Epson Perfection 3170 Photo review

by Perttu Luukkanen

Updated July 15, 2004

I recently took on the task of digitizing and archiving hundreds of family photos & slides. These include b&w prints since 1910, lots of 9 x 13 color prints from 60's & 70's, slides from 70's to this date and of course plenty of modern 10 x 15 prints.

I'd been looking around for a while a device to handle all this and while having convinced myself that with 35 mm negatives & slides a dedicated film scanner would give the best result, they still cost a small fortune and handle only one format. I had in my hands such a variety of formats that I decided to give a shot for an all-round device. So I bought the Epson 3170, with some second thoughts how it would fare, but since I needed a flatbed anyway, this was the way to go.

There are few scanners that promise what the Epson 3170 does. An outsanding 3200 dpi resolution, 48 bit color, prints, slides, negatives, both 35 mm and medium format and for all this, it's dirt cheap. Street price for the 3170 hovers around $180 in the US, although it's more likely be around 240 (~$290) here in Finland. It comes bundled with Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 which is worth something itself, especially if you don't have a post-processing software.

Before I bought the scanner I tried to look for a decent review on the Net and I could find none. That may well be the reason you're reading this. I felt I had to put something available, since I know there are a lot of people out there wondering whether this scanner is really good enough for scanning film, especially at this price.

However, I'd like to emphasize that while I will cover a variety of formats and settings this scanner can handle this still is a layman's (re)view. What I do for living has very little to do with photography, much less with computers. So don't take this as the final word, but rather let the images speak for themselves.

I've been taking photographs for all of my life starting from point & shoot 35 mm. I'm currently using Canon S30, Minolta XE-7 (full manual 35 mm SLR) and a Canon EOS Rebel Ti. Most of the images have been taken either with XE-7 or an old Flexaret III twin lens reflex camera.

What's in the box

In addition to the actual scanner there's the power cord with an attached transformer. This unit works either on 220 or 110 volts depending where you buy it. If you're planning to take it overseas, you need to figure out how to power the scanner. There's high-speed USB 2.0 cable as well and two CD's. One contains Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 and the other Epson Scanning software plus various other utilities.

Scanner with the lid open. You can see the TPU  light. When scanning reflectives you put a cover on this which gently presses the prints on the glass. You can insert two strips of 35 mm film with maximum six frames in each.


You can lay up to four framed 35 mm slides directly on the glass (left). The plastic is there just to keep them in place. With medium format (right) you can scan only  one frame at a time. There's a small fuzzy piece of white plastic which latches between the negative and the TPU. (all images courtesy of


To make it brief, the proprietary Epson scanning software isn't the most sophisticated piece of software, but it'll get the job done well enough. The package includes a variety of stuff in addition to Photoshop Elements but the one you'd use for scanning images isEpson Scan. Once you start the software you can pick from three scanning modes, "full auto", "home" and "professional".  I think the names speak for themselves. I ended up using the professional mode almost all of the time. The first two offer a variable degree of automation while the professional mode lets you adjust all settings yourslef. 

© Perttu Luukkanen 2003-2004

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