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Silicon Film's (e)film cartridge. Courtesy of Silicon Film. Silicon Film about to ship (e)film product!
By
(Saturday, May 5, 2001 - 10:30 EDT)

Long (!!) awaited 'digital film cartridge finally available to order...

IR reader PJ Heller dropped us a note this morning with news that he'd received an email from Silicon Film, the company (once known as Imagek) who've developed a system for allowing certain film cameras to capture digital images. The company has announced in an email to reservation holders that they are now ready to take preorders for the EFS-1 system, and expect to begin shipping orders out at the end of June.

Silicon Film's EFS-1 Electronic Film System consists of three parts. The first is the (e)film cartridge which replaces the film in a Nikon F5, N90 and F3 or Canon EOS 1N, EOS A2 and EOS A5 camera body - it has a resolution of 1.3 megapixels, can store up to 24 images, and has a battery life of up to 300 images per battery set. The (e)film cartridge uses a CMOS image sensor which is smaller than a standard film frame, meaning that it only captures a portion of the area that is seen in the viewfinder, as do most professional digital SLRs which are based on film bodies. This 'focal length multiplier' means that using the (e)film cartridge, you have to multiply the focal length of your lenses by 2.85 to arrive at the effective focal length you'll get when taking digital images. The CMOS sensor and electronics give an ISO rating equivalent to ISO 100, and this cannot be changed...

The next part of the system is the (e)port, which doubles as a protective housing for the delicate (e)film cartridge, and a download device for offloading images. Once you've reached that 24 image limit, or when you need to access your images, you remove the cartridge from the camera, and insert it into the (e)port. You can then either insert the (e)port into a PCMCIA slot in your laptop computer, plug it into a USB port, or plug it into the third and final piece of the system, the (e)box, to offload images and clear space on the cartridge. The (e)box is essentially a converter that allows you to transfer images from the (e)port to a Type-I or Type-II CompactFlash card for downloading your images in the field when you don't have a laptop computer available.

The EFS-1 system provoked a lot of interest and excitement from readers when it was first announced in early 1998. Now, it seems that some three years later it is finally almost ready to reach the market. The question now will be whether the market has already progressed beyond the product; is 1.3 megapixels still high enough, and will the system prove attractive to buyers? There are definitely advantages to the system such as being able to use your current lenses and camera body, but there are (as we've pointed out on this page in the past) some disadvantages too:
  • Very limited storage capacity in-camera
  • The need to either purchase multiple (e)film cartridges or potentially miss photos whilst you're offloading images
  • The inability to see your images immediately you've taken them, or to delete them without removing the cartridge from the camera
  • A fixed ISO rating
  • A focal length multiplier that is high even when compared to other available SLR digicams, and will make truly wide-angle photos difficult or impossible, as well as making accurate framing of photos in the viewfinder harder
  • Low resolution when compared to current consumer digicams
  • High price when compared to current 1.3 megapixel digicams
  • Design constraints that make the (e)film cartridge likely easier to break and harder to manufacture than an all-in-one digicam
  • Compatibility only with a small choice of SLR film cameras
  • No 'frills' like video, sound, histograms, and other features that are available in some consumer cameras
  • The need to carry around bulky equipment additional to the camera if you want to be able to shoot more than 24 images, whether it is by offloading images or by using multiple (e)film cartridges
Silicon Film has not yet publicly announced availability of the product beyond the email sent to reservation holders, noting in the email that it will do so on Monday. The EFS-1 system is available in the Silicon Film web store, which is separate from the Silicon Film website. The full text of Silicon Film's email follows:
"ADVANCED E-MAIL TO RESERVATION HOLDERS

TO: OUR PROSPECTIVE EFS-1 CUSTOMERS

We are notifying you of some exciting news. Silicon Film is approaching the shipping date of our EFS-1 Electronic Film System, now expected to be at the end of June. We have been busy constructing our online store to process orders directly from customers. As a reservation holder, we are offering you the very first opportunity to purchase the product, as we expect strong demand in the marketplace.

The Silicon Film Web Store is located at www.sifilmstore1.com. The Silicon Film store is now "live" beginning this Friday, May 5 specifically for your benefit. Our reservation holders are the only ones being notified of this special timing - Saturday May 5 and Sunday May 6 - to give you an advanced opportunity to shop online and order your desired EFS products. Silicon Film will make an announcement about our Web Store on Monday morning, May 7 on our website home page, opening the Store to the general public. If you do not have a chance to purchase during your two-day "sneak preview," you will keep your priority in our database and we will be able to match your reservation date with shipping priority. Please place your order by June 1, 2001 to ensure early access to the product.

When you visit the Silicon Film Web Store you'll notice some exciting things:

* We've "unbundled" the EFS-1 kit, so after you've purchased your first EFS-1, you can purchase another (e)film Cartridge separately if you wish for more utility and flexibility in your EFS experience

* All Silicon Film products are covered by a 30-day money back guarantee

* All shipments will be made via Federal Express so we can deliver your product quickly and have the added security of an individual tracking number to follow your order.

So don't miss this special time! We promised you the first purchase opportunity and your time has come. Please visit www.sifilmstore1.com without delay, and click on the "Info Page" for the very latest updates about product availability and enhancements before you order.

Thanks in advance for your order. We are looking forward to providing you with the very best in digital imaging - EFS-1, digital film for your SLR!

Questions? Please contact us at efs1support@siliconfilm.com.


Silicon Film Technologies
Rethinking Digital Photography"
Note that the $99 (e)box storage product is not yet available, and all bundles including this item are also listed as not yet available. The full bundle including (e)box will cost $699, whilst a bundle without (e)box is $649. An extra (e)film cartridge is $599, and the (e)port can be bought separately for $99. The products are covered by a 30 day money back guarantee (rather shorter than the warranties you'd get on a consumer digital camera!)

The company will ship orders by Federal Express, and notes that it will not charge credit cards until the product actually ships. Initial sales are only for US and Canadian customers; European orders will be fulfilled through a distributor, RINGFOTO Gruppe, and its 'Eur-Activ' affiliated dealers, with details on how to order being announced at a later date.

Thanks to PJ Heller for this item!

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