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Thread: Epson 4990 outdated?

  1. #1

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    Epson 4990 outdated?

    I was just reading one of Kirk's posts on the mid-priced scanners. He's been using a 4990, he says, for a couple of years... I realised then that the Epson 4990 is actually quite OLD by now.

    Yet we're still comparing it to certain other brand-new scanners in the same price range.

    What gives? The way these things seem to progress, I'd have thought Epson would've come up with something new and improved over the 4990 by now ... or am I just being a spoiled-brat consumer? ;-)

    That said, I realise these things are amazing in what they can do, for the outlay.

    I'm still hoping the Microtek i800 will turn out to be a winner...

  2. #2
    Photographer, Machinist, etc. Jeffrey Sipress's Avatar
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    Epson 4990 outdated?

    I believe the 4990 is just about a year old. That IS old in our current techno-world. Still, a good output for the investment.

  3. #3
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Epson 4990 outdated?

    AS many of us who have used these scanners extensively often say, they are amazing pieces of machinery at this price point. But they are limited by the quality of components and chips that they can afford to put in them. Apparently the chips are the same they put in entry level digital cameras. If you print relatively small (up to 11x14) you can get prints from these scans that rival a scan from a drum scanner. But beyond that there are increasing compromises with greter enlargement.

    The i800 may be better but how much is really possible in this price range unless the price of optics and or chips comes way down. The 1800f is an improvemnt over the 4990 but not a great leap forward at twice the price. I don't know what the future holds but if I were a manufacturer would I be putting allot of R&D into film scanners? I personally think that we will not see much more improvement in technology or price when it comes to scanners.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  4. #4
    Ted Harris's Avatar
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    Epson 4990 outdated?

    IMO Kirk is right. Based on many conversations with engineering and marketing staff types at Microtek, Creo and Imacon I believe that price decreases are not goin gto come soon for the higher end machines. All the technology any of us could ever want is here right now, just not at a price that we can afford. The problem is that there is no increasing demand or growing mass market to allow increased production and, thus, economies of scale in manufacturing, for these high-end products. So, barring any new technological breakthroughs (and they are always possible) we will see prices stay in the same range for the Microtek 1800f up through the 25,000 ++ Imacon's, Creo's and Aztecs. The high-end manufacturers can and do deliver scanners that can handle material as large as 11x17 (and even larger), scan the material at more than 10,000spi using superb focasable optics and with Dmax approaching the theortetical limits. However, these machines start at $50,000 and go on up to well over $100,000. The market for these machines is small, absolutely needs what they can produce and can pay the price.

    OTOH, the sensing technology of the lwoer priced scanners (4990, i800, i900, 9950, etc.) is the same technology used in today's mid priced digital cameras so there is a huge demand for these chips beyond the scanners that use them. The scanners don't drive the market, they benefit from the sales of digital cameras. Once you get beyiond these scanners that just isn't true. Moreover, the mechanical precision required to improve performance of these scanners (and maintain it in the higher priced models) is very very very expensive. We are talking about stepping motors that must operate precisely in less-than-controlled conditions, and to very narrow tolerances. As I have said before, the parallel is to the old quald video recorders of the 1970's. They produced incredible images and Joe Roizen, one of the leading video engineers of the day, once described the typical quald recorder to me as "$100,000 worth of recording equipment with $400,o0o worth of error-correction machinery." To a large extent, when you get beyond the sensors and the optics, that is what high-end scanning is about as well. It is highlyunlikely that you will get it for $500 any time soon.

    Of course, I certainly hope I am wrong!

  5. #5

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    Epson 4990 outdated?

    No, I guess you're both right -- the popular market drives the technology at that price point, and seeing as how we film-users are not even 100% committed to the digital bandwagon, I suppose we should think ourselves lucky that the market serves us as at all.

    ...as I stupidly prepare to make yet another $400 sacrifice to the God of binary-powered future landfill..(!)

  6. #6
    Founder QT Luong's Avatar
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    Epson 4990 outdated?

    I think given the number of users that need scans of large format negs and trannies, we should consider ourselves lucky with what we can nowadays get for $500. And to put it in perspective, I suspect that an affordable 4x5 + a $500 scanner still produces files comparable to, if not better, than a $30,000 digital MF back (now we are talking depreciation !).

  7. #7
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Epson 4990 outdated?

    that's true, we have it easy with big film. I love my little epson scanner for 4x5 ... but i recently started a project with 2-1/4 film, and think i'm going to have to do some begging, borrowing or stealing to get the film scanned. i don't quite trust the flatbed to handle the enlargements required, even though i'm not printing any bigger than with the big film.

  8. #8
    Photographer, Machinist, etc. Jeffrey Sipress's Avatar
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    Epson 4990 outdated?

    I was liking my 4870 for nearly a year until I had my first drum scans made last week. I am still in shock. I never knew there was that much information in my films! It's hard to smile at the epson now.

  9. #9
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Epson 4990 outdated?

    paul,
    I scan a ton of 6x9 color negs and trans. for my business, about 40 per week on an Epson 4990. The biggest issue is film flatness which I solve by putting the film in a book overnight. I also don't cut the film individually but leave it in strips of 4 (shooting two of everything) and try not to use the end negative because at the end cut the film curls. In my recent show I had two prints of the same building from NPS color negs side by side, one 16x20 scanned on a very carefully done 4990 and one 11x14 from a drum scan. On close inspection there was a clear difference to me-that was stretching the capability of the 4990 allot, but at the infamous "normal viewing distance" they were indistinguishable. For me, because of a lifetime as a largeformat guy, normal viewing distance is with my nose against the glass, but to each his own. Anyway depending on the size of the prints you may find your Epson scanner adequate.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  10. #10

    Epson 4990 outdated?

    Ive got a 4990 and it does a very good job with 5x4 and 10x8 film, so long as you understand it's limitations. I think of it as the contact print part of my workflow. If I want a large (> 16 x 20) digital image I pay for a drum scan. Compared to the cost of, say a 5'x4' digital print, the scan charge is no big deal.

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