Epson Perfection V750 Pro
With the exception of a few high-end models, the dedicated film scanner has largely disappeared from retailers' shelves.
While there's no doubt digital camera sales have contributed to their demise, it's the versatility and value of flatbeds with built-in transparency adaptors that has seen off budget and even mid-range film scanners once and for all.
Two new models from Epson - the Perfection V700 Photo aimed at enthusiasts and the Perfection V750 Pro for imaging professionals - offer a good many features found on dedicated film scanners costing twice as much. For instance, both have a wide dynamic range with a quoted 4.0DMax optical density and can scan various film formats from 35mm up to a single sheet of 10 x 8in film. In addition, there's Kodak's Digital Ice dust and scratch reduction system for film and photos (although not the full suite Ice 3), batch scanning of smaller film formats, a choice of USB 2 or FireWire connectivity, and the excellent SilverFast Ai 6 scan utility (SE version with the V700).
Both models share the same body design and feature the pretty standard 4800dpi document and photo scanning, but what makes this pair stand out is an innovative second lens system for scanning most sizes of film up to 6400dpi. Without interpolation, that resolution is enough for a 35mm negative to be printed to 30 x 20in at 300dpi, although mounted 35mm slides would be slightly less, as the mounts usually crop some of the image. This represents a significant increase in image size compared with the 22 x 15in print from a typical 4800dpi film or flatbed scanner at the same 300dpi resolution.
There's a downside to this, though: uncompressed Tiffs from 35mm film are in the region of 160MB each at just 24-bit colour, and scan times of just over three minutes a frame with the V700 aren't exactly fast, either. Warming up the scanner lamp took just under a minute, though, and a 20-image preview of four 35mm filmstrips was completed in around 70 seconds, which is fine. However, if you add some of the handy filters from SilverFast or Epson's bundled Scan utility - for example, colour restoration for faded film, grain reduction or USM - times creep up, albeit only slightly. Digital Ice, although very efficient, at least doubles scan times, although it often crept up to 20 minutes per 35mm colour negative. Impressively, the addition of a high-pass optical system in the V750 Pro speeds things up some, taking roughly a third off most scans. Sadly, though, it did nothing to improve the times running Digital Ice. Neither did opting for FireWire rather than USB 2 - in fact, scan times were slightly slower as a result.
Although SilverFast is by far the more powerful of the two bundled scanning applications, Epson's Scan utility provides the only option for batch scanning with the V700, and the feature is completely automatic, unlike that of the high-end Ai version of SilverFast supplied with the V750. Also included with the Pro model, and worth the extra £150 difference by itself, is X-Rite's latest version (2.6) of MonacoEZcolor, complete with 4 x 5in IT8 target slide, reference files and print for profiling the scanner. Both scanners also bundle Epson's Creativity Suite, ABBYY FineReader 5 Sprint Plus and Photoshop Elements 3.
Both scanners are well built and are only slightly larger than more consumer-orientated devices, but there were some surprising shortcomings. Most centre around the film adaptors. Not only do they sit on the glass platen, increasing the likelihood of Newton rings, fingerprints and dust on the glass, but they seem incredibly flimsy. Further, the 35mm adaptor fails to hold filmstrips appreciably flat. Although not to the extreme that we were expecting, it does compromise sharpness. Most film exhibits some natural curl and far better holders are required at this level. The 35mm mounted slide adaptor produced slightly sharper results, but some tweaking of the holder's built-in height adjustment is necessary for optimum sharpness. Reflective scans are stunning, though, but like most Epson scanners, both models produce extraordinarily soft images that require substantial sharpening in Photoshop.