So you’re ready to buy a very high-quality flatbed scanner to digitize your analog prints and film. Still, now you're having difficulty deciding between the Epson Perfection V800 Photo and the Epson Perfection V850 Pro Photo Scanners. Don't feel bad. Unless you're already extremely knowledgeable about high-end scanners, let me tell you, it's extremely difficult to understand which model will give you the most benefits and value for your photo collection by just comparing the sales and specifications pages.
Whether you or an avid hobby photographer, a true professional, or just want to get all the quality you can out of your prints and film, either one of these models will give you exceptional results. But I want to help you feel confident you'll make the right choice. Below, in plain English that will make it very easy to understand, I've written out and explained in detail the 5 differences between the two models.
The Epson V850 vs V800 — The 5 Important Differences
Higher Image Quality
If you've stared at photos of the V800 Photo and the V850 Pro, you've probably noticed they look fairly identical right? This is, in fact, because other than the identifying name written across the top right front of each device, their physical casing is exactly the same for both.
However, inside, it's a little different. Both scanners are equipped with a Dual Lens System — unique to their current lineup's V800 series of scanners. (This system was also available in the V700 series; the V800 series was later replaced) This means when you scan a paper print, the scanner will automatically use a high-resolution lens capable of 4800 dpi (optical). And when you are scanning film in the included film holders, it will then automatically choose a second “super-resolution” lens capable of scanning at 6400 dpi (optical).
You won't find a two-lens setup like this on even the next model down in the lineup — the single-lens-only Epson Perfection V600 Photo. But, with the flagship V850 Pro model, Epson decided to take the image quality one step higher by adding what they call “High Pass Optics.” The purpose of the 850 Pro is to pull out every last possible amount of quality from the scanner using some additional internal design refinements to ensure minimum optical distortion:
- Anti-reflective coatings on the optics
- High-reflection coatings on the mirrors
In an interview with Mark Roslon, Senior Product Manager of Epson America, Inc. states about the V850 Pro:
“The V850 has all of the little extras that we know how to do to make that image quality better. The structure of the two scanners are identical, but the V850 Pro has anti-reflection coatings on the optics, and high-reflection coatings on the mirrors, that simply eek out the last bit of image quality we can get from that system.”
To put it simply, by coating these surfaces in this manner, they can reduce the amount of stray light they don't want getting inside the lenses and increase the amount of light they want bouncing off the mirrors. This means, theoretically, your images will be even more accurate because the scanner has to do less work to process out obscurities unintentionally captured by the lenses.
Faster Scanning Times
Because the case and components of the V800 Photo and V850 Pro are nearly identical, you wouldn't think there would be any speed difference in how long an identical scan would take to complete with either model. However, while continuing to speak about the improved image quality of the V850 Pro, Mark Roslon also adds:
“[The V850 Pro] will also scan a little bit faster because we know the processor understands the data coming in is cleaner, that there is less processing to do to make sure that image is very precise, so we can run it a little bit faster because of it.”
I'm sorry to say I don't have access to both scanners side-by-side to do a speed test with identical settings and photographs. Owning both models would be quite a luxury, wouldn't it! But I've read multiple sources back when these models were released that says the V850 Pro scans 33% faster than the V800 Photo. If anyone finds evidence to back this up or prove otherwise, I would be very interested in hearing from you so I can modify this post and link to the supporting write-up(s).
Additional Film Holders
Both the V800 Photo and V850 Pro come with film holders to make straightening and flattening your film easier while scanning. The difference, however, is that inside the box of the V850 Pro, you will find a surprise.
- The V800 Photo comes with a single set of 4 film holders.
- The V850 Pro comes with not one but exactly two sets of 4 film holders (a total of 8).
The film holders are actually new and improved over those sold with the previous V700 and V750 models. This happened based on customer feedback that the holders should be more rigid this time.
Each set comes with one of each of the following holders:
- 35mm mounted slides — holds 12 frames
- 35mm film strips — holds three strips (up to 18 frames)
- Medium-format strip – holds one frame (up to 6 x 20cm)
- 4-inch x 5-inch frame – holds one frame
Why would you need two sets of film holders?
In real-world film scanning, you're dealing with a workflow like the following:
- Load your film into a film holder
- Wait for the scanner to scan the film in the holder
- Remove the holder from the scanner bed
- Empty the film from the holder
- Start this process over by re-loading more film
If you're not busy dusting off your next batch of film you want to scan or giving your last scanned images specific filenames in your computer, with a second set of film holders, you could save time by filling up a second film holder while the first one is finishing up being scanned. Having an extra set of film holders makes it possible to increase your ability for greater productivity.
Different Scanning Software
It may not be completely apparent by reading the dense “Overview” sales pages of the Epson V800 Photo and V850 Pro, but both of these scanners actually come with two different pieces of scanning software. You are free to use whichever you would like — or even both. First, you get a copy of Epson Scan, an adequate and easy-to-use application made by Epson. It's included with all models of their Perfection Photo scanner lineup. Secondly, you also get a copy of LaserSoft Imaging's SilverFast scanning software. But, depending on which scanner model you buy, there's a slight difference in which version is included:
|Epson V800 Photo||SilverFast SE|
|Epson V850 Pro||SilverFast SE Plus|
At the time I'm finishing up this article, this currently is all you learn from the Overview sales pages on Epson's website. One is SilverFast SE, and the other is SilverFast SE Plus. But what are their differences? Do you really need SE Plus, or will SE be adequate for your scanning needs? For those unfamiliar with SilverFast, here's all the information I've compiled for you to help you make an easier purchasing decision.
SilverFast SE vs SilverFast SE Plus (The Differences)
If you don't include their SilverFast software written to control very specialized high-end scanners — such as Heidelberg drum scanners and medical x-ray film scanners — there are basically three versions of their scanning software SilverFast you need to know about. In order of features included, they are SilverFast SE, SilverFast SE Plus, and then their highest version is SilverFast Ai Studio. All three are calibrated to work well with the Epson V800 series of scanners.
Printer Calibration (Sold Separately) Includes the ability to use LaserSoft's Printer Calibration software with SilverFast (Optional – software sold separately). “Output or printer calibration is very useful when the task is to reproduce an image via printer under the condition of keeping the colors and hues as original and predictable as possible. Without creating an appropriate ICC profile that takes into account the printer, ink cartridges, and paper used, the task is almost impossible. The SilverFast 8 Printer Calibration is an exclusive feature for calibrating the printer using a flatbed scanner, which is appropriate for professionals and beginners due to its easy handling and smart price-performance ratio.” (Printer Calibration only works with the SilverFast SE Plus and SilverFast Ai Studio versions)
Included Scanner Calibration Software
Finally, the last difference with the V850 Pro is you will get the “X-Rite i1Scanner with reflective/transparent IT8 targets.” The Epson product listing makes it sound like you are getting a separate hardware scanning device. But, you are actually getting another piece of software called “X-Rite i1Scanner” and IT8 targets that work with it. These two go hand-in-hand to calibrate your scanner for color accuracy. The process has you scan the flat IT8 target with your V800 series scanner. The i1Scanner software then analyzes this scanned file and compares it to a reference file associated with your color target. The difference between the two is mapped into a “color profile” that is assigned to you that you can now use with your scanning software. The i1Scanner software will work with the Epson V800 Photo if you were wondering. it just isn't included with the purchase of one.
If you were at all confused before about how the Epson V800 Photo and V850 Pro are different, I certainly hope I was able to clear things up for you. If you still have questions, let me know in the comments below.