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With Apple's recent rollout of their new iMac line, I have been considering upgrading my 2011 computer to something more modern.

However, I know that my scanner, Epson V500, doesn't work with macOS Big Sur as of May 2021* (I have tried on another computer running Big Sur) - and what good would a new computer be if I can't scan pictures with it?

So upgrading computers would also mean having to purchase a new scanner.

I have been looking for articles comparing currently available scanners that would be able to scan the formats I shoot - 110, 16mm, 35mm half-frame, 35mm, 120, and 6x10, and have been struggling to find a review that wasn't mostly oriented towards 35mm film scanning or very expensive professional gear.

What are good, consumer-level film scanners that are Big Sur compatible and can scan a variety of formats?

*: The only macOS app I found for Big Sur on the Epson website is called "Easy Photo Scan" (I use "Epson Scan" on High Sierra). "Easy Photo Scan" couldn't connect to the scanner and I also got the "Cannot find a driver" error message and a "Couldn't communicate with helper application".

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    I'm curious about how your V500 failed to correctly run on Big Sur, the Epson drivers page for the V500 lists macOS 11.x as being a supported platform. Note also that an M1 based Mac is heading off into even more uncharted waters than just Big Sur.
    – Peter M
    Apr 29 at 7:04
  • The only macOS app I found for Big Sur on the Epson website is called "Easy Photo Scan" (I use "Epson Scan" on High Sierra). "Easy Photo Scan" couldn't connect to the scanner and I also got the "Cannot find a driver" error message and a "Couldn't communicate with helper application". I updated my question thanks to your comment for more clarity. Apr 29 at 7:09
  • "Easy Photo Scan" looks ancient, and I only saw 10.8.x mentioned in the pages I saw. Personally for something like a V500 I'd be looking at something like Silverfast which does support Big Sur. (Damn that looks like an answer - and I hate comments that should be answers)
    – Peter M
    Apr 29 at 7:23
  • @PeterM is silverfast a cheap version of VueScan (says $49 when I go to the order page)? I will definitely think about it, even though it’s still too early, and again, this sounds like a hack to use an old scanner on a new machine, risky (might not work), results might be less good than the official app. Some people also say macOS’ Image Capture works with the V500 (for me it only works as a flatbed not as a transparency scanner). The question is “are there supported film scanners...” and assumes the V500 is not officially supported (until proven otherwise). Apr 29 at 7:38
  • That's the SE version, there's also the SE Plus version a $99. I can't tell you the difference though aside from the plus version having some more features
    – Peter M
    Apr 29 at 7:43
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Just so this isn't an 'answer in a comment'

Before you give up, try VueScan - specifically reverse-engineered older drivers to run on Big Sur. I haven't used it myself, but a lot of people have been talking about it this past year - https://www.hamrick.com

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    Thank you - I have tried VueScan on and off, I don't hate it or anything, but I think that the interface is very rich, and makes it kind of complicated to be quick while working with it (using it with a Epson V350 with slot-loading for the film can be excruciating for example). Ideally I'd use the scanner manufacturer's software for better results, and like I said I don't mind upgrading to a new scanner if I really had to. At the end of the day I'm simply wondering if there are versatile scanners that are supported in 2021 🤷‍♂️ not (yet) trying to scan using "hacks" and unofficial ways. Apr 29 at 6:28
  • Maybe try Silverfast? I really wouldn't see using it as a hack either, it's really not. One team makes the scanner and driver software and expects people to use it with any scanner app. Another from the same company makes a small freeware scanner app, it's not any more suited to Epson Scanners than any other scanner app, particularly. In most cases the third party scanner apps are better maintained and updated. But I agree, I LIKED Epson Scan. Plustek Optic film scanners seem to get good reviews for scanners of roughly that price bracket these days! I'm looking at one myself...
    – OwenM
    Apr 29 at 21:35
  • +1 for VueScan. The nice thing about VueScan is that it doesn't involve any in-kernel drivers or any code from the device manufacturer; it's all user-space code talking to the device through I/O Kit Framework endpoints. I'm still using a copy of it from many years ago on Mojave, and I would expect similar forwards-compatibility for 64-bit versions in Catalina, Big Sur, etc. for many years to come. By contrast, the Canon drivers for my scanner stopped working somewhere around 10.6.
    – dgatwood
    Apr 29 at 22:09
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Since I don’t own a scanner and don’t run a Mac, this is a little out of left field...why not just keep the old computer and scanner as dedicated hardware for scanning film?

It works now. It will continue to work if you buy another computer. It’s not terribly hard to network a couple of computers together so files can be shared.

The analogy I would use is to a darkroom. A darkroom has dedicated equipment. If you buy a new enlarger, you can still keep the old one. You don’t have to replace the sink either.

In the worst case it doesn’t work for your needs and six months from now you buy another scanner and repurpose the old Mac. Or maybe it all works out fine because it isn’t broken.

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  • I agree, and of course you are right. As I said in the question, I have a computer with Big Sur. I’ve been using obsolete computers almost all my life to run tasks or programs not supported by modern machines. But every once in a while, I wonder if I there is a way out - to be honest finding an old Mac Mini or iMac in good working condition will not always be an option and it takes just under an hour to scan a roll of 36 exposures at 2400 dpi - maybe new gear would make it faster?... Apr 29 at 6:03
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Sorry, not an answer to the exact question, but it is a possible workaround to keep using your old scanner, software and reduce you impact on the environment as no new scanner is bought.

Mac's can boot from an external harddrive.

By following these (rough) steps you can create an environment where you can keep using your old scanner:

  1. Set-up an external harddrive with the last macOS that your scanner supports.
  2. Reboot from the external harddrive.
  3. Use the scanner and store the output on the internal disk
  4. After use, reboot to your daily OS.
  5. As you've stored the photos on the internal drive, you can directly edit and use the scans.

I've used this in your exact scenario a few years back when my film scanner was only supported until Snow Leopard (10.6), and I upgraded my Mac to Mountain Lion (10.8)

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  • I really, genuinely appreciate the idea, and the interest in reducing the impact on the environment (hence my upvote). And I do a lot of similar installations (I setup a Powerbook that can run Classic and 10.2 to run Mac OS 9 apps). However I am not 100% sure that an old OS could communicate to a scanner via USB-C? And I am pretty sure the newest iMacs will only run Big Sur and above - not below, even from an external HD. I also think the environment would love for me to scan a roll in 30 minutes with a powerful new computer, versus 1 hour with an older, slower one running its fans loudly 😉 Apr 29 at 7:17
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Taking the lead @Tetsujin and not leaving my comment as an answer

According to Epson the V500 is supported under macOS 11.x

And the commercial scanning software package Silverfast supports both the V500 and maxOS 11.0 (but I don't know if that means 11.0 or 11.x)

So that is a theoretical set of drivers and scanning software that is supported under Big Sur. I haven't tried this combination myself, but if I was shooting a lot more film than I am now, I was considering a V850 and Silverfast combination.


Now regarding the M1 based Macs, I wouldn't be going there just yet as I wouldn't trust the driver software to be compatible with those new chips. OTOH I would recommend them as a general purpose computer. However note that the iMac (no matter how sweet it looks) has a $$$ premium over the equivalent Mac mini

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  • My comment on your earlier comment also applies to your question, being that the V500 is inoperable for me (and other people cf apple discussions site) with big sur. Spending $50 on silverfast or $100 on vuescan is still a gamble versus a supported scanner/software package (why not even with a USB-C port?...) I will look into the V850. Agree about the $ difference between mini and imac but the imac has a calibrated retina screen attached, as well as speakers and a webcam (add $800 to a mini’s price to meet that...) Apr 29 at 7:45
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    @MicroMachine The pain of the iMax premium is relative. I'm replacing an aging Intel Mac mini with an M1 Mini. The iMac screen would be wasted in this particular scenario, and the new Mini will just slip in as a 1 to 1 replacement to existing screen, kbd, speakers, webcam etc. It's all horses for courses. But as I just spent $1K on a new lens I'm not about to be diving into the practicalities of Epson film scanners. Although I know there is actually a valid economic argument in buying a V850 vs what my local shops charge for scanning. The break even is around 100-200 120 film scans.
    – Peter M
    Apr 29 at 7:56
  • Sure. But the imac is not what the original question is really about, the question is about Big Sur. I could be using a mac mini from 2021 that can only run Big Sur and look for a good scanner for 35 and 120. Apr 29 at 14:45
  • Do you know if I tried Silverfast to try it with High Sierra if I would have to buy it again for Big Sur? Also some people say they got Silverfast for free with their scanner, do you know about that? Apr 29 at 16:31
  • @MicroMachine I've seen bundles at places like B & H, but as my budget is now toast, I'm not really looking. There may be an issue between High Sierra and Big Sur, because Catalina dropped 32 bit support. So if the High Sierra version is 32 bit then it most likely won't run on Big Sur. However Silverfast offers free demo downloads for versions back to OS X 10.3, so no no need to spend money on testing
    – Peter M
    Apr 29 at 17:09
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Slight change of gears here, but my desk sits firmly in the center of a rather large filing area full of 4x5 and 120mm transparencies and older photographic prints (primarily B&W) of antique paintings.

When the older prosumer scanner I used for book publishing lost OS support, I switched to using a light box with the slide-holder template from that scanner for transparencies: I use my camera with macro on a tripod, zoomed to full-frame. The results are frankly superior to the flatbed(s) I had been using, and is very much faster when batch scanning.

I also use the camera and studio lights for the 8x10 prints.

35mm is harder, but if you can fill the frame, its worth a try.

I shoot them in RAW, and any software that handles negatives can handle your output.

Note the lightbox was made for color-proofing etc., so it has consistent diffusion and color temp.

No Newton ring problems on scans either.

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  • Thanks Yorik for suggesting this. I know about this solution, but I am however interested in learning which scanners might work on modern computers. If any... Apr 29 at 20:13

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