So far, it's a superior choice. Allows easy film use in the digital age.
Dec 31, 2009 (Updated Apr 26, 2010)
Review by davek12 .
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Excellent speed and image quality, good price, holds 12 negatives.
Cons:Difficult initial setup for me, odd resolution choices, small number of slides fit.
The Bottom Line: This scanner provides an effective $200 way for people to integrate digital and film.
I bought this scanner to scan negatives, as I had it's predecessor (HP reviewed on here as well). This one is so far so clearly superior that I know I should've bought it to begin with. If you read no further, I'll go ahead and say that this is a cost-effective way to scan negatives.
Recommend this product?
Firstly, I will divulge that I couldn't get it to work at first. It was properly recognized, but wouldn't work using several different plug arrangements. A 30 minute phone call to tech support did get it working, which involved simply restarting one of Windows' services.
Once working, it was practically a revelation compared to my (year-old still current model) HP. The scans were faster and sharper and with better color right off the bat. Scans look better with one pass on this one than they did with six on the HP. I tried the Epson software to make sure that it worked, but I went back to using VueScan for making my raw files to correct in Photoshop. Unlike HP's software, Epson's did properly detect each frame in the carrier for automatic cropping. As far as I could tell, the "Digital ICE" scratch and dust correction worked properly on Epson's software, but isn't supported by VueScan.
As other reviewers have noted, the negative carrier does seem a little flimsy, but I doubt that a careful adult user is going to have a problem with breaking it. Loading very curly negatives in it might be a little problematic, as only one end of the strips is held down while you manually flatten the others and snap the other part of the carrier in place. While the Epson can scan 2 strips of 6 at a time vs. the HP's one, the HP's negative carrier is a little bit easier to use. That's probably the only thing that the HP did better. Being able to scan 12 at a time alone is worth the difference in loading trouble as it can be left to scan 12 while you're gone.
Sadly, Epson only found room to scan 4 mounted slides in the same space that could scan 12 35mm negatives. Though I don't often shoot slides, that certainly makes them far less convenient to scan than negatives, as scanning a 36 exp roll would require 9 reloadings of the scanner with mounted slides vs 3 for unmounted film.
Unique in this price category, the V500 can scan medium-format 120 or 220 film in an included carrier. The number of frames at a time would depend on which format the film was shot in, but the carrier only holds one strip at a time. That probably means 3-4 pictures at a time, but I don't shoot medium format, so I'm not 100% sure.
The single opaque paper scan that I made as a test looked as it should. As with the film, the color and contrast were good.
Two huge improvements in use are both related to its state of the art LED lighting. There is no warm-up time prior to the first scan, and it puts off practically no heat. The mean failure time for LED lights is amazingly high, so I believe that this scanner should provide very consistent scans over a long life. That's a huge benefit. It is optically designed well as there weren't any lighting hot spots on the scans. CCDs usually are more consistent when not heated, so that's another benefit.
At any given resolution, the Epson was quite a bit faster than the HP. The resolution choices aren't the ones I'm used to, and seem to have wide gaps between them. Specifically, the choices when scanning a 35mm negative in the middle allow for either a roughly 3.5 megapixel image, or a 15. 15 megapixels can obviously be converted down, but 15mp TIF files are quite large. I would prefer to have a setting that allows for an 8mp file, but this is a fairly minor problem. The 3.5mp files from the Epson look better than the 8mp ones from the HP. Unsharpened JPG files from a 3.5mp Epson scan are a similar size to the sharpened 8mp ones from the HP. That means that there's a similar level of detail in a smaller resolution file, and is an impressive performance. For a few special ones, I may scan some 15mp files, which should be sufficient for huge enlargements.
Overall, I'd have to say that the Epson V500 is not just a superior scanner to my old HP, but an actually good one and a good deal. For about $200, it's a good way to scan old and new negatives to share online. It's legitimately good enough to let you shoot film because you want to, as I do. You could buy a good 35mm AF camera at a thrift store for a child and get far better 3.5mp files than from the cameras currently targeted to children. Let the kids take some pictures! Walmart will develop a roll with no prints for less than $2. Scan your dad's old pictures of the Grand Canyon-they'll be better than you thought.
Update: After a few months of use, I'm still mostly pleased with the V500. I have gotten occasional glitches that have required a rescan, but they're probably not Epson's fault. I'm sure that they're due to interference over my (probably overloaded) USB hub.
I need to retract my prior statement that Digital ICE doesn't work with VueScan. It does. However, Digital ICE doesn't work if you're outputting a RAW file, which is a part of the way that I scan.
I have tried Epson Scan, the included software a few more times, just to better be able to judge how well it works. I can safely say that most people would be happy with it. It does a pretty good job of getting colors right, my only caveat is that it defaults to unsharp mask being on, and it oversharpens the scans. That leaves visible halos on a lot of things. As long as you remember to turn that off, Epson Scan produces scans that are as good as a single-pass scan with VueScan is. It had trouble automatically framing some slides that had sunsets (where the lower part was a silhouette), but otherwise did a superb job of automatically framing each shot.
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