Epson Perfection 1200 U Photo

Epson Perfection 1200U Photo scanner.

It's getting to be expected, even taken for granted, that digital imaging technology will get better and cheaper as each season rolls around. But the new Epson Perfection 1200U Photo scanner goes beyond normal expectations. In addition to twice the optical resolution of the previous Perfection 636, now at 1200x2400dpi, and at a price 1/3 to 1/4 the cost of 1200dpi optical resolution scanners of just a few months ago, the perfection is also fast--one of the fastest flat-bed scanners I've tested. The Perfection 1200 series of scanners involves three models: the 1200U which is a USB interface reflective only scanner; the 1200S which provides a SCSI connection instead of USB; and the 1200U Photo which is the USB version with the addition of a film scanning adapter. Prices start at $249 for the 1200U, $299 for the 1200S, and $349 for the 1200U Photo.

The Epson Twain software for the Perfection 1200U Photo is essentially the same interface for Windows and the Macintosh platforms. It provides an accessible, straightforward control of scan size, resolution, and automatic or manual adjustment of image values.
Photos © 1999, David B.Brooks, All Rights Reserved

The Perfection 1200 model scanners are compact with a letter-size scan area. All models scan color at 36-bit depth with an optical density range of 3.0. Both of the "U" models are intended for use with Windows 98 and the Apple iMac as well as the most recent Power Macintosh G3 and G4 models, while the 1200S supports all platforms including Windows 95, 98, NT and all Power Macintosh models, and provides even faster performance than the USB versions. All models include the latest Epson Twain driver, Adobe PhotoDeluxe, NewSoft Presto PageManager, Broderbund The Print-Shop PressWriter, as well as ArcSoft PhotoPrinter 2.0 as part of the software package supplied with the scanners. The transparency unit is also available as an extra cost accessory for the 1200U and 1200S, as is a document feeder for automated scanning.

Using The Epson Perfection 1200U Photo Scanner. Since I acquired a Mac G3 almost a year ago I have found some devices work better on the Mac, and others work better on the Windows platform. So, I installed the software for the Epson Perfection 1200U Photo on both systems. This was a very easy install in both instances. And, I quickly found the Epson Twain driver worked essentially the same, and as effectively on the Mac and Windows. While the scanner was attached to my Windows machine I had a reason to scan some text documents and use OCR to convert the information to a data file. This function worked easily and perfectly on the first attempt, assuring me the Perfection has the general business functionality which a flat-bed scanner should provide.

Another of my favorite test subjects, a field of flowers shot on 120 size Kodachrome scanned with very good color, tonalities, and sharpness, and without any excessive noise because of the high density range of this transparency.

While still on the Windows machine I scanned some color photographic prints I came across while looking for transparencies to test scan. These scanned with great ease, and confirmed Epson's claim that the 1200U is in fact a very speedy scanner. I also learned in the process the Epson Twain driver's color correction tools are essentially the same as they have been for some time, although the automatic adjustment capability seems to be much more accurate and refined. The driver's manual color adjustment controls remain less than intuitive and still rather different from common image editor color adjustment practice. This is not a problem unless a user ignores the how-to documentation provided with the scanner. However, for more typical, normal image quality photos, either prints or film, the automatic adjustment will probably serve most users well, and manual adjustment will only be needed with over or underexposed images, unusual subjects, and high or low-key lighting effects.

Black and white silver-based film scanning has been a problem with some scanners, but definitely not with the Epson Perfection 1200U Photo. This portrait scanned and then printed using an Epson Stylus Photo 1200 provided even better tone qualities than I obtained when I first printed the image on traditional fiber-based paper in my darkroom.

I then moved the scanner to my Mac and undertook the bulk of the film scanning trial. The Epson Twain screen interface adjusts nicely to the selection of transparent media providing a window sized for the 4x5" scan area. Concerned about the optical density range of 3.0 being adequate, I chose a 120, 6x7 Kodachrome transparency for my first scan, one of my ubiquitous flower field photographs. The scan quality was pretty amazing capturing clean tones from off-white flowers to deeply shaded green foliage. Encouraged with this I made several more 120 and 4x5 mostly Ektachrome, Fujichrome, and Agfa-chrome film scans with equally clean color results. Still curious what the Epson 1200U Photo would handle, I then scanned a set of black and white 120 negatives. Some were 6x4.5cm format, so I also pushed the resolution to 1600dpi. The resulting scans were also free of noise that might be caused by reaching the limits of the scanner's density range. In addition, only zooming to 2x on screen in Photoshop, these images were quite sharp with only a hint of stair-step aliasing in fine diagonal lines--not enough to even show up in print output. In fact, some of my film scans set for an output of 12x16" at 300dpi made large prints on 13x19" paper which were quite comparable in quality to images scanned in the past with much more expensive equipment.

Getting the delicate lavender tones of wild iris and the surrounding spring grass balanced providing good fidelity to the entire subject from a color negative scan was quite convincing to me of the Perfection 1200U Photo's capabilities.

Evaluation And Recommendation. The price is sure right for an enthusiastic photographer to get into digital darkroom fun. And for those who have prints and medium or large format film to scan, the Epson Perfection 1200U Photo is a very capable, extremely efficient, and easy scanner to use. It will scan 35mm film and produce a digital image file which will make a good 5x7 print, but it is not fully comparable to a dedicated 35mm film scanner. So it is not a recommended solution if 35mm film is all you want to scan with it. For anyone with a variety of photo formats to scan, the Perfection is aptly named as a choice for an entry-level photo scanner. And, the extensive software bundle is a powerful advantage providing the ability to organize, edit, and get creative with photos, as well as use the scanner's output in all kinds of documents and publications for print, on the web, or attached to e-mail, as well as provide all of the office and text/data document functions including OCR. The scanner combined with a printer will also function as a copier and fax machine through your computer and modem if you don't have one of those and need that functionality.

For more information on the Epson Perfection 1200 series scanners, call (800) 463-7766, or visit their web site at:

Color portraits are probably the most demanding in terms of precise color adjustment, and particularly with a very fair skinned redhead wearing a white dress. The Perfection 1200U Photo met the requirements easily in all respects.

Technical Specifications

Scanner Type: Flat-bed color image scanner
Subscanning Method: Movement of reading head
Photoelectric Device Color: Color CCD line sensor
Maximum Read Area: 8.5x11.7" (21.6x29.7cm)
Transparency Adapter: 4x5" scan area
Light Source: Cold cathode fluorescent lamp
CCD Resolution: 1200dpi optical
Hardware Resolution: 1200x2400dpi maximum
Maximum Resolution: 9600x9600dpi with interpolation
Effective Pixels: 10,200x14,040 (1200dpi)
Image Data: 36 bits per pixel, internal
Color: 24 bits per pixel, external
Gray Scale: 12 bits per pixel, external
Line Art: 8 bits per pixel, external
Optical Density: 3.0 Dmax
Interface: USB (SCSI 1200s)
Dimensions: Width 11.3" (28.7cm), Depth 16.8" (42.7cm), Height 3.5" (9.0cm)
Weight: 9.91 lbs (4.5kg)

I found using SilverFast with the Perfection 1200U Photo provided the best control and color adjustment of scans of color negative films I've yet experienced. This latest feature added to SilverFast supports adjusting the interpretation and conversion from a negative to a positive on an individual basis, making color correction of scans of films for which there is no generic film term provided, much easier and far more successful.

LaserSoft SilverFast Ai 4 For The Epson Perfection 1200

LaserSoft SilverFast first came to my attention when I reviewed the Epson Expression 836XL scanner a while back. It is a professional quality software driver which is also quite easy and efficient to use. By providing the ability to control every dimension of image quality precisely, a user can achieve the highest quality scan results possible from the scanner hardware. Silver-Fast provides an accurate histogram dialog to exactly define the image gamut, as well as a slider controlled curve adjustment tool to get the image tone relationships just right. In addition to an overall color balance adjustment tool, SilverFast has a 12 level selective color adjustment so you can alter the hue, saturation, and brightness of just a very narrow band of color like skin tones, without altering the other colors in an image. Besides having full manual control a wide selection of automated adjustments can be used, optimized for different subjects like portraits or landscapes, which can also be fine-tuned to pre-selected requirements by the user.

LaserSoft SilverFast Ai 4 for the Epson Perfection 1200U Photo is $155. For more information call (941) 383-7496 or visit their web site at: