Product Reviews

Product Reviews

In Brief

Easy to set up and easier to use, the Pacific Image PrimeFilm 1800AFL scanner is a great solution for consumers who want to bring their old 35mm negatives or slides into the electronic age. Though it feels more like a Yugo than a Rolls Royce, it gets the job done. Don't expect much in the way of support from the manual or the vendor's Web site; both are pretty bad.


Price Info

Price: $399

Pacific Image Electronics
Torrance, Calif.


Competition

These companies offer scanners designed to accept only 35mm film: Canon, Minolta, Nikon, Polaroid

These companies offer flatbed scanners that are able to scan 35mm film: Canon, Epson, Hewlett-Packard, Microtek,


More Reviews

Read reviews of other digital imaging products from Reference Guide:

Kodak DC3600 digital camera

Pacific Imaging 35mm film scanner


Key Specs

Scanning Media:
   35mm slides, filmstrips or roll

Optical Resolution:
   1800 DPI x 1800 DPI

Maximum Scan Area:
  
24.3mm x 36.5mm

Data Conversion:
   42 bits/pixel (color mode)
   14 bits/per pixel (grayscale)

Image Sensor:
   Linear array color CCD

Scan Method: Single pass

Light Source: Cold cathode
   fluorescent lamp

Scan Time: 23 seconds for
   35mm slide at 1800 DPI,
   24-bit color scan
   (file size 12.76 MB)

Interface: USB

Dimensions:
9.4" L x 4" W x 7" H

Net Weight: 4.8 lbs.

Minimum Requirements:
   PC:
Pentium II or higher with a
   minimum of 32 MB RAM (64
   MB recommended); Windows
   98 or later
   Macintosh: iMac, iBook, G3 or
   G4 with USB interface running
   System 8.6 or later


digital photography

Pacific Image PrimeFilm
1800AFL 35mm Film Scanner

Rating:

By Joel Shore

Digital cameras are swell, but what about those thousands of negatives you have from decades of shooting rolls of 35mm film? You could scan the prints made long ago from those negatives—if you have any that aren't torn or creased—or you could scan the negatives themselves. That would be the smart thing to do. What you need isn't a flatbed scanner, but a film scanner.

I tried the new PrimeFilm 1800 AFL from Pacific Image Electronics. (AFL stands for Auto Film Loader.) This neat product loads and feeds 35mm film strips and roll film and scans them, without lifting a finger. And it does it for a mere $399. It even works with individually mounted slides.

6

If your memories are important to you, here's an affordable way to bring them into the digital age.

5

If you're a Web page creator, amateur photographer, just want to make greeting cards, or even a mid-level business user, you'll find the 1800AFL perfectly adequate. If you're a graphic arts professional, designing for print publication, you might want to look for a more industrial-strength solution.

Installation and connection to a USB port was pretty straightforward, but the meager printed instructions and on-screen messages have lost something in their translation to English. Misspelled and missing words plague the 16-page manual. I found that to be a real disappointment. In addition to the printed seven-language manual, there was a one-page addendum printed on what seems like tissue paper, and a seven-page stapled quick-start guide. One page was upside down.

PC users can choose a TWAIN-compliant driver; Macintosh users can select a plug-in.

The unit's side-mounted auto film loader handles cut film strips or rolls of up to 40 exposures without the need for film holders. You just stick the film in an opening in the side of the unit, and you can, well, set it and forget it. Film strips must be at least three frames long to work with the feeder. You can cut short strips into individual frames and temporarily mount them using the included reusable frames.

After the film is loaded, it is pre-scanned. That's a fast low-resolution scan that previews all of the images on your screen. From the preview, you select the images you want, click ok, and the unit goes starts its more exacting—and slower—high-resolution final scan. To ensure the best possible results, you also get to choose the exact film type from a lengthy list, such as Kodak Gold 400 or Fuji 800.

If you have mounted film, usually slides or transparencies, you simply open a door on the front of the unit and insert the slide.

Even though the unit is compact, you'll need quite a bit of open space in order to use it comfortably. That's because film strips must be fed into an opening on the right side of the machine. If the feed mechanism was in the front of the unit instead of the side, you'd be able to stick it on your desktop and butt it up next something else, like your monitor, speakers, or PC.

Once you save the scanned images to your hard drive, CD-R, or other device, you can use your favorite photo-editing software to edit them as you would any image from a digital camera. The main difference is that you'll probably spend a lot of time editing out the dust specks and scratches that have built up over the years.

Included with the PF 1800AFL is Photoshop Elements from Adobe. This software handles red-eye removal and a host of other editing functions. Of course, you can use any image-editing application.

The PF 1800AFL is the kind of product that most of us consumers would never think of buying. But if your memories are important to you, here's an affordable way of bringing them into the digital age.<

 
Yeas & Nays

Yea:

4Accepts 35mm strips, 35mm rolls, and individually mounted 35mm slides

4Scans negatives or positives (slides)

4Autofeeds film strips

4USB-only interface

 

Nay:

4Awful user manual

4Support area of Web site poorly organized

4Not for graphic arts professionals

4Ineffecient use of valuable desktop real estate

435mm only, doesn't scan APS size film


To Combo or Not?

Unlike the the 1800AFL, which scans only 35mm film, there are lots of dula-function flatbed scanners that scan paper (documents, photos, etc.) and, with an adapter, can scan film, too. They don't always do a great job with film, since that's a secondary function. Want superior results? Get two scanners: one for film, another for sheets.
 

Plummeting Prices

Scanner prices keep dropping. The scanner you buy today for $200 would have cost more than $1,000 five years ago. Wow!
 

Higher Resolution

The 1800AFL, with its 1800 x 1800 DPI optical  resolution is great for consumers. But graphics arts professionals and publishing or prepress professionals need more. Pacific Imaging's 3600PRO scanner offers four times the optical resolution (3600 x 3600 dpi), and adds Firewire connectivity, too.

   

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