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Thread: Epson V850: better optics, *really*?

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  1. #1

    Join Date
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    Epson V850: better optics, *really*?

    Hey all. I know this topic has been debated in various places, but I haven't been able to find anyone who has actually tested the real world performance. I'm looking at picking up either a V800 or a V850 refurb. Epson claims that the V850 has better optics ("the V850 Pro has anti-reflection coatings on the optics, and high-reflection coatings on the mirrors"). But it's unclear to me how much difference this is going to make in the real world. The price difference is about $160, which isn't huge, but is enough to feel like it would be a waste if there's no noticeable difference in the results.

    If it matters, I expect the vast majority of my scanning on this to be 4x5 black and white. A lot of the scanner tests I've seen have centered around color transparencies, which I rarely shoot in 4x5 (and I have other ways to get E6 35mm scanned, so 4x5 is all I'd be using this for).

    Has anyone here tested this, or are you aware of anyone who has? Is there any other reason I should pony up the $160 for the V850?

  2. #2

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    Re: Epson V850: better optics, *really*?

    I have the V850. I can't attest to the differences in the optics to the V800 but I will say that it is surprisingly resistant to flare when scanning B&W negs compared to my MUCH older Epson 2450U. The downsides, as with all flatbed scanners, are a limited real-world Dmax and a useful resolution limit much lower than what Epson claims.

    The upgrade to the V850 also comes with a version of SilverFast AI that makes it much cheaper to upgrade to AI Studio 8, which I think is absolutely a must-do for scanning. AI Studio just works a hell of lot better and easier than any other scanning software I've tried (Vuscan, NikonScan, Epson's own thing, etc).

  3. #3

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    Re: Epson V850: better optics, *really*?

    Good feedback, thanks. In the past I've found myself severely allergic to Silverfast, so I'm not sure that's a big selling point for me, but perhaps with the Epson scanners it's a different situation...

  4. #4

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    Re: Epson V850: better optics, *really*?

    The thing I find with SilverFast is that it's like a command line interface for a computer. I like it because it allows me direct access to the levers and knobs I need in order to bend the scanner to my will. However, the supposedly helpful or automated bits of it are basically useless as I can never figure out why it is trying to do what it's doing nor how to get it to stop when it does something I want. So basically I use SilverFast for the very low-level, serious nerd controls and ignore everything else. What drives me mad about Vuescan, NikonScan, EsponScan, etc is that there's no way to completely stop them from thinking they're smarter than you and doing things without your permission.

  5. #5
    Kevin Kolosky
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    Re: Epson V850: better optics, *really*?

    What is the next step up from the 850?

  6. #6

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    Re: Epson V850: better optics, *really*?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin J. Kolosky View Post
    What is the next step up for the 850?
    From the V850, your next step up is "I am getting a business loan for this scanner". Well, if you want to buy an off-the-shelf pre-built package. You're looking at things like the Screen Cezanne ($40k) or a Hasselblad/Imacon scanner (starts at $11k, goes up rapidly). If you still want better quality than that, you're into drum scanner territory. Pretty much any way you want to play it, even used, the next step up from an Epson flatbed is one hell of a big step up in price.

    If you just want better resolution and better Dmax/DR for considerably less money but a LOT more sweat equity on your part, then you can do much better with a DSLR scanning rig like Peter de Schmidt and rdenny are discussing on here over the last several years.

  7. #7

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    Re: Epson V850: better optics, *really*?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin J. Kolosky View Post
    What is the next step up from the 850?

    Epson Expression 12000XL Photo Scanner then Imacon or a drum scanner like the Aztek 8000


    In this link there is an Aztek/Howtek HR 8000 for $8800

    http://cresimaging.com/filmflatbeddrumscanners.html

  8. #8

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    Re: Epson V850: better optics, *really*?

    Regarding, the next step up, my plan with the V800/V850 is to do "good enough" scans for day-to-day use, and send out for drum scans when I need something better. When it comes to 4X5, I'm an extremely casual hobbyist. I'm neither a fine art photographer nor a professional. I just shoot 4X5 film for a fun break from the tyranny of modern digital photography. I'm currently shooting with a Crown Graphic, so half the time it's out of focus or incorrectly exposed anyway So there's no way for me to justify the cost of a drum scanner (especially since I'd also need a separate computer to run most of them). But over the years since I've mostly switched to digital, I have gotten accustomed to being able to get things into Photoshop and post them online easily. My current scanner barely works, and I've found that I've been curtailing my 4X5 photography because it's too much of a hassle to get a usable digital copy. I think the Epsons will fill that need adequately, and for the once in a blue moon that I'm thinking of doing a large print or something, there are other options.

    williaty, I know what you're saying about Silverfast. To be fair, it's been many years since I've used it. I just found it to be needlessly arcane (and I'm a Unix guy, so I'm not afraid of arcane), and their licensing scheme seemed to border on punitive. Every time I used the software both the UI and business aspects left a bad taste in my mouth. With my other scanners, I've always been pretty satisfied with VueScan. But I will re-evaluate Silverfast if I end up buying one of these.

  9. #9

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    Re: Epson V850: better optics, *really*?

    I absolutely agree that the licensing is harrowing. I would very much like to use SilverFast AI Studio (SFAIS, they have several other products too these days) with my Coolscan as well as my Epson but buying a license to add the Coolscan is close to $400 and that dog just won't hunt! So, on the Coolscan, I'm consigned to using VueScan even though it makes me pull my hair out because it constantly tries to be helpful and screws things up.

    The trick to getting comfortable with SFAIS for me was figuring out that 99% of it I could ignore. I'm getting reliable, repeatable, and good results on my V850 by setting SFAIS to scan as a Transparency, Positive, 16bit/ch and then using ONLY the histogram tool to set the black and white points to avoid clipping anything. It'll try to turn on a bunch of other stuff like Tone Curve, NegaFix, etc. Just turn it all off. Scanning this way allows me to bring all the data the scanner can extract from the film into photoshop without the scanning software trying to do anything to it.

    The result will look incredibly light but works well

    Once in photoshop, I invert the file (since I scanned negative film as a positive. Positive mode, for some reason, causes it to do no processing of the scan data in SFAIS), use a Levels adjustment layer to precisely set the white and black clipping points (per color channel to eliminate the orange mask if was color negative film), then a Curves adjustment layer with a MASSIVE downwards pull to the gray channel to get the overall luminosity right (and tiny per-channel movements in the middle to get the color set exactly if it was color negative film). Then a new layer for spotting out dust. I'll do a make stamp visible layer at that point and then use the Camera Raw Filter on it to have access to the tonal shaping tools I'm most comfortable with (Dehaze especially can be very useful for adding contrast to a black and white scan).

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    Re: Epson V850: better optics, *really*?

    A completely refurbed IQsmart is around $4k -$6k with all the needed goodies - software, calibration sheets etc depending of course on where you are and which model. Private sales are cheaper if you can find one in good condition. Another way to look at is that it's about the same $$$ as a new Canon 5D with a top quality lens.

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