Canon imageFORMULA P-215 Review

Canon P-215For quite a while I have been eyeing the Canon imageFORMULA line of scanners, specifically the “Scan-tini” varieties.[1] Fortunately, Canon was awesome enough to send me a review unit of their newest scanner, the Canon imageFORMULA P–215.

Canon P-215
Canon P-215 open

What’s In The Box?

Canon P-215 in the
Canon P–215 in the

Inside the box is the scanner, a Reference Guide, a USB cable, and another USB cable for power.

AC Adapter

You might have noticed that I didn’t mention an AC adapter for plugging the scanner into the wall. That is because the P–215 doesn’t come with one.

You can apparently buy one separately (though I didn’t see it on Amazon). The scanner can either run off one USB 2.0 cable, or two USB 2.0 cables drawing power from the other one. It also supports USB 3.0.

Supposedly running it off of two USB 2.0 cables will make it go faster, but I have to admit I didn’t see a big difference.

It is not unusual for a “mobile” scanner to have the ability to run off of USB power only, but I was a little surprised that a scanner this size and weight didn’t include the AC adapter.

Size

With trays closed, the P–215 is 1.6“ x 11.2” x 3.7" and weighs 2.2 pounds.

If you have the trays open and the paper guides all the way extended, it can get pretty tall (and bonus, look like Batman).

P-215 Batman
P–215 Batman

Here is the now-obligatory size comparison with the Steve Jobs book.

P-215 Steve Jobs
P–215 Steve Jobs

It is a very compact scanner, though it feels a bit on the heavy side. I wouldn’t want to lug it around in my bag day in and day out, but for moving it around a home, office or conference table it is not a problem.

Auto-Start Switch

A cool feature of the P–215 is that it can scan a document without having to install any software.

On the back of the scanner there is an Auto-Start Switch.

P-215 Back
P–215 Back

If you switch that to ON and then plug in the scanner[2], your Mac or Windows computer will recognize it as a drive and a window will pop up for CaptureOnTouchLite, the software that is actually built into the scanner.

(The screenshots are for Mac, but Windows is the same.)

CaptureOnTouch Lite
CaptureOnTouch Lite

When you double-click the application, you are then taken to the scanner’s built-in software.

CaptureOnTouch Lite
CaptureOnTouch Lite

You can either go with “Full Auto Mode” if you want to do a quick scan, or turn that off and configure the scanner’s settings.

Once you hit the scan button and the document scans, a popup comes up where you can edit the scan.

CaptureOnTouch Lite Edit
CaptureOnTouch Lite Edit

From there, you can choose what to name and where to save the document.

All-in-all, a pretty great feature if you can’t or don’t want to install drivers and software on the computer you are scanning to.

Speed And Capacity

The scanner is listed at 10 pages per minute for color. I got about 7.5 seconds a page using CaptureOnTouch Lite at 300dpi, which works out to about 8 pages per minute. Remarkably though, this includes OCRing the document.

When the document pops out of the scanner, it is already searchable. There isn’t a wait time afterwards like there is with other scanners. I don’t know how they do that, but it is nice.

As far as capacity goes, the P–215 is listed to hold 20 sheets at a time. The paper guides can flip up to hold more paper than a normal scanner this size. Clever.

Plastic Cards

One advantage that the Canon P–215 has over its cousin the P–150 is that it can scan plastic cards.

There is a slot in the front that you can put a card in, and it will scan it.

Canon P-215 Plastic Card
Canon P–215 Plastic Card

I couldn’t see any instructions in the paper Reference Guide where it tells you how to do this, so there was a nervous moment where I put the card in and hoped it wouldn’t try to bend it. It all worked out though.[3]

Installation & Setup

I’ve already covered scanning without installing any software, which you can do if you want, but there are drivers that you can put on your computer to make for more efficient scanning. We’ll get to the bundled software in a minute.

When you pop in the installation DVD, you are faced with the choice of Typical Installation or Custom Installation. Be careful here.

P-215 Installation
P–215 Installation

The Typical installation will just install the CaptureOnTouch driver software and not the bundled applications. The Custom installation will install the bundled software.[4]

I would guess that most people actually want the Custom installation. Wacky wording.

Both the Reference Guide and the installation wizard warn you to turn the Auto-Start Switch to OFF if you are going to be scanning using the software included on the DVD.

Software

Aside from the CaptureOnTouch Lite software that is installed on the scanner itself, the P–215 comes bundled with the following software.

Windows:

  • Canon CaptureOnTouch
  • Nuance PaperPort
  • NewSoft Presto! BizCard
  • Evernote

Mac:

  • Canon CaptureOnTouch
  • NewSoft Presto! PageManager
  • NewSoft Presto! BizCard
  • Evernote

I think Canon’s CaptureOnTouch software deserves a post of its own at some point, so suffice it to say that while a bit slow, it is quite functional. If you want it, you can have a lot of control over how it scans.

CaptureOnTouch
CaptureOnTouch

You can also create pre-defined profiles, or Jobs in their parlance, for your frequently used scanning activities. You can even map which Job gets executed by the scanner’s physical scan button.

TWAIN

One of the big differentiator for the imageFORMULA line in general and the P–215 in particular is that it supports TWAIN.

Without getting all technical, TWAIN means that you can initiate scans from different applications, and you don’t need to run your scanning through the scanner vendor’s proprietary software.

This worked well for me, sort of. On Windows, I started up Lucion FileCenter. FileCenter could see the scanner and scan a document from within the software.

Canon P-215 FileCenter
Canon P–215 FileCenter

On the Mac, I did the same thing from Presto! PageManager and Mariner Paperless that I already had installed, and those worked as well.

What didn’t work was scanning from both operating systems’ built-in scanning software. On Windows I tried scanning from Windows Fax & Scan, and on the Mac I tried scanning from Image Capture. In both cases, the scanner couldn’t be detected. I am not sure what was going on there, or if it was user error.

It’s weird how it works from different applications but not the OS.

Cloud Integration

The CaptureOnTouch software comes with Evernote and Google Docs plugins, and predefines some Jobs that lets you scan to the Evernote client.

P-215 To Evernote
P–215 To Evernote

Scan Quality

Since scan quality can be subjective, I have scanned a color page from a magazine, a grayscale document, and a black and white typed document. They’re linked below in PDF format. All are scanned at 300dpi.

Bottom Line?

The Canon P–215 is an impressive entry into the personal document scanner category. It is fast, and the software is very functional. I also like the fact that it comes with document management software for both Mac and Windows.

If you need a scanner that supports TWAIN, the P–215 is an excellent choice in this category. The fact that it doesn’t come with an AC adapter is a bit annoying, but if you can live without that, you will probably be happy with the scanner.

Availability

At the time of writing, the Canon P–215 is available on Amazon for $285.


  1. What does Scan-tini mean you ask? I have no idea.  ↩

  2. The manual says that if you don’t turn the switch on BEFORE plugging it in, “malfunctions may occur”. What that means, I am not sure.  ↩

  3. Instructions are in the manual on the DVD. I just hadn’t installed it yet.  ↩

  4. You can, of course, de-select what you don’t want.  ↩

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20 Responses to “Canon imageFORMULA P-215 Review”

  1. Matt February 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    Thanks for the review Brooks. I guess the obvious question is how do you feel the scanner and software compares to the Scansnap s1300? If you had to choose which between the s1300 and the p-215 which would it be?

    • BrooksD March 2, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

      Hi Matt,

      Yeah, I was wondering how many minutes it would take for someone to ask that. :)

      To be honest, I am not sure how to answer this question. They are both excellent scanners. These are some of my stream-of-consciousness-Friday-evening thoughts:

      First, if you need TWAIN, it is a no-brainer. You'd have to go with the Canon.

      I find the ScanSnap feels a bit more "sturdy" than the Canon. With the Canon it doesn't feel quite as solid as the ScanSnap. Not that it feels cheap by any means, but I am clumsy.

      The ScanSnap software is a bit simpler because everything is driven from the physical scan button on the scanner.

      The Canon software is a bit slow and laggy, but it looks nice. I will be doing a follow-up just on the software so I will dive in there.

      I really liked and was surprised how there was not an "OCR time" after scanning with the Canon. The document was just OCRed. With the ScanSnap, it needs to OCR it after which can be a bit slow.

      The Canon has paper handlers that can flip out so that it can hold 20 sheets, vs. 10 for the ScanSnap.

      With the Lion update, I seem to remember that Fujitsu was much faster at coming out with drivers (in fact, the drivers came out before Lion did). I seem to remember that with the Canon P-150, people were pretty upset.

      The ScanSnap comes with an AC adapter, the Canon does not. The Canon supports USB 3.0, the ScanSnap does not.

      There are way more ScanSnap tips and resources out there than there are Canon imageFORMULA ones.

      It is hard for me to be totally objective here because I have been using a ScanSnap since 2008, so I am "used" to how it works, however, those are some of my thoughts. Bottom line: I don't think you can go wrong with either scanner. They're both great.

  2. Anthony February 29, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    Thanks for the review. I've been looking at the Canon P150 and P215 for a few months. The Scansnaps get good reviews, but I like having the twain access if I need it. Now, just to save up/get the wife's agreement on the purchase.

    • BrooksD March 2, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

      @Anthony Thanks Anthony. Yes, you obviously know the deal. :)<p style=”color: #A0A0A8;”>

  3. Phil March 6, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    Brooks,
    You mentioned that the P215 has two USB cables, and that using both of them didn't really make a difference in speed. Does it make a difference in software speed, i.e., creating the PDF and OCRing? Also since the P215 has USB 3.0 support, would that theoretically mean it would be faster (physically handling paper and/or software PDF creation/OCRing) than say the ScanSnap 1300m (when Macs support USB 3.0 in the future)?

  4. Pam March 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    Hi,

    I want to find out what version of "NewSoft Presto! PageManager" is on the Canon P-215 because I need a compact scanner ( lack of desktop space) where I scan a document and save it to a Microsoft word using my mac computers. Can I do this on the Canon P-215 or would I better off with the Fujitsu S1300? Thanks.

    • BrooksD March 19, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

      Hm, I don't see a way to do this with the P-215, at least with the built-in software. I don't see a way to do it in Presto PageManager either. If that is a critical feature, you might be better off going with the S1300. Someone please feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

  5. Jacqui June 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Hi Brooks,
    Thank you for the review! It was very informative. I just wanted to ask how the canon does on business cards. Do you have to scan one-by-one in the slot. Or can it auto feed? Also can you OCR the information to Outlook? I have been searching between the Fujitsu and this for a while now, but no one really talks about this for canon. Or how accurate the OCR is compared to Fujitsu. I mostly would be using this for scanning receipts and business cards. Neat receipts has a nice detailed software user-face but i saw a lot of bad reviews on the scanner itself. Any advice or feedback would be greatly appreciated from someone who has experience and used both Fujitsu and Canon :) Thank you.

    • BrooksD June 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

      Hi Jacqui:

      1) You should be able to put the stack in and auto feed I'd think. I can't try it at the moment but i don't see why not.

      2) It comes with Presto Bizcard which should export to Outlook. I haven't tried it myself (I don't have the scanner here right now).

      • Jacqui June 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

        Hi Brooks,
        Do you think you will be able to try it out soon? Also which one do you feel will fit me better for what i need it for? For receipts and business cards.
        Please advise, Thank you! Jacqui

  6. jfheintz July 31, 2012 at 7:56 am #

    Hello,

    thanks for the great review. I would like to buy this scanner to scan 1000 old photos.
    I will use it to scan my bills after.
    Do you think it can do the trick?
    I did not found any other document/photo scanner with AFD and a decent quality.
    Actually I tried with a flat scanner but it only takes 4 photos at a time and it will take more than 1 year to do it :)
    What is the quality in 600dpi: in term of color, is there any distortion or stray?

    Thanks,

    JF

  7. jfheintz August 10, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    Finally I found 2 different points of view:
    http://www.laptopmag.com/review/accessories/canon
    Despite taking its sweet time, the image quality the P-215 produced was second to none. Text looked sharp, while color photos were rich and lacked any hint of distortion or stray artifacts. The same image scanned with the Fujitsu looked brighter, but as a result, also lost some of the color of the original photo.
    http://www.trustedreviews.com/canon-imageformula-
    The only scan result which was disappointing was our test photo print, which we fed through at the scanner’s top resolution of 600ppi. This came through much too dark and with a couple of vertical lines in the image. The brightness can be compensated for, but the lines are more obtrusive.

    Is someone can help me in the choice of P–215 as a good photo scanner?

    • Jay October 12, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

      Bumping this question again, I have similar concern as jfheintz mentioned – could you please confirm if this scanner is good for photo scanning or is s1300i / s1300 better on those?
      This will help me with my purchase.
      Thanks!

      • jfheintz October 15, 2012 at 4:52 am #

        Hello Jay,
        I have not bought the P215 yet (I am waiting christmas :) )
        But according to this http://www.geek.com/articles/gadgets/review-fujit… it should be better than the s1300: "You won’t want to save family pictures using it, but it works in a pinch."

        Anyway s1300i is perhaps better?

        But personally, after reading thousand of review P215 looks the best (for the price).

  8. Rahul December 10, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    Did you ever find out how to get the Mac's Image Capture or Preview to recognize the scanner? Looking in the System Profiler (now called System Info), the Mac obviously recognizes the scanner (even as the Canon P-215) – yet these programs won't recognize it.

    • Guest December 23, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      This page will explain how to use Image Capture with the Canon P-215:
      http://computersight.com/operating-systems/how-to

      • colebg April 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

        This only works if the scanner is detected. In this case the scanner is not detected as installed on the system by the image capture utility. I have this same problem and am searching for an answer myself.

  9. david bird May 27, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    Hi, I’ve got one of these and it really doesn’t work very well. In putting through 40 documents since I have had this macine, only 2 have not required stopping and starting again due to paper feed problems. It is a lot less efficient than the fuji scansnap I have (which is too big to carry around with me). I’ve tried all the usual dodges of bending / ruffling / damping the paper and none of these make a discernable difference. I’m going to try and get a refund.

    • Brooks Duncan May 27, 2014 at 11:39 am #

      Hi David, thanks for the report. That’s definitely not good. Did their support have anything to say, or are you just not going to bother?

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