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Epson Perfection V500 PhotoGet 'perfect' scans of photos, slides, negatives and documents
Epson America recently started shipping the Perfection V500 Photo, its newest flatbed/film scanner. At a street price of around $250, this scanner is the first in its price range to feature a LED light source instead of a traditional fluorescent lamp. The biggest advantage you'll see from this scanner's use of LEDs is there is no waiting the usual 15 to 30 minutes for fluorescent lamps to warm up before you can get the most accurate scans. Further advantages of Epson's use of LEDs is longer life, lower power consumption, lower scan times, and no mercury being put into our environment from burned out fluorescent tubes.
Opening the box
Upon opening the box you'll see a very handsome looking scanner dressed all in glossy and matte black with a matte silver belt-line and four matte silver buttons (Scan, Copy, E-mail, PDF). That's right, you can scan your document directly to a PDF!
The scanner's top takes up approximately half of the thickness of the scanner. That's because the top half houses a secondary light source and transport carriage for use when scanning transparencies and negatives. Attached to the underside of the top, covering the glass plate, is the white reflective document mat. It's held in place by four tabs. Be very careful when sliding in or removing the mat since dropping it could mark the scanner's bottom plate.
Also in the box are film holders for 35mm and medium format film strips as well as 35mm mounted slides. Again, be careful when using these on top of the glass plate as they can leave marks. I found using a bit of tape helped immensely in carefully lowering and raising the holders off of the glass plate and in lifting the mounted slides out of the holders. Last, there's the ubiquitous power cord with a brick inline, an included USB 2.0 cable to hook the scanner to your computer, software on two CDs and a quick-start guide. A full instruction book is included on one of the CDs.
Setting up the scanner takes about five minutes. Another five to install software and you're ready to go.
Before using the scanner for the first time, remove all the blue shipping tape holding the scanner together. Along the back of the scanner is a ribbed grey slider that unlocks the lower scan assembly and there's a similar slider on the underside of the lid. (Don't forget to unlock both if you're doing film scans!) You also need to attach a plug that leads from the top half of the scanner to the lower. It supplies power to the lights and mechanics in the lid. Then attach the USB cable to scanner and computer. Before turning the scanner on be sure to load the software. (Check Epson's website for any software updates too)
Getting everything up and running.
Since a major feature of this scanner is the capability to scan film, that's what the majority of my review will cover. I dug out some 6x6cm color negatives taken with my old Bronica SQA about 15 years ago as well as a few 35mm slides and color negatives from 7 years ago. Now as many of you out there who have tried, getting accurate scans from color negatives is usually a hair-pulling experience. The problem is the orange mask used by the film manufacturers on color negatives varies from film type and manufacturer, plus they can shift color from age and improper storage. So with much trepidation I inserted my 6x6 film strip into the holder, making sure I was placing the labeled tab on top of the right indentation on the scanner's bed. The film holders help you keep things aligned when scanning and also arrange them along the scanner's 'sweet spot', the center of the glass plate. Be sure you have the emulsion (dull) side of the film facing the scanner's lid. I then started up Epson Scan and selected Professional Mode. I set my Document Type to Film, Film Type to Color Negative Film, Image type to 48-bit color and Resolution to the scanner's native 6400dpi (which always gives the best output). Be aware that you also need to go into Configuration page (the button located at the bottom of the Epson Scan box), and select the format of your film.) Investigate all the settings under Configuration before scanning.
Once I had everything set up for 6x6cm color negative I hit the Preview button and a few seconds later up popped the image preview and it was perfection! The color was spot on the very first try! Seeing that everything looked so well, I went ahead with the scan. As some of you might have realized from my settings above, this scan took a long time, especially since it was working on two 6x6 slides and at such high resolution. The resulting .TIF files were 81MB each! As always the resolution of your scan should match the intended output, whether that be for a webpage, a 4x6 inch print or an 11x14 enlargement.
Next I exchanged the medium format film holder for the 35mm negative/mounted slide holder, inserted four slides chosen at random, three from a cruise I went on years ago and one from a shoot with a model friend, Amy. Again I hit preview and a few seconds later the images popped up on my screen. The software allows you to rotate images individually, and has several different tools for correcting color as you can see from my screen shot above. The Epson Scan software will give you great results but if you have a problem slide, like my fishing boat image, where it was over exposed and had a blue/cyan color shift, then its fairly easy for even a newcomer to correct before the final scan.
|The rear of the unit|
There's also Digital Ice Technology to repair any dust and minor scratches. You'll find Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 for PC and version 3.0 for Mac inside the box as well. Also included is ABBYY Finereader 6.0 Sprint edition, which is an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) application that can scan documents and render it into editable text inside your word processor. It did a perfect job of scanning and reading several types of documents I threw at it including tables, images, various fonts and various sized type.
The V500 is a handsome unit at a very good price. The specs are outstanding, more than sufficient for what the average homeowner might use it for. At startup and before scans the V500 can sound a bit like a miffed R2D2 but for the most part stays fairly quiet during scans. My only concern about this scanner is how well the plastic film holders will hold up. Maybe a switch to using nylon as the material instead of an ABS type of plastic would help as nylon is much tougher. In any case I recommend you handle the holders with kid gloves, literally. It will prevent fingerprints from getting on your slides and negative as well as on the glass surfaces. Cotton gloves will do well.
Another thing I'd like to see is moving some of the items under 'Configure' inside the Epson scanner software to the main panel, like film format. I had a frustrating time finding out why my initial scans weren't coming out right, only to discover the setting I needed was buried inside another panel.
The results I received from this scanner were nothing short of outstanding. I highly recommend this scanner for anyone who wants to scan old or damaged prints, slides and negatives. It does a great job in the office as well for scanning documents.
Epson USA has a $50 rebate in effect till the end of '07 making this scanner around $199, a real deal for Christmas to some deserving photographer in the family.
Robert Jensen has spent most of his 55 years in photography, from the age of 11 when he got his first camera (a Kodak Instamatic) to the present, shooting professionally. From 1971 to 1997 he worked in retail selling photographic equipment to people of all skill levels. For most of that period he was also a manager.
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