A Digital Photo Converter

Posted on Monday 23 June 2008

So I spent most of Friday struggling with my network printing problem on my Linux/Ubuntu machine (which by the way was not successful, I still can’t use my HP1000 across a network, ) and as a result I don’t have anything “fresh” (as in the last 3 days ) to talk about. So, I thought I would pass on my opinions about a new “toy” that I got for my birthday a little while back. My wonderful wife, knowing that I like techology got me a new gadget that she thought I could use – a Digital Photo Converter from Hammacher Schlemmer .

To be truthful, it is available elsewhere. I did a quick Internet search and found another website, Frontgate, which also sells the exact same piece of equipment, at the same price, but I like Hammacher because they give us a lifetime warranty with anything purchased AND they send us a real cool catalog with all sorts of real neat toys in it. Both places sell the exact same equipment for the same price, $149 US.

Now granted, I do have a scanner that can do the same sort of thing as this gadget, but I have to tell you. It’s no where near as fast. My scanner can also take negatives and create digital photographs from them (and it is faster than scanning one picture at a time ) but how many people still have ALL their negatives to ALL their pictures – I tried but only have about a third of what I should have, PLUS I am into genealogy and have acquired a lot of very old pictures where the negatives disappeared over 70 years ago!

I have to tell you that this little (about 8″x9″x10″ ) 2lb. box does a pretty amazing job, very, very quickly and anyone who wants to convert a lot of old photographs, and newer ones as well, should seriously take a closer look at this  gem.

It is basically a 5.0 megapixel camera in a box, set to photograph at a Macro distance ( up real close. ) It comes with 3 trays ( to hold “3×5″, 4″x6″, 5″x7” photos ) which is my only complaint. While these sizes are good for most pictures over the last 40 or so years, older pictures are odd sized and many of them were developed by “home developers” or hobbyists and as such can be practically any size. It would have been nice to have a tray with at least one movable side to accommodate them. However, a quick snip with the scissors on an old clear plastic salad box ( the type you can buy at a grocery store ) quickly gave me an adjustable side for those.

The box comes with software drivers for your Windows Computer (XP and Vista ) and connects via a USB 2.0 cable. The package from Hammacher Schlemmer also comes with Arcsoft’s Photo Impression 6, a nice little digital picture utility with which you can adjust and fix a digital picture in so many ways (and would take too much time to go into detail on this article . ) This software also has a neat plugin that works directly with the Photo Converter in that as soon as you drop your picture into the box you see the picture on screen and can capture it immediately. This takes less than a second – faster than a regular digital camera which has to focus first – this camera is already focused! As a result you can convert and transfer dozens of pictures to your computer within minutes!

You will still need to use the “crop” facility within Photo Impressions to cut away the sides of the picture (there is a setting that supposedly does this automatically for you – but I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. ) Another issue is that black and white (or sepia ) pictures are captured in full color (not that this colorizes your pictures, but rather you get an odd mix of colors that give the impression of shades of gray or black and white. )

Unfortunately I didn’t find any way ( using Photo Impressions ) to convert the color picture into a grayscale (shades of gray or black and white ) picture and had to use another utility of mine that I like – Adobe Photoshop Elements to  do the conversion. The end results, when finished, were quite amazing, and even small (1″ x 1.5″ ) photos came out crystal clear and easily enlarged!

The actual converter, along with Photo Impressions, gives you a lot of flexibility in copying your pictures and the end result is very impressive. Even though the camera is only 5.0 megapixels in size, with the options and settings that one can adjust, a 5″x7″ photo when digitized can be well over 10MB in size (due to the DPI and color depth settings chosen. )

For those interested in the specs:

  • Automatic color balance
  • Automatic exposure
  • 1800 dpi and capable of image enhancements to 3600 dpi
  • 10 bits per color channel ( actually capable of doing 24 and 48 bit levels of color )
  • CCFL Light Source (no heat, so no damage to your original picture )
  • Requires USB 2.0 (for the power feed to the box – there is no external power cube )
  • 512MB or higher of RAM recommended
  • 256 MB of disk space required (for the software only – for the pictures you will need a LOT more! )

The manual that comes with the box isn’t great, but it is enough to get you started.  There is also no power required – it runs off the USB connection (so if you are running this on a laptop, make sure it is plugged in! ) The box also comes with a large COPY button on it, but it was irrelevant when using the software that came with it as all control was done through Photo Impressions.

Both Hammacher Schlemmer and Frontgate also carry a small slide/negative converter , (for about $100 US ) which I am sure works the same way. But since I only have one box of slides ( better quality, but my wife didn’t like looking at pictures through a slide viewer ,) I won’t be getting that one any time soon. But if anyone has tried it please leave your comments here!

End Article
  1. Rick Said,

    Just a quick update on this one. I finally figured out the trays for the photo scanner (which is what caused my confusion.)

    If you use the 3×5 setting for 4×6 pictures (yeah I know a little confusing) then you don’t have to crop anything at all. They come out perfect every time with no cropping necessary.

    I just converted about 200 4×6 pictures into perfect digital versions in about 45 minutes – quite impressive!

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