Over the last 2 years Epson has produced some exceptional scanners, the 4870 was a cracker, followed a year later by the 4990, which improved the package even further. In short they’re great scanners for both flat reflective originals such as photo prints or documents but they also excelled at film scanning as well. This is a real achievement particularly when you consider that flatbed scanners are commonly seen as the Jack-of-all-trades rather than a master of one.
The Epson V700 arrives then with a hard act to follow, not just from its Epson predecessors but particularly when you consider the likes of HP and Canon are also producing some great flatbed models. All this in the face of the growing digicam and shrinking film market; either way, there are still millions upon millions of prints and slides out there that need to be digitised.
So on to the V700. The new scanner has a 6-line CCD sensor with micro lenses utilising a dual resolution system using two scanning lenses. There’s a Super Resolution lens, 6400 x 9600-pixel mode for film scanning and a High Resolution lens for 4800 x 9600-pixel scanning for reflective originals and media.
A 4.0 DMax optical density means detail in shadows and highlights are all safely captured and you get (up to) a 48-bit colour depth capture as well, so there’s more than enough detail for some very big enlargements indeed, if you need them. USB 2.0 and FireWire IEEE 1394 connectivity provides plenty speed in terms of chugging all that scan data from the V700 to your PC with scan times of around 24-seconds for an A4, 600ppi reflective document and around 44-seconds for a 2400ppi 35mm colour slide scan.
One of the things that impact you when you’ve freed the V700 form its packaging is the squared off, blocky design; it’s definitely function over form. You get a comprehensive array of attachments for mounted 35mm slide scanning (12-frames at a time), a flimsy 35mm film strip attachment (for up to four film strips totaling 24-frames at a time), a dual 120 film strip holder, two 5 x 4-inch sheet film holder and a film area guide attachment that enables you to put any size original that will fit on the scanner.
A document mat protects the film scanning hood when you’re scanning reflective originals and slots into lugs on the inside of the hood so you have plenty of scope and versatility in terms of originals, whatever you need to scan.
Software includes Epson’s rather dated-looking Epson Scan (TWAIN) interface (through Photoshop for example) that provides an all Auto mode, a Home mode and a Professional mode, but given the market this scanner’s intended to address, the Auto and Home modes could be binned in my view.
You also get a limited version of SilverFast imaging software, SilverFast SE, which provides a more advanced level of scanning. I used the Epson Scan interface (through Photoshop CS) in all the modes and it has to be said, the results are remarkable. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The V700 is simple to use if you just want to start scanning quickly. A press of the Start button – incidentally, the only button on the scanner apart from the on/off button – fires up the scanner software and away you go. You can pick from Scan and Copy, great if you want to scan directly to your printer, where the scanner can be used like a copier. Or you can choose to Copy and Fax; self-explanatory really, an Attach to E-mail mode does exactly that and Use Image mode allows you to drag an image into, say, a Word document. So plenty of flexibility is provided here once more in terms of using your scans across a variety of uses.
Scanning tools include Digital ICE technology, an advanced dust removal and image correction processing system, you also get unsharp masking, "normal" dust removal software and colour restoration, which helps correct overexposed or faded originals as it scans. However, all that extra processing has a knock on effect to scanning times. The 44-seconds for 2400ppi 35mm slide scan becomes almost 10-minutes with the entire repertoire of processing tools applied. By the way, I’ve included a couple of resized 35mm slide scans (see images) one with colour adjustments made but no dust removal (the distant yacht scan) and a scan of Harley Davidson which is pretty much perfect.
That kit aside, in professional mode you’ve got a full range of more usual editing adjustments such as Levels, saturation, exposure and tone control and using the marquee tool, you can apply specific adjustments to specific areas of a scan, all sorted in the preview window.
The latter reveals a series of thumbs (auto cropped after the main scan is commenced although this feature can be turned off if required) each of which can be dealt with individually, applying any changes you want to each thumb as you go.
Colour, detail, sharpness and just about any criteria you want to measure is superb. A couple of demerits are the way the colour restoration software seems to apply a massive amount of correction by default, so tweaking is almost always required and the Digital ICE while excellent is darn slow. But overall, scan quality can be summed up as… stunning.
Epson has been pushing dedicated film scanner, scan quality for some years and now, with the V700 the results are certainly better than most dedicated film scanners. When you realise this scanner is under £400 (around £399 actually), and it is better than most dedicated film scanners that would cost double its price, it’s remarkable value for money. And when you dial in the fact that you can scan almost anything you can fit onto the glass platen, as opposed to dedicated scanners, which have a fixed scanning format, it all adds up to make the V700 simply superb.
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