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The Photo Industry's Little Secret

Plustek 7200
The photo industry has a dirty little secret. If you've taken a roll of 35 mm film to be processed at a local photo kiosk recently, you've probably been disappointed by the quality of the prints you received -- they tend to look noticeably inferior to the prints generated by an inexpensive digital camera.

Film negative What you might not realize is that your 35mm film negatives are being digitally scanned at fairly low resolution and printed using the same digital printer that outputs the "better" digital prints.

The reason film prints look bad in comparison is that it would take the photo shop too long to capture high quality scans of every image on the roll. Instead, they do a quick low bit-depth scan that allows them to churn out 4x6 prints at breakneck pace. Their haste results in an inferior print that simply doesn't do justice to the often beautiful image captured on film.

The solution is to use a stand-alone film scanner to digitize the film yourself.

A unit such as the Plustek OpticFilm 7200 film scanner retails for under $200. It captures 35 mm negatives or slides at a resolution of 7200 dots per inch with 48-bit color depth. It includes a USB 2.0 interface for fast data transfer to your PC and the film holder accepts up to 4 mounted slides or six negatives at a time. The quality is good enough for most amateur applications. The CCD scanning process will take a few seconds per frame and produces a far better image than your corner photo mart. Once your film has been scanned, you can manipulate it with a photo editing package and print it just like you would a digitally produced image.

Plustek's film scanner lineup
Under $200: Plustek OpticFilm 7200 film scanner [Amazon]

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