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View Full Version : VuPoint 35mm Slide/Filmstrip/Negative Scanner (review)


gamedeveloper
12-19-2007, 12:26 AM
I just picked up a Vupoint FS-C1-VP 35mm slide and negative scanner for $99 (http://www.vupointsolutions.com/fs-c1.asp). Works with Windows XP and Vista (I'm currently using it with XP only). Here's a short review.

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Although I'd been successfully using a Canon CanoScan LIDE 500f to scan OLD 35mm color and B&W negatives, it was slow going. Many of the negatives had curled up with the low humidity of Winter and mounting them into the 500f's slide adapter was quickly becoming a nightmare. I worked out how long it was taking me to mount and scan each negative, and took a look at my remaining workload (about 2,000 negatives and mounted 35mm slides remaining). It became clear I needed a faster solution both in terms of mounting and scanning speed.

Since the 500f's slide attachment only supports film strips, the new device had to support mounted slides. Also, the new device had to be simple to operate, allowing me to get negatives and film strips mounted as quickly as possible, while also having facilities to secure curled strips. That's when I saw the VuPoint FS-C1-VP 35mm scanner. It was cheap, simple, and appeared to do everything I needed.

------THE UNIT

The VuPoint 35mm slide scanner is exactly what it appears to be, a 5MP low-mid range CCD in a plastic housing. The housing contains a mini lightbox at the bottom to illuminate 35mm slides/negatives for scanning by the CCD. Simply take your slides or negatives, mount them in the included trays, and slide the trays into the scanner unit. Each tray window snaps gently into place, helping you to perfectly align slides/negatives under the CCD. The trays are VERY GOOD at holding curled negatives secure. (Extremely curled negatives may introduce shadows into the scan. To relax the slides fully, try holding the tray over a steaming pot for about 10 seconds.)

The build quality of the VuPoint scanner is quite high. Although made of plastic, it has a very nice feel (akin to a 'satin finish' cell phone) and the mounted slide and filmstrip trays appear durable and fit firmly into the unit.

The unit gets power from an attached 4 foot long USB 2.0 cable, so it has an extremly small desktop footprint. The scanner is also insensitive to attitude, allowing usage virtually anywhere, from any angle (sideways on your lap, in bed, etc) making it much more likely you'll get that scanning job done.

------SCANNING

I installed the scanner drivers ONLY, ignoring the image editing software that came with the unit (Photoimpression 6) and instead chose to scan directly into PhotoShop CS3. Using this method I was only able to 'dumb scan' at the highest resolution of 2592x1680. For negatives, this means you will need to invert the image after scanning and then perform color correction/level adjustment/unsharp masking/etc. Mounted slides or film stips will scan positive. (I've been meaning to get around to setting up a few actions to handle typical output from this device).

In practice, this 'scanner' is really taking low framerate, high resolution videos of your slide. The scan driver presents you with a window to the low framerate video image. If you wait between 5 and 15 seconds, the light levels in this image will balance and be ready for 'scanning.' If you happen to have a slow PC and are scanning high contrast film strips or slides, your waiting time will be quite long. In extreme cases you can wait 45 seconds+ for decent balancing.

To initiate a scan you either press the 'copy' button on the unit, or click the 'snapshot' icon via the scanner software driver. Snapshots are quick, but once you have a snapshot you then need to 'transfer' it to CS3. This can take as long as 30 seconds on a midrange PC and up to several minutes (or never) on a slower system (>1.7GHz). My 1GHz Pentium M laptop often become unresponsive for several minutes during transfers (approx 25% of the time). This never happened on my dual core system, which always transfered snapshots in under 30 seconds.

The driver holds 12 snapshots. Once this 'buffer' is full you MUST transfer a snapshot to your image editing app or risk having it overwritten during the next scan operation.

The driver grabs a decent amount of CPU while its previewing - taking 60%+ CPU on a 1GHz Pentium M laptop, 40%+ CPU on a 2GHz P4 and 20%+ CPU on a 3Ghz dual core. Based upon my experimentation with the scanner/driver, the minimum usable system requirement should be a 2GHz P4, with optimal experience requiring a 3GHz+ P4 or dual core system.

------IMAGE QUALITY

This unit will win no awards for image quality. I scanned in three 35mm mounted slides and viewed them onscreen while simultaneously also using a backlit slide viewer. The raw scans were fairly grainy, with blown out highlights.

I am linking to the RAW scans (with light JPG compression) for your review. Try cleaning up these photos yourself to get an idea of what the scanner is capable of.

http://www.geocities.com/gamedev123/35mm_ektachrome_slide_aug81.jpg
http://www.geocities.com/gamedev123/35mm_fujichrome_slide_jun68.jpg
http://www.geocities.com/gamedev123/35mm_kodachrome_slide_aug81.jpg
http://www.geocities.com/gamedev123/35mm_kodachrome_slide_sep68.jpg


I was subsequently able to clean the slides up in PhotoShop CS3 but couldn't recapture the lost details in the highlights. In some cases the loss of detail was so extreme that the photos were virtually worthless. High contrast mounted color slides seem to suffer the most, and negatives or BW filmstrips suffered least.

The source photos provided were taken by my father and grandfather, using craptastic SLR cameras - I have no idea of the lens or settings used. I assume these types of mounted 35mm slides represent typical inputs for this scanner. Higher quality slides with large, in-focus subjects should provide comparatively higher quality scans.

------OVERALL VALUE

The Vupoint scanner is a mixed bag. On one hand the housing is well designed, and the capture hardware provides performance in line with the suggested retail pricing. On the other hand, the drivers are very subpar. Due to their extremely low quality you probably won't be able to use this device to scan in typical 35mm slides.

However, the Vupoint FS-C1-VP would prove to be an excellent scanner for B&W negatives and film strips, as well as color negatives of moderate contrast. At least until Vupoint provides a better set of drivers.


12/26/07 Addendum:
The AMSHOW direct capture software that gets installed along with the driver allows you to get access to some scan parameters. But I have been unable to make these changes persist or affect my scans into PhotoShop. I eventually installed the PhotoImpression software suite that comes with the scanner, hoping it would provide me with a few more scanner control options. Sadly, this is just a consumer level app for rotating/sorting pics and applying canned image effects.


12/30/07 Addendum:
Upon starting a scan session, be sure to let the scanner calibrate for about 10 seconds with no slide/negative in the viewport. Also be sure to AVOID resting the scanner near any source of vibration (ex: active USB HD or active DVD/CD drive). The subtle vibrations from these devices can cause scans to blur slightly.


01/02/08 Addendum:
Found link to "Veho" drivers (Veho scanner is rebranded Vupoint product). These drivers appear newer that those on the Vupoint site, but when used with Vupoint scanner do not appear to calibrate the scanner, resulting in very dark scans.
http://tinyurl.com/yswxgg
http://tinyurl.com/2dtkcy

Upon reinstalling the old Vupoint drivers I found that I could now access the scanner "properties" settings and toggle OFF the auto exposure feature. However I was unable to effectively scan anything with even a moderate level of contrast. Detail was repeatedly lost in either shadows or highlights.

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