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Hardware Review of:
PrimeFilm 1800 AFL
Film Scanner


PrimeFilm 1800 AFL

Larry Grosskopf is a Clinical Psychologist at the San Antonio State Hospital, with a thirst for computer knowledge. He is married to Marta, and they are raising two children, their daughter ZoŽ is 10, and their son Jackson is now 8. If you have questions, contact Larry via e-mail at reviews@alamopc.org.

From the October, 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Pacific Image Electronics is an outfit that makes, markets, and sells desktop color imaging products for all levels of users. They market basic flatbed scanners and also high-end, professional quality slide and film scanners. This review will address one of the latter, Pacific Image's PrimeFilm Series 1800 AFL, USB slide and film scanner. They are one of the leading producers of these kinds of scanners and their target audience ranges from beginners like me to graphics and desktop publishing professionals. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that Pacific Image's imaging products like this were originally targeted for primarily businesses. However, with the universal cost of hardware becoming more reasonable, there is no reason to think these items are just for businesses, film labs, schools, or universities any more.

What's in a name, anyway? Well, in this case, the PrimeFilm 1800 AFL is a rather small and boxy-looking device (See Figure 1) that does not remind you of a typical scanner at all. 1800 indicates that when it scans 35mm roll film, slides or filmstrips, it scans them at an 1800 x 1800 dpi resolution. AFL stands for auto film loader, but more on that later. The connection was easy, all I did was connect the power supply to an electrical outlet and plug in the USB card to the USB port on my computer. Once the software was installed, it was ready to go.

What do you need in order to operate this cool contraption with your computer? The requirements are for a system running at least a Pentium II or more recent CPU along with at least 64 MB of RAM with 128 MB recommended and Windows 98 or later as the operating system. You must, of course, also have an open USB port to connect it to your system and enough hard drive space to install the software (Adobe PhotoShop Elements) that allows it to digitize the images from the film.

Just about now, you might be thinking, come on Larry, and tell us what you did with it and whether it worked or not. Well, wonder no longer. First of all, I have some older 35 mm slides that I have always wanted to convert to digital images, but have never owned one of those fancy scanners that would let you perform that operation. Using the 1800 AFL, I was able to convert them and then edit them with Adobe's Photoshop Elements. It worked all right, improving some slides that were not the best quality, but I was disappointed overall. I had hoped to be able to digitize the images and then reconvert them to photos. While I have to admit, the failure may have been mine because I was a novice user of both the hardware and the software and with a review due for a theme issue, I didn't have the time or resources to make prints. What else can it do, then? Again, there have been wishes I have had, such as turning older 35mm film negatives I have into both digital images and archiving or saving them. You see, my wife is a "scrapbooker" and for those of you who don't know what that term means, let me describe it for you. She takes pictures and puts them in a scrapbook in a very creative way, cutting the pictures and combining them with several others on a "page" with fancy writing and decorative additions. She really is very good and I admire her patience and talent. The problem comes in for me, an old photographer since the high school yearbook days of wanting to see some of those print photos that are no longer available outside of her scrapbook album. As an example of what it can do, I include this picture of ZoŽ, when she was barely a toddler at the zoo. She is now 10 and in the 5th grade. They sure do grow up fast. Since I already have the negatives, this scanner provides a means of scanning those print film negatives into a digital format and then, if I get better at editing with Elements, eventually printing them out onto photo-quality paper. Mainly, a device like this would serve as a translator, taking the language of the print negative and transforming it to a moderate to high quality digital image.

The actual process was relatively quick, and if I owned this device, rather than just test-driving it, I would almost certainly tell the film developers to stop cutting my film up and to leave it in a roll. Here is where the AFL part comes in, since it is an automatic film loader, it will load the images from a whole roll of film (or even all six images on one of the sliced negative strips) automatically. I liked this feature a lot because one of my purposes would be to convert many of my film negatives to digital format and once I am happy with the edited digital image, I would save them to a CD format.

You have to start the process by turning the computer on and starting Photoshop Elements before you scan the film or else the scanner does not know how to interpret the data it receives from the negative. It does scan multiple images quite effectively which probably explains the significantly higher price on this scanner than on some of it's competitors or even some other film scanners manufactured by Pacific Image.

Pacific Image products are available at photographic specialty and major retailers throughout the United States and Canada, including Costco.com, BestBuy.com, RadioShack.com, CompUSA, Micro Center, Fry's, B&H Photo, and more. I did search online and found it for $299.99 at BestBuy.com.

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