Epson Perfection 3490 Photo review

Price when reviewed

The Epson Perfection 2580 ruled the A-List scanner category for four months before being discontinued. We liked its automatic 35mm film feeder, its excellent software package, and above all, its superb image quality.

Epson Perfection 3490 Photo review

The speed of the 3490 is unchanged, but that’s no cause for complaint. At 150ppi, a 6 x 4in print scanned in a stunning six seconds, which is actually faster than taking a preview (nine seconds). A 300ppi A4 scan of a photograph – all you’ll need for most purposes – took just 21 seconds: if you’ve got a box of photos to digitise, the 3490 is for you.

There’s no automatic film feeder, but if you’ll be scanning plenty of negatives, then the extra £19 for the next model up, the otherwise identical 3590, is well worth it. This will halve the time it takes to scan a strip of four negatives.

Quality is paramount, and the Epson produced some exceptional results. It beats the Canon LiDE 500f, which costs £50 more. There was a pleasing lack of colour casts too, although our one criticism would be that the default mode leaves images over-saturated, so colours look more vivid than they should.

Luckily, Epson supplies some heavy-duty image-correction software to help everyone from total beginners to serious enthusiasts get the best from the 3490’s excellent hardware. There’s a beginners mode, which is too simple to be of much use, a reasonably powerful home mode, and a professional mode which, while not quite as powerful as the moniker suggests, is the one that offers the most features. The key inclusion is adjustable saturation, which is a straightforward way of dealing with the 3490’s only real quality failing. You can also adjust the tone curve and histogram, while colour balance is another useful tool that allows you to generally get your scans right without needing any third-party image software.

The bundled OCR software has been upgraded from ABBYY FineReader 5 to version 6, but it’s still the Sprint version, which falls some way short of other OCR packages in terms of features, if not raw accuracy. If all you ever need to scan are straightforward text and image boxes you’ll have no cause for complaint, but you’ll be frustrated if you’re dealing with complex documents that need manual zoning.

On the plus side, FineReader is quick: it took just 16 seconds to scan and recognise a greyscale A4 document at 300dpi, and it recognised a simple graph, table and all the text flawlessly. Scans of monochrome text were excellent, although we noticed some very slightly soft edges, but nothing that would make us hesitate to use the 3490 as a low-volume archive scanner.

But the lacklustre OCR software really is the only major downside to this superb scanner. It’s exceptionally fast and, with the most minute of adjustments, offers image quality that will do justice to any photo you scan. The best-in-show TWAIN software and low price mean the 3490 is our pick of the sub-£100 scanners.

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