Epson Perfection 4870 Photo
The Epson Perfection 4870 Photo sits at the top of the company's consumer-scanner line and comes in two flavors. The Professional model ships with a copy of MonacoEZcolor, a well-known monitor-calibration program, and LaserSoft SilverFast SE, which enables graphics professionals to scan into CMYK, among other tools. But if you already have color-management tools in place, save the cash and buy the Photo instead--same scanner, no calibration software.
You can park this black-and-silver scanner in a pretty small spot; it takes up just 12.0 by 18.8 inches of desk space and weighs about 15 pounds. The transparency adapter is built into the scanner lid; holders for 35mm and medium-format film are included in the box. Setting up the Perfection 4870 is very straightforward. You need to install the requisite drivers and connect the device via USB or FireWire. With every scanner it ships, Epson includes a utility that provides scanning-adjustment tools based on skill level. If you are a beginner, work in the Full Auto mode to produce effortless scans at just a press of a button. For a little more control, step up to Home mode, which lets you fiddle with a few resolution settings and make basic color adjustments. Professional mode gives you full control over resolution, color, and exposure. Easy Photo Fix, which does a decent job restoring the color balance in faded photos, is accessible from each interface.
The Perfection 4870 does a good job capturing highlight and shadow detail in print scans, as we'd expect from a unit with Epson's quoted optical density of 3.8D. If you're dealing with especially old images and negatives, you'll appreciate the dust-removal tool, which has some success removing specks from negatives and transparencies. Be advised that using this tool will lengthen scan time to almost 10 minutes. In our test scans, with dust removal deactivated, the scanner cranked out a 300dpi scan of an 8x10 original in just 55 seconds. Unfortunately, test scans from transparencies and negatives lacked the sharpness and the tonal range we saw with flatbed scans and couldn't match the quality of those from the. But if you're just scanning for the Web or for very small prints, they're passable.
As for help options, you can install Epson's Smart Panel software, which displays a pop-up menu with eight button functions for scanning, OCR, basic image editing, and sharing pictures via the Epson Web site. This is a great newbie feature but one you will probably outgrow. You can access all the standard drivers and manuals online. If you need additional help, you can call Epson's tech support Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT.