Some of our shining photographic moments are hidden away in dusty old photo albums or in slide cartridges hidden in boxes at the back of the attic. It’s about time they had a fresh airing and were brought into the digital age. Summit’s Photofix scanner takes either three slides or a strip of six negatives from a 35mm film and saves them for posterity in a digital format.

Hands up who takes endless photos and never does a thing with them? Snap. You’re all as guilty as us then. Aside from the very occasional photo that either captures a special moment to perfection or came out especially well despite all amateurish efforts to the contrary, we may be a nation of digital snappers, but we’re not a nation of assiduous home photo printers.

Our theory is that this has something to do with the ease with which we can take photos – every second gadget these days can either take photos or display them onscreen – meaning digital images are everywhere. And we’re in little danger of running out of storage space on even the most parsimonious of hard drives. Even phones have gone multi-gigabyte these days. So there’s not necessarily the need to print out our snaps.

But what about all the photos we used to take in the pre-digital era? In general, we probably took more care with them than we did with today’s snaps. Film was finite, so we had to compose shots with care or risk running out – we couldn’t simply delete those that didn’t quite work, as we could today. Worse, we had to pay for development before we even discovered that we’d taken some truly awful shots.

All this means that some of our shining photographic moments are now hidden away in dusty old photo albums or in slide cartridges hidden in boxes at the back of the attic. It’s about time they had a fresh airing and were brought into the digital age.

Scanners are the obvious option, given a few hours to kill. Failing that, a multifunctional photo printer (reviews here) will do the trick. But scanners don’t usually allow for either negatives or slides.

Those of us taking photographs on slide films have been largely left out in the cold. And those of us stuck with the negatives but not the prints of old photos, are also poorly served. Which is why a device such as Summit’s Photofix scanner is likely to appeal. Load it up with either three slides or a strip of six negatives from a 35mm film and it can magically digitise them, saving them for posterity in a digital format.

What’s really good about the Summit Photofix scanner is its price. At just £99 including VAT, it makes a good present for a long-term photography fan and is the sort of item photo enthusiasts will happily find both a home and the budget for.

Installation, software and the scanner in use

Summit’s Photofix scanner takes either three slides or a strip of six negatives from a 35mm film and saves them for posterity in a digital format.

Refreshingly, both the photo-editing software and the scanner drivers installed first time – you need to click on Proceed Anyway as the driver is not signed by Microsoft, but this presented no problem.

The Summit Photofix works with both Windows Vista and XP and is powered via the USB port. This makes for a clutter-free unit since there’s no need for a separate mains adapter to provide the juice, but it also means that it isn’t suitable for those with older USB systems – USB 2.0 appears to be mandatory. We tried it with USB 1.1 on the off-chance but there’s just not enough power to make it happen.

You also need to use it with the Arcsoft PhotoImpression 6.0 software that Summit supplies.

Click the Get Photos tab at the top left of the PhotoImpression software interface and you can elect to Copy for Camera/Storage Device or to Acquire From Scanner. You need to calibrate the scanner before inserting any slides or negatives to be scanned. You also need to decide between the default Normal scan quality, low, high or highest.

Fitting the slides into their bay for scanning is straightforward enough – just remember to place them the right side up. Negatives are a little fiddlier to position correctly in the separate housing Summit provides for them. A satisfying click lets you know everything is securely snapped in place.

It’s then a matter of sliding the first gel into position under the scanner’s beam. Again, you know when it’s in the right place as a notch on the plastic housing catches neatly and holds your slide in place. First, use your mouse to take a Snapshot of the slide to check it’s correctly positioned, then press Transfer to acquire the full image.

At the actual scanning stage you can’t reassign where scans will be saved, so you’ll want to be sure of where they’re being sent before you start. My Pictures is the default, but you’ll probably want a separate folder, suitably named. You should note, too, that the memory can count up to 12 shots (four racks of three slides or two of six negatives) before it begins a recount. Make sure you save between-times to avoid existing scans being overwritten.

Scan speed and quality

Summit’s Photofix scanner takes either three slides or a strip of six negatives from a 35mm film and saves them for posterity in a digital format.

Scans themselves are performed within two or three seconds, regardless of the scan quality you select at the start. And there’s no discernible difference in overall image size either. Select High and you get a 12.5MB scan; select Highest quality and the number of pixels, the resolution and image size are identical.

What we did notice was that the colour matching and detail was better on the highest quality scans. There were fewer artefacts around objects such as blooming around leaf fronds and the tendency to overexposed expanses of sky and overly dark nearer objects was less pronounced.

We tested a range of images, from a late afternoon shot of boats bobbing in a harbour to a midday mountainscape to a macro shot of a hand-drawn map and a difficult interior with people backlit by a strong sun. Results were variable and none too satisfactory. We weren’t using the best originals in the world, but nor were any so full of exacting detail or overlapping, clashing shades that we expected the Summit Photofix to make a complete hash of them.

It certainly didn’t perform terribly and, for £100 all in, we can see it being a useful and straightforward way of digitising your existing but all but obsolete photos before it’s too late. But with the exception of the balanced and fairly forgiving harbour scene we mentioned, plus one of the photos of a steam train ascending a mountain, none are likely to make it on to a memory card for display on a digital photo viewer or photo frame.

Summit Photofix Copier: Specs

  • 5Mp CMOS image sensor
  • 3,600dpi interpolation
  • 48-bit colour scan
  • fixed focus 4-element lens
  • white LED backlight
  • powered by USB 2.0
  • 165x90x90mm
  • less than five second scans
  • 5Mp CMOS image sensor
  • 3,600dpi interpolation
  • 48-bit colour scan
  • fixed focus 4-element lens
  • white LED backlight
  • powered by USB 2.0
  • 165x90x90mm
  • less than five second scans

OUR VERDICT

It was great to unearth some memories of yesteryear, but using the Summit Photofix slide scanner didn’t turn out to be the revelation we hoped it might have.

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