Scanner test report: Epson Perfection V850 Pro

In november 2014 Epson released with the Perfection V850 Photo a successor for the Epson Perfection V750 Pro on the market after 8 years. The scanner community has been waiting for that successor of the Perfection V750 Pro for a long time. Finally the time has come!


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The Epson Perfection V850 Pro accepts an important inheritance: Its predecessor, the Epson Perfection V750 Pro, has been the top model in the field of flatbed scanners with integrated transparency unit for scanning paper documents and film material up to a size of DIN A4 (21 x 29,7cm) for many years. No other scanner from well-known manufacturers like Canon, HP or Brother could keep up with the Epson Perfection V750 Pro.

In the following review we take a detailed look at the new Epson Perfection V850 Pro, we will compare it with its predecessor Epson Perfection V750 Pro, and also we will compare it with its smaller brother Epson Perfection V800. We will see, that the differences to the small brother are so marginal, that we will refer to the review of the brother model in many cases.

Comparison with the predecessor Epson Perfection V750 Pro

If after 8 years, a V750 evolves into a V850, then this sounds like a huge leap, like a new generation of scanner, featuring higher resolution, better color fidelity, faster scanning speeds etc. When placing the two devices next to each other, however, it's obvious at first glance that - besides the new lettering - not a dreg has changed. Upon comparing the data sheets of the two devices, just one small change attracts attention: the new Epson Perfection V850 Pro powers up quicker. The warmup time amounts to less than one second.

Epson V850 Pro

At a more detailed contemplation one recognizes the technical difference between the Perfection V750 Pro and the new Perfection V850 Pro: In the old model the light source was a cold cathode tube, in the new V850 a white LED is used. Since an LED is ready for operation immediately one saves a couple of seconds after switching on the scanner. The new light source does not have an influence on the image quality.

The new Epson Perfection V850 Pro differs from its predecessor Epson Perfection V750 Pro only marginally according to the official data sheets: The shorter warm up time is good for users who need a singular scan very very quickly and want to save a couple of seconds after switching on the scanner; the normal user, however, who turns on his scanner and starts preparing his papers or films to scan, and starts the scan software, will not even notice the difference, especially since the shorter warm up time is only remarkable at the very first scan after switch-on. After the first scan the scanner is always ready for operation.

The new film holders of the Epson Perfection V850 Pro

Our first tests with the new Epson Perfection V850 Pro have brought a significant difference to the predecessor model into the light: The film masks have changed: All film holders except for the one for mounted 35mm slides now have glass covers and are adjustable in height. The 35mm film strip holder only can take 3 film strips instead of 4 like at the predecessor model. So one can process only 18 pictures in batch mode instead of 24 at the older model. The film mask for medium format films has only one slot instead of two at the predecessor model, i.e. one can insert only one 120/220 film strip instead of two. And at the 4x5" large format film holder there is only space for one single film; at the predecessor model there was space for 2 originals which could be processed in batch mode. So the bie transparency unit of the Epson Perfection V850 Pro is not used completely any more due to the new film holders.

Epson Perfection V800 Photo

The height adjustability of the film holders compensates a deficit of the Epson Perfection V850 Pro: The scanner has a fix focus, i.e. the focus level cannot be adjusted manually. Due to the height adjustability of the film mask the distance between the line sensor and the film can be varied and so the focus can be influenced. It is astonishing that Epson foregrounds a harmless feature like the shorter warm-up time, but an essential change in the film masks is not even mentioned.

The glass covers at the new film holders only make sense if curved and waved film material is processed. In this case the film is pressed plain and no unsharpness appears due to curved films. On the other side it is well-known that glass leads to light loss at any scanner and furthermore leads to disturbing Newton rings. Real film scanners distinguish from others that they work without glass.

In our detailed review about the Epson Perfection V800 we have examined the new film holders in detail. You find the results in the chapter The new film holders of the Epson Perfection V800. Indeed the height adjustability of the film masks is an important and very good feature. However, we have encountered many disadvantages at the use of the new film holders, indeed much more deficits than benefits. So we realized that the effect of the automatic dust and scratch removal function and the multi exposure fuction decreased. Furthermore we detected colour errors caused by the additional glass plates.

Furthermore we have found out that one can use the film holders of the predecessor model Epson Perfection V750 Pro also at the new V850, however with the restriction that the automatic frame recognition does not work any more, i.e. the scan frames have to be set manually. Therefore one works without additional glass plates, and at 35mm film strips, for example, one can process 4 strips instead of 3 strips at a time. The glassless film holders for the Epson V750 are available in our online shop.

The Epson Perfection V850 Pro is equipped with film masks which have glass plates at the top and and bottom side. These additional glass plates lead to a significant deterioration or the image quality at scanning. Therefore we recommend to use glassless film holders, except for strongly curved or waved film material.

One ca argue if the new film holders with the glass covers are a progress compared to the predecessor model or not. Thanks to these glass plates almost any film can be digitized in constant quality, even if it is curved or waved. But generelly the image quality deteriorates due to the additional glass plates.

Comparison with the smaller brother Epson Perfection V800

The physical difference between the Epson Perfection V850 Pro and the small brother Epson Perfection V800 Photo is the same as at the corresponding predecessor models: Epson promises at the V850 Pro a higher image quality thanks to a better high pass optics. At the predecessor models, however, we never could detect any differences in the image quality between the thomodels. And the same holds for a comparison of the Epson Perfection V850 Pro with the Epson Perfection V800. At this place we could include 10 scans, both made with the V800 and with the V850. You hardly could not distinguish the image files from each other, and especially you could not say which one is better. Also a resolution test for both scanners brings the same result. And also the scan speed is equal for both models.

The two scanners Epson Perfection V850 Pro and Epson Perfection V800 achieve the same image quality. In our tests we could not detect the slightest amelioration at the V850 Pro.

To the above statement, however, we have to add the following restriction: Both scanners yield the same image quality, if they are operated with the same scan software. A film which is scanned on both scanners with the manufacturer's software EpsonScan, results in the same scan file for both scanners. Even if both scanners are operated with the same SilverFast variant SE Plus or Ai Studio, the result is identical.

And so we have found the most important, decisive difference between the two brother models: An essential difference between the V800 Photo and the V850 Pro is the software equipment: Both scanners come with the manufacturer's scan software EpsonSCAN. At the V800 Photo there is SilverFast SE from Lasersoft Imaging additionally included, at the V850 Pro SilverFast SE Plus. The SE Plus variant differs from the simpler SE variant essentially by the multi exposure feature and the automatic frame recognition for paper docuements and photos. If we compare a scan of the Epson V800 with SilverFast SE with the scan at the Epson V850 Pro with SilverFast SE Plus, of course we will detect an increase of the image quality at the V850. However, we will notice the same increase of the image quality if scan the same film with the Epson V800 once with SilverFast SE and once with SilverFast SE Plus.

The Epson Perfection V850 Pro is delivered with SilverFast SE Plus, whilst the Epson Perfection V800 only comes with SilverFast SE. The use of the better scan software SilverFast SE Plus leads to an increas of the image quality at the V850 Pro compared to the V800.

Let us summarize: The high pass optics, highly praised by Epson, does not yield an amelioration of the image quality at the V850 Pro compared to the V800. However, if you buy the Epson Perfection V800 with the SilverFast variant SE Plus (in our online shop you may choose between SilverFast SE and SilverFast SE Plus at the Epson Perfection V800), so you will practically get an Epson Perfection V850 Pro and achieve the same scan results, however for less money.

As you can read in our review about the Epson V800 in the chapter Image quality of the Epson V800 you will achieve the best image quality if you run the scanner with the professional scan software SilverFast Ai Studio and make a scanner calibration with IT-8 targets. The same thing holds for the Epson Perfection V850 Pro. And here the same thing holds, namely that both scanners yield the same scan results if they are operated with the same scan software.

The scanners Epson Scanner V800 and V850 Pro achieve the same scan results and have the same scan speed if they are operated with the same scan software.

Since the test results at the Epson Perfection V850 Pro are the same as for the Epson Perfection V800 if the same scan software is used, we do without an extra chapter about scanning with different film masks, about the image quality and the scan speed. Instead we refer to our Review about the Epson Perfection V800.

Summary, conclusion

Our tests have shown that the Epson Perfection V850 Pro yields the same scan results as its smaller brother Epson Perfeection V800, if both scanners are operated with the same scan software. The V850 Pro comes by default with the better scan software SilverFast SE Plus. However, the same scan software is also available for the Epson V800, for a significantly lower price.

According to our experience there is no reason for buying an Epson Perfection V850 Pro. For almost the same price of the V850 Pro one can buy the Epson Perfection V800 with the professional scan software SilverFast Ai Studio. Thus the Epson Perfection V800 with SilverFast Ai Studio is our clear purchase advice instead of an Epson Perfection V850 Pro.

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