If you've just found a box of old family photos and want to make sure those memories can survive well into the digital age, the Epson Perfection V39 is one the best, easiest, and least expensive ways we've found to accomplish that feat. A small form factor that packs away easily when not in use, fairly simple operation, and nice touches like the ability to automatically recognize multiple photos being placed on the scanning bed and save them as separate files make this scanner great for photo digitization projects. Plus, you get all this for less than $100. If you're a long-time photographer with lots of old film negatives, you may prefer the higher resolution and film-scanning capabilities of the Epson Perfection V600, though it does cost quite a bit more at $230.
Epson Perfection V39 Review
Pros: Excellent photo scan quality, easy setup, relatively inexpensive
Cons: Software can be a bit clunky, very slow for long text documents
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Epson Perfection V39 is the best option we've found for most people that need to digitize printed photos or pages from books and magazines. If you need to scan film negatives or slides you'll need to upgrade to the V600.
The Epson Perfection V39 provides pretty much everything most people want from a flatbed scanner, with just minor (and generally manageable) annoyances. This earned it a middle-of-the-road overall score in our testing.
The V39 created high-quality scans of everything we threw at it, from photos to text documents. However, limitations in speed make it a poor choice for scanning long text documents, but more on that later.
Photo Scanning Quality
The V39 produced great, very accurate scans of photos in our testing. Colors tended to pop just the way they did in the originals, and we generally didn't feel any need to edit the resulting photo files (unless, of course, we didn't like the quality of the original photo we were scanning). Epson's software does offer some options for digital enhancement of the scanned files, and we were able to get some decent results using them. However, the software itself isn't particularly user-friendly, so if you have any level of familiarity with other photo-editing software that's already on your computer, you'll most likely want to edit the files there instead.
The V39 has a maximum resolution of 4800 dots per inch (dpi). That is functionally more than enough resolution to make scanned photos look great without a hint of graininess. You even have a bit of leeway to crop photos without a noticeable reduction in resolution. However, if you want the option of cropping scanned photos very tight, or just want the highest quality scan possible, there certainly are higher resolution available. For instance, the V600 offers a maximum resolution of 6400 dpi. However, for most people, we think the V39's resolution is more than enough.
Text Scanning Quality
That high resolution results in great looking text scans as well. In general, every text document we scanned on the V39 resulted in PDFs that looked nearly identical to the originals with bright white backgrounds and bold, defined text. This still wouldn't be our go-to choice for text scanning, simply because loading pages into the bed is a slow process, but if you're willing to put in the extra effort the resulting files look great.
Like all of the flatbed scanners we'ever tested, the V39 suffered in our speed testing. In general, bed scanners aren't' built for speed; they're built for scanning things that can't be put through a document feeder.
It's quite hard to pin down the exact speed of a bed scanner, because there are a number of variables that can change, often seemingly on a whim. For example, bed scanners usually adjust their speed based on the complexity or composition of the document being scanned. Also, these models require much more human labor than document scanners. Where a document scanner generally just needs sheets of paper to be loaded into a slot, bed scanners require one to lift the lid, position and frame the document, close the lid, then reverse the process once the scan is done. That being said, from opening the lid to closing the lid it took us an average of 30 seconds to get a scan of an 8x11 sheet from the V39. This is around average for a flatbed scanner in our experience. During real-world use,we didn't find this speed too limiting when digitizing treasured family photographs, but for long text documents it felt painstakingly slow.
Automatic Photo Seperation
One nice feature of the V39 is the fact that it can automatically recognize that you've placed two separate photos on the bed, and deposit them onto your computer as two separate files. This can speed up the process if you're scanning a lot of 5x7's.
We don't feel like the V39's software presents any significant hurdle to getting a PDF of a photo deposited onto your computer. However, if you try to do some more advanced things, the experience can get a bit frustrating.
The vast majority of people aren't going to have any issues installing the Epson software and getting it to drop scanned files onto their desktop. Using the built-in image enhancement features is effective, but doing so feels quite clunky and often takes some trial and error. Selecting a specific folder destination for your scans feels needlessly complicated, to the point where we found it much easier to just scan to the desktop and drag/drop the resulting files where we wanted them. Perhaps the most frustrating thing is unlocking the optical character recognition (OCR) feature. This allows you to scan text documents that are then text searchable and copy/pasteable, but getting this feature to work required lots of troubleshooting and Googling. Once engaged, the feature works quite well, but unless you really need a document to be text searchable it is not at all worth the effort.
Most basic scanning functions are quite easy to complete with the V39 which earned it an above average score in this metric.
Possibly the most user-friendly aspect of the V39 is its compact size. At just 1.5 inches thick and a fairly light 3.4 pounds, it is easy to toss this scanner out of sight when not needed, and quickly grab it when you do need it. It even has a little kickstand to keep it upright if you want to store it on its end. It is also powered through the same USB cable that connects it to your computer, so no fussing with a clunky power converter either.
If you're one that likes to scan book pages or magazine, the lid of the scanner can even be removed to accommodate bulky or oversized items This is great for capturing pages of large coffe-table books, and the like.
We also found the initial setup of the scanner and its software to be painless. In fact, we had fresh scans on our desktop within 10 minutes of opening the box.
The only place the V39 lost favor in this metric is its lack of any way to make scanning long text documents easier or more efficient. However, this is just the name of the game when it comes to flatbed scanners.
When it comes to digitizing photos, the Epson Perfection V39 is a great value, offering everything you need and great quality for less than $100. If you need to scan lots of long text documents, however, you'll save some time and frustration with something like the similarly priced Brother DS-620 Mobile.
The Epson Perfection V39 is a great choice for those that need to digitize collections of old family photos or the pages of books and magazines. It isn't a great option for scanning long text documents.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata