Price When Reviewed: £499
The CanoScan FS-2710 is a scanner for 35mm or APS films, dedicated to mounted transparencies or strips of negatives or positives. It’s a replacement for the 2700F model with the addition of 36-bit scanning, plus a dust cover that can be used while scanning slides. It looks similar to the more expensive Nikon CoolScan models, though it’s longer and has no equivalent to Nikon’s clever built-in ICE dust-spot removal sofware. Unless you clean film very thoroughly, it will show dust, so without ICE you have to retouch by hand. This is a SCSI-2 scanner and is supplied with an Adaptec 2904E PCI card and cable for Wintel PCs and Macs that don’t have one already. You’ll need a FireWire-SCSI adaptor for iMacs. The 35mm plastic strip film holder feels flimsy, although I thought the same about a Polaroid film holder five years ago that hasn’t broken yet. It fits into the 35mm film adaptor slot, which will also accept single 35mm slide mounts. The 35mm adaptor can be removed to accept a manual feeder for APS film cassettes, which includes a film winder and positioning guide. Scanning software Software for both Windows 95/98/NT 4/2000 and the Mac OS is supplied on the installer CD-R, plus a copy of Adobe Photoshop 4.0 LE. The CanoCraft scanning software is different for Mac OS and Windows. Both are supplied as Photoshop plug-ins, but there’s a separate standalone program for Windows only. The CanoCraft FS 3.6.1 standalone and plug-in software for Windows are both identical, with a decent-sized preview area (up to 687-x-457 pixels), and a clear user interface despite the fractured ‘Japlish’ of the text messages. A useful status list is shown in the main window, showing currently selected settings such as resolution, magnification, colour management and free disk space. There are two choices for adjusting settings: ‘easy’ and ‘expert.’ The easy settings give you multiple-choice thumbnails for colour and exposure changes, and work pretty well. The expert settings take you into the world of histograms and curves, B&W points, RGB sliders, contrast, and exposure sliders. There’s no eyedropper for setting neutral greys, though few other scanners supply this either. Although the scanner is capable of outputting 8- or 12-bits per channel with the Mac OS software, it only outputs 8-bits for Windows. Focusing is automatic and I found it accurate. However there’s a software slider for manual override in case the film is warped. Scanning transparencies in Windows is very fast. Using the SCSI-2 card and a 933MHz Pentium III PC, a 2,700dpi scan of 29MB took just 33 seconds, and 36 seconds for 1,360dpi. Negatives are slower: 2 minutes 16 seconds for 2,700dpi. Other save-to-file options are 680dpi and 340dpi, plus common settings for printers and faxes driven straight from the software. You can apply a choice of effects (despeckle, sharpen, soften, edges, lines, pixelise, posterize, and low relief), which add a few extra seconds to the scan. Sharpening and despeckle (for dust removal) aren’t very good, and it’s better to do these in Photoshop. The Mac OS Photoshop plug-in has a different user interface than the Windows software, and isn’t as good. In particular, the full-frame preview is far too small at 244-x-167 pixels. To set B&W points accurately you need to zoom into areas within the image, which requires a slow extra preview. You don’t get the ‘easy’ image adjustment options, just the ‘expert’ settings. The 2,700dpi top resolution is enough for most print needs, and the dynamic range of 3.2 gives reasonable shadow detail, though this becomes noisy if you try to boost it. Colour reproduction is accurate, though images tend to be a little dull and benefit from manual tweaking of the curves. Film scanners are more expensive than flatbeds, and the CanoScan’s most obvious competitors are the 2,700dpi £619 Nikon CoolScan III, which has a dynamic range of 3.0 and 30-bit scanning, and the £450 Minolta Dîmage ScanDual II USB model, with 2,820dpi, 3.2 dynamic range and 36-bit scans. The CanoScan FS2710 produces good quality for its price, though I prefer the brighter results and labour-saving dust-removal from the dearer Nikon CoolScan III, despite its lower dynamic range.