REVIEW: Epson Perfection V100 Photo Scanner

It’s not often I get to review something, but here’s a look at a value for money option for scanning those photos, negatives and slides. Previously, if you wanted to scan slides, you were looking at something around $500 or more to get a reasonable result. At $299, the V100 is a lower cost way of getting this done, and it delivers good results too.

The package consists of the scanner, power adapter, quick start guide, software CD, USB cable and film holder. This is not just a photo scanner: it can also do general documents and OCR. Still, it is the film scanning capabilities that interest me enough to do this review. Installation was easy on a Windows XP Professional system. Install the software before connecting the USB cable, then connect up and away you go. Like most scanners, this one has buttons on the front to invoke software applications to do what you want.

When scanning film, you have to make sure it’s inserted into the holder the right way up. Removing the platen cover inside the lid reveals the lamp which provides the light source for film scanning. Then place the film holder onto the document glass directly, making use of the icons moulded into the scanner base and film holder to get it the right way around. Insert the film or slides. Film goes in shiny side (face) down with the top edge facing left. The film holder takes strips of up to 6 negatives and can scan all of them in one pass. The film is easy to insert although the holder feels flimsy. Slides must be inserted and removed with the holder sitting on the glass as they are not supported underneath. You can scan up to four slides at a time. The whole process was simpler than I remember with HP scanners, which could only do two or three slides and maybe half a film strip and were fiddlier to set up with a separate lamp unit.

The V100 scan wizard features three modes: Full Auto, Home and Professional. Full Auto is the simplest but it only scans at 300 dpi. Provided the film is inserted correctly it automatically detects it and sets the options automatically. If you want a higher resolution, choose Home. It allows you more control over the settings, and should be quite satisfactory for most users. At 3200 dpi, negatives or slides can take three minutes each to scan. This reminds me of my old parallel port scanner, which could only get part of the scan done before it would have to empty its buffer, and then continue. But that was at 1200 dpi; the Epson is transmitting perhaps three times as much data. Still, it has to pause the scan every minute or two to flush data. Professional mode gives full control over all the settings. It can give you 48 bit colour, for example, but most users won’t need it, and I wouldn’t see myself using it most of the time. At 3200 dpi, a JPEG file will occupy about 2 MB at the default compression level. Bitmaps and TIFF files can also be created as well as PDFs. You can easily change the settings for each group of images, as you are asked to confirm them before each scan begins.

In my collection, due to the cost of processing, I used to have lots of films lying around that had been shot but not processed. You guessed it, I’m a digital man these days. Last year I finally got around to having those 25-odd rolls of unprocessed film developed, but not printed. (Most of them, some going back nearly 20 years, turned out alright except for a roll of Ilford XP1) The cost of printing and an ordinary scanner would be more than the cost of this unit, so this option is the better one by far.

For this review I did only basic scans at 1200 dpi. I haven’t evaluated the options for more complex scans, corrections or fixes. However, my impression of the scanner’s performance on these simple tasks is very favourable compared with an HP scanner that I used several years ago to scan most of my slide collection for the internet. Colours were rendered well; on the whole, colour correction from negatives seems to produce a satisfactory result. The price point and scan output of this unit should satisfy home users who have a large collection of slides or negatives that they want to scan to share on the internet. Recommended.