Applications: capturing images for use in databases, desktop publishing and Web sites
While few doubt that in the long term the future of photography lies in fully digital cameras, conventional film technology is far from dead. As long as you?ve got a suitable scanner, images taken with a film camera can be transferred easily and cost-effectively into a PC.
Fuji?s AS-1 is the first scanner designed to work with the new APS film format. APS (Advanced Photo System) is one of the most important recent developments in the world of film. Backed by Kodak, Fuji and all the other major names in the photographic industry, APS is a new film and camera format aimed primarily at amateur photographers.
That said, some of the features of APS also make it suitable for certain business uses ? particularly where non-specialist staff are taking photographs.
APS film is also much easier to handle after processing than conventional 35mm film. The film itself is kept wound back in the original cartridge so is protected against damage. Each APS cartridge has a unique number, so it is easier to file and retrieve specific shots.
For this review we used the cheapest APS camera on the market ? an #11 24-shot Fuji disposable. But even a top-end APS camera with a zoom lens and capable of handling a much broader range of lighting conditions will cost less than #200. This compares to about #250 for even the most basic fixed-focus digital camera.
Of course, with APS, you also have to pay for film processing, unlike a digital camera. This cost us just under #7 for a 24-shot APS film, for which we got an index print plus a set of 6x4in prints.
The AS-1 scanner is a compact desktop box measuring 180x75x 285mm. It connects to the PC?s parallel port, and comes with driver software which makes it Twain-compliant. Unfortunately, setting up the system was quite difficult. The installation was complicated by the way that Windows 95 had already configured the printer port.
Once set up properly the scanner isn?t difficult to use. You pop in an APS cartridge, and the machine unwinds it automatically. To scan, you select Acquire from whatever Twain-compliant package you?re using. It takes about 70 seconds for an image to come across, and you can then save it in whatever format your package supports ? JPG, bitmap or GIF.
Although the scanner is capable of a respectable resolution of 512x896 pixels, the images seem quite grainy. Nonetheless, the quality still beats digital cameras costing less than #500. As a wider range of film types becomes available in APS format, the image quality should improve.
Verdict: the APS solution can?t match the combination of a larger film format and conventional scanner for image quality, or a digital camera for overall convenience and speed. But APS has a role in business where you want to equip a number of people with cheap, basic cameras ? that is, where simplicity and cost are more important than performance.
Contact: Fuji Photo Film on 0171 586 5900
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