, the scanner first creates a “shadow map” for the surface of the film and then performs the scanning proper. When the scanned image will be opened in an image-editing program, you’ll see no traces of dust. It means you’ll have to spend less time to post-process the scan. We’ll see in the next section of the review how this technology works in practice.
We test all scanners on the same testbed:
Speed is one of the most important characteristics of a scanner and each user expects the scanner to do its work quickly. However, the manufacturers do not always put the speed characteristics into the specification and even if they do, they use some incomprehensible measurement units. Of course, there are a lot of various factors that determine the scanning speed like the whole processing power of the computer, the amount of system memory and of free disk space. The capabilities of the scanner itself matter much, too. The main speed-determining factor is the time the mercury-based lamp (lamps of that type are used in a majority of SOHO scanners) takes to warm up: about 20-25 seconds are necessary for the mercury to change its state from liquid into gas to ensure the required uniformity of the lamp’s spectrum. The CanoScan 5200F can automatically calibrate the lamp before scanning which brings about a considerable reduction of the total scanning time (the white point for the current state of the lamp is set up on this step). Moreover, as I mentioned above, you can choose the time interval before the lamp turns off. You can make it longer to avoid the necessity of warming the lamp up before the next scan operation. But the most important innovation – thanks to which the scanner is ready to work almost in an instant – is the improved optical system of the lamp. It leads to a threefold reduction of the lamp warm-up time!
I measured the digitization speed in three basic resolutions (300dpi, 600dpi and 2400dpi) and with two standard originals. I turned my stopwatch on the moment I pressed the Scan button down and stopped it when the scanning carriage returned into its initial position.
The total scanning time is going to be longer for transparent originals if the dust & scratches removal technology is enabled in the driver. In this case the scanning is performed in two steps: 1) scanning in infrared light to identify defects and 2) digitizing the film. So I give you two numbers for the 35mm film (slide) – with FARE Level 2 on and off.
The resolution parameter is always declared by the manufacturer in the scanner’s technical specification. However, the real optical resolution is determined not only by the number of the elements of the light-sensitive sensor, but also by the quality of the optical system of the scanner. Good resolution comes from the scanner’s ability to catch the minutest details in the original. But a scanner with a higher optical resolution doesn’t necessarily produce scans of a higher quality.
We can check this parameter out in practice by digitizing special test targets. Such targets are sets of patterns of white and black lines. The spatial frequency characteristic of a pattern is given in the number of pairs of such lines per length unit – line pairs per inch (lppi) in our case. The next picture shows the test target I use:
Applied Image QA-69-P-RM test target
There are five patterns at the top of the target which differ in their line density: 30, 75, 95, 140 and 180lppi. I will scan them at the maximum optical resolution of the scanner.
The image contrast tends to degenerate at higher spatial frequencies. This tendency is characterized with modulation (as explained in my previous reviews). By measuring the modulation for the five patterns of the target it is possible to see the dependence between the image contrast and the spatial frequency of the patterns. I publish the results for two other scanners for the sake of comparison.
The modulation transfer function (MTF) is calculated by a similar formula. The MTF is the frequency characteristic of the scanner’s optical system.
The graph above shows you the MTF for the test patterns. I took the leftmost, 30lppi pattern of an Applied Image QA-69-P-RM target as the reference area. The MTFs are calculated for the green channel of the target image. The following MTF diagram is based on the obtained data:
As you know, CCD-based scanners differ from models with a CIS array in having a bigger depth resolution. This property helps to achieve a sharp image in the centerfold of a thick book or a magazine which in its turn guarantees that the OCR program gets all the symbols right. Another application of this property is to “photograph” volumetric objects, for example PCBs of electronic devices, complex relief objects, etc. In fact, the user can create a photo-collage right on the scanner’s glass. To check this property I put a few pens on the bed of the CanoScan 5200F and scanned them. Here’s the result:
Click to enlarge
Well, scanning such objects is rather a purely theoretical test. Let’s see what we have with standard originals.
Since the CanoScan 5200F features Canon’s FARE Level 2 technology, its ability to process transparent originals needs to be checked first. It’s not the scanning proper but the post-processing of the scans in an image-editing application that usually takes most of your time, so a dust-removal technology should be most helpful, if it works right. I used a slide of a KODAK Ektachrome Professional Film Q-60E3 target as the reference sample of a transparent original. I didn’t deliberately put more dust on the film – there’s enough of it flying about in our test lab.
35mm slide scan with Hardware FARE technology disabled
The first scan shows you the image as it is – with all the dust speckles.
35mm slide scan with hardware FARE technology enabled
The second scan is free from dust. To give you a real-life example, I also scanned an old photograph with FARE Level 2 technology turned on and off.
You can clearly see the dust on this photograph fragment
Reduce Dust and Scratches enabled: no trace of dust on the fragment
No correction applied
Fading Correction enabled
Fading Correction and Reduce Dust enabled
As for the Grain Correction option, it is a software-based function that makes the image blurred. In other words, some tiny details of the image get lost. You can achieve a similar but better effect by using Photoshop’s Blur filters.
Next you can visually evaluate the scans of originals of two types. The originals were KODAK IT8.7/2 Q-60 R2/E3A color targets. The scan parameters were set up according to the three basic modes: without color correction, with an ICM profile, and with automatic tone correction.
35mm KODAK IT8.7/2 Q-60E3A target scan in Auto Exposure mode
35mm KODAK IT8.7/2 Q-60E3A target scan with ICM-profile enabled
35mm KODAK IT8.7/2 Q-60E3A target scan in No Color Correction mode
If you think the scans are too bright, then you are right. This is because I scanned the targets without adjusting any settings. But the driver allows you to choose the tone compensation in the Exposure / Tone Settings window and to achieve excellent results:
A scan of the 5x7 photograph taken from the KODAK IT8.7/2 Q-60R2 target
in Auto Exposure mode
A scan of the 5x7 photograph taken from the KODAK IT8.7/2 Q-60R2 target
with ICM-profile enabled
A scan of the 5x7 photograph taken from the KODAK IT8.7/2 Q-60R2 target
in No Color Correction mode
Virtually every digital image produced with digital cameras or scanners has noise constituents. This noise appears due to interference in the analog signal of the light-sensitive sensor before it reaches the analog-to-digital converter. Noise can be either random or correlated, so we have two test steps in this section.
The diagram below shows the dependence of the amount of random noise on the reflection capacity of the grayscale sectors of a KODAK IT8.7/2 Q-60R2 target. Obviously, the signal on the first (white) sector will be always higher than on the last (black) sector, while the deviation may be random. The signal-to-noise ratio should be regarded as “bigger is better”. High SNR means that the scanner is highly tolerant to interference.
The delta SNR parameter is the total of the measurements.
Unlike random noise which shows up as the “snow”, correlated forms of noise show themselves in the scanned image as regular patterns, stripes, and diagonal, horizontal and vertical lines (relative to the raster lines). Each form of correlated noise can be identified visually.
The vertical form of correlated noise – streak noise – is an inherent defect of the CCD technology. Raster-correlated noise can appear due to uneven light intensity of the scanner’s lamp as well as due to electrical interference of the light-sensitive array. The diagonal form of noise may appear as a result of interference in the useful signal that is transferred from a digital to an analog device (for example, if a failure occurs in the coordination of the digital timer and the carriage movement mechanism). This kind of interference is called crosstalk. As you see, there can be various forms of correlated noise, but we can measure its amount in numbers.
Basing on our methods of testing SOHO scanners, I measured the amount of correlated noise produced by the CanoScan 5200F and put the numbers into the following diagram, comparing them with those of earlier tested models.
This graph shows how well a scanner’s electronics is protected against various forms of correlated noise.
The profiling procedure helps to determine the gamut range of the scanner. This qualitative parameter reflects the deviation of the colors from the required values. As a result of this procedure you get a profile for the scanner that can be used later with any scanned image. Besides the profile proper, you also get the numbers corresponding to all the colors of the test target. The following gamut range diagram is based on them:
The gamut range of the scanner in the visible spectrum is identified with a triangle in the diagram. Knowing the coordinates of the vertices of the triangle we can calculate the total area of this triangle.
To build the next diagram I found the difference between the colors of the original target and the scan. The Color Difference value should not exceed 5.0 or the color discrepancies become apparent for a majority of people.
For reflective originals (the closer to X-axis, the better)
For transparent originals
That’s the end of this test session. I’ll give you a brief description of good and bad points of the scanner in the last section.
Summarizing the results of my tests I must say that the Canon CanoScan 5200F model was designed in compliance with the strictest industry standards. I liked a lot those small details in the scanner design like the easy access to the connectors panel and to the Power On button. This device is ergonomic and simple in use. I also want to single out the high functionality of the “quick scan” buttons and the simplicity of their reprogramming for your own needs. As for the slide-adapter, I would be certainly glad to have an option to scan medium-format films, but even without that the slide-adapter can satisfy a mass user (for whom scanning 35mm film is in fact the only necessary function).
The functionality of the exclusive software pack receives my praises, too. The Canon programming men seem to have implemented every single thing you may ever require for setting up the scanned image properties. And of course the dust-removal FARE Level 2 technology is the special feature that makes the CanoScan 5200F a special and very appealing product. The price of the product is also quite appealing, by the way.
So, if you’ve been searching for a scanner which doesn’t take ages to warm up its lamp, which is quiet and reliable, which can save your time on post-processing of the scans, which can produce high-quality scans of any originals, and which can… Well, the CanoScan 5200F from Canon is just the model you’ve long hoped to find!