Epson – Perfection 4490 Photo review

high resolution flatbed scanner with transparency hood
Photo of Epson – Perfection 4490 Photo
£170 + VAT

The Perfection 4490 Photo is one of Epson’s mid-range scanners and represents a good all-round package of decent hardware and good software. It features a built-in transparency hood and comes with a range of holders for slides and different transparency formats.

It can scan at a resolution of 4,800dpi with 48 bits per pixel colour depth, which is more than most people would ever use. It’s also impossible to see differences in scans between 2,400 and 4,800 dpi unless you’re zooming up really high.

As is typically the case these days, the scanner is shipped with a quick-start guide on a large sheet of paper, plus electronic manuals. To help you along, there’s a large sticker on the product itself reminding you to remove the transport lock before powering on the device.

On this particular product there are two transport locks; one on the scanner base and a second on the transparency adapter. It would have been nice if these had been mechanical locks that automatically disabled when powering on, but at least you only need to make the mistake once if you forget to remove one.

The build quality of this scanner is quite good, although we did experience some worrying flexing of the base unit when opening the lid. The scanning shortcut buttons on the front are responsive, and it was nice to note that there is a power switch on the side, so the unit can be powered off completely rather than be left in power save mode.

In operation the scanner is nice and quiet, with low vibration from the drive which no doubt helps the scan quality. Installation was straightforward in Windows XP and we found that the scanner could co-exist with another Epson scanner on the system, in the form of an Epson all-in-one device.

On the front of the scanner are four shortcut buttons. These allow quick scanning to PDF, e-mail, print and file. The scan to PDF button was a little confusing, as it shares the same interface as the ‘scan to file’ action. At first we thought that the PDF functionality was incomplete or not correctly installed.

Additionally, no character recognition is performed on the resulting PDF, despite an optical character recognition (OCR) package called FineReader being installed along with the other scanner software. On top of this, the OCR software did not support the PDF format as input, so if you want to convert a printed page into an editable or searchable document, you’ll need to scan to an image file and then import into Microsoft Word with the included OCR package.

The scan to e-mail function was more straightforward. Once scanned, we were presented with a photo size selection dialogue box with approximate transfer speeds and a mail client selection drop-down. Scan to print was similarly more complete than the scan to PDF functionality, and had an interface with several useful options like size reduction and enlargement, number of copies and document type selection.

Scanning quality was good when scanning both printed photos and negatives. Digital ICE technology is built in which helps to remove dust and scratches from the finished scans, although this seems to only be available when scanning slides and negatives.

In terms of speed, this scanner performed acceptably, with a 6 x 4-inch photo at 300dpi taking 35 seconds in fully automatic mode and saving directly to JPEG format. Initial warm-up times add a little to this, but not significantly, and it’s also possible to reduce the time taken to scan a collection of photos of the same size by simply placing them in the same spot on the scanner bed and skipping the preview scan on subsequent scans.

Film scanning was a pleasant experience with excellent recognition of the position of photos on a strip of negatives, as well as great automatic conversion of negative images to positives, resulting in arguably better colour balance than scans of printed photos, plus reasonable focus. Holders are supplied for negative strips, slides and medium format film.

Bundled software included Adobe Photoshop Elements 3, which is relatively easy to use compared to its big brother Adobe Photoshop, although the latest version is now Elements 4.

Company: Epson

Contact: 08702 416900

A stylish product with good features and an excellent driver interface, plus pretty good scanning performance. If you're after a scanner that's a cut above entry-level offerings, or you need performance on a budget, this is a good option, although this product is definitely oriented more towards scanning images than scanning text.