Epson Perfection V850 Pro Photo Scanner
The V850 is a professional device that has been designed for use in a colour managed workflow. But it’s also ideal for anyone with lots of old photos on film to scan, particularly if they are on a range of different film sizes. Those with only prints to digitise can find cheaper scanners in most multi-function printer/copier/scanner devices.
Users with prior scanning experience should find most facets of the V850 reasonably easy to understand and use. Novice users should allow learning time for which software to use and what settings to apply.
Being ruggedly built, the V850 would make a good choice for schools, workshops and camera clubs who invest in shared equipment.
In our opinion, Epson’s Perfection V850 Photo is the best flatbed photo scanner currently available in Australia.
Announced in September 2014, the Epson Perfection V850 remains the flagship model in the company’s scanning line-up. The highest-featured flatbed photo scanner currently available in Australia, it is the first to come with a calibration kit that lets users integrate scans seamlessly into a colour-managed workflow. Replacing the V750 and V700, which were released in 2006, it offers faster start-up times and lower power consumption.
Angled view of the Perfection V850 Pro scanner. (Source: Epson.)
The cold cathode light source used in the previous models has been replaced by Epson ReadyScan LEDs, which provide more consistent performance over time and don’t need regular recalibration. They also use roughly 20% less power. A claimed 4.0 DMax ensures accurate reproduction of the tonal range and gradation of the originals.
Epson also released a ‘sister’ model, the V800 at the same time as the V850. Both scanners have similar specifications but the V850 adds anti-reflection coatings on the optics and high-reflection coatings on the mirrors.
These are designed to extract the maximum possible image quality from the scans by reducing the amount of stray light entering the system with respect to the usable scanning illumination. This means the image processor can work slightly faster because it is receiving ‘cleaner’ data.
Faster scanning is also possible with the V850 since it comes with two sets film holders and slide holders, while the V800 has only one set. This lets you load another batch of films into the holders while the previous batch is being scanned and is a real time saver when you have a lot of originals on film to scan.
Like the Perfection V700 Photo scanner, the V850 has a dual-lens system that automatically selects a 4800 dpi optical resolution lens for reflective photo scanning or a 6400 dpi lens when using film holders. Its platen has a reflective scan area of 8.5 x 11.7 inches as well as an 8 x 10-inch built-in transparency unit for scanning film.
Six film holders are supplied for mounted 35mm slides (12 at a time), 35mm film strips (3 strips of 6 frames = 18 frames), medium format 120/220 ((1 frame, up to 6 x 20 cm) strip films and 4 x 5-inch film (1 frame). Two sets of the film holders are provided with the V850, against one set for the V800. Sheets of 8 x 10-inch film and old negatives from cameras using non-standard formats can be scanned using the Film Area Guide on the platen.
The V850 in use, showing the film holders for medium format film. (Source: Epson.)
The new holders are more robustly constructed than the ones supplied with the V700 and provide more control over scanning accuracy. Users can fine-tune the height of each holder above the platen to achieve the sharpest possible focus. Anti-Newton-ring glass in the holders flattens film to provide more even scanning across each frame.
The software bundle included with the V850 is more comprehensive, although it still includes the Epson Scan utility, Epson Copy Utility and Epson Event Manager. Also provided is Silverfast SE 8, a sophisticated scanning application with dust, scratch, grain and noise removal functions plus colour restoration. (Buyers of the V800 get a ‘light’ version of the Silverfast SE software, which lacks useful features like multi-exposure, auto frame alignment and support for some functions associated with Kodachrome slides).
An important item in the V850 bundle is X-Rite i1 scanner software, which is supplied in a separate folder with two IT8 targets. This kit can be used to calibrate the scanner for colour accuracy and create a profile for the scanner. It’s not provided with the V800, although it will work with the scanner.
Both scanners include Digital ICE Technologies, which automatically remove most of the surface defects from scanned images, although scans take a bit longer when it is used. The dust removal setting in Epson Scan’s Professional mode adds only a few seconds to scan times but isn’t quite as effective.
Who’s it For?
Essentially, the V850 is a professional device that has been designed for use in a colour managed workflow. But it is also ideal for anyone with lots of old photos on film to scan, particularly if they are on a range of different film sizes. Those with only prints to digitise can find cheaper scanners in most multi-function printer/copier/scanner devices.
Users with prior scanning experience should find most facets of the V850 reasonably easy to understand and use. Novice users will face a steep learning curve and must expect to spend time learning which software to use and what settings to apply.
Being ruggedly built, the V850 would make a good choice for schools, workshops and camera clubs who invest in shared equipment. It could also be worthwhile for the small number of photographers and photographic artists who like to shoot film but must digitise their images for printing and those who need to prepare their images for display online.
The V850 comes in a large box with foam packaging that is split to make it easy to lift out the scanner. The film holders are packed alongside the scanner with the software and printed set-up guide enclosed in a plastic bag.
Once you’ve placed the scanner on your desk, removed the packaging tape (which secures anything that might move during transit), and unlocked the sliding security lock on the rear panel, you can plug it into the mains power, switch it on (via a switch, low on the left side) and connect it to your computer via the supplied USB cable.
It’s only USB 2.0, the main downside to this scanner when most devices are bundled with at least USB 3.0 which provides USB 2.0 backwards compatibility for those with older computers. Your computer should recognise it as a new device and ask you to install the software, which is provided on an optical disk. Software installation is straightforward and takes a couple of minutes.
The SilverFast 8 SE Plus software is supplied on a separate disk, along with a printed user guide in seven different languages. Installation is as easy as installing Epson Scan.
Installing SilverFast SE Plus.
When you’re scanning through Epson Scan, three scanning modes are supported: Full Auto, Home and Professional. The Full Auto mode is designed for quick scanning and only provides basic corrections for dust removal and colour restoration. Preview scans are not carried out.
The Home mode interface.
Users must set the Document Type and Image Type in the Home mode, which lets you set the resolution and provides basic adjustments for brightness and colour plus preview scans. Adjustments like descreening, colour restoration, backlight correction and Digital ICE technology can be applied to colour and greyscale images.
Adjustment windows in the Professional mode.
The Professional mode brings in a set of buttons that access an auto exposure setting plus histogram, tone correction, brightness, contrast and colour balance sliders and a colour palette with a graphical interface for adjusting mid-tone levels. Additional buttons for unsharp masking, grain reduction, colour restoration and backlight correction are also provided and these – along with the backlight correction control – are adjustable.
Scanning with SilverFast 8 SE Plus is more complex. When you open the software you can choose between using the Workflow Pilot (a blue icon) or deactivating the Workflow Pilot (the icon turns red). The Workflow Pilot is recommended for new users because it moves through the necessary steps in the correct order.
Scanning a batch of mounted 35mm slides with the Workflow Pilot.
Although not particularly successful with B&W negatives or film strips, the Workflow Pilot was able to identify and mark the frames when a set of mounted slides in the dedicated holder was previewed. But it invariably delivered dark scans, regardless of the type of original image we scanned.
A scan of the same 20-year-old transparency done with the two software applications. The image on the left was scanned with Epson Scan in Professional mode and selected manually from the preview screen before initiating the scan. The one on the right was scanned with S8ilverFast SE using auto frame selection.
Even with an original, correctly-exposed print, SilverFast produced relatively dark results with over-saturated colours, as shown above.
To use the scanner in an independent manner, the Workflow Pilot can be deactivated, as shown in the workspace above. Scans of B&W negatives tended to show colour casts (shown below) and, even though the software provides plenty of adjustments, they seemed to make very little difference to the outcomes of our scans.
Neither application was successful at completely removing dust and scratches from old negatives and transparencies and we think it’s unreasonable to expect perfection in this area. Scans of old photos made with both software supplications invariable required additional editing, both to remove dust and scratches and restore hues and tones before the resulting images could be printed.
Enlargements of the two scans of a 20-year-old transparency show neither application could remove all the blemishes that had accumulated over time.
More recent images on film should have few dust and fibre marks. It’s worth spending time to clean images on film before embarking on scans.
If you’re scanning colour films and prints with the bundled Silverfast software you should consider creating profiles for your scanner since they will be fully supported in a colour managed workflow. It’s less important when you use Epson Scan, which provides limited profile support (only ICC Version 2) but it may still be worth the time spent on profiling.
The i1 Scanner software is supplied on a DVD so it was not surprising to find it had been updated. When we loaded it into our computer and applied the required serial number from the packaging, we were directed to XRite’s website where a new version was available to download. (Note: With each installation of the software, the computer must be re-started.)
Downloading the latest version of i1 Profiler.
The software needs images at certain resolutions to automatically detect the targets with the Auto Crop setting. For best results, scan the target at the following resolutions:
Reflective – 200 ppi
4 x 5-inch transparency – 300 ppi
35mm transparency – 800 ppi
X-Rite ColorChecker 24 and ColorChecker SD do not have specific resolution requirements but at least 150 ppi is recommended.
The recommended target settings for i1 Profiler.
The target is scanned at the appropriate resolution using Epson Scan. Make sure you turn off the colour controls for profiling by selecting No Color Correction and save the scan as an uncompressed TIFF file.
Scanning the supplied X-Rite 4×5 colour transparency target with Epson Scan.
When you load the scanned target into i1 Profiler, you may be asked to indicate the crop marks by clicking on the corners or the actual target image. A green half square appears with each click.
Selecting the crop marks on the target.
When you click on the Next button the software will superimpose green squares on each point where it will collect data for profiling. It will also require you to select a reference file for the target so it can match readings from the data points with ideal values for each patch. A dropdown menu provides a list of reference points allowing you to select the one that is printed on the target.
Matching the target to the reference point in the software’s database.
You’re given the opportunity to name the profile – or you can simply accept the software’s default setting. Clicking on ‘Save Profile’ saves it to the appropriate folder in your computer.
You may see an error message like this appear when you save a profile. If so, you should go back to Epson Scan and re-scan the target, making any necessary adjustments.
This screen shows a usable profile has been saved in your computer.
Using profiles can save you time when working with scanned colour images in your favourite editing software. But you may still need to fine-tune image tonality and apply after-scan adjustments to sharpness and cropping.
But it’s only really worthwhile when you plan to scan transparencies (slides). If you’re working mainly with B&W originals and/or colour negatives, it’s not worth the effort since you don’t need a profile for monochrome work and the software is unable to profile colour negatives.
In addition, the most accurate profiles will come when the target is created with the same film as your transparencies. IT8 targets for transparency scanning are available from specialist suppliers.
We were fortunate to be able to borrow a 1951 USAF MIL-STD-150A standard target to enable us to measure the resolution performance of the scanner. It consisted of a 20 mm pattern containing nine groups of bars, each containing six elements, printed in chrome on a 50mm square glass slide.
The lines reduce in size and spatial frequency, spanning from settings easily within the range of the unaided eye, down to the diffraction limits of conventional light microscopy. The V850 we tested was able to resolve all but the finest line sets, as shown in the example below.
The 1951 USAF MIL-STD-150A standard target shown with the test results from the V850 scanner at 100% magnification. The red boxes show the relative sections of the target used for assessment in our tests.
In use, the V850 turned in an equally impressive performance, particularly in its 48-bit mode, where it was able to resolve the grain in both 35mm and 4×5-inch films. Even normally difficult originals – both slides and negatives – produced excellent results. Although the scanner could be heard while in operation (a desirable feature), it was comparatively quiet.
We found Epson Scan to be a more reliable performer than the SilverFast application. The scans we made were lower in contrast and closer to the original image so that’s the application we’d recommend in most situations.
Crops from scanned images showing dust marks left after dust removal was used as part of the scanning process.
The bundled SilverFast SE software had a more sophisticated interface that promised a wider range of hue and tonal adjustments. But it tended to be quirky and wasn’t as well set up for scanning B&W negatives. It also had issues with finding frames on film strips and tended to produce relatively dark scans.
The main advantage of the SilverFast software is that it provides better profile support and comes with specific profiles a wide variety of films, including older emulsions. This can be helpful when you’re scanning old colour negatives as well as for slides.
Both software applications scan the entire platen in Preview mode. Silverfast SE is faster, taking approximately 30 seconds while Epson Scan takes between 52 and 55 seconds. Scanning times for prints and films depend on how much of the platen has to be scanned.
Preview scans with Epson Scan quickly identify image areas, even if the originals are on film strips.
Selecting a precise area, such as an individual film frame, reduces the time required, although the selected resolution has a greater impact on the overall scanning time. Epson Scan is much better at identifying image areas, regardless of the original film format and whether transparencies are mounted or scanned as film strips.
The table below shows average scanning times recorded in our tests, along with the resulting TIFF and JPEG file sizes. Note: 48-bit files can only be saved in TIFF format.
|Original||Resolution (dpi)||Bit depth||Scan time||File Size (TIFF/JPEG)|
|A4 colour print||300||24||16 sec.||25.6MB/8.7MB|
|18 x 35mm film frames; no corrections||2400||24||16 min. 53 sec||av. 1.0MB JPEG per frame|
|18 x 35mm frames
|2400||48||20 min 41 sec||av. 35MB TIFF per frame|
|1 x 35mm frame||2400||48||1 min. 11 sec.||36.4MB TIFF|
|1 x 35mm frame||4800||48||2 min. 16 sec.||146MB TIFF|
|1 x 35mm frame||6400||48||3 min. 4 sec.||259MB TIFF|
|1 x 35mm frame||12,800||48||4 min. 40 sec.||1.00GB TIFF|
|12 x 35mm slides||2400||24||9 min 4 sec to 12 min. 32 sec||17.3 – 35MB TIFF|
|With SilverFast SE|
|Original||Resolution (dpi)||Bit depth||Scan time||File Size (TIFF/JPEG)|
|A4 colour print||300||24||2 min 18 sec||25.6MB/8.7MB|
|18 x 35mm film frames; no corrections||3200||not specified||21 min. 05 sec||av. 45MB TIFF per frame|
|1 x 35mm frame||2400||48||1 min. 15 sec.||46.1MB TIFF|
|1 x 35mm frame||4800||48||2 min. 24 sec.||150.5MB TIFF|
|1 x 35mm frame||6400||48||3 min. 18 sec.||277MB TIFF|
|1 x 35mm frame||12,800||48||4 min. 50 sec.||1.14GB TIFF|
|B&W negative||600||16||75 sec.||24.9MB JPEG|
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Type: Flatbed scanner with fixed platen and moving head carriage
Scanning head: Alternative 6 lines colour Matrix CCD with Micro Lens
Light source: White LED, IR LED with ReadyScan LED Technology
Platen size: 216 x 297 mm
Effective pixels: 37,760 x 62,336 pixels at 6400 dpi / 40,800 x 56,160 pixels at 4800 dpi
Film handling: 35mm slides (12 at a time), 35mm film strips (3 strips of 6 frames = 18 frames), Medium format film, 4 x 5-inch film (1 frame)
Optical resolution: 4800 dpi main scan; optical resolution by 6 line CCD with 122,400 pixels (for photos and film area guide); 6400 dpi main scan; optical resolution by 6 line CCD with 113,280 pixels (for film in film holders); 9600 dpi with Micro Step
Output resolution: 25 to 12,800 dpi in 1 dpi steps
Optical density: 4.0 DMax
Bit depth: 48-bit (16 bits per pixel per colour)
Scanning speed: Full colour/monochrome – approx. 10.8 msec/line at 4800 dpi
Image processing: Grain reduction, Dust removal, Print Image Matching II, Colour palette tool for Easy Colour Fix, Backlight Correction, Colour Restoration, Unsharp Mask with Noise Reduction, De-Screening with Document Type Optimizer, Digital ICE Technologies (for film and photo), Tone Curve Adjustment with Histogram
Interfaces: Hi-Speed USB – compatible with USB 2.0 specification;
Power consumption: Operation 23W, Standby Mode 12W, Sleep Mode <1.5W, Power Off 0.3W; Energy Star Compliant
Dimensions (wxdxh): 503 x 308 x 152 mm
Weight: 6.6 kg
Bundled software: Epson Copy Utility, Epson Event Manager, Epson Scan, LaserSoft Imaging SilverFast SE 8 Plus, X-Rite i1 software
Distributor: Epson Australia; (02) 8899 3666; www.epson.com.au
RRP: AU$1399; US$1149
- Build: 9.0
- Features: 9.0
- Software: 9.0
- Performance: 9.0