Monday, 30 June 2014

FilmScan 35i Driver and Review

I came across this little beauty on Ebay the other day and decided to buy it. I have never had a film scanner and at £12 this seemed to be a steal. Marketed as the Agfa Digital Converter, this item is aimed at those with a drawer full of slides and negatives in need of conversion.

The first thing you need to know about this item is that it is not manufactured by Agfa - its a generic made-in-China film scanner sold in the early to mid noughties and marketed under a variety of names - Agfa, Ion, SVP, Innovative Technology, EU3C, Otek and Plexgear to name a few. It is also known by the various brand names as the FilmScan 35i or by the boring model number SCND502E1231. The one thing these companies have in common is a complete disinterest in providing legacy support for their scanner. If you have lost the disc it came with and are running something more up-to-date than Windows XP Service Pack 2, you are pretty much screwed.

I trawled the internet for a fortnight finding a driver for this thing. Windows 7 did its best to find a driver (which was useless) and others failed. I was about to give up when I chanced upon a driver for this which actually works in Windows 7. If by some way you are reading this because you are looking to get this thing working on Windows 7 then I am about to make your dreams come true.

1. Firstly, get rid of any previous attempts to load a driver and make sure the scanner is unplugged.
2. Next, download this little beauty FilmScan35i Driver WinXP - WinVista - Win7   
3. Run the installer
5. The installer should have created a shortcut on your desktop - Image Scan Tool
6. Right click on the icon, choose properties, choose compatibility, and then choose 'run this program in compatibility mode for Windows Service Pack 2' Make sure the box is checked. Save.

Connect your scanner and click on the icon. You should now (pray) have a working FilmScan35i on Windows 7. You will know its working because there will be light in the negative carrier slot.

With that, I had a working scanner. I had to wait until daybreak to venture into the spider-kingdom which is my garage to find some slides. Following the fairly simple user-interface I managed to capture this slide in glorious digi-vision for eternity. This, if you are not aware, is the prototype Concorde taking a test flight.

Date Unknown, Unbranded E6 Process, Photographer - Herbert Chester

OK, maybe I should have invested in a can of compressed air. The scanner does come with a velveteen brush which is good for getting hairs out of the scanner but hey - nothing moves dust like a blast of air from a can.

The good thing about this scanner is the speed in which you can get stuff done. Once you are in the rhythm you can digitise quite quickly. Not bad for £12 on Ebay!

The bad points - there is absolutely no adjustment. You can do 1800 or 3600dpi, and thats it. The scanner automatically adjusts the exposure - in some cases quite badly, obliterating skies and skin tones in the process. You can 'cheat' the scanner by pressing 'scan' as it is adjusting. But its not ideal. The whites can be a bit pixellated and blown out. If you need control you really need to fork out for something golden like a Nikon Coolscan. Am I expecting too much from a £10 scanner?

Budget alternatives include the Lomography scanner for smartphones which uses the same technology, this may or may not have adjustment but will certainly have full frame capture if I know anything about these hipster moneygrabbers. Alternatively you can get an LCD monitor to display white light, tape your slides or negs onto it and snap away with a digital camera. Finally a backlit flatbed scanner will certainly scan slides and negatives and many come with slide and negative carriers.

Final verdict - bargain. But if you want perfection you will need to pay more. Much more. 

No matter, I'm off to find some more negatives to scan. Now where did I put that spider-repellent?

Sean Chester - At my kitchen table. 

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Kodak Discovery

Shutter speeds even a goldfish can remember
I was messing about in the garage this morning and came across a few old friends. A particular camera that interested me was the much boxed but never used Kodak Junior II camera that looked useful when I picked it up in my youth but never really gave any thought to. Having a serious trip to Paris in the offing I decided to give this camera the once-over.

The Kodak Junior II camera was produced by Kodak between 1954 and 1959. It is a folding camera and unlike many of its relatives looks quite plasticy and cheaply made. The lens, however, appears to be built well and features a focus ring, f.stops from 6.3 to 32 and a mindblowing choice of two shutter speeds - 1/25th and 1/50th. The shutter can be fired at the lens but also from a red plastic button on the body of the camera. The viewfinder is a plastic window built into the body and is quite poor, as you may well expect from a folding camera it merely approximates what you might get back from the lab at Boots.

The camera takes 620 film which is the same as 120 on a modified spool (now discontinued - Kodak persevered with this film format until 1995). The camera clearly states that it cannot be loaded with 120 film, however the previous owner (my grandfather) appears to have given to finger to their advice and jammed a 120 spool in there and gone at it with a Dremel in a vain attempt to force the camera to conform. This attempt appears to have been unsuccessful and so for the time being the Kodak Junior II camera will have to be a retro showpiece on my bookcase. May it rise like a phoenix.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Impromptu Gressenhall Journey

Honey Bees, Gressenhall 1/500sec f.5.6 ISO200
Today was a really warm day and we all went out for the day to Gressenhall Farm. There was a photo competition on and I decided to give it a go.

Normally, I am not into photo competitions but my wife Emma recently won a weekend in Paris with a photo I took nearly ten years ago. This has naturally increased my enthusiasm for entering these things.

Gressenhall is an old rural workhouse, now a popular tourist attraction and museum. I had been there before with the family, and didn't rate the photographic opportunities very highly being more of an urban photographer. However, the promise of winning a £50 voucher was too great.

I usually shy away from snapping away like a man possessed, but on this occasion I took 297 photos. This was mainly to try and capture bees doing their thing on a flower. When taking nature photos, the rule is to go colour. This is also something of which I try and steer clear, as is macro photography, as is cropping, as is wilful proximity to bees. Having said this, my complete disregard for Henri Cartier-Bresson's manifesto bore fruit. See my above photo of bees having a laugh.

Gressenhall Cart, 1/8000sec f.4.5 ISO1600
Nature photographers the world over may scoff at my pathetic attempt to immortalise the two bees in question (which I named Paul and Ringo). I would argue the point that I was using a 15 year old EF kit lens on a EF-S camera. In addition to this I AM TERRIFIED OF BEES.

Bees aside, I did manage to snap this ornate farm cart of which I am very proud. During this lazy shoot my ISO settings and shutter speeds were all over the place. I didn't even know my camera shot at 1/8000sec. I reckon ISO200 would have been nearer the mark.

Anyway, I will enter my terrifying bee photo and hope for the best. You never know, I might get a few lens filters out of it. I am really looking forward to my trip to Paris, which is obviously the main haunt of my two favourite photographers - Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau. Now, has anyone got a cheap Leica going?

Sean Chester - on my sofa

Saturday, 7 June 2014

An Introduction

My name is Sean Chester and I like to think of myself as a photographer. I am a father of two and live in Norfolk in the UK. I have always been a bit artistic and photography provides me with the ability to vent my artistic fury without the world finding out I am crap at oil painting.

My grandfather was an avid photographer and I grew up visiting his house full of camera-gear, some bought from a store and some home-made. His house was a treasure trove of camera kit, from basic box cameras to quiet serious-looking Mamiya studio cameras. When I decided to take up GCSE Photography I cut my teeth with the now sorry-looking Yashica FX2 SLR which I still own (although various parts have dropped off) Looking at it now it kind of looks a bit basic. I love it.

Today I have a DSLR, a Canon EOS50D, which weighs a ton, looks suitably impressive and gives out a good image. However, I am quite proud of the fact that I can develop, process and print my own monochrome, and have even dabbled in colour film processing. I am almost exclusively digital at the moment, this is mostly due to lack of money and time to rebuild a darkroom. But as this blog develops this may change.

I am not snobby about camera gear and you will not find me raving about the latest Leica or medium format digital-backed Mamiya. Most of my kit is scratched and semi-functional, ancient, museum quality, mouldy, musty or made from cardboard. My philosophy is that all the fabulous kit in the world will not help you if you do not know what to point a camera at, nor will Photoshop. Go out, get it right first time in-camera. Have fun trying out old camera gear and discovering new places. Don't hedge your bets.

Anyway, I am off for now. I hope to inspire and inform by writing my blog and hopefully be entertaining. Au Revoir.

Sean Chester - at my kitchen table.