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The Pacific Image Electronics PF1800 Film Scanner is cheap and easy. Hardware review hed: Picture perfect dek: The Pacific Image Electronics PF1800 Film Scanner is cheap and easy.

The PrimeFilm 1800 Silver is a $299 film scanner that’s aimed at amateur photographers, Web designers, and desktop publishers. This most affordable film scanner accepts mounted and unmounted 35mm color slides, or strips of color or black and white negatives. (If you’re looking for a real bargain, consider Pacific Image Electronics’ $199 PF1800 scanner. It lacks the Adobe and LaserSoft software but has similar hardware specifications.)

This 35mm-only film scanner has an optical resolution of 800 dpi, which is the equivalent of 4.2 megapixels for a 24x36mm image. The scanner has a dynamic range of 2.8, which is the same as a standard Photo CD scan.

The Silver version is bundled with LaserSoft Imaging’s SilverFast SE 5.0 and Adobe’s Photoshop LE software. SilverFast combines an intuitive user interface with the kind of professional capabilities that allow novice or advanced computer users to manually or automatically adjust the image prior to the final scan.

If there is one word that describes scanning with the PF1800 Silver, it’s effortless. Slipping a slide into the film holder and positioning it is simple, and using the SilverFast software makes it easy to produce great-looking scans; for digital newbies, SilverFast’s ScanPilot feature automatically guides you step-by-step through the process of making individual image corrections.

Beginners can take advantage of the built-in presets and auto-adjust features, while experienced users can monitor exact values using SilverFast’s built-in densitometer. A finished 1800dpi scan takes only 35 seconds.

This is a no-frills scanner; there are no motorized film holders that grab your film and suck it inside the scanner. It’s a stick-shift model: You stick in a clean slide or strip of negatives, line up the frame within the 24x36mm illuminated area, and launch the driver. While the software lets you create a good–even very good–scan, I found that using Photoshop’s built-in tweaking tools allowed me to produce even better digital files. Upgrading to the full version of LaserSoft’s Silverfast 5.5 software costs only $50 and includes the new NegaFix feature, which can handle many types of color or black and white negative film. Silverfast 5.5 has more than 120 film presets and a powerful 16-bit orange mask correction feature.

While testing this scanner, I worked with 30-year-old Kodachrome slides, and all of these scans turned out cleaner than other Photo CD scans I’ve had made lately. It’s still a good idea to keep a can of environmentally friendly air nearby to blow dust specks off the slides or negatives before inserting them in the scanner.

The PrimeFilm 1800 Silver scanner performs far better than its modest price might indicate. Sure, I had to tweak the images after they were acquired but I find that I have to tweak every digital image I work with, including files from Photo CD and more expensive scanners.

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