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Canon CanoScan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner

Canon CanoScan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner

 

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Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner

Introduction

I bought my first flatbed scanner in the UK because digital cameras had yet to arrive and I wanted to add photos taken with a film camera to my website. The only way to do this was to scan them in. I think it was an Epson, but I can't remember for sure. It did a great job.

By the time I arrived in Thailand to start a new life, digital photography had arrived and there was no need to get film processed and then either to scan prints or negatives in order to get digital images.

So, why bother with a flatbed scanner these days when everyone has a digital camera or a smartphone?

After a while I started to miss not having a scanner. Occasionally I want to add printed information to my website and although I can photograph documents the results with a scanner are much better.

One of the reasons is lighting. The key to good photography is getting the light right and this can be very difficult. However, the internal light source inside a scanner provides almost perfect lighting every time without having to do anything.

Apart from printed matter, scanners can be used to 'photograph' relatively flat objects, such as coins. The results aren't perfect (see my comments about shadows below under Image Quality), but they can be acceptable.

The scanner has also saved me time and money. I needed to get my passport translated into Thai by an official translation company. Instead of having to take my passport to the office and then return to collect it I simply scanned the relevant pages and sent them by e-mail. All I then needed to do was to collect the translation when it was finished.

Even though a scanner can be useful, I probably wouldn't have one if they were really expensive. But they're not. There are some really cheap models on the market that produce fantastic results and thus it was an easy decision to buy another scanner.

Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner

Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner

 

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Canon CanoScan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner

I have a lot of brand loyalty towards Canon with camera equipment, but not necessarily with computer peripherals. Regarding printers and scanners, etc, I don't believe there is a lot of difference between different makes and I think they all do a good job.

Had I been presented with more buying options I might have bought something else, however, the choice isn't great in the part of provincial Thailand where I live. I could have ordered another model from Bangkok, but I was sure that the LiDE 120 was sufficient for my needs.

After having used it now for quite a long time I can confirm that it is definitely sufficient for my needs and its performance has actually exceeded my expectations.

I am impressed with the image quality and I really like the EZ buttons, especially the copy button, because they make certain tasks a lot easier.

With everyone having on-line access these days, it is easy to scour dozens of reviews to find the 'best' machine, but many other machines will be sufficient for our own personal needs.

Unless you are archiving ancient documents that need to be scanned at the highest possible resolution and quality, or if you need to scan in lots of film negatives and need a specialised scanner, I would imagine that the Canon LiDE 120 would be perfectly good enough for most people's requirements.

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Technology

The following explanation is from the Canon website:

"Canon's LiDE (LED Indirect Exposure) technology allows the size of the carriage - a key part in the scanner mechanism - to be greatly reduced. The result is a smaller, lighter scanner, which uses less than 10 percent of the power required by conventional scanners, and therefore can be powered by USB connection alone. LiDE further reduces scanner size by using LED lights rather than bulkier fluorescent lamps, and eliminates the need for a complex optical system."

I can confirm that the scanner is indeed small and light. With dimensions of 250mm x 370mm x 40mm, the footprint isn't a great deal bigger than an A4 size sheet of paper.

The low power consumption means that the scanner can be powered from the USB connection alone without the need for a mains power cable.

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EZ Buttons

These buttons had no influence on my purchasing decision at all, but I have found two of them to be extremely useful.

Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner

Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner

 

There is a lot of bureaucracy in Thailand, where I live, and much of it is paper-based. It seems that I am forever making copies of my passport and other documents. For this reason there are lots of shops in Thailand that offer a photocopying service, but it is a pain to go to a shop every time I want a copy.

With the LiDE 120 I simply put my document in the scanner, press the 'Copy' EZ button and a copy is sent straight to my Brother laser printer.

Similarly, I created several PDF files for the 'Learning To Read Thai' section of my website. There are quite a few files, but the task was made very easy with the 'PDF' EZ button.

My original scanner had no such buttons and everything that I scanned had to be edited with a suitable application and then sent to a printer or saved as a file. It just makes life a lot easier when you can do all this with the press of a button.

I have never used the 'Auto Scan' or 'Send' buttons. The 'Auto Scan' button will automatically crop the scanned image, but I like to have control over the scan without it doing things automatically.

The 'Send' button automatically sends scanned images to a cloud service. Obviously, your computer needs to have an Internet connection for this to happen and you will need to do some configuration so that the scanner knows where to send images.

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Image Quality

Image quality is fine for everyday tasks. The LiDE 120 is a very low cost item and thus it can't be expected to be perfect. There is always a balance between quality and price. Even so, it is capable of some very pleasing results.

The following is a page from my passport, which is watermarked like a bank note. The watermarking is very faint and very finely detailed. I have brought out the colours in post-processing, but in reality they are quite subdued.

Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner Passport Scan

Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner Passport Scan

 

When scanning small objects at 600 dpi (the scanner's maximum resolution) some image quality problems can start to appear depending on what is being scanned.

When attempting to scan a coin I noticed some green and purple fringing.

Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner Fringing Artefacts

Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner Fringing Artefacts

 

Secondly, if the object being scanned isn't a single sheet of paper and has three dimensions, such as a coin, some shadows start to appear around the edges. The LEDs generally do a good job providing an even light source, but the scanner has its limitations.

In Canon's defence, the scanner isn't designed to scan anything thicker than a single piece of paper.

Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner Shadows

Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner Shadows

 

The fringing and the shadows can be removed in post-processing, but creating masks is time consuming.

For most users doing 'normal' work, the LiDE 120 will give perfectly adequate results. However, if you are scanning small objects at high resolution and require the very best image quality possible this isn't the right scanner for you.

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Security Features

To give an example of the scanner's image quality on this page I looked around for something suitable with small, but very fine detail. A Thai 20 Baht note looked perfect, but it wouldn't scan. At first I thought that my scanner must have gone wrong. The scanner wouldn't complete its scan and a ScanGear error code 5,205,155 appeared.

It took me a few minutes to figure out that this wasn't a hardware error. The scanner has a built-in security feature that will recognise and prevent the scanning of bank notes. This may also be the case for other sensitive documents.

Interestingly, I had no problem scanning passport pages, which I would imagine have a similar level of anti-forging security to bank notes.

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Advanced Z Lid

The scanner lid has two functions. Firstly, it keeps out light from external sources in order to maintain good exposure. Secondly, it presses the scanned document flat against the glass platen so that the whole image remains in focus.

With single pieces of paper this isn't a problem. However, if you want to scan a page of a book without ripping the page out (and I could never mistreat a book in this way) an ordinary lid won't sit down flat if the book is fairly thick.

The specially designed lid of the LiDE 120 with its Advanced Z lid means that pages of fairly thick books (up to 20mm) can be scanned and the lid closed while keeping it parallel with the glass platen.

Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner

Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner

 

Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner

Canon Canoscan LiDE 120 Flatbed Scanner

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Summary

This scanner cost me just 1,760 Thai Baht - around 49 US dollars. This is an important fact to remember when assessing its merits and capabilities.

It is small, light and uses very little power. It is reliable, easy to use and easy to set up. The EZ buttons are very useful, as is the software that comes with the scanner.

If you want to make quick copies or scan documents to put on the Internet or to send someone, it gives perfectly good results and represents excellent value for money.

If your requirements are more specialised and/or more demanding you may find that the LiDE 120 isn't up to the task.

With high resolution scans, especially when scanning slight 3-dimensional objects, you will start to notice some image quality problems.

There is no feature to scan in film negatives and thus this isn't the right scanner if you have a lot of old film negatives to scan.

It's simply a case of buying the right product for your individual needs. We don't buy Ferraris to do the weekly shopping and then complain that there isn't much cargo space.

This scanner will meet a lot of people's needs and, being so cheap, it is a great buy. On the other hand, don't expect it to perform miracles if you have demanding objects or documents to scan.

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