Film photography may not be quite as dead as has been widely reported – at least it won't be until we’ve all had a chance to do something with the photos we’ve already had developed.
Photography fans are hailing a cunningly simple new gadget: the Summit Photofix 280. This £100 unit is able to take a strip of slides and digitise them, rescuing them from a dusty shelf at the back of the wardrobe.
Time was that photographers who thought themselves a cut above the average Box Brownie or Polaroid snapper would insist on using slide films. This was particularly useful because, having spent ages setting up the perfect shot (or, in my Dad’s case, lying in wait for a train to creep round the corner and sidle on to the usually dormant branch line and into view), they could then show off their handiwork on their home projector screen to anyone who popped round.
As we all know, times have moved on since then – even my Dad has gone digital now – but the sorts of people who are buying digital SLR (single reflex lens) cameras are also pretty likely to have a sizable collection of slides that they’ve carefully stored, are justifiably proud of and would be delighted to give another public airing.
This is why the Summit Photofix 280 is such a good idea. It costs a fairly modest £100 and is a triumph of simplicity to use, taking 12 slides at a time and digitising them in one go. It can take either mounted or unmounted negatives and slides and scans them in to its 48bit scanning engine. Each image, which can be scanned at a resolution equivalent to that of a 5Mp digital camera, takes around three seconds to process.
Digital SLR photography is entering its second or third generation and decent cameras combining helpful scene presets and full manual controls have quickly become affordable. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and Olympus all have digital SLR cameras onsale for £400 to £600 including 18-3mm lenses that can be swapped others, including compatible lenses from older-style film SLR cameras.
It's no wonder we're being tempted in our droves to switch from film to digital if we can swap one reassuringly chunky SLR camera body for another and even take our beloved lenses with us. Forsaking our old film formats is quite another matter.
We’ve seen 35mm film scanners before – you can get transparency adapters for regular flatbed scanners, but these can be time-consuming and fiddly to use as you have to manually position each transparency. The results can be extremely poor too.
There are also dedicated film and negative scanners in the form of the Konica-Minolta Dimage range as well as Nikon’s current Coolscan units. Their scanning engines stretch to higher resolutions than the 1,829dpi (3,600dpi with software interpolation) offered by Summit’s Photofix, but they work on the same principle and offer the same level of convenience. These, however, cost upwards of £400.
With a price difference averaging a factor of five or six, many people will take the lesser resolution.
There are professional photo labs that exist for the exact purpose of freeing your photos from the negatives and printing them out. Places such as Boots will offer to create a photo CD of any slide or print films you take in to be developed, which is pretty convenient.
But assuming the negatives or slides you want to digitise have already been processed, you’ll need a retrospective way of doing so. Which is why Summit’s Photofix 280 looks likely to be £100 well spent.
£100 inc VAT