Epson's New Scanner Aims Too High

SAN FRANCISCO (04/19/2000) - Perfection 1200U PhotoTargeted at the small- and general-business markets, as well as at photo enthusiasts and graphic artists, the Perfection 1200U Photo is Epson America Inc.'s top-of-the-line entry-level photo scanner. If you want a scanner simply to capture images for the Web or presentations or to do basic OCR and document scanning, the Perfection can do the job. But if you're a graphic artist or photo enthusiast who cares about fine nuances of tone and color and wants to use professional image-editing software like Adobe Photoshop, you'd do better with a scanner that offers high-bit output and allows you to scan directly into one of Photoshop's RGB working spaces.

The Perfection 1200U Photo has a USB interface, boasts a transparency adapter, and scans letter-size reflective originals or film as large as 4 by 5 inches at resolutions as high as 1,200 by 2,400 pixels per inch. It's quite speedy: a prescan takes about 8 seconds, and a 4-by-6-inch print scanned at 600 dpi takes about 38 seconds. The autoexposure feature does a decent job of setting highlight and shadow points and removing obvious color casts.

However, the transparency adapter promises more than it delivers; the Perfection's resolution just isn't high enough for 35mm film. Epson recommends scanning 35mm originals at 2,400 dpi, which in theory would give you a file from which you could produce 8-by-10-inch prints on an ink-jet photo printer.

But when we did so, we found obvious aliasing along the edges. The Perfection creates decent 1,200-dpi scans from film, which will let you make good 5-by-7-inch ink-jet prints, but the results of further enlargement are disappointing.

Worse, the Perfection's TWAIN driver supports ColorSync, but only for scanning into 24-bit monitor RGB. And although the scanner captures 36 bits internally, there's no way to capture high-bit data to disk. Worst of all, Epson uses arbitrary numbers for its shadow, highlight, and gamma settings: gamma values range from 50 to 500, highlight values from 61 to 490, and shadow values from 0 to 60.

Aside from the driver, the Perfection's software bundle includes Adobe System Inc.'s entry-level image editor, PhotoDeluxe 2.0; NewSoft's Presto PageManager for Epson America Inc., which offers document cataloging and basic OCR; and Broderbund Software's The Print Shop PressWriter, for producing calendars, greeting cards, and the like.

Macworld's Buying Advice

If you want fast, automatic scans free of gross flaws, the Perfection 1200U Photo delivers-though if you don't need the transparency adapter, you can get by with the less expensive Perfection 1200U. But if you want an entry-level scanner that offers serious digital imaging, look elsewhere.rating: 3.0 mice #pro: Good image quality from prints and film; easy automatic scanning.

#con: Idiosyncratic advanced controls; obvious aliasing on 2,400-dpi scans.

#comp: Epson America (800/463-7766, www.epson.com).

#est$399.

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