Epson V850 Film Scanner

Above - 35mm colour transparencies scanned using Epson V850 Film Scanner

Above - 35mm colour negatives scanned using Epson V850 Film Scanner

Above - 6 x 4.5 colour transparencies scanned using Epson V850 Film Scanner

When I was looking around for film scanning alternatives for my ageing and unsupported Nikon LS-9000, I completely ignored the Epson V850. Why? Well it's a flatbed scanner and they aren't good enough to do professional scans for film. right? WRONG!!!

A comment on a forum made me curious and I checked out the online reviews, was impressed by what I read and decided to get one to see if it worked for me. I'm glad I did.

As you can see above there is lots of detail in the files. This example is from a 6 x 6 Fuji Velvia 50 image taken with a Rollieflex Twin Lens MF camera in 1993. The Epson scanned at it's maximum resolution of 4800 ppi and produced a 35MP file just over 100MB. The above crop is 100%. 

Above is from a 35mm transparency. The Epson scans these around 28MP at it's maximum, but that needs to be reduced to get the sharpness I require. I've downsized this image to 16MP, around 45MB in size and find that to be the best for 35mm. However, considering 35mm used to be regarded as being equivalent to 10MP, that's a pretty good result. 

If you are looking for a full technical review there are plenty on the internet and that is not my intention here. What follows is a list of observations of what the V850 gives me as a stock photographer with a huge collection of unscanned 35mm and MF transparencies and as a photographer who is returning to film after many years and is looking for a professional scanning option.

  • The V850, after using it for a week and scanning 100's of images, is actually very 'photographer friendly'. It seems very well thought out in terms of what it offers. For some time there has been a gap in the market for professional film scanners at a reasonable price and Epson have certainly come up with a very good product here. Flatbed scanners have always been regarded as second best to dedicated film scanners, but this is not the case with this Epson. It compares VERY favourably with the scans from my Nikon LS-9000 and the scans I have done by the labs I have tried. This has surprised me , since I didn't expect it to be so good.
  • The final image quality is obviously the most important test for a scanner and it is here that the V850 scores high marks. I do really like the results I can get after some Photoshop work. They show what film is capable of. The Medium Format (6 x 4.5 and 6 x6) images I have scanned are superb and every bit as sharp and detailed as high-end digital, but with more colour depth, better dynamic range and overall more 'punch'.
  • As regards the software that comes with the machine, there are two options. Epson Scan and Silverfast SE Plus. Now many reviews recommend using the Silverfast, but I've always regarded their software as overrated and overpriced. Silverfast has always seemed to me as stuck in a time when images didn't get worked on in Photoshop prior to publication. These days the options available in Photoshop far exceed those in any scanning software.
  • Having tried both I've found that Epson Scan is superior in terms of sharpness and dust and scratch removal. It has Digital Ice as opposed to Silverfast's Infra Red 'cleaning' which actually doesn't work a lot of the time. The Epson Scan software is simple, yet works very well and creates a well-balanced, clean file that can be worked on. Using either software package I have found very accurate colour rendition when compared to the original. So any warnings you read about the need to do lengthy colour calibrations are not necessary from what I've seen.
  • One of the advantages of a flatbed with such a large area is that you can scan a lot of 35mm material. Using strips of 6 uncut transparencies or negatives it's possible to batch scan 18 at a time and for mounted slides 12 at a time. For MF this drops to four for 6 x 4.5, three for 6 x 6 and two for 6 x 9. For the V850 you also get two film holders for each format, meaning that while one lot is batch scanning you can be preparing the next batch in the duplicate holder. Nice touch that.
  • Compared to my Nikon LS-9000 the Epson is pretty quiet which is nice. In terms of actual scanning time, they seem about the same, though with it's ability to do more in a batch for 35mm, the Epson means there is a lot less stopping and starting. In terms of Medium Format through it is exactly the same as my Nikon.
  • One nice feature is that both Epson Scan and Silverfast automatically locate the separate images in the holder, though for MF they seem to get a bit confused and I have to do it manually. 

Overall I'm very impressed and genuinely surprised. I bought the scanner from Amazon, so that if I didn't like the results I could send it back. However, that is certainly not going to happen. How reliable it is over time, I obviously have no idea, but assuming it keeps going for a few years it will save me money as compared to having my images scanned at a lab. And it also takes the 'pressure' off my Nikon LS900. Plus since I've come up with a macro lens digitising alternative, I now have less concern about being able to continue to scan my existing collection and have options for my ongoing film work. 

I actually recommend very few products, but I can certainly state that I rate the Epson V850 scanner very highly. It's relatively easy to set up and the results, for me, are spot on in terms of quality. I'm really looking forward to seeing what I can get from recently acquired 'Texas Leica' which is a 100% manual Fuji 6 x 9 rangefinder MF camera (of which more later). Seeing the results from my 6 x 4.5 and 6 x 6 film stock on the V850, I'm excited to see what I can get from 6 x9. 

So, in terms of my ongoing film experience, I have the cameras, I have future proof digitising options, now all I need is the inspiration and the weather. (Easier said than done!!)