Photography / Hands-on Review

Holiday 2012: Digitizing Your Analog Media


As technology advances, older analog media is always in danger of becoming antiquated. Those slides, film negatives and prints from historical family events, rites of passage and vacations, the VHS tapes of your kids' first steps, or your favorite cassette tapes from the late 1970s have all been rendered obsolete by digital media. But you don't have to sacrifice all this precious data and all those memories and entertainment, because there are tools that can help you digitize entire archives of video, audio and photographic media—in the comfort of your own home, and for less than you'd pay if you were to outsource the conversions.

This holiday article includes a variety of tools and technologies that allow you to convert your analog media into a digital formats. The first two sections deal with the transfer of film negatives, slides and traditional paper photos to digital files. The next section provides options for converting your audio cassettes into digital formats. The fourth section deals with the transfer of VHS video to DVD. Plus, some of these devices even support digital-to-digital transfer as well. One thing each device in this article has in common is that they all allow you to preserve your analog images, video and audio in a digital format that you can then archive or share with friends and family using today’s digital devices.

Converting Film Negatives, Prints and Slides to Digital Files

There are a few options available for converting your film negatives and slides to digital content. The first option is the Ion iPics 2 Go photo, slide and negative scanner for iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. It features high-resolution picture scanning and it works with 35mm negatives, slides and either 3 x 5-inch or 4 x 6-inch photographic prints. The iPics 2 Go consists of a mini photo booth and a built-in LED light that illuminates the images without hotspots, glare or flash burn. The process starts when you load the picture, slide or negative into the device’s photo tray and then slide it into the photo booth. Then, just snap a picture with your iPhone 4/4S and... it’s done. That’s it. There’s also a free editing app, which converts your slides and negatives into sharable pictures. The free app also includes a Facebook button for instant sharing of your newly digitized pictures. For added flexibility, the iPics 2 Go is battery powered.

The Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai is a scanner with 7200 dpi resolution. It’s designed to transfer film and slides to digital files. The 8200i Ai features a sharp optical system that affords high-detail scanning with impressive tonal range. It also features built-in infrared channels, which help eliminate dust and scratches from the original image. Plus, it includes an IT8 calibration slide that calibrates the scanner color in about two minutes. The included SilverFast Multi-Exposure software enhances dynamic range and picture detail, while also limiting noise. The included SilverFast iSRD software reduces degradation from dust and scratches. The scanner is also paired with the user-friendly LaserSoft’s SilverFast 8 imaging software, which supports multitasking and works with the latest 64-bit hardware. The 8200i Ai is designed for anyyone, from beginners to advanced photographers.

The new Wolverine  20-Megapixel Film to Digital Converter  is designed to convert 35mm slides and negatives into 20-megapixel digital images. For added convenience, no computer or software is required. The device can be powered from a wall outlet or a USB port. All the digital images created are saved on the device’s internal memory, or you can save images onto an SD/SDHC memory card (sold separately). The converter can create a digital image from a slide or negative in about three seconds. You can also adjust image brightness using the integrated 2.4-inch LCD screen. Once you convert your analog images to digital, you can quickly upload them to your Mac or PC via USB. You can also view your digital images directly on your TV by using the video output built right into the device.

The other Wolverine option is the SNAP14, which converts 35mm slides, negatives and photos into 14-megapixel JPEG digital images. The device supports up to 5 x 7-inch photos and the digital image output resolution is approximately 4600 x 3100. You can adjust color and brightness using the 2.4-inch LCD screen, and you can save your digital photos directly onto SD/SDHC memory cards. Like the other Wolverine converter, the SNAP14 requires no computer or software to operate. It converts images in less than three seconds. The machine is compatible with Mac and PC via USB, which affords fast uploading of your new digital images to a computer and the Internet. There’s also a TV output for viewing your images on a compatible television.

This section includes three different scanners that are all specifically designed for converting old analog images to digital content. The first model is the Canon CanoScan 9000F Color Image Scanner. The CanoScan 9000F supports a maximum film-scanning resolution of 9600 x 9600 optical dpi with a 48-bit color depth and over 281 trillion possible colors. You can even create 19200 x 19200 interpolated digital images with the included software. The device can scan old photos, negatives and 35mm slides. It features seven EZ buttons as well, for automating the entire scanning process. You can even copy, scan and create email attachments or PDFs with a single touch of a button. There’s an Auto Scan Mode and a 35mm film special scanning guide with a Film Adapter Unit that scans one film strip at a time at a maximum 9600 color dpi. You can easily upload your new digital images to your computer via USB 2.0 and the scanner adheres to several green compliances for a smaller environmental footprint.

The Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner is another good choice. It supports a 6400 x 9600 dpi optical resolution for enlarging film images up to 17 x 22-inches. It also supports TPU for slides, negatives and medium-format panoramic film up to 2.4 x 8.6-inches. You can use the V600 to scan photos, film, paper documents and 3D objects. It features DIGITAL ICE image restoration, energy-efficient LEDs and one-touch color restoration for bringing faded analog color photos back to life. The V600 features a software package that includes Adobe Photoshop Elements.

Epson also makes the Perfection V750-M Pro Scanner for scanning and converting negatives, slides or photo prints to digital using 6400 dpi optical resolution. It also uses an exclusive Dual Lens System that automatically picks one of two lenses in order to achieve the desired resolution for each image. The scanner affords a 4.0 Dmax tonal range, which ensures smooth color transitions and realistic shadowing. The anti-reflective optical coatings yield faster scans. Like the V600, V750-M also supports DIGITAL ICE technology and an energy-efficient design. It features fluid-mount capability as well, which removes scratches and limit grain from black-and-white photo negatives. You can even batch-scan multiple slides, negatives and medium-format film as well. The V750-M also includes a professional software suite.

Converting Cassettes to Digital Format

There are multiple devices available that convert cassette tapes to digital content. The Ion Tape 2 PC Cassette Conversion System is a good choice. It has a tape deck that plays and records tapes, but it also turns your cassettes into digital MP3 files that you can transfer to your Mac or PC computer via USB (cable included). All you have to do is install the included EZ Tape Vinyl/Tape Converter software and you’re ready to start transferring all your favorite cassettes to digital. This not only allows them to be played on your computer and uploaded onto your iPod or MP3 player, but it also preserves your cassette content, which makes the Tape 2 PC device the perfect archiving machine as well. You can connect it to your stereo system using standard RCA cables.

Another user friendly, feature-rich cassette converter is the rack-mountable Tascam CC-222SLmkII CD/Cassette Recorder. It can record cassettes and vinyl records to CD. The RIAA phono input supports direct recording from a turntable. The CC-222SLmkII allows you to record two devices simultaneously, so you can record two sources at once or one source to two recorders at the same time. The device features digital coaxial and optical connectivity for CD recording from another device, as well as unbalanced RCA inputs and outputs. You can configure the various connection jacks to individual recorders or share them for both CD and cassette. The CC-222SLmkII also features various other convenient functions, including Auto Track Increment, MP3 playback, Power on Play, Fade In/Out, Manual Track Increment and several playback modes.

Converting VHS to Digital Format

VHS is another obsolete media format that’s about as common as cassettes. Luckily, there are ways to transfer your home VHS recordings and your old VHS movies to a digital format for viewing on a DVD player or other compatible devices such as computers and gaming consoles with integrated DVD players. One option worth considering is the Magnavox ZV427MG9 DVD Recorder / VCR, which features a convenient DVD recorder and a four-head Hi-Fi VCR. The recorder supports up to Full HD 1080p up-conversion, as well as Dolby Digital output. The DVD tray can play DVDs, DVD+R/W, DVD-R/W and DC-R/W. It also supports two-way dubbing and satellite link recording, which allows you to record your favorite cable and satellite TV programs. Of course, you can record your VHS tapes directly to DVD as well. The recorder supports five different recording speeds that can yield up to six hours of recording. There’s also a parental lock control feature.

Another quality choice for converting VHS tapes to digital is the Toshiba DVR620 DVD Recorder with integrated four-head Hi-Fi VCR. Like the Magnavox, the DVR620 supports up-conversion to Full HD 1080p, as well as Dolby Digital audio decoding. You can record your VHS tapes to DVD-R/W or DVD+R/W. It supports progressive scan technology, bi-directional dubbing, one-touch recording and Auto Finalization with an undo feature. There’s a front-panel DV input and a component video output. There’s also a digital coaxial audio output. The DVD recorder supports playback of a variety of discs including: DVD, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-Video, CD, CD-RW, CD-R, CD-DA, VCD and SVCD.

Digital-to-Digital Conversion Options

Although this article focuses on how to transfer your analog media to a digital format, there’s also a need to record and transfer digital media as well. As an introduction to these possibilities, we’ll look at two different DVD recorders. The Sony DVDirect MA1 is a multi-function Blu-ray Disc / DVD recorder that can record your videos on Blu-ray Disc or DVD. It allows you to record and store photos on Blu-ray or DVD for archiving and sharing on a large screen. The MA1 can transfer footage from both analog and digital sources. You can transfer recorded footage from camcorders, cameras and even VHS. Plus, there’s an integrated 2.7-inch color LCD preview screen and USB connectivity that works with Sony camcorders only. You can transfer footage from Sony cameras that support AVCHD in 1080i resolution. The MA1 also allows you to record from composite video and RCA audio sources. It supports disc title, menu and chapter creation. And you can even use it as an external BD writer for your compatible computer.

The Panasonic DMR-EH69GA-K Multi-Zone 320GB HDD/DVD Recorder is ideal for creative professionals and hobbyists who want to play, record and archive their music, photos and videos across a range of storage formats. The integrated 320GB hard drive allows you to record your favorite TV programs. You can record music, movies and photos directly to the spacious hard drive as well. You can also record your media directly to DVD. The device supports HDMI 1080p Full HD up-conversion, while a USB port affords connection of flash drives, camcorders and digital cameras. There’s an SD/SDHC/MMC memory card slot for viewing and transferring JPEG and MPEG2 files as well. Plus, the DMR-EH69GA-K is compatible with Viera Link. Other features include 384 Kbps audio recording and a versatile music jukebox that works with the Gracenote Database. For quiet operation, the device is outfitted with an HDD damper and an advanced control system that adjusts fan speed to create  the least noise possible.

There are several other devices available that can convert analog media to digital formats, as well as devices that enable digital-to-digital conversion. For a complete list of all the analog and digital conversion possibilities, be sure stop by the B&H website or contact a Sales Associate via live chat, over the phone or in the B&H SuperStore.