January 02, 2005
The best $15 I've spent in a long time...

Back before digital cameras were common place, when film ruled the photography world, I used to take pictures. I'm a happy snap guy. Aperture, shutter speed, and all that other crap is just crap to me. I point, I shoot.

I mean really, I married a professional photographer, she can worry about all that stuff, not me.

So my format of choice back in the day was the Advantix/APS film. APS has a lot of cool features. It's a cartridge based film so the negative is never exposed when outside the camera. You simply pop the cartridge in and away you go. The camera would magnetically encode the info on each shot into the cartridge so you didn't need the burn-in to know when you took the shot. For the truly obsessed, it took basically what we know as exif data on every shot. Metadata baby!

On processing, you got back an index print and could have the photo cropped three different ways. The cartridge even has a system to tell you if you had unexposed, exposed, or developed film just by looking at it. You could even shoot part of the roll, rewind it, and swap to another cartridge.

The drawback was the film size itself. Common 35 mm film that most people use makes an image on film that is 24mm×36mm. APS film makes an image that is 16.7mm×30.2mm, a bit smaller. This size made a lot of people shy away from using APS.

I didn't. I took a lot of pictures. We have a lot of cartridges.

I've wanted them digitized for a long time, but the cost was simply too high. An APS scanner used to go for well over $500. Recently I started googling for services that would scan them for me, but the going rate is around 50¢ per picture. With 25 pictures per roll, that's $12.50 a roll. Too much.

On a whim I searched Ebay and was happily surprised. I saw the Fuji AS-1 scanner going for $10. I did a little research and found that it was a real scanner that used to cost hundreds, now obviously getting closed out from somewhere. My research showed that it had drivers for Windows 95 & 98. It just might work. I bid one and for $15 it was mine.

When it arrived I was impressed. It looked like a real film scanner.

The drivers wouldn't even install under Windows XP. I just happen to have a spare 9 GB drive with Windows 98 SE on it. Just in case, you know. OK, I admit I'm a geek for having it, but it sure paid off.

With the scanner drivers installed, I popped in a cartridge. I could hear it unroll the film into the scanner.

I used Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 to acquire/import from the scanner. It all worked smooth. A few clicks and the scanner auto-scanned the entire 25 image roll. Took about an hour.

The resolution of the pictures is 896 x 512 pixels for a file size of just under 700k. Before you turn up your nose, take a look at one of the images.

I took a few scanned images down to the auto-self-service-with-Kodak-paper photo printers and printed a few out. They are indistinguishable from the original prints.

It would be nicer it it was a higher resolution, but what do I expect for $15? The only other drawback is that the scanner can't access the magnetic data on the cartridge. Supposedly a special Kodak one can do that, but I'll have to wait until that one goes on sale.

For now, we are ecstatic. I'm scanning in all our film as digital images. Once digital I can backup, print, whatever we feel like doing. All for a few bucks thanks to ebay, the rise of digital cameras, and Fuji for making a great little scanner.

Posted by michael at January 02, 2005 09:13 PM