Epson's (Almost) PerfectionBy Scott Karren | Print
With top-notch technology, the Epson Perfection 4870 Photo challenges even professional scanners.
The Epson Perfection 4870 Photo scanner ($450 street) is possibly the best desktop flatbed scanner we've tested, rivaling even professional scanners costing thousands. It's the first Epson with firmware and hardware that incorporates the impressive Digital ICE technology developed by Applied Science Fiction (now part of Kodak) for reducing or eliminating the effects of dust, scratches, tears, and creases in both prints and film automatically. The scanner also comes with Easy Photo Fix, Epson's proprietary equivalent of the Applied Science Fiction Digital ROC plug-in for restoring faded print and film color and the Digital GEM plug-in, which reduces the effects of film grain patterns.
The Perfection 4870 scans in 48-bit color with an optical resolution of 4,800-by-9,600 and an optical density (Dmax) of 3.8, according to the company—the highest in its class. The silver-and-gray unit, at nearly 15 pounds and 5.3 by 12.0 by 18.7 inches (HWD), is built like a tank: large, solid, and heavy. Its rounded cover, which is also thick and heavy to accommodate the built-in transparency adapter (TA), remains upright by itself when fully opened—a welcome touch. The TA covers a 6- by 9-inch area and allows scanning of up to 8 35-mm slides, 24 35-mm negatives, 6 medium-format (2.25 by 2.25 inch) frames, or 2 4- by 5-inch frames. The scanner is PC- and Mac-compatible, has a front power button, a single programmable one-touch button, and offers USB 2.0 and FireWire connectivity.
Setup and installation are fast and problem-free. The interface offers three scanning settings—Automatic, Home, and Professional—and for even more control and precision, Epson bundles LaserSoft SilverFast SE 6, a high-powered professional scanning program. With the Perfection 4870 connected via USB 2.0, we scanned our 8- by 10-inch test photo at 300 ppi in only 17 seconds—more than twice as fast as with a $180 (street) Microtek ScanMaker i300. (Check back for our upcoming review of the Microtek i300.) Scanning film is much more time-consuming, but scan resolution is usually many times higher.
Performance is fast, and image quality, with one small exception is superb—razor sharp, with bang-on colors and clear details in even the darkest shadows. But although Photo Fix worked well at reducing grain and restoring faded colors, with Digital ICE, Epson set the sensitivity threshold too low to repair deep scratches like those on our test images, and you can't change the setting. As a result, the Perfection 4870 didn't reduce scratches as much as the Microtek i300, although both use the Digital ICE technology. On the other hand, the image didn't pick up the extra contrast present in the Microtek i300 scan and dynamic range was significantly better.
The Perfection 4870 ships with Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0, Abbyy FineReader 5.0, Sprint OCR, LaserSoft SilverFast SE 6, a USB cable, and four film frames. The Perfection 4870 PRO ($599) is an identical unit that bundles the full version of SilverFast, as well as Monaco EZcolor 2.5 and ArcSoft Suite.
Digital ICE issues aside, the Perfection 4870 is a first-rate graphics scanner that will find ready acceptance among advanced amateur photographers and pros who are on a budget.