Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner unboxing and review
I got the new Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner (how many times will I have to write that in this post?) last night. It was on my doorstep, left by FedEx.
I’d been waiting since Janurary to get one, since I ordered it during the Kickstarter campaign.
As is typical of the few things I’ve ordered from Lomography, the packaging was well done and pretty cool; covered with interesting images and bright colors.
The scanner unit itself comes with some instructions and the flatbed part, with a compartment for batteries and a little backlight under where the negative will be positioned.
One is able to scroll the film through from the left side of the unit and over the light panel. Hollow plastic spacers adjust the distance from phone to film and allow some little fine-tuning of the process.
I tried it with one spacer and found that while my phone (a 2.5 yr old HTC Evo running Android) will typically focus that close, at the distance of only one spacer, I was losing a bit of the negative on the edges.
Once I added two spacers, none of the negative is lost in the dark, but it becomes pretty small – using only a tiny portion of the phone’s already small sensor…
And of course if I want to crop it after that, it’s only going to get smaller.
Once I’d “scanned” (photographed) the negative, I was ready to invert it, and post it to some social media network. I tried searching for the app in the Google Play Store, and found nothing.
I looked on the box and noticed this graphic, right on front:
I visited the suggested website, and was greeted not with a download link, but with a message that reads:
“The App is still in development but links to download it will be added here as soon as it is ready! now, please add your mailing address to the email sign-up form on this page and we will let you know when the App becomes available.”
Huh? You’ve got to be kidding. I guess the “scans perfectly!” part is wishful thinking.
Their site has some suggestions for early adopters:
It suggests trying some apps like Photoshop Express. Easy enough, I have that and use it all the time. Problem is, I don’t remember it being able to invert the colors or create a negative image. Maybe if I update it? Nope. Despite Lomography’s suggestion, Photoshop Express won’t create a negative image (I’m speaking for the Android version here – maybe the iPhone app has more features?). I ended up using an ad-laden, slow and cumbersome (but actually useful) app called PicsArt.
I was able to crop, invert, desaturate, and adjust the brightness and contrast as well. How did it turn out? About as well as you’d expect from a company that’s famous for selling toy cameras…
For starters, the final image is small. Really small. Tiny. In the end, after adding two spacers in order to not lose any of the negative, and after cropping the image in the phone, the image comes out at about 530 x 415 pixels. Very, very, small. Even for a phone it’s small. Even for display on stupid Instagram it’s small. Mouse’s ear small. Crappy small. Here’s a few more samples:
That last one’s on Delta 3200, so it should be grainy, but I’ve printed it, and it sure looks better than that.
There’s a lot of variables here that have the potential to affect the photograph. How much exposure compensation you dial into your phone pre-exposure, the distance from phone to film, the ability of the phone to close focus, and then the post production alternatives are huge. Even without the supposed “coming soon” app from Lomography, one can use apps to apply filters and garbage-up a photo in more ways than even the Lomo crowd could hope for. Once you’ve got the scanner, you’ve really got a digital photo lab in your pocket – as long as you have the film camera, the film, and a lab to develop it first, then you can put a photo on the internet. Wait, wasn’t there an easier way to do that?
That gets at the heart of the matter. This was a pain in the ass and it cost fifty bucks. Sure, it’s cool and it’s fun, but it’s not easy nor does it produce good results. I guess that’s not really the point though – I don’t think the folks at Lomography ever set out to sell a great photographic instrument – they set out to sell the idea of fun in photography. They sell a brief good time. A magic moment. A fleeting instant that may or may not turn out in the end – that’s the idea behind film in the first place (ummm, kind of). As far as that goal goes, the scanner succeeds. I enjoyed it and it was fun to look at some old negatives again. But as a method for sharing images on the internet, well… there’s got to be an easier way – like the 8mp camera in my phone…
Don’t forget to check out some of the fine art prints for sale in my Etsy shop. I’ve also written and illustrated a children’s book for the Kindle Called Coyote Life. If you’ve got kids, check it out. If you enjoy it, please leave a review. Thanks.
My wife Leah makes and sells some pretty cool leather stuff like minimalist wallets and camera straps. Check out her Etsy store for some cool gear.