Fortunately, Epson has been consistent, changing only what they could improve
while preserving a familiar workflow and approach to scanning. This consistency
includes a rich bundle of software options. And this, of course, includes the
premium scanner software from LaserSoft, SilverFast, which was introduced for
the first time with the first Epson Expression model I used and tested. I used
this software for all my scanning tests.
Some years ago I was testing a new 120mm f/4 macro lens for the
Rollei 6000-series SLR camera, and shot these ocean bouys piled
up at the Long Beach, California, harbor, with camera securely locked
down on a heavy Gitzo tripod. The negative on Agfapan 100 is incredibly
sharp, and I thought a good selection to test the fluid mount capabilities
of the Perfection V750-M Pro scanner. All of the advantages of edge-to-edge
sharpness, minimal dust and scratches being scanned, as well as
very subdued grain, were readily evident in the 24x24" by
300dpi image file that resulted.
I began with large format transparency film scans as I expected they would
yield predictable, high-quality results--and that is exactly what I found.
In particular, the ASF Digital ICE dirt and scratch cleaning ran more efficiently
and effectively than with previous models, closer to the performance I would
expect with a dedicated film scanner.
I moved along to progressively smaller film formats, ending with two dozen 35mm
E-6 slides, which I also scanned with my Konica Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400
II, outputting 16x24" by 300dpi images with both units. These files provided
the basis for an evaluation to answer that often-asked question, can a flat-bed
scanner produce comparable results to a dedicated film scanner? (You'll
need to read my concluding remarks to get the answer.)
I next undertook a very large set of scans of black and white silver-based film,
beginning with 4x5 sheet film and moving progressively to smaller and smaller
formats. In the past I've found that software conversion from a negative
to a positive image is often insufficiently smooth, usually yielding pronounced
transitions between levels of tone and insufficient shadow detail. So I have,
for some years, scanned black and white film as if it were a positive. I would
output a raw unadjusted 48-bit file which I would then open in Photoshop and
gently adjust in stages before and after inverting the image from a negative
to a positive. With this latest version of SilverFast Ai 6 and the new Epson
V750 scanner I found that with all but a few extremely challenging negatives
I could do the conversion and adjustment as a part of the scanning process using
SilverFast, and obtain very satisfactory results.
On one of my many trips to Italy I happened to be traveling alone
and had lots of free time. I took just one camera, an all-time favorite
folding, pocket Fuji GS 645, with rolls of 120 black and white in
my other jacket pocket, on many long walks exploring several towns
and cities like Milan and Savona. Scanning the resulting negatives
with the Perfection V750-M Pro I have now an even greater appreciation
of what that favorite camera afforded in pictures of what I discovered
on those explorations.
With this positive experience under my belt I now had the confidence to take
on some fluid mount scans. I concentrated on silver-based black and white 120
format negatives because it provided the most advantages using the fluid mount
technique. The reason for this is that cleaning dust, dirt, and scratches is
a problem with black and white scanning unless the film is fresh and in pristine
condition. My black and white library is mostly old film material that has already
seen a lot of use in a wet darkroom, so "pristine" is not how I'd
describe them. Digital ICE takes care of getting clean scans with all E-6 and
C-41 process films, and SilverFast's SRD dirt and scratch software cleaning
utility does Kodachrome pretty well, but not black and white. That's where
the fluid mounting comes in--it fills in scratches in the film base and,
through wetting, makes the fine dust virtually transparent. This greatly reduces
any cleaning of a scanned image. Plus, as I suggested earlier, with 120 film
cut into individual frames the fluid mounting provides support to keep the film
securely flat and in the scanner's focus plane.
This is all accomplished by first putting a few drops of Kami mounting fluid
on the fluid mount glass support, then placing the film, backing down, on the
fluid and pressing out any air bubbles. Then put more fluid on top, the emulsion
side, and cover that with a Mylar sheet, again forcing out any air bubbles.
Finally, tape all four sides of the Mylar at its edges with the tape extending
onto the glass. (I used blue painter's masking tape in lieu of the special
Kami tape, not having any of the real stuff.) Then place the fluid mount framed
glass support on the scanner's scan area like any other film holder and
proceed to make a scan in the same way as you'd do any other film scan.
This is pretty easy to do, and I'd expect anyone with wet darkroom experience
will adapt to it readily. But it does take a careful and disciplined (fastidious)
approach to keep everything spotlessly clean to obtain the advantages the method
can achieve. At the end of the process of scanning another advantage of the
Kami mounting fluid becomes evident. The very thin layer of fluid remaining
on the film dries in a few seconds leaving no apparent residue. So being cautious
about applying any abrasive wiping to film, as soon as the film frame is dry
I just put it back into its protective envelope. Just after writing this
I was informed that Aztek, in response to Epson V750-M Pro interest, has produced
both an instructional video and an Acrobat PDF file that is available on their
A low range of tones and limited colors in an image may seem to
be easy to reproduce in a scan, but often the opposite is true because
it is so easy to overcorrect and lose some of the subtle values.
This fashion portrait made in the 1960s on old E-3 Ektachrome scanned
with the Epson Perfection V750-M Pro produced so clean and refined
a result that it looks like it could have been made yesterday instead
of 40 years ago.
Evaluating The Scans
The first question is: Is there a distinguishable difference in a TIFF image
file of the same size and resolution made with a dedicated film scanner and
the same film image scanned with the Epson Perfection V750-M Pro? If you put
both images on screen zoomed in to 100 percent, yes you will notice there are
differences. But that is like going to a gallery or museum and examining an
Ansel Adams print with a 10x loupe with your nose pressed against the surface
of the print. For me, a rational, real-world test is in how that image reproduces
in a large print. I made numerous 13x19 test prints with my Epson R2400 of most
of the scans I produced with the V750 scanner. On that basis I had to come to
the conclusion that it is very hard to distinguish any advantage a dedicated
film scanner offers when scanning large and medium format film, and that there
are subtle differences when scanning from 35mm film. There is a proviso to that
assessment--it only applies to fine-grained ISO 100 and slower 35mm films,
as the Epson Perfection V750-M Pro does progressively less well scanning faster,
grainier films. The faster the film and the larger the grain the less image
sharpness and detail is recorded successfully. I have to assume this is due
largely to the fact that dedicated film scanners use three-line CCD sensors
and contemporary flat-beds like the new Epsons use a six-line CCD sensor, with
quite different optics as well.
As I suggested earlier with color negative and transparency films, excepting
Kodachrome, the Digital ICE capability in the Epson Perfection V750-M Pro is
now close to par in efficiency and effectiveness with dedicated film scanners.
When scanning Kodachrome slides rather effective cleaning can be achieved with
SilverFast's SRD utility as part of the scan process. The results scanning
black and white silver-based negatives with the fluid mount definitely indicated
it does in fact provide a reduction in dust and scratches, as well as less apparent
graininess with some fine-grained films. This latter attribute varies between
film brands and the film developer used. Kodak's Plus-X and Ilford's
FP-4 processed in a high dilution mix of Kodak's HC-110 produced scans
with almost no visible grain, while Agfapan 100 and Kodak's Verichrome,
both processed in 1:20 Agfa Rodinal, scanned with fine but more apparent graininess.
Tri-X processed in Acufine scanned with just about the same very apparent graininess
using the fluid mount method as scanning the film dry with the standard film
Conclusions And Recommendations
These are occasions when I really enjoy being proven wrong. In this case I stand
corrected in my support of what had become conventional wisdom--that flat-bed
consumer scanners do not provide a film scanning capability competitive with
dedicated film scanners. The Epson V750-M Pro clearly sets that assumption on
its head. With some minor reservations, these new V700 model Epson scanners
produce scan performance and quality comparable to what can be achieved with
popular dedicated film scanners.
There is, however, even greater significance in this progress in performance
and capabilities--the affordable cost and the extended versatility of these
units. Many photo enthusiasts, I am sure, would prefer to choose just one scanner
at a modest price that will provide a means to perform all of their scanning
needs. Should present owners of dedicated film scanners trade in what they have
for a Perfection V750-M Pro? There may be some arguments in favor if, for instance,
that dedicated film scanner lacks Digital ICE. But, in general, recent dedicated
film scanners still provide good and equal service and performance, so no advantage
would be gained--unless, of course, that scanner is limited to 35mm film.
But the new Epsons provide a very wide range of capabilities for all formats
and fairly large print sizes with very little compromise.
The estimated street price of the Perfection V750-M Pro is $799. The estimated
street price of the Perfection V700 Photo with SilverFast SE, without fluid
mount, is $549.
For more information, contact Epson America, Inc., 3840 Kilroy Airport Way,
Long Beach, CA 90806; (800) 463-7766, (562) 981-3840; www.epson.com.