People are always asking me what is the best scanner for black and white films. I still think a good drum scan is going to deliver more sharpness, detail, and tonal separation than any other scanner. I realize that drum scans are out of the price range for most people, either to buy and learn to operate their own, or hire a lab to make scans for them. The next best option might be an Imacon or Hasselblad Flextight, but even these can be prohibitively expensive (sometime more expensive than a second or third hand drum scanner).
In all these conversations, the one "prosumer" scanner that comes up the most is the Epson V700/750 flatbed scanner. I have a lot of experience with it, and the larger Epson 10,000XL. When Epson came out with the V750 flatbed scanner in 2007/2008 I drank all the cool-aide and plopped down $1000 for the scanner and all the wet-mounting supplies. I made a lot of scans, and at the time, I thought they were great. And then I got a drum scanner... Like most things regarding print quality, it isn't until you compare something of better quality that you see the problems.
So the Epson 750 has been sitting unused since about 2009/10, and it was mostly relegated to making quick proof scans of medium format films. With all the people asking me what the problems are with it I decided to go back and make the best wet mounted scans I could with it and compare it directly to the drum scan at the same resolution.
About the tests
These two screen shots illustrate some of the differences between the two technologies. Both are 100% crop of a 4800 scan of a handheld Hasselblad T-max 400 negative developed in Pyrocat-HD—flatbed is on the left and drum scan is on the right. There is no sharpening applied to either scan, and only minimal contrast correction to arrive at a relatively close comparison.
The V750 scans aren't really as bad as I remember—they sure are a lot faster—but still, they don't compare to the sharpness and tonal separation of a drum scan. I am also finding that the require a lot more contrast control/burning and dodging/sharpening in photoshop work to get to an acceptable final print. The good news is that for the serious enthusiast, the V750 can provide a scan that is well suited for printing to at small to modest print sizes from medium-format to 8x10 negatives—for really fine printing, the largest I would comfortably go is 16x20 to max 20x24.
I used Silverfast for these tests, but I've also tested VueScan (I wouldn't consider using Epson Scan at all). I don't rely on canned film profiles when scanning negatives; I prefer to do the inverting and contrast correction in Photoshop since I am able to do the same adjustments the scanning software is applying in a much more intuitive and controllable environment.