EPSON Perfection 4990 PRO

Scanner favors bells and whistles over output quality

As Epson’s latest offering for the advanced consumer who’s looking for a better quality flatbed scanner with plenty of options and accessories, the EPSON Perfection 4990 PRO has a lot to offer. Epson has made some improvements for this market by adding some OEM (original equipment manufacturer) software options, a larger TPU (transparency unit) space and the next generation of 4.0 Dmax, but that might not be enough when you look at other similar products.

Responding to the ever-changing demands of the design professional on a more modest budget, the Perfection 4990 brings a lot to the table without the need for additional film scanners and outboard items. The single-pass CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent lamp) scans can produce up to 12,800-dpi interpolated resolution at 48 bit with enhancement capabilities for most levels of graphics and photo applications. Scanning accessories include sizes 35mm, 4×5, and 8×10 with or without the guides provided and the improved layout options over Epson’s previous models.

At first inspection of the PRO version tested, you’ll find quite a few discs provided for use with the cleanly designed Perfection 4990 that contain a huge variety of both Mac and Windows software. Included in the third-party bundle are Monaco EZColor; ArcSoft PhotoStudio, PhotoBase, and Panorama Maker; SilverFast Ai; and Adobe Elements 2. Epson’s Easy Photo Fix and proprietary drivers are also included, of course. The four film trays provide an improved feel over the 4800 series from Epson and these were far more solid than other similar brands tested. In addition, they include an 8×10 film area guide sheet that didn’t seem paramount at first, but proved helpful in its application for better alignment of originals when scanning. One of the things I found surprising was the solid tactile feel of this unit; however, none of that matters if the output quality isn’t as good.

The initial scans were of older high-quality prints, recent 35mm Kodachrome and 100-UC film and several documents in both color and black/white. Scanning was very fast, relatively quiet, and the software and GUI are intuitive with a simple and easy-to-navigate layout. The output quality, however, was only really acceptable in full “professional” mode.

Once running well (after several crashes of the Epson Scan software from the first few attempts), the interface presented a fully automated option along with Home and Professional modes. Two of the best features of this model have to be Epson’s inclusion of DIGITAL ICE and color restoration; however, manual correction of over-saturation by about 18% was required in several instances. Text and film scans proved to be marginal at best, with the need to adjust for nearly every facet of the output. Once that was done, the results were much better. The Unsharp Mask mode is almost a requirement, and it seems that the optics only provide adequate results from the model tested compared to other brands.

While the 4990 produced passable-to-good results at a good price, the differences between this scanner and similar products aren’t what they once were. In some ways, the inclusion of so much software seems to be “because they can” and not entirely necessary for the photo or design professional who might already have their own preferred virtual toolbox for digital imaging. The Epson 4990 is capable of producing a good quality of output for the price point, but there are certainly better options elsewhere.<

PRICE: $599.99 (as tested)
FOR: Mac and Windows
FROM: Epson America, Inc.
PHONE: 800-463-7766