View Full Version : Canon 9950F scanner: be warned in advance

03-03-2005, 12:51
Bear with me – this is a long story.

Back before Christmas I started reading about the new Canon Canoscan 9950F flatbed scanner. The reason it caught my interest was it could scan at 4800 dpi and was supposed to be as good as adedicated film scanner and it would replace the company’s dedicated film scanners. Some of the early reviews of the 9950F were mixed but it appeared to me the machine had potential and that most of the problems were related to the scanning software. Manufacturers usually release software updates as those problems are identified and corrected. So I did a “Pleeese, Honey, Pleeese” and, because I was a very good boy last year, Santa left a brand new 9950F under the Christmas tree. I quickly disconnected my 1800 dpi Pacific Image scanner.

I choose a flatbed because I have several thousand 4x5 and 2 ¼ negatives shot over a 50-year period. It would have cost an arm and a leg to get a dedicated film scanner that would handle negatives of that size as well as 35mm. So, I loaded some 120 black and white negatives and fired up the “ScanGear” scanning software that came with the 9950F.

The first thing I discovered puzzled me. ScanGear has a dust and scratch removal option. But, it only works in color mode – it isn’t available in black and white mode. No problem, I thought. I will just scan everything in color mode to utilize the removal feature, then convert the picture to black and white after I get it into Photoshop. But that wasn’t possible – any black and white neg scanned in color mode came through with really weird wide streaks through the picture. If I scanned in black and white mode everything worked perfectly and the scans were excellent. But, I hade to remove scratches and dust manually—and there can be a lot of it on old negatives.

Oh, well, I reassured myself. This is obviously a software problem Canon will correct. I kept checking the download site for a new ScanGear version. But when nothing had showed up by March, I sent customer service an email asking when black and white dust and scratch removal would be available or, at the very least, when it would be possible to scan black and white in color mode. Got the answer in less than 24 hours. It wasn’t “we’re working on it,” or “we’ll look into it.” It was “It does not have that feature.” – end of explanation.

It is inconceivable to me that Canon can present the 9950F and a replacement for a dedicated film scanner that can handle large and medium format negatives and not have a dust and scratch removal option for black and white – or at least make it possible to scan b&w in in color mode.

So, if you are looking for a scanner, be aware of what you won’t get now, and apparently not later, either with the 9950F. It does a great job in my opinion, on color slides and color negs but if your black and white negs aren’t pristine you are gonna spend a lot of time in Photoshop or shell out extra money for a stand alone scratch removal program.

BTW, the 9950F also has both USB 2.0 and Firewire connections, but Firewire only works with Macs (gee, why do I have firewire ports on my pc?).

Guess I shoulda asked Santa for an Epson. :bang:

03-03-2005, 13:25
FARE/ICE doesn't work on films with a silver based emulsion (traditional b&w and kodachrome), the film interferes in some way with the infrared light used to identify dust and scratches. That's why you can't get it to work even though you try to scan the negatives as color film in the software. I don't think your problem is a software problem, but I might be wrong.

Nikon Bob
03-03-2005, 13:32
I am thinking that Biber is on the right track.


03-03-2005, 13:38
On my old 1800 dpi Pacific Image scanner you could scan a b&w neg in color then convert it. That scanner didn't, however, have dust and scratch removal. But if you are right there is a good reason for the lack of that option. I thought you could do it with ice.

03-03-2005, 13:55
Biber is corect.
I couldn't find a FAQ for FARE, Canon's name for the technology that removes dust and scratches, but I did find one for ICE.


From the Digital ICE FAQ:

"Q3: Can Black & White film be used with DIGITAL ICE Technology?
A3: Black & White chromogenic film (C41 process) can be used on DIGITAL ICE Technology enabled scanners (for example Kodak Advantix 400, Illford XP2 Super, Konica Monochrome VX400, Kodak Select B&W+400 and Kodak T400 CN). When scanning chromogenic films for DIGITAL ICE Technology implementation, the film must be scanned as a color image. After DIGITAL ICE Technology processing, the color image may be converted to Black & White using an image editor. Traditional silver-halide Black & White film cannot be used with DIGITAL ICE Technology."

03-03-2005, 14:01
Thanks for the info. I guess I overranted. Still seems weird that technology won't work on traditional black and white film.

03-03-2005, 14:06
I found another source for this:
"Infrared (IR) channel dust removal. Some scanners acquire a separate image with an infrared light beam in order to detect the presence of dust, which responds differently to infrared than it does to visible light. Spots on the main image are filled in by interpolation. Works for all color films except Kodachrome. Does not work for B&W."

I believe that the silver isn't transparent to the infrared light and that the software simply assumes that it's part of the dust and tries to replace it with data from the surrounding pixels. I got some really weird artifacts when I tried ICE on a piece of tri-x a few minutes ago. :)

Epson uses ICE (at least in the models I know anything about) which is just as bad as FARE for silver based films. Haven't heard of any hardware based dust removal systems for b&w film at all. You are just as fine with a Canon as with an Epson regarding this.

03-03-2005, 14:07
You didn`t do your homework good enough before you got it... :)
First, there is still no flatbed scanner that can compete with a dedcated scanner for 35mm(I have the Epson 4870, the new 4990 isn`t much of an improvement) Even my cheap Minolta Scan Dual III runs circles around the 4870 for 35mm negs...

Second, keep an eye on these pages www.photo-i.co.uk for scanner reviews, Vincent tells the truth, and based on his troubles with the Canon scanner you probably wouldn`t have got it.

Third, hardwarebased Dust and Scratch Removal(ICE) doesn`t work on any scanners with real B&W film, there are some with softwarebased DSR, but doesn`t work anywhere as good as ICE, robs sharpness too...
No, PS Healing Brush is still your best friend :)

My advice is, get a Epson 4870/4990 for your 4x5`s and a used SD III for 35mm...

03-03-2005, 14:41
I believe that the silver isn't transparent to the infrared light and that the software simply assumes that it's part of the dust and tries to replace it with data from the surrounding pixels. I got some really weird artifacts when I tried ICE on a piece of tri-x a few minutes ago. :)

The silver reflecting sounds logical and explains the artifacts.

As for not doing my research, I did read the comprehensive review on Interactive Review which did start badly but after he got some driver issues resolved his comments were reasonably favorable. As to the flatbed v. dedicated argument, the dedicated may be sharper pixel by pixel but that average viewer isn't going to see the difference viewing a print from an appropriate distance, particularly when the price difference between a dedicated that will do large format, and a flatbed is considered. And the difference isn't even relevant in most graphic arts applications -- I work in that industry.

As I said, I was pleased with what the Canon could produce, except for the dust and scratch issue. Now that I'm aware that would have been an issue with other scanning programs, too, I'm satisfied with the Canon -- especially at the price we paid for it -- certainly satisfied enough that I'm not going to spend as much or more for another flatbed that would probably cost a little more without delivering results that much better.

Just goes to show how much dust someone can stir up when they whine without all the facts.