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Plustek F50 Film Scanner Review

Stephen Waller reviews the entry level film scanner from Plustek, the SmartPhoto F50.

|  Plustek SmartPhoto F50 in Film Scanners
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Plustek SmartPhoto F50 - Action Button Transparent & Negative Scan

The Plustek SmartPhoto F50 is a light weight and compact 5.0 Mega pixel CMOS film and slide scanner powered by the USB cable (when connected to a PC), with 24 bits per channel colour. It fits into the category of a commercial version of a close up camera, taking pictures of your film in front of a strong backlight. On this scanner the backlight is vertical. One of the main issues with capturing from film is that the enlargement factor reveals foreign matter requiring elimination or camouflaging. As the scanner displays directly to the computer screen, this can be readily identified. Also the vertical illumination and film feeding should help minimise deposition of debris in the field of view.

To operate SmartPhoto F50, you need only to press the function button, and the images will automatically come right on to the desktop without opening further applications.

Plustek SmartPhoto F50 Scanner Installation

Plustek SmartPhoto F50

As with many USB devices, the software should be installed from the CD before connecting the scanner, and is fairly straight-forward. It comes with Presto! Image Folio4 editing software, a basic interface for the twain driver. This will produce an image greater than the work area, which can be difficult to assess. Once the drivers are installed, the scanner can be accessed from other imaging software such as FastStone, and Picasa which I found easier to work with.

Plustek SmartPhoto F50 Features

The film and slide holders are robust and easily loaded. Although it is possible to feed them into the scanner in all ways, when oriented correctly, the notches in the holder engage when the film is aligned.

It features automatic colour balance and exposure control which worked reasonably on slides. Better results are possible using the advanced options for preference, histogram, tone map and gamma. There are processing options of Average, Blur, Blur more, Sharpen, Sharpen More, and Unsharp. These can be useful if you do not intend processing your images further in your favourite editor.

Achieving vibrant scans can be somewhat of a struggle I believe due to the lack of dynamic range. Images captured from slides will produce reasonable A5 size prints, and are good enough for social network purposes.

Plustek SmartPhoto F50 Film Handling

The comparison images are from Aldi Traveller and Maplin 5MP Compact Film and Slide Scanner. As mentioned, this scanner struggles to achieve definition and vibrancy and the comparison scans are a little more successful.

Scan F50 Scan Aldi Scan Maplin Scan
Original F50 Scan (click to view) Actual pixels view Aldi Traveler Scanner Maplin 5mp Scanner

Plustek SmartPhoto F50 Performance

Preview and full scans took about the same amount of time of about eight seconds. When using any of the processing options, that will double. The film and slide holders are straight-forward to work with and negatives can be aligned quite easily.

Sunflower scan - click to enlarge. Scan - click to enlarge.

Plustek SmartPhoto F50 Verdict

Available for around £60, I would class this as cheap and cheerful, basic scanner. For me the automatic settings will not do justice to film. Scan times are a bit slower than the Aldi scanner, but most worrying is the amount of tweaking required to improve the results, reducing productivity.

Plustek SmartPhoto F50 Pros

Robust slide and film holders
Vertical plane feed
Software supports multiple file formats
Histogram compensation adjustment

Plustek SmartPhoto F50 Cons

Slower capture times than peers
A little expensive
Automatic settings results disappointing
Poor productivity


Plustek SmartPhoto F50 Specifications

Scanning Sensor
Optical Resolution1800dpi
Software Resolution (Interpolation)3600dpi
Dynamic Range2DMax
Colour Depth24bit/pixel
Scan methodSingle Pass
Box Contents
Box ContentsFilm Holder for Mounted slides, up to 4 slides Film Holder for Filmstrip, hold up to 6 frames USB cable Quickguide Plustek Setup/Application CD-ROM

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