Unusual Sanwa scanner is like a dedicated macro camera for digitizing your film photos


posted Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at 11:27 AM EST


Back in the day, film scanners used to be something we covered pretty frequently here at Imaging Resource. As photographers transitioned to digital, there was a significant demand to bring their archive of film photos along with them -- and big-name brands answered that demand with products like Canon's CanoScan FS-4000, Minolta's Dimage Scan product line, and Nikon's Coolscan series.

Although all the main players have since left the dedicated film scanner market, these interesting devices can still fetch surprisingly high prices on the second-hand market. If you don't feel like taking a chance on second-hand gear, though, quality standalone film scanners are harder to come by these days.

If you're in Japan -- or adept at ordering from overseas -- a new film scanner from Japanese brand Sanwa expands your options a little. Sure, they're not a brand you've ever heard of, but the Sanwa 400-SCN24 looks like an interesting (and rather unusual) little gadget.

The Sanwa 400-SCN24 Film Scanner Pro is, in essence, a digicam with one very specific purpose.

In a manner of speaking, the Sanwa 400-SCN24 Film Scanner Pro is a digital camera, rather than a traditional scanner. Most film scanners work using a linear image sensor that's stepped across the film surface to capture a two-dimensional image, but the 400-SCN24 takes a different approach with a 14-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch area-type CMOS image sensor and a four-element glass lens with a fixed f/5 aperture.

This allows the entire frame to be captured in one go, rather than the slow scanning process of most film scanners. (No scan time is specified, but we'd expect it to be near-instant, where a scanner like Nikon's Coolscan V took as much as 38 seconds to scan a 35mm film frame -- admittedly including USB transfer time.) But then, while it includes USB transfer capability, the Sanwa 400-SCN24 can shortcut the transfer time by writing to an SD card, just like your camera does.

The Sanwa Film Scanner Pro images your film in one go, with no need to step a linear sensor across the film surface. You'll still need to position film by hand, though.

It even includes its own LCD monitor, just like your camera -- so you can perform scans without your computer. And while the 14-megapixel resolution doesn't match up with a high-end film scanner -- it equates to around 3,116 dpi, versus 4000+dpi from many dedicated film scanners -- it's likely plenty for consumer purposes.

And compared to those older models, the Sanwa Film Scanner Pro is a snip at just ¥11,800 (US$116) -- not much different to what you'd pay for a 14-megapixel digicam these days. Which leaves only one big drawback to worry about -- it's currently available only in Japan, as far as we can tell. Here's hoping that changes!

(via UberGizmo)