User report: $60 Flashpoint 35mm Film and Slide Scanner

Didja hear the one about the $60 film scanner?

Chances are you have a big pile of slides and negatives sitting in a shoebox (or, hopefully, in an archival storage container), forlornly ignored as the digital age has grabbed you by the eyeballs. Wouldn't it be nice to get those images digitized so you could play with them in Photoshop?

Scanning film or slides, however, has been a pricey proposition. Either you could send it to a service bureau and pay top dollar for quality scans, or buy a specialized film scanner such as the $1,150 Nikon Super Coolscan 5000-ED. The cost of entry has kept many a slide in its shoebox.

But now, along comes a $60 film scanner--yes, $60 (it used to cost $75)--and it comes from Adorama's house brand, Flashpoint. The Flashpoint 35mm Film and Slide Scanner is compatible with computers running Vista or Windows XP, is equipped with a 5MP CMOS sensor (instead of a the more typical and more expensive progressive scanner; you might say the scanner photographs the film rather than actually scanning it) and uses uses an array of three LEDs as a backlight. The image is recorded in a fraction of a second instead of the usual 30 seconds to a minute on a traditional film scanner.

Hands-on report

The scanner was easy to set up and use, and the instructions were clear and straightforward. Once I finished the setup process, I was able to start scanning almost immediately, right after calibrating the scanner, which took a few seconds. The images at full resolution came out to 5100x3260 pixels, which you will give you about 11x14-inch prints, which ain't bad. I scanned some 18-year-old Fujichrome Velvia slides and got images that were quite useable for web, email and smaller prints. With minimal color and contrast adjustment, I got a final image that was acceptably close to the original.

Direct scan: I lightened this ever so slightly in Adobe Photoshop Elements so it rivaled the original. Photo © 1990 by Mason Resnick

You do get what you pay for, though: color depth is limited in shadow areas, as you can see in the 100% detail shadow area below. I also saw some fringing at high-contrast edges. But unless you're printing above 8x10, and you view the prints at normal viewing distance, I don't think these faults are noticeable to the casual viewer. They disappear when the image is reduced to screen resolution, so for web applications this is a non-problem.

The images scanned fast, and appeared on screen quickly even on my pokey, low-budget laptop. You could say the scanner is more like a highly specialized camera that only photographs flat, transparent film. Film is fed manually, and you have to make sure when you push the feeder through the scanner that the frames are aligned correctly. Click-stops make alignment easier.

Screen grab: As images are scanned via "Snap Shot" they appear on film strip on the top of the window. Select the desired image and hit "Transfer" to save it to your computer. The interface is straightforward and simple.

Bottom line
The Flashpoint 35mm Film and Slide Scanner is clearly designed for the casual user who has a lot of film to digitize, and is priced very attractively. I found it easy to install and use, and the quality was fine for web use and smaller prints. Improvements? I'd like to see a higher-resolution sensor and Mac compatibility in the next generation (after all, a disproportionate number of photographers use Macs), but even without these features I think this scanner is a terrific value.

Feed me: The Flashpoint 35mm Film and Slide Scanner comes with a film feeder that handles up to 6 negatives, and a slide feeder (shown) that holds three slides.


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