Pros: Fast, good resolution, duplex, scan to PDF, extremely compact
Cons: not good for photos, need a separate scanner for odd-shaped pieces of paper
I like to scan important documents like pay slips, invoices (for warranty, insurance and customs purposes), tax returns and the like. I keep a backup of them at my office in case of a fire at home, and some on a keychain USB flash drive. I bought a HP 6250C scanner with the automatic document feeder (ADF) option in 1998, but was not satisfied with it as the ADF is slow and prone to jam. Three months ago, I bought a Canon DR-2080C to replace my HP, which promptly went on to eBay.
The scanner is extremely compact, and looks like a portable inkjet printer. Unlike the HP 6250C, it was designed from the ground up to be a document scanner (i.e. a scanner designed to digitize large batches of documents), not as a Rube Goldberg attachment to a flatbed scanner. It feeds vertically like a fax machine, not horizontally. To stay compact, it does not have a dedicated tray to catch the paper coming out of the scanner, but a small plastic catch piece is supplied to act a stop for the paper. This piece has a magnet, but on a wooden desk, lacks heft and can be pushed aside by paper that is being ejected from the scanner.
For smaller pieces of paper, you can feed them directly, but for letter or A4 sized originals, I recommend you use the two plastic guides (supplied) that slip in on the side. Just remember to remove them after you are done so you can close the dust cover flap. Clearing paper jams (a rare occurrence) is easy, the front of the scanner just flips off like a fax machine.
The scanner is a SCSI model, like most professional document scanners. An Adaptec PCI SCSI card is supplied, but a Firewire or USB 2.0 interface would have been more convenient for home use (USB 1.1 is too slow for this scanner's throughput). (UPDATED 2003-08-20: apparently Canon has added USB 2.0 to this scanner without changing the model number - the price is higher for the new model, though). Installation is very straightforward (it involves installing paper feed rollers), and the documentation very clear. I was done within half an hour.
The scanner uses two rows of Contact Image Sensor (CIS), which allows it to scan both sides of a sheet of paper in a single pass. Because of this vertical design, it cannot be used as a flatbed scanner and you will still need one to scan odd-shaped pieces of paper like credit-card receipts (I use a Canon LiDE 30 for that purpose (an alternative would be to scan photocopies).
The scanner uses Contact Image Sensors, a technology used in fax machines or low-end scanners like the Canon LiDE series. It delivers perfectly adequate quality for document scanning, but is not really suitable for scanning artwork for graphics purposes.
The scanner is provided with TWAIN and ISIS (a SCSI-based standard used by many professional document management solutions) drivers. It also includes the Canon scanning utility, which allows batch scanning and has the ability to save the scan directly in Adobe Acrobat's PDF format. I standardized on PDF a long time ago as it is a portable format with readers for most operating systems, but with this software you don't need to buy the Acrobat distiller to generate the PDF. It offers JPEG compression for color and TIFF Group III Fax compression for black and white, but unfortunately does not offer lossless LZW compression (probably due to patent issues with Unisys). Other nice features in the software include the ability to remove a background color automatically (useful when dealing with colored forms), to correct for skew if the paper doesn't feed perfectly straight, and the ability to detect the paper size automatically (the HP wasn't capable of doing the latter, for instance). I haven't tried the OCR capabilities of the software, I would assume they are fairly basic given the price.
The scanner is very fast and smooth. You can scan large batches of documents very quickly. I didn't time it precisely but it scans a year's worth of pay slips or bank statements in about a minute. If you are careful to collate and align your sheets of paper together by tapping them against the surface of your desk before inserting them, you shouldn't experience any jamming. It is an ideal machine for home office scanning, or small professional scanning (e.g. a lawyer's secretary scanning in legal correspondence for archival).
This is one of the cheapest document scanners available. It is roughly the same price as the HP 6350C with ADF, while being significantly more capable for scanning batches of documents. It is also less than half the price of the equivalent Fujitsu or Kodak scanners (the Fujitsu models are 300 dpi-only or grayscale-only). It does not have networked capabilities like higher-end workgroup models, but that isn't the target market of "personal" document scanning.
Update (9 January 2003): a reader asked me if this scanner could be used to digitize batches of prints. The answer is "sort of", although I don't recommend it:
- Dedicated film scanners from Minolta, Canon or Nikon are available starting at $300, and will give you much better quality because negatives hold much more resolution and contrast than prints.
- The automatic document feeder on the DR-2080C was not designed to handle thick photo paper with sticky emulsions, and will sometimes jam.
- The automatic document size detection will be confused by photos with large dark areas (dark grass, for instance) and will crop them by mistake.
- The color accuracy is not bad compared to entry-level flatbed scanners like the Canon LiDE 30, but the skies in the prints I scanned (and compared on a calibrated monitor to the original) are too saturated
- The scans show visible streaking and banding
For more details on scanning photos, you can see a page with my tests at http://www.majid.info/galleries/dr2080c