Scanner choice

l have a lot of black & white 35mm negatives and hundreds of my father’s medium-format (6×4.5cm) transparencies. I have now bought a Hasselblad 500C for my black & white work and would like to be able to scan the negs, as well as print them traditionally in our photographic society’s darkroom. I see there are three Epson scanners and at least one Canon model (all flatbed) that will scan medium-format film, but they all seem to scan at the same rate. What are the differences between them and why is the latest Epson so much cheaper than the company’s Perfection V700 Photo and V750 Pro? - Robin Law

In this instance you have four (not three) choices from Epson, in the form of the Perfection V550 Photo, V600 Photo, V700 Photo and V750 Pro, as well as the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II The various specifications can be found easily on the manufacturers’ respective websites (www.epson.co.uk and www.canon.co.uk).



The two characteristics that are typically looked at first (beyond making sure that it can scan the formats you want it to) are the optical resolution and the Dmax, which give an indication of potential scan sizes and the scanner’s ability to ‘see’ detail in shadow areas. However, both should be taken with a pinch of salt: the quoted optical resolution may not be entirely accurate, and there is no standardised system of measurement for Dmax.

The spec only tells a small part of the story: a scanner’s lens and sensor are important features, as are the coatings on the platen (the glass plate between the scanning head and your film/print), the type of light source used by the scanner and the software driver. This is where the real differences are found, and why scanner A might be twice the price of scanner B, despite having a seemingly similar specification.



There isn’t the space here to do a five-way scanner comparison, so I’ll narrow it down to one model for you: the Epson Perfection V700 Photo (pictured below). While it may be almost £300 more expensive than the V600 (and over twice the price of the V550/CanoScan 9000F Mark II), the fact that you’ve bought a Hasselblad 500C, rather than a Kiev 88, suggests that image quality is important. In this regard, the V700 Photo matches the company’s flagship V750 Pro in almost all areas, including the quality of its scans. Short of investing heavily in a dedicated medium-format film scanner, I can’t see a better option.