Pros: Good quality negative scans for a small outlay. Nice piece of hardware.
Cons: Supplied software inadequate for serious use. USB 2.0 works incorrectly.
The Epson Perfection 3170 flatbed scanner has worked well as a photo scanner, negative scanner, and printed photo scanner. The scanning hardware is very good for a consumer device. The resolution and color gamut are top notch in its price class. I can recommend this scanner for anybody who meets the following criteria:
1) You want to scan color prints, transparencies, negatives, and halftone-printed photos.
2) Your budget is $200.
3) You have a Windows 2000 or XP computer, with USB 1.1 installed.
4) You are willing to learn how to use the scanner (not as obvious as it appears).
Scanning color images is a tricky business. You have to learn about the different exposure latitudes and color gamuts of the media involved: color photography, color monitor, color printer, and commercial halftone printing. Color negatives bring special problems of their own, having a low contrast, an orange mask, and three different color gamuts for red, green, and blue layers. Add the grain structure of the film interfering with the scan pixelation, and you can have a sorry looking result with this equipment, or any other. The knowledge necessary to use this scanner effectively is outside the scope of this review. Suffice it to say that Epson supplies scanning and photo software without any serious directions on how to use it. You need to go to the bookstore, buy some good books on using scanners and Adobe Photoshop, and expect to spend a good deal of time learning how to make this hardware and software work.
The color film holders are a little tricky to use, and somewhat difficult to get the film in and out of them without leaving fingerprints. I think finger cots would solve most of this problem.
Scanning speed is rather slow at 1200 dpi and above. You will spend a lot of time scanning negatives.
Get a good photo brush to clean the glass before very negative scan, because the scanner will pick up every dust speck. Print scans are not very critical, but then print scans are pretty terrible too. If you scan a negative, and its print, you will see what I mean. Don't waste your time with the prints. Learn how to scan the negatives.
Here are a few problem highlights:
1) The automatic exposure settings will stretch the histogram to cover 26-to-245. This is frequently incorrect, and causes over-contrasty results with hightone blowouts. Expect to hand adjust this on every exposure. 2) The negative scanner software has no film settings, and no film grain filter. Many color negative films have unique color gamuts, and most are greater than the scanner's gamut, so expect to tinker with the profiles. On high speed film, the grain structure will give a horrible moire pattern in the scan. A better solution for negative scanning is to buy a dedicated program, like Silver Fast AG. 3) The halftone descreener works up to only 600 dpi, which is too low. The rationale is that scans higher than that would use lineart settings, but I think it's an artificial limitation. Other than that, the descreener is very effective.
The USB interface works incorrectly on USB 2.0. It will introduce colored lines, or repeat lower parts of the exposure. The result is unusable. None of this happens on USB 1.1. The difference in scan times is about 30 seconds:50 seconds, scanning an 8X10 image at 300 dpi, and compressing it to 1 Mbyte jpeg. It is not clear if this is a software glitch or a hardware glitch. I gave up trying to make it work, and put the scanner back on a USB 1.1 port.