Educator's Review: Pacific Image Electronics' PrimeFilm 1800AFL


Aflatbed scanner is designed for prints, though some have adapters to scan film at what is typically a lower resolution. Conversely, a film scanner is designed to scan directly from negatives and slides. Unlike most film scanners, which can be expensive, the PrimeFilm 1800AFL from Pacific Image Electronics is inexpensive at $399 and, more important, it d'es a good job. The 1800AFL has an 1,800-dpi optical resolution, 42-bit color mode, 3.2 dynamic range, and autofocus. The company also offers a higher end 3,600-dpi version (PF 3600 PRO), as well as a less expensive ($299) 1,800-dpi consumer version (PF 1800 i).

Installation of the 1800AFL scanner is a snap - all you do is plug it into an outlet and the computer. The scanner offers a USB interface, so the computer detects the scanner and prompts for the CD. I had it up and running in less than five minutes. You begin the scan by feeding it a strip of negatives or a slide. Negatives are automatically loaded into a slot on the top of the scanner and come out from a second slot on the bottom. The scanner can take a strip of four negatives or an entire roll of film if the processor d'esn't cut the negatives. In addition, mounted or unmounted slides must be fed into a slot under the scanner's front cover. Unfortunately, slides can only be processed individually, because there is no bulk loader.

Scanning is a three-step process. You begin with a quick scan that places the image or images on the screen. You then use Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0, which is included with the scanner, to make any adjustments to the image. Photoshop Elements allows you to adjust the colors and brightness, as well as crop the image. Once satisfied, you can perform a detailed scan and save the image. The only downside is that Pacific Image Electronics d'esn't provide sufficient instructions for the software, which makes getting started difficult if you are unfamiliar with Photoshop.

The produced image quality is good but not excellent. The colors are correct, but the overall image looks less sharp than the film - as though the images were shot through a soft-focus filter. This is a limitation of the 1800AFL scanner itself and not its 1,800-dpi resolution. In addition, I found the scanner to be somewhat noisy when scanning.

For schools looking for a film scanner, the 1800AFL is a good choice. It is inexpensive enough that you don't have to worry about leaving it in the classroom, and its USB connection makes it easy to swap between both Mac and PC computers. The scans produced by the 1800AFL, while less than crisp, are good enough for most classroom applications.

To view samples of scanned images online, visit the Digital Imaging section at

Contact Information
Pacific Image Electronics Inc.
Torrance, CA
(310) 618-8100

10 Scanning Tips

  1. Take sharp pictures. The better your picture, the better your scan.
  2. Make sure you have enough light, because bright images scan better.
  3. Don't get too close to your subject. Give yourself space for cropping later.
  4. Use negative film since it is more forgiving of mistakes and the scanner can scan the entire roll at once, while slides must be scanned individually.
  5. Tell your processor not to cut the negatives into strips, so the scanner can process the entire roll at once.
  6. Blow the dust off the film before scanning - clean film scans better.
  7. Reset your settings when you switch film batches.
  8. Experiment with the scanner controls. Many images can be improved and you cannot hurt the image by experimenting.
  9. Give the scanned file a meaningful name so you can find it later.
  10. Save your scans in JPG format so that you can preview them with your Internet browser.

Tip: Photo CDs

If you only occasionally need electronic images, there is a better and cheaper way to get them than a scanner or a digital camera. When you have your film developed, just ask for a photo CD. The CD will have low-resolution JPG files that are perfect for e-mailing as well as posting to the Web. It will also have high-resolution JPG files that are of higher quality than those produced by most digital cameras.

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.