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Canon CanoScan 8600F scanner

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With digital cameras being so popular today, fewer and fewer photos need to be scanned. And if you’re just scanning office documents, multifunction printers with integrated scanners work just fine and start at under $100. Nevertheless, stand-alone scanners like the CanoScan 8600F do have their advantages. What used to be high-end features—transparency scanning, 4,800 dpi optical resolution at 48 bit color depth (trillions of colors), a full complement of bundled software, advanced controls, and lightning-fast speeds—are all standard in this very affordable package. For those who have yet to bring their older photos into the digital realm, this desktop photo and film scanner is definitely worth a look.

Design and usability

There are seven handy task buttons on top of this silver and black flatbed scanner; these automate a number of tasks, such as scanning a document into PDF format, importing photos or slides into the image editor of your choosing, or scanning a document directly to a printer (essentially a copying function). By default, the scan Photo/Slides button will bring the scanned image into the included ArcSoft PhotoStudio software, but you can change the settings in the CanoScan Toolbox software to use Photoshop or some other image-editing program. Thankfully, unlike in years past—when full Mac compatibility was never certain—all buttons on the scanner worked with our Mac Pro.

A transparency unit for scanning film and slides is built into the 8600F’s lid, and the scanner ships with a film holder for four 35mm slides, a holder for two strips of 35mm film, and a holder for medium-format film. When scanning multiple transparencies, the 8600F is able to detect, crop, and display separate thumbnail images for each transparency. You can then choose which image to scan, or batch scan many or all of them at the same time.


The 8600F was a zippy performer once it warmed up. Like most midrange desktop scanners, the 8600F uses CCD (charge coupled device) sensors to scan, not CIS (contact image sensors) like those found in compact scanners, many all-in-one printers, and copiers. CCD-based scanners have a reputation for higher quality, but they take longer to warm up and generate more heat than CIS devices. Though seeing the “Scanner warming up” message on screen each time I wanted to scan became annoying, after seeing the resulting scans I’d say it was worth the wait. Scans of photos were a little dark—nothing a tweak or two in a photo editor couldn’t fix—and colors were accurate. The 8600F was also able to capture an impressive amount of detail in both our transparency and reflective resolution test charts.

jury tests

Color Very Good
Clarity Very Good

Scale: Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor

timed trials

8-by-10-inch photo, 600-dpi scan 1:06
4-by-6-inch photo, 1,200-dpi scan 1:15
Transparency, 2,400-dpi scan 1:55

Times are in minutes:seconds.

How we tested: We connected the scanner via USB 2.0 to a 2.66GHz Mac Pro running OS X 10.4.8 with 1GB of RAM. We scanned a number of test images into Photoshop CS2 and recorded the amount of time it took to scan an 8-by-10-inch color photo at 600 dpi and a 4-by-6-inch photo at 1,200 dpi and 48-bit color depth. If the scanner included a transparency adapter, we also recorded the amount of time it took to scan a color slide at 2,400 dpi and 48-bit color depth. We printed all images on an Epson Stylus Photo 2200. A panel of Macworld editors viewed these images and a number of resolution test chart scans, and then rated the output as Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor.—Macworld lab testing by James Galbraith and Brian Chen


Highest optical resolution 4,800 dpi
Maximum scanning bit depth (output) 48-bit color, 16-bit gray scale
Weight (in pounds) 9.3
Dimensions (width x depth x height, in inches) 11.3 x 18.6 x 4.9
Transparency adapter Built-in
Maximum scan size (in inches) 8.5 x 11.7
Interface USB 2.0
Included software ScanGear CS 11.1, CanoScan Toolbox CS 4.9, ArcSoft PhotoStudio, ScanSoft OmniPage SE OCR, Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0

Macworld’s buying advice

Although it was a little slow to warm up, and its photo scans were a touch dark, the CanoScan 8600F proved to be a very good all-around scanner and should definitely be considered if you are looking for a high-quality photo and document scanner.

[ James Galbraith is Macworld ’s lab director. ]

Canon CanoScan 8600F
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