It may be a long time since most of us went to the chemist to get a film developed, but lots of us still have collections of old photos, forgotten and gathering dust in drawers and wardrobes. Wouldn't it be great to give these old pictures a new lease of digital life? If you've still got the negatives, or your photos were printed onto slides, the Honestech Film Scan&Save will get your photos out of storage and onto your computer in next to no time.
Rather than lying flat, like most scanners, the Film Scan&Save towers upward so it has a tiny footprint that takes up very little room. The top of the device houses a row of buttons to control its settings and a 2.4in LCD screen. This provides a preview of the photos before you scan them and lets you view any images you've already scanned. There's also a slot for a memory card (SD, SDHC and MMC cards are supported).
The device comes with two cartridges that fit into a slot at the bottom: one holds a strip of up to six 35mm negatives; the other will accept three slides at a time. However, the machine doesn't accommodate standard prints, so if you've thrown away your negatives, you can't use it.
We were impressed with the high quality of the scans. Although the pictures are only ever going to be as good as the originals, and color can fade over time, you're getting a high-resolution file that's much sharper than you'd get from scanning a print.
The negative cartridge has nobbles to secure the film in place by its perforated edges, and is held tightly closed with a magnetic clasp. Slides simply slot into their cartridge. When you've loaded a cartridge with film or negatives, you insert it into the slot. The screen immediately shows what's on the first slide. If it's a negative, select that option from the menu and it will invert the colors for you. You can rotate the image, create a mirror image (if you've put the original in the wrong way up), and fix the brightness if the picture is too dark.
Press the Scan button and the image is saved. You then manually push the cartridge onto the next picture, which is locked into the correct position with a satisfying click, and repeat the process.
The scanner has 32MB of internal memory, which we found was enough to hold around 30 photos at a time, if you're scanning them at its top optical resolution of 2,528 x 1,680 pixels. This isn't much, but it's an easy task to transfer your scanned images to a computer's hard disk, via the supplied USB cable, to free up space for the next batch.
The only problem with this system is that when you delete the images from the scanner's memory to make room for new photos, the image-naming system starts at zero again, so you end up with the next batch of photos having the same names as the first. This means that when you try to transfer the new batch of pictures to your computer, the software will either want to replace your previous scans or simply not let you save the new ones.
One way to tackle this is to use batch-conversion software (such as lrfanView - www.irfanview.com) to manually rename the images before copying them over, or simply save them to a different folder. But the most efficient solution is to use a memory card.
A 1GB card will hold around 900 photos scanned at 2,528 x 1,680 pixels. 4GB memory cards are available on Amazon for less than £5, or you could borrow one from a compatible digital camera while you're working with the scanner.
The Film Scan&Save comes bundled with software for your computer, which will organize your photos and perform simple edits like rotating, flipping and brightening an image. However, it doesn't perform batch conversion and most of what it does can be done on the scan screen, so it's debatable whether most people will even bother installing it.
The cost of a scan
The biggest drawback of the Scan&Save is its price. Because you're scanning from film, you're only likely to use the device once for each photo.
Shopping around online, we found photo-developing services available for around 25-30p per image. This means that to make the Scan&Save worth buying, you need to scan more than 300 pictures. Add to that the hassle of preparing, scanning and renaming all those pictures and the prospect of having a professional do the job becomes even more appealing.
Nevertheless, if you have a ton of photos to work through, or just don't want to entrust your precious negatives and slides to someone else, then the Scan&Slide is efficient, easy to use and produces great looking images.
If you've got a stack of negatives or slides, and the time and inclination to transfer them to a computer, you'll love this scanner. It's compact, simple to use and provides excellent results. At nearly £80, it's worth counting up the number of negatives you want to scan and comparing the price of the product to how much it would cost to have the scanning done professionally. By our calculations, you could get 300 scans performed by someone else for the same price.