by Sergey Samarin
09/27/2004 | 09:01 AM
The summer season is traditionally scrimpy for any events in the sphere of information technologies. All activity is depressed, presentations of new produce being rare or even postponed for the fall. EPSON was among the first to remind us that the summer was over by rolling out two scanners of the legendary Perfection family at the end of the last August.
The new models – EPSON Perfection 2480 and 2580 PHOTO – have come to replace the popular EPSON Perfection 1670 PHOTO and they are still oriented at the home user who feels the urge to digitize both opaque originals (text, illustrations, photographs) and film of the amateur formats (35mm positive and negative film and slides).
Let’s see what’s so new in EPSON’s offer, first examining the specifications.
EPSON Perfection 2480 PHOTO
EPSON Perfection 2580 PHOTO
I should note that the main innovations, compared to the Perfection 1670 model, are a higher scan resolution and a wider range of optical densities. For example, the Perfection 1670 featured 1600x3200dpi resolution and 3.1Dmax density, whereas the Perfection 2480/2580 models have 2400x4800dpi resolution and 3.2Dmax density. The case design remained practically the same, save for the 2580 model’s having acquired an automatic feeder of 35mm film, integrated into the lid. With an abundance of useful properties, the new scanners seem to bring us a nice functionality at a relatively low price. If you want to learn more about the devices, rather than just a tableful of numbers, read on the review. The scanners are going to pass through a full-scale testing today.
The difference between the accessories to the two scanners lies mainly in the additional frames for transparent originals. The Perfection 2480 comes with a universal frame for 35mm film and slides, while the Perfection 2580 is only accompanied with a slide frame (you load film with the help of the auto-feeder in this model). Thus, the basic accessories to the scanners (without the above-mentioned frames) include the following:
It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that Perfection family scanners, from junior to the most advanced models, have always been user-friendly and easy-to-use. As for the two models we’re discussing now, the Perfection 2580 seems to be simpler in exploitation as it is equipped with a film auto-feeder. The Perfection 2480 will take some of your time to insert the film into a special frame.
The auto-feeder is integrated into the lid of the Perfection 2580 model
The auto-feeder can take in up to 6 stills of standard 35mm film
The feeder is located right in the lid of the Perfection 2580 and is accessed by pressing the external protective door. The mechanism to drive the film is designed ingeniously: the user only has to bring the film to the input and the feeder carefully takes it in. The film will fully hide under the scanner’s lid during the scan process. To unload the film, use the Eject button. If there arise any problems, you can use a special wheel to manually roll the film out.
Install an additional frame on the glass of the Perfection 2580 to scan a 35mm slide
Scanning transparent originals with the Perfection 2480 is performed using a special frame. After inserting the film into its appropriate place, the frame is laid on the bed in accordance with the rules around the scanner’s perimeter. Before scanning, remove the white reflective screen to open the backlight lamp.
The EPSON Perfection 2480 with the screen removed
and the frame for transparent originals placed on the bed
This photo of the Perfection 2580 is an excellent illustration
of the basic differences between the two models
There are “quick start” buttons on the face panels of the two scanners. They launch the scan program with preset parameters to send the images to the printer, by email and so on. The interface of the scanner’s driver remained the same – the Perfection family’s hereditary standard – and offers the user three basic scan modes: Full Auto Mode, Home Mode and Professional Mode. This approach allows selecting a scan mode that best suits your needs and experience. By the way, I can’t pass by the exceptionally efficient batch-scan function that allows scanning numerous originals in a single pass. Interestingly, the driver can automatically identify the boundaries of the originals, even if they are scattered on the glass in no particular order, or even positioned aslant.
Dust Removal and Color Restoration technologies are realized in the driver for both scanners. These intelligent functions are both activated in the driver’s control panel, and are off by default.
The software Dust Removal technology helps to solve the problem of mechanical defects in the digitized image. Taking little of system resources or additional scan time, it can identify and eliminate dust particles in transparent originals. Dust Removal works with all types of film, including black-and-white negative films, which were so popular just a few years ago. The user can enable this technology when necessary (again, it is off by default).
The Color Restoration technology can do good things to faded photographs that have lost their original color. The main effect of this technology is in increasing the color temperature of the digitized image. You can actually do almost the same by using a color management system or correcting colors in an image-processing program. Anyway, I guess this function will be found useful by some people, especially those who are not much versed in digital image processing. Take care, though, as sometimes this technology results in unnatural colors. The work of Color Restoration is illustrated by the next snapshot:
I tested the scanners using our time-tested methodology that allows for an in-depth examination of all the properties of the devices. The configuration of the testbed remains the same, so you can compare the results with those we got in our earlier reviews.
I am going to evaluate the following parameters of the scanners:
The time it takes to scan an original is among the key parameters of any scanner, and one that potential customers consider first. Slow machines hinder your creativity, making you wait till you start working with the images proper.
The designs of the two scanners don’t differ greatly, as I mentioned above. The similarities extend to the mechanical construction of the devices (drive mechanism, scanning carriage and so on). That’s why we can expect the two scanners to have the same scanning speed. I checked this theory out with a stop-watch. The speed characteristics were determined for originals of two types scanned at different resolutions (300dpi, 600dpi, 1200dpi and 2400dpi). Let’s view the results:
Time for digitizing a standard photograph (10x15cm or 4x6”)
Time for digitizing an A4 photograph (210x287cm)
You see two columns in the diagrams. The second – Performance – shows the scanning times with optimized settings. Users often ask how they can increase the performance of a scanner. One of the ways is a proper setup of the image-processing software you use to receive the data from the scanner. For example, this setup flexibility is available in Adobe Photoshop. Just launch Photoshop and enter the preferences menu (Edit - Preferences - Plug-Ins & Scratch Disks).
Plug-Ins & Scratch Disks
In the Scratch Disks section of the dialog box you should select the second physical drive of your system as the first scratch disk (by default, the drive you boot up the OS from is selected). This will increase the speed of disk operations in case you have two hard disk drives in your system (not two logical volumes). It is desirable that the drive you choose as the first scratch disc had a lot of free storage space. (Edit - Preferences - Memory & Image Cache)
Memory & Image Cache
The second dialog, in which you select the amount of memory to use, will help to increase the system performance even more. By default, the program uses 50% of memory. I chose 100% and achieved a nice performance bonus, especially in the highest scan resolutions.
I told you about the origin of digital noise in my previous articles. The signal-to-noise ratio allows evaluating the tolerance of the scanner’s electronics to various interferences. The noise can be random or correlated. Let’s deal with each type independently.
The graphs below show the dependence of the random noise value on the reflection power of the grayscale sectors of the KODAK IT8.7/2 Q-60R2 target.
The dependence of the random noise value
on the reflection power for the Perfection 2480…
…and for the Perfection 2580.
The signal-to-noise ratio, which is the ratio of the median of a grayscale sector to the deviation, should be regarded as “bigger is better”. That is, the bigger the SNR, the higher the scanner’s noise tolerance is. The delta SNR parameter is the total of the measurements.
Bigger delta SNR values indicate that the scanner
is well protected against interference
As you see, although the scanners have the same stuffing, the experimental data are different. I’m inclined to write this discrepancy off to the irregularity of the scanners’ lamps, though – that’s natural with mercury-based fluorescent light sources.
Correlated forms of noise are the most annoying – they show themselves as image “patterns” (usually horizontal or vertical stripes). The predominance of such noise greatly reduces the signal-to-noise coefficient, which is calculated as the ratio of the median to the deviation. The calculated coefficients are put into the next diagram. Bigger values are better:
This section is concerned with evaluating the error in the scanner’s interpretation of the colors of the original IT8.7/2 color target with the help of a color management system. In other words, we will know the coefficient of the color distortion introduced by the scanner into the image. Below there are gamut range diagrams for opaque (reflective) and transparent (emissive) originals.
The gamut ranges of the scanners when processing opaque originals
The gamut ranges of the scanners when processing transparent originals
The gamut range identified as a triangle in the diagrams is a projection on the plane and determines the scanner’s palette in the visible light spectrum. Since we know the coordinates of the vertexes of the triangles, we can calculate their areas to estimate the absolute values of the ranges.
Gamut squares of the scanners
For the comparison’s sake, I also offer the squares of the triangles for the standard sRGB and Wide Gamut RGB color spaces (the former is used with he majority of monitors, and the latter reflects the maximum area in the CIE La*b* space). Besides that, I added the information on the gamut squares of the two scanners taken from the manufacturer’s profiles.
The next diagram is constructed by calculating the difference between the colors of the original target and its scan. Note that Color Difference values above 5.0 are discernable by most people, i.e. evident for the “average” human eye.
The closer to the X axis – the better
The diagram shows that most color-reproduction errors fall on the darkest areas of the color scale, starting from the GS17 point. And this only concerns reflective originals, while the delta E values remain in the acceptable range when scanning films.
You have witnessed a quite successful debut of the new models of the EPSON Perfection series that came to replace the popular Perfection 1670 model. The new products passed all my tests with honors; you can compare them with earlier-tested devices by referring to our previous reviews. I would like to emphasize the excellent design of the film auto-feeder of the Perfection 2580 as well as the real simplicity and the ease of use of both devices. With all the useful qualities of the Perfection 2480 and 2580 PHOTO scanners, I can’t but recommend them to your consideration.