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Epson Perfection 4990 Photo

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The Epson Perfection 4990 Photo is a 4800dpi scanner that features a built-in 8-by-10-inch transparency unit and support for film formats ranging from 35mm to 4-by-5 inches. Its speedy FireWire and USB 2.0 connections make quick work of high-resolution scans and, in our tests, we found the scanner to be very good at reproducing details, though the colors were a touch on the green side.

The Perfection 4990 includes tools for fixing photos and transparencies. Digital ICE from Kodak/ASF uses a combination of built-in hardware and software to repair rips and bends in scans of photos. Epson’s Easy Photo Fix software is built into the Epson Scan scanning application to restore faded color and remove dust. The tools worked well—especially for restoring color— helping us get an old picture from the 1960s back into the correct color ballpark, particularly when it came to skin tones. Flaws such as rips were also less obvious after using the tools. But in one test, the tools tried to remove elements of a transparency scan that were not flaws.

The scanner also ships with two different scanning software packages: the aforementioned Epson Scan software and SilverFast SE, a “light” version of LaserSoft Imaging’s scanning software. Since SilverFast SE doesn’t output 48-bit scans, we used the Epson Scan software. (Another version of the scanner, the $599 Perfection 4990 Pro, uses the same hardware, but ships with more software, including the full version of SilverFast Ai 6, which can output 48-bit scans.)

Epson Scan has three modes to choose from: an Auto mode for beginners, an intermediate level with more scanning options, and an expert level offering the most control over the scanning operation.

To test the scanner’s speed, we connected it via FireWire and timed a series of high-bit scans. Compared to the other mid-level scanners we’ve tested, the Perfection 4990 was the fastest at scanning a 35mm slide at 2,400dpi and with reflective scans, it was just about as fast as others in its class.

To rate scan quality, we scanned several different photos, test targets, slides and transparencies, and printed them to an Epson Stylus Color 2200 printer. We then compared them to scans from other scanners we tested the same way.

Overall, the Epson Perfection 4990 performed well. The scans of our line-art images captured a lot of detail, though they were not quite as clean as scans from Canon’s CanoScan 9950F (   , February 2005 ). In looking for the most accurate scans, we tried both sets of provided scanning software. We preferred SilverFast’s reflective scans, but the Epson software did a better job on our 35mm color slide. The colors it produced were a tad on the green side—the software was probably trying to punch up the colors a little too far. The slide scans made with SilverFast were even more oversaturated.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

The Epson Perfection 4990 Photo has lots of great included retouching software, as well as the ability to scan many sizes of transparencies on its large, 8-by-10-inch transparency unit. We found the quality to be very good across the board, with colors just a touch on the green side.

Jury Tests

Color Very Good
Clarity Very Good

Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable

Timed Trials

8-by-10-inch photo, 600dpi scan 1:21
4-by-6-inch photo, 1,200 dpi scan 2:16
Transparency, 2,400 dpi scan 1:06

Times are in minutes:seconds.


Highest Optical Resolution 4,800dpi
Max Bit Depth 48-bit internal/external color; 16-bit internal/external grayscale
Weight 14.8 pounds
Dimensions (width x depth x height in inches) 11.97 x18.74 x 5.28
Transparency Adapter Built in
Max Scan Size (in inches) 8.5x11.7
Interface USB 2.0, FireWire 400
Included Software Epson Scan, Epson Copy, Abbyy FineReader Sprint OCR, SilverFast SE6, Photoshop Elements 2

Epson Perfection 4990 Photo
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