Epson V850 Scanner – It’s Time To Digitize!

The Solution:
Epson V850 Scanner


The Problem:
As I was writing a post about one of my photo mentors, Dave Heath, I wanted to add a photo from a portrait session I did with him.
It was all shot on 4×5 B&W, when I was a student and bigger was better. Maybe.
I went to scan one of these negs, I realized that my current flatbed scanner, the Epson V600 @ only $200, didn’t have a large enough platen area to get the whole neg.
I realized that I had hundreds of B&W negs, and a ton of color transparencies, that may never see the light of day, unless digitized.
Then the research mode kicked in.

Many of the top scanners cost tens of thousands of dollars, like an Imacon, and needed periodic calibrations. This was out of my price range.
Then I checked in with one of the top labs in NYC. Without blinking, the rep told me $75 a neg.
Again, not gonna happen.
The previous large format film scanners in the right price range, were now software or operating system obsolete.
After more research, and honestly asking a pro with experience in this area, Danny Clinch, I landed on Epson for a trial run.
The Epson V850 has everything I was looking for in producing high end scans from all of my negs/slides up to the large format negs.
I’m defining high end by over 100mgs, preferably larger, with the kind of specs you see listed below. You ideally only want to scan once, but you will find that there is a learning curve to do it well.
The initial set-up on this unitwas super easy, but scanning skills take time. Trial and error, and developing a workflow.

Topline is that this unit, is at the best price point and high quality on the market today.

This is fraction of slides and negs I needed to scan. A mess. Just showing here a variety of formats: 35mm Slides, 35mm Negs, 4×5 negs an 4×5 Transparencies. I never did shoot much medium format.

And if you’ve been part of the world of photography, pre-digital, you also may have the same volume of images to digitize. Or like me, dip into the analog world now an again, whether it’s a Lomography ride, or pulling out a Contax T3.

There is a history in all of our photography that you will have to preserve in some way or another. Negatives don’t get corrupted, but they do live in the dark. Bring em out, and attache some metadata to them so you can find them!
Sure, all you need a scanner to do is holder your neg flat, and make a thick and rich scan that you can export to a hard drive and use as you need. I simplify but you know that the better a scan you can make, the better a print you can make from it. Selling prints of vintage material? You need this.
Fine, most of what we’re looking at is 72 DPI, but I’m making files as large as I can handle for general, and mega if I know I’m going for a large print

OK, getting back to this scanner.

With these kind of specs you are getting a a great tool. A couple of key points for me are bolded: the resolution, the scanning area, and the LED technology giving you a fast startup.
Epson Dual Lens System
4800 dpi and 6400 dpi
Hardware Resolution:
4800 x 9600 dpi
6400 x 9600 dpi with Micro Step Drive™ technology
Maximum Resolution: 12,800 x 12,800 dpi
Effective Pixels:
40,800 x 56,160 (4800 dpi)
37,760 x 62,336 (6400 dpi)
Color Bit Depth: 48-bits per pixel internal / external1
Grayscale Bit Depth: 16-bits per pixel internal / external1
Optical Density: 4.0 Dmax
High Pass Optics:Anti-reflective optical coatings High-reflection mirror
Maximum Scan Area: 8.5″ x 11.7″
Light Source: ReadyScan LED technology
Scanning Speed:
High-speed mode: 4800 dpi
Full color: 10.8 msec / line (approx.)
Monochrome: 10.8 msec / line(approx.)

And a huge selling point is the included software, primarily in Silverfast SE Plus, and the X-Rite color management software. Learn these tools and your scanning life will be sweet.
Epson does have a proprietary software included, but SilverFast SE Plus, completes the package to make this a Pro Scanner.
This software will read your film type, and even do figure out your frames. The first image is before the Find Frames is used:

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 3.07.09 PM
And then using the menu item to find the frames, and it does it like magic, no matter what the orientation does
Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 3.07.36 PM

I do go in and adjust on black and white negs from music shoots as the background are so dark that the frame line can slip. It is an easy adjustment with this software.

By being able to scan a full page of slide or negs, especially with separate corrections per image, is a massive time saver. And the fact that Epson give you 2 of each media holder, lets you get the next set ready while the current scan is going on.
The truth is that if your making scans at real high resolution, which you should, it will not be a fast process. Having a holder ready to go will be a time saver for sure.


Not only the large format, but these new holders are some of the best neg and slide holders I’ve ever used in a flatbed scanner for 35mm. There is an optical plastic on the top side of the neg holders, that helps protect the neg and I imagine, prevent light hot spots.
The slide are held securely with the plastic grips per slide,
and the 35mm neg strip lanes have a flip-over, plastic, “lid” that holds the neg tight against the optical plastic on one side of the holder.


So keep an air blower, I’m partial to the Giottos – about $10. and a anti-static cloth around, or you’ll be doing a bit of cleanup on your new fresh scans in post production.
As I said, with 2 sets of each film format holders included, you can load up a second frame for your next scan, while one is scanning. Take the time and keep em clean and as dust free as possible.

And the holders have additional minute height adjustments so your neg sit just right. Here it is from the front and back. This basically helps you adjust the height of the film so even if there is some curl, you can compensate. More important on the slides, as they are not held in with the optical plastic.



Also part of your learning process.

Trust me though, you will want to do a large scans since this is not something you may want to do too many times.
Epson supplies you with Digital Ice that will help eliminate dust from a software standpoint, but might as well start with a clean piece of media to start with.
At the beginning of this post, I said the search began by wanting to scan 4×5 negs. The platen was plenty big on this unit.
The included 4×5 neg holders did not operate as I had hoped. The Kodak film that I was scanning, did not sit flat in the supplied holder. I was told that they could sit on top of a bevel within the holder.
The solution for me was to put the 4×5 neg directly onto the glass of the scanner.
The Silverfast Software allowed me to create a scanning parameter around the neg. All I did was go to the drop down menu and select ” Find Frames” and it automatically put a frame around the 4×5 neg

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 6.00.32 PM

All good! I have heard all of the posts online about this issue, but all of the positive things about this scanner, brought me to figure a solution, and it worked great.

And you can go in and either select a global correction or correct each image before scanning. You do get a familar curve to help you get there.
Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 3.10.22 PM

The size of the file is set by you. Make sure you can a lot of hard drive room, and good amount of RAM while working on files.
If wet scanning is what your’ after for the ultimate in the process, this unit can handle that as well, with the Epson Fluid Mount holder.

The first time I scanned a project, was for a birthday book for my mom. The whole family dug through their archives to find things like old photos, relevant papers, and items of personal historical value.
The holidays are coming and what better gift, than the gift or personal history.

High end scans
Large Scanning area
LED scanning light for fast start-up
Powerful software included (Silverfast SE Plus is worth $150 on its own!)
Solid manufacturer.

High recommendation for both quality and value.

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