March 11, 2007

Scanners

Posted in OSX Software, OSX Technical at 8:04 am by Michael Sweeney Media

No, no the B movie from 1981 with no names as the actors and actresses. No offense but none have broke out of the B class based on this film. I am talking about scanners as in my new Epson 4990 USB/Firewire scanner. I have a Canon all in one with a flatbed scanner but I have been working with alot of old pictures and I needed (I wanted? the line blurs at times between “need” and “want”) a better scanner which could also handle film and slides. So after quite a bit of searching around, I decided on the Epson 4990 photoscanner. It is a compromise but a good one. A dedicated slide scanner like the Nikon 9000ED but at 400 US dollars vs. 2,000 for the Nikon, I decided I could live with the differences.

The scanner comes with Epson’s own software with digital ICE and a dedicated version of SilverFast which only works with this Epson. I bought VueScan to fill in the blanks between these two packages but I have to say that for out of the box, the Epson software is pretty nice given their lousy track record with Apple products. I guess that stands to reason since they saw fit to include a firewire port on this scanner along with the typical USB port. This can be very important as a single USB1 device on a USB2 hub will drag all USB links down to USB1 speed 😦 I h ad not known this until very recently. So my new scanner is running firewire and works perfectly on it.

I did some test scans with a picture that is about 2×3 inches and was taken in 1946 of a motor boat (yatch) that my dad worked on as a kid. I started with the default 300 dpi scan but went with 48 bit color depth to get as much detail as possible from such a small image. I then scanned at 400 dpi, 600 dpi, 800 dpi and 1200 dpi. The differences between the 300 and the 1200 scan were astounding. I could have gone higher but you hit a line where the file gets bigger but very little new detail shows up. For this test, the file started at 4meg in TIFF format and stopped at 70meg. The 1200 dpi scan printed very nicely at 8×10 given it started as a 2×3 print.

Here are two scans side by side to show the differences. The left side is 300dpi which is the typical home scanner. On the left side is the 1200 dpi scan which I have zoomed in a couple of steps to really see the lift preserver details. I matched the zoom with the 300 dpi scan and you can see how much the 300 dpi scan degrades compared to the 1200 dpi. For getting and preserving details, getting as much detail is the name of the game and this picture shows why very clearly. This test scan is a raw scan from the Epson without any correction or sharpening.

300 DPI vs 1200DPI

The scanner has a visible line down the top of the lid to see where the scanner is at during the scan which is a nice feature for me with the scanner sitting lower than the desk. It is also very quiet during the scan. The lid has it’s own scanner for scanning film which makes it a bit heavy and you need to remember not to slam it or let it drop. The scanner will handle slides and color film with plastic adapters. It has adapter for medium format film and up to 8×10 film. I have not yet tested any of my slides but based on what I see so far, I dont think it will be much of a disappointment. Most of the new Epson scanners have been rated very well by photographers.

So far the software and the scanner has been perfect, no errors, no crashed apps etc. I would highly recommend this scanner to anyone who has the need (or want) for a high quality scanner for high quality scans of images.

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