The Best Entry-Level Flatbed Scanner for Film: Fstoppers' Long-Term Review of the Epson V600

The Best Entry-Level Flatbed Scanner for Film: Fstoppers' Long-Term Review of the Epson V600

For photographers looking to get into scanning their own film, the Epson V600 is the perfect first flatbed scanner.

Still made new, the Epson V600 is available for $230 from most retailers that sell camera equipment. It doesn’t have the best reputation when compared with its more refined and expensive sibling, the Epson V850. It does, however, come at a much lower price tag at one fifth the price. It’s true, the V850 has many updated features that would result in sharper images, but for all intents and purposes, the difference is minimal unless you’re making a fairly large print. 

Example scan of 35mm (Kodak Gold 200)

For those that are debating whether a scanner is right for them, the V600 is the perfect way to get into home scanning without spending more than $1,000. So, how much experience do I have with this scanner? I am nearing scan number 3,000. Since I started, I’ve learned a great deal about how to get the best scans, and even now, I still debate every now again re-scanning some of my old negatives because the conversion software that I prefer to use (Negative Lab Pro) gets updates, but that’s neither here nor there. The Epson Scan software that comes with the V600 is very disappointing and is not capable of distinguishing the difference between frames, so now, I have to manually select the frames myself and crop later (which is fine, just a slight annoyance). 

How does the V600 compare to digitizing with a digital camera and a macro lens? For color negative and color reversal film (slide film), a flatbed scanner provides a substantially better workflow, particularly as it pertains to dust removal. For black and white film, on the other hand, scanners cannot do dust removal, so there is little benefit to a flatbed scanner compared with digitizing with a digital camera. When it comes to the quality of the scan, I would argue that the difference is primarily driven by the film, format, and the amount of under/overexposure. For astrophotography specifically, I cannot stand the use of a flatbed scanner. Perhaps I just need more practice or some good advice, but my scans always come out really grainy and with minimal detail. Using my Sony a7R II and a macro lens, however, makes a world of difference. When it comes to the colors, assuming the conversation is about the color negative film, I have limited experience comparing the results side by side, and for those particular examples, I couldn’t tell any substantive difference between the two methods on the colors alone. The sharpness was substantially better on the Sony, though for 6x4.5 negatives, an 8x10 print would not show any difference. For 35mm, there seems to be a pretty big improvement, but with the slower workflow, I still wouldn’t use it the majority of the time. Perhaps if one day I buy the Mongoose automatic film scanner, I will change my mind, but for the time being, I use my V600 for 35mm to 120. 

Example scan of a 6x4.5 negative (Ilford Ortho)

What I Like

  • Affordable relative to other quality flatbed scanners
  • Very easy to use
  • Capable of using DIGITAL ICE for pretty high-quality dust removal

What I Don’t Like:

  • It cannot scan large format, so I’m relegated to digitizing my 4x5 with my digital camera
  • It’s slow and takes a long time to warm up
  • The conversion software is pretty terrible
  • The scans are not as sharp as you'd get from a digital camera

Do you own or have you ever used the Epson V600? If so, what are your thoughts on this particular scanner? Do you have any thoughts on the V600 compared to other scanners or other scanning methods? You can get yours here: Epson V600.

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10 Comments

Kevin Van Haesendonck's picture

I've been scanning myself with a V500 for the past 10 years, and having had other older scanners from HP that offered the same functionality, the Epson is good enough for most work. I never print larger than 8x10 so as you mentioned in the article, it vastly outweighs the cumbersome process of "handscanning" each one with a digital camera.

guido Baruzzi's picture

For what I do, I could not justify the price of the V850, so I've purchased a V600 and received it just a week ago. Super easy to set up, I tried scanning a photograph and it looks great. Haven't used it much yet, but I'm planning to scan a bunch of slides and negatives real soon, from 35mm to 6x7, both color and B&W.

Ben Coyte's picture

I have been using a V600 for years now and really like the results. A friend with the same scanner doesn't. I have scanned his negs and got better results despite identical settings, so may be he got a lemon. Lately I have been scanning hundreds of old negs, colour and b/w dating back to the the 1950s. I had to make my own holders for 127 and Instamatic 126 (awful format). It is a bit of a tedious process, but the V600 does a great job.

Jeff Dietz's picture

I've used the V600 for 35mm, 120, and 4x5 glass negs that I found at an antique show. The 4x5's require me to scan 3 times, moving the plate across the reduced scanning window, then piecing the images together like a pano. I printed one of the images 16x20 and it came out usably well. The image was shot in 1915 and has some understandable grain. I expect the print to look old, and I don't pixel-peep on the print, so I'm very pleased. All of my 35mm and 120 prints are 8x10 or smaller, so again, very satisfied with the scanner.

Chris Rogers's picture

I've had two v500's the second broke after the 4th scan adding in lines of light ruining the images. They were VERY slow and the scans were mediocre at best. Digital ICE does work pretty well though. If you can do a DLSR macro lens setup with a light board i'd go that route. It's way faster and easier with better results.

Richard Reed's picture

Former V600 owner here. When I was shooting film more, I was hoping this scanner would help with my workflow and provide decent files. Sadly, many of the criticisms posted in this review are some of the same that I experienced and why I ultimately sold it.

My preferred film format is 120 and I think the V600 did an admirable job with my 6x7 scans. I think it struggles with 35mm, at least for me. I'm not sure if the issue is with the flimsy holder, the software, or user error, but I found the output to be soft.

Ian Goss's picture

Standards have certainly slipped.

Steve K's picture

> "The Epson Scan software that comes with the V600 is very disappointing and is not capable of distinguishing the difference between frames, so now, I have to manually select the frames myself and crop later (which is fine, just a slight annoyance). "

Not sure what you mean, the stock Epson Scan software definitely does support auto-detection of individual frames, because I've been using that feature the entire time. That's actually one of the few things it's actually pretty decent at. Sometimes if the edges of the frame have very dark or underexposed sections, you will have to manually define the frame borders, but that doesn't happen too often for me.

One of my bigger grievances with the Epson Scan software is that it doesn't support macOS newer than 10.14, so you're stuck on macOS Mojave if you want it to work. Otherwise you're forced to use a third party software. They actually bundle a license for SilverFast 8 with the scanner now because of this, but I tried it and didn't like it. The stock Epson Scan software is pretty lame but it does a decent job of auto frame detection followed by batch auto exposure, then batch scan. Even if the scanner itself is awful slow, and you still need to tweak each frame exposure manually for best results, these few good features of the software still make it better to use for chugging through 35mm than things like SilverFast which had much worse frame detection and required far more manual tweaks per frame.

Also, my unit seems to have gotten dust underneath the glass on the film scanner in the lid, which is a massive pain to deal with, I have to shift and rescan film sometimes when a giant piece of dust gets in a frame I really cared about. But I can't find any guides online on how to safely take the upper glass out for interior cleaning.

Joel Manes's picture

I have an old Epson Expression 1680 that I scan MF through 8x10. I can't scan my larger stuff. Anyway, it works quite well and I've gotten very pleasing results. For 35mm, I use the Nikon 5000ED Coolscan.

Rodney Johnson's picture

I've been using a V850 for 10 years and have scanned 1000s of frames of my own work (also old family photos, negs and slides, etc.) I found all of fancy dust removal software more trouble than it was worth (way too many rescans for when it didn't quite work and left artifacts that were worse than the dust). Primarily used the epson scan software that came with it as it was pretty bare bones simple, but let you do some basic contrast, levels and color corrections on individual frames. You might find a better scanner for 35mm, but for MF and larger it is more than adequate.