The conventional approach to converting film to digital is to use a scanner. Although manufacturers have made the process easier it's still either expensive in the case of a dedicated film scanner or a faff using a flatbed when trying to convert your wallets of negatives into digital files. The Summit Photofix Copier offers a different approach. It's not a scanner, as such, more like a hybrid video camera/scanner with a still frame facility.
Summit Photofix Copier specifications
Interface: USB 2.0
Image Sensor: 5Mb CMOS
Lens: f/2 4 glass element
Exposure control: Automatic
Colour Balance: Automatic
Scan resolution: 5mp (1800dpi)
Data conversion: 10-bit per channel
Scan method: Single Pass
Light source: Backlight 3LEDs)
Power: From PC via USB 2.0 port
Software: Arcsoft PhotoImpression 6
Operating System: Windows XP/Vista
Summit Photofix Copier features
The Summit Photofix Copier is a compact unit with a small 90x90mm footprint and a height of just 165mm. It looks almost like a compact computer speaker and sits neatly on your desk. Minimalism is the key - there's just one button, marked copy, which copies the image recorded by the sensor to a folder on the PC. It has a 5 megapixel CMOS image sensor which interpolates to 3600dpi.
Slides or transparencies are inserted into the base of the copier using one of the two supplied carriers. The slide carrier has apertures for four mounted 35mm transparencies and the negative carrier has six apertures to cope with amateur processed strips of four or professional strips of six. The unit connects to the computer using a USB 2.0 lead which conveniently also provides power for its use.
The software supplied delivers a video image of the scan on the computer monitor which can be adjusted for brightness and contrast. It can be used as a standalone device or as an Import plug-in for programs such as Photoshop.
Summit Photofix Copier handling
The installation process is quick, but lacks good hand-holding. The copier comes with a simple 22 page CD sized user manual which fortunately explains most of what you need to do, but. unlike most programs/drivers it doesn't auto prompt at various stages so you may have to read the book to see what to do next.
The supplied CD brings up an Install screen and from here you can select one or more of the items on the CD to install. I, like many of ePHOTOzine's members, already have an image editing program so I wasn't interested in installing the bundled Arcsoft PhotoImpressions 6. I chose to install just the Driver and this took just over over one minute for the whole process. Oddly there was no message to say done so I had to go and find the program which appears in the Windows Start program menu as OVT Scanner > AMCAP.
Next plug the Copier into your PC's USB 2.0 port and you will get the usual "Welcome to the Found New Hardware Wizard". Tick Yes and Next to install the software automatically. The system then looks for the OVT Scanner. This can take about 2-3mins. You will no doubt get a warning that the device has not passed the Windows XP text but there's no problem clicking continue.
Once this process is done you're ready to scan. Choose the necessary carrier and load the film. Here comes the first snag. The negative carrier has teeth to ensure good film register. These locate into the film's sprocket holes but on my colour negative film meant I couldn't match the frame with the carrier aperture, so I had a bit missing from one side and the rebate showing on the other. Also the carrier locking clips (left and right) are very tight and while this ensures a good seal does slow you down when you want to change film. It's same on both the negative and slide carriers.
When the slide or negative carrier is then inserted into the Photofix it automatically adjusts exposure and colour balance. The process is progressive as it builds up data from the video signal and the first fews seconds your image on preview appears dark lightening as it calculates. The lens is a fixed focus four element job and white LEDs are used to provide the necessary backlight illumination.
When you have an image you want to record you just press the copy button and a new window opens with the scan ready to save to your PC.
Slide the carrier through to the next frame and repeat the process. The carrier is click stopped for positive positioning but doesn't allow you to pull it back to the previous frame so you have to push right though and insert again.
Summit Photofix Copier performance
The scanning ability with negatives is good. Contrast is fine and sharpness good too. You can capture frames as the progressive scan builds but the best results are when the frame has been in place for a couple of seconds and the system has had chance to adjust the exposure correctly.
|The four scans above show the build up of the exposure over a very short period of time. Letting the scanner settle for each shots provides better contrast and will make your job easier and at the editing stage. Below left and right are the auto levels adjusted versions of the top left and bottom right shots scanned above.
|A tweak to Curves really gets the best out of the scans as seen here along with a 100% crop. Notice the black strip down the left caused by the inability to finely adjust the negative strip's position in the carrier.
The negative is scanned as a negative and needs to be inverted to get a usable file. There's no such fancy features as a dust and scratch remover so you may have some work to do if you're negatives haven't been kept dust free. I found some colour negatives with strong orange masks were heavily blue when inverted, but they can be adjusted in your image editing program to deliver neutral colours. Black & white negatives also scan well, although contrast can be a touch high and more work is needed using curves to get a good tonal range.
|Left: Black & white negatives need slight tweak to get the best out of their tones. Shots need to be inverted to change from a negative scan. Right: Colour negatives with a bright orange mask will need some adjustm,ent to colour or they will inherit a blue cast. Here's the before & after edit of one such heavy masked colour negative.
What was disappointing was the scanning of transparencies. Almost useless. The contrast was way out with highlights blown and shadows recorded as a black void. The software does have some basic editing controls in the menu that can be adjusted to change the scan. Even pulling brightness and contrast right to the left didn't rescue the highlights. There are also odd colour shifts in certain tones.
Nothing could be done to get a decent enough scan using the options seen here which include brightness, contrast and exposure, that would normally rescue the situation. Even when the best effort had been made it wasn't enought to pull it through by further adjustments in an image editing program, rendering it about as much uses as a chocolate kettle for slide conversion.
The detail in the highlights from transparencies cannot be recorded well making it next to useless for slide scanning. It was impossible to get enough detail in the horse's back.
When you next use your image editing program you will notice that the program's Import menu has OVT Scanner in the list. This brings up a small window with minimal adjustments, but does make it even quicker to grab shots. Slide the carrier to the next frame and a Live View preview appeares. Each time you click the Snap Shot button a thumbnail appears above. So you can rattle through your images in the carrier. Then select individual or all the thumbnails (highlighted by a green frame around them) click transfer and they all open up in the image editing program. The format button lets you select the image dimensions in six sizes from 320x240 to 2592x1680.
Summit Photofix Copier Verdict
This copier does make converting your negatives a quick job. Having an invert option for negatives to make them positive is a basic feature that should be included in the driver software. This can, however, be done quickly later in your image editing program and if you have access to a batch converter it can be painless process for larger quantities.
The results from negatives are excellent but slides were very disappointing. If you are looking for a slide copier this is not the product to buy, but that's probably not what it was intedended for. For those who've a box full of print films the Photofix is a perfect option for converting them into digital files for upload on community websites such as Facebook, Flickr or Bebo.
Another option for enthusiast or semi pro photographers would be as an additional gadget to your existing high res film scanner. You could convert all your work for your personal website where you could offer photos for sale and then use a high res film scanner for any that sell. This would save you valuable time scanning unsaleable images at high resolution.
Summit Photofix Copier Plus Points
Quick to scan
Compact desktop device
Excellent negative scans
No power adaptor needed
Summit Photofix Copier Minus Points
Carriers fiddly to open
No good for slides
Manual control basic
No auto invert for negs
One direction carrier
VALUE FOR MONEY:
The Summit Photofix Copier costs £120 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here