The number of players in the scanner market has been shrinking, with Heidelberg and others vanishing. So it's reassuring to see a relatively new player in the market moving ahead. Epson has been making scanners for a few years, and after a shaky start is producing great-quality scanners. Its latest and greatest offering is the Perfection 3200, which just about qualifies as a consumer scanner.
There are three main features that pro scanners have that consumer versions don't: a transparency adaptor that uses a moving light-source to illuminate the scanning head as it moves; a professional software suite with advanced colour-correction; and a high density range. The Perfection 3200 offers a transparency adaptor, though not with a moving light source. The density range - which denotes the level of detail in light and dark areas - is 3.4D: not spectacular but competent. The real breakthrough is the software, SilverFast, which is the same as that bundled with most high-end professional scanners.
There are some features consumer scanners tend to have that professional models don't - for example, good looks. The 3200 is a stunner.
Using the scanner is a breeze: Mac OS X software is supplied so there's no need to wake Classic to use it. There are two interfaces supported: USB and FireWire. The FireWire option works much faster than USB. It zipped through scans in double-quick time, unlike other FireWire scanners we've tested.
Resolution has always been a popular measure of a scanners capability, but it's a measure of quantity not quality. The 3200 can scan at up to 3,200dpi, which means images can be enlarged by up to ten times without degrading quality. This is a first for a consumer scanner, but its usefulness is questionable.
The Perfection 3200 is a consumer scanner, but with some high-end features. The software is arguably the most important part of professional scanning, so this machine will be enough for many semi-professional users. It's good enough for most types of images - though if you plan scanning transparencies for printing, it might be better to go for something with a higher density range.
At £349 including VAT, this scanner is pricier than other consumer scanners, but measurably better than most.