Don’t Use Linux to Scan Photographs

The captured image from my flatbed scanner in my previous post appeared to be more washed out compared to the original physical copy (you can see the more accurate color in the sample using my smartphone with flash enabled). Was it a limitation of the hardware or could the software be tweaked to improve quality? In this article I investigate the root cause and see if I can find a more true to life color accuracy.

Tweaking Scan Settings

First, I started adjusting the default contrast and brightness scanning levels but at any values the same washed out color issue was present. There wasn’t a significant difference if I tweaked the levels at scanning time or to the JPEG after scanning.

Changing Drivers

Next, I started thinking about the lower level driver support. Ubuntu automatically recognized and setup the scanner when I plugged it in so I hadn’t really thought about drivers. Doing some digging online lead me to find out Canon doesn’t support this particular all-in-one printer on Linux—well sort of. They don’t offer any Linux drivers on their United States website, but mosey on over to the Canon Europe website and you’ll find it! Why don’t they list them on their U.S. website? I’m hoping someone from the Europe can chime in. I’m guessing there’s some legal requirement there and not in the U.S.

Time to test out the Windows driver. I tried scanning with several different apps including the more legacy looking app, “Windows Fax & Scan” that comes with Windows, a fancy new metro Scan app in the store made by Microsoft, and an open source tool called NAPS2 (Not Another PDF Scanner 2). I didn’t see a noticeable quality difference between any of them so I settled on NAPS2 because it had all the features I wanted. Here are the results:

It’s a pretty stark contrast between the two photos. The image captured using Canon’s Windows drivers has a much higher color accuracy compared to the muted result from using Linux drivers. When held side by side, the Windows version looks nearly identical to the original photograph. Success! I’m able to perfectly reproduce the photograph digitally.


It’s a bummer I can’t use Ubuntu with my Canon flatbed scanner. Luckily I hadn’t scanned too many photographs before discovering the issue. My lesson here is be cautious of Linux driver support with third party vendor hardware. Just because I might be able to get something working on Linux or it’s advertised as supporting Linux, doesn’t mean it works as well as other operating systems. Even though developers might use MacOS 2X more and Linux 10X more compared to an average user, the reality is Windows still holds dominate desktop and laptop market share so it’s not surprising hardware vendors are still investing more resources into their Windows drivers. Whether or not Windows market share dominance continues to be true, time will tell.

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