Wednesday, March 30, 2011

REVIEW: Epson Perfection V750-M Pro Scanner –Part I


This and all images in this article are
Copyright Ron Martinsen unless otherwise noted.

Once upon a time back in the early 1990’s I purchased a Hewlett Packard Scanjet IIcx and until I got my Epson Perfection V750-M Pro Scanner, I hadn’t seen any scanner over the years out perform it. On paper most scanners – even the ones included with cheap multi-function printers, sound great, but like most things when you get them home they are an exercise in frustration for anything beyond just casual use.

I’m proud to report that with the V750, Epson has made a proper scanner. I now find myself using it for daily tasks like making photo copies, to important tasks like scanning color images for use on the web, to the most complex task – bringing film negatives into the digital world.

Setting up the Scanner

Beyond a bunch a tape and a the usual lock found on scanners, it was a snap to set up the scanner. I used both the USB and 1394 connectors and couldn’t observe a difference between the two. I stuck with the 1394 just because I was low on USB ports.

The scanner comes with X-Rite EZColor for creating scanner profiles. It was easy to use and seemed to do a great job. I liked having a calibrated scanner profile right out of the gate, so I was a happy camper. 

For my testing I used a Dell XPS 420 running Windows 7 64-bit and the latest versions of all of the software that I could find on the product web sites.

It was a nice plug and play experience with EPSON Scan and the excellent Copy Utility software:

EPSON Copy Utility for Perfection Scanners
Copy Utility works great for the quick and dirty document copy tasks
I often use it to output to Adobe PDF or Microsoft XPS

I’m a big fan of this user-interface (UI) and ease of use and reliability.

I was also able to enjoy the EPSON Scan software which I found to be very good, reliable and easy to use in a variety of intelligently designed modes (i.e., Full Auto, Home, Office, Professional). This really keeps things relevant for those who get a scanner like this for non-Photography reasons. Photographers should stick with Pro though for the best results.

I found the scanner operation to be quiet (impossible to hear when not scanning) and and dependable. I never had driver issues on the PC.

Getting Modern Day Film Results to Test


Canon EOS 3 (35mm Film Camera) with EF 24-105mm IS USM Lens

I wanted to test film prints, versus film negatives versus pure digital so started by capturing some images in a controlled environment to test with.

I started by taking shots of a friends house with my Canon 5D Mark II and my 24-105mm lens on a tripod using ISO 400 to match the film that I had in the film camera. After some experimentation I settled on f/22 for 1/60 second because I wanted to compare the effects of diffraction of modern day DSLR’s against a film camera using the same lens.

I then swapped the lens to the film camera and dialed in the same settings for an identical exposure on both cameras (ignoring film vs. digital sensor differences). My film camera was using a fresh roll of Kodak UltraMax ISO 400.

Developing the Film

When I shot film I honestly didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have the benefits of EXIF data and instant feedback to educate me so I despite the fact that I shot film since 1984 – I sucked. Really, I was terrible. I was a spray and pray shooter who developed his prints at a great lab for many years only to come away with the occasional good shot. I didn’t shoot slides and I had no interest in black and white.

When my first son was born in 1998 I did what we all did back then – I had a cheap Olympus point and shoot film camera and my old Canon AE-1 and I still sprayed and prayed. I’d get my shots developed at the drug store and when they sucked I blamed myself. I never blamed the film or the lab.

Fast forward to this exercise and I decided to do the modern day equivalent – I took my film to Costco for one hour developing. At first I was happy when I saw the prints because these prints were probably some of my best film prints from a technical perspective (even the ones not on the tripod), so I was satisfied with the results.

When I compared my prints with my display I realized they weren’t quite as good as I thought they were – in fact, I’d say they sucked. What’s worse is that they cropped the top and bottom of the image off without asking me.

Now the challenge was to use the scanner to see if the problem was me, the camera, the lab or the film.

EPSON Scan 3.83US – Pro Mode – Costco Print

To turn my print into a scanned image, I started by using EPSON Scan in Professional Mode using values I thought an average intelligent consumer would reasonably make (i.e., I didn’t troll forums for the evils of any settings I chose). Based on my prior testing I knew I hated the adjustments features of this app so I ignored all of them and basically chose to do a 48-bit photo at my Epson 3880 printer resolution at 100%.

After a little experimentation, I discovered that the method that yielded the most accurate results to what I saw on the Costco print under a GTI light box was the TIFF file format converted over to sRGB in Photoshop CS4. While this image is a bit more grainy than it appears in real life, this is an accurate representation of what I hold in my hand from Costco:

Click for a larger version
16-bit Adobe RGB Tiff converted to sRGB 8-bit JPEG
in Photoshop CS4 64-bit on Windows 7 64-bit
NO Post-Processing

Here’s are the settings I used to capture the image above:


Notice my Scanner Profile was used


Costco - TIFF Settings
This resulted in a 17.1MB 16-bit image file

I also tried BMP, JPEG, and PRINT Image Match II TIFF but none yielded results more accurate to the original than the TIFF settings shown above.

To save the image as a sRGB JPEG in Photoshop I used the following settings when converting:

Costco - Convert to Profile
Color space Conversion

Costco - CS4 JPEG
Save Options

I made no edits in Photoshop, even though I normally would do that with a scanned image.

The results were accurate but a little softer and noisier (probably due to the luster paper used by Costco) than the original.

SilverFast AI Epson 6.6.2r4 – Costco Print

One of the advantages of the Pro edition of the scanner is improved software, so I decided to use the product that Epson scanning gurus brag about – SilverFast AI, but I used the Epson edition that comes with the scanner.

Getting things working with SilverFast AI wasn’t easy. After an email exchange with support I discovered that SilverFast AI has a limitation that only one Scanner device can be active at a time so I had to shut down my Canon MP560 printer which had a scanner in it. Once I did that I could run the software, but sadly I couldn’t calibrate it because SilverFast wants you to use their IT8 chart – not the one that comes with X-Rite EZColor (included with the Scanner). Fortunately I could go to the CMS tab of Options and use my EZColor generated scanner profile as shown here:


My SIlverFast Ai Color Management Settings

After a little experimenting, I settled on these settings for my scan:


My Capture Settings

I didn’t find the sharpen to make a huge difference on or off so I just left it on (which is a difference from what I did on the EPSON Scan). I also chose to do a 48-bit scan to a 16-bit TIFF that I converted to 8-bit sRGB as I did in EPSON Scan. Here’s the result where you can mouse in and out to compare the two from each other:

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after
SilverFast AI vs. EPSON Scan Pro
(mouse in and out)
NO Post-processing

They are different, but both are pretty close to the original so I was happy with the scan. I think the EPSON Scan image was probably a tad more accurate, but this would be good enough for me for real world work.

To Be Continued…

There’s lots to cover so I’m breaking this article into multiple parts. The next installment will show how to get better results by scanning the negatives. I also intend to show how your DSLR photo processing workflow can serve to improve original scans from this scanner significantly. You can find a link below for more installments…

Lean more about this scanner at Epson’s website or order on today at B&H.

Disclosure

Epson provided this scanner for my review. I may get a commission if you use the links in this article, so please use them and help support the blog!

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