Epson F-3200 review

Price when reviewed

The F-3200 is an uncommon thing: a film scanner that’s been built for convenience. Not only a dedicated film scanner, the Epson can also circumvent your PC and allow you to print directly to an inkjet printer, although the only models supported are the Epson Stylus Photo 2100 and R800. You can also scan directly to a memory card; three slots accommodate CompactFlash/Microdrive, Memory Stick, SD/MMC and xD-Picture Cards.

The direct printing function is supplemented by the ability to view ink levels, check for blocked nozzles (by printing a test pattern) and clean the heads if any nozzles are blocked.

With its unusual form factor, the F-3200 can accommodate a wider array of media than the Nikon or Minolta. It’s very versatile in this respect: you can mount up to a dozen 35mm negatives (in two rows of six) or eight 35mm slides. But there are also holders for 120 and 220 medium-format film (the holder will take up to 6 x 18cm), plus 4 x 5in film. You can even scan reflective media (in other words photo prints and documents) at up to 6 x 4in in size.

Plug in the F-3200 and a light in the centre of the four-way keypad pulsates blue. By default, you can now start scanning using the unit in isolation, navigating with the integrated colour TFT screen. It’s impossible to accurately preview the results on the tiny screen, though, let alone do any effective correction based on a preview histogram. Fortunately, the scanner does come with normal PC-based scan software that covers the standard range of functions, including histogram checking and exposure controls.

Unfortunately, for all its unusual features, the Epson can’t live up to the standard of either the Nikon or Minolta when it comes to quality. Our 35mm test scans were noticeably soft compared to the other two, with a consequent lack of detail. Noise was higher too, but on the positive side dynamic range is very nearly as good as the Minolta, so the F-3200 is able to do your negatives justice as far as shadow detail and highlight capture are concerned. It’s quick too, taking just 35 seconds to complete a 35mm negative scan at its full 3,200ppi.

The F-3200 is an interesting concept and a relatively low-cost way to scan large-format film. Standalone scanning is novel, but the obvious question is why on earth would you want to? For normal 35mm use, the more soberly designed Minolta and Nikon models give better quality, and the Scan Dual does so for considerably less money.

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