Epson Perfection 3490 Photo
The Epson Perfection 3490 Photo is the best bargain among value scanners we've reviewed lately. With its winning combination of great image quality, reasonable performance, versatile features, and a very affordable $99 cost, the 3490 is an excellent choice for the average user who wants a scanner that provides the most value for the best price.
In addition to scanning photos and paper documents, the 3490 can also batch-scan up to four 35mm negatives or three 35mm slides at once, using its built-in transparency adapter. It also comes with sturdy templates for holding the film securely in place while scanning. With its high optical resolution of 3600 dpi, the 3490 should satisfy most users who want to make enlargements from small originals, such as 35mm slides or negatives.
The 3490's scanned images looked solid in our on-screen and print tests, with good color accuracy and crisp details. It received excellent scores for its accurate reproduction of the color, brightness, and sharp details in a 4-by-5-inch color photo, scanned at 100 dpi and judged both on a monitor and in print. It also scored high marks for its scan of a 2-by-2-inch color photo at its maximum resolution (3600 dpi) and color depth (48 bit).
That said, the 3490's scores were only slightly better than average in most of our speed tests conducted using its Hi-Speed USB 2.0 interface. Although it was one of the fastest in scanning a 2-by-2-inch color photo at 1200 dpi (completing the task in about 36 seconds, compared with the Canon CanoScan 9950F's first-place score of about 29 seconds), the 3490's other scores were more middling in comparison with other recently tested scanners. For example, it took about 34 seconds to scan a full-page color document at 300 dpi.
Like earlier Epson scanners, the 3490 has easy push buttons that quickly launch common tasks (scanning, copying, e-mailing, and PDF creation), and it also boasts the versatile Epson Scan driver, which offers a trio of operating modes for novices and veterans. For example, if you choose the 3490's Full Auto mode, it recognizes the type of image (such as a color print or film negative) and then scans and saves the image for you. With its Professional mode you can access the full range of scan options for manual control, and with its Home mode you get a comfortable mix of both automatic and manual options.
The included scanning software also provides several easy-to-use image enhancement features for dust removal and grain reduction (for film scans only, and with three different levels of strength) and color restoration (for both photo and film scans). In informal tests, these features did a nice job of restoring several faded prints and slides to their original glory. However, determining the best settings for image enhancement generally requires several practice scans. In some tests, for instance, we found that using the full-strength "Dust Removal: High" setting also obliterated some image details (such as facial lines) along with unwanted specks.
An optional $149 automatic feeder handles multiple photo prints up to 4 by 6 inches, as well as business cards.
Though it's not the fastest scanner around, the dual-purpose Epson Perfection 3490 delivers high-quality photo and film scans at a relatively low price.