Photo scanner helps shutterbugs digitize old pictures...


May 28, 2001

Photo scanner helps shutterbugs digitize old pictures

Go dig those old film negatives out of the attic. With Epson's Perfection 1640SU photo scanner, you'll get sharp, clear reproductions of film transparencies, negatives and prints, with very little fuss.

This is the quintessential desktop scanner - sporting a resolution of 1,600 x 3,200 dpi - but it costs some bucks. Its $369 list price includes the film transparency adapter. If you shop around the Internet, (, you're likely to knock about $70 off the price tag. And $300 is a pretty fair price for a scanner with the 1640SU's capabilities.

Overall, the scanner performs well, but its most distinctive feature is the transparency adaptor. The small attachment sits on the glass of the scanner and has holding "masks" for standard film negative sizes. If you want, you can also scan slides simply by putting them on the glass alone.

The quality is surprisingly good; the scanner offers 42-bit color rather than traditional 36-bit, meaning you'll get a greater range of color tone and shadow.

The down side of using the film attachment is that it is a little on the clunky side. The film doesn't fit as snugly as one would like, but this is a minor inconvenience.

Epson's Smart Panel software is plain and simple to use. There are point-and-click options to send your scanned images via e-mail, and the bundled optical character-recognition software for scanning printed documents into editable text is excellent.

Considering that not long ago it would have required a $15,000 photo studio to do such desktop photo manipulation and printing, the Epson is an excellent value.

One caution: If you want to scan slides or negatives, make sure the unit you buy has the optional transparency attachment. Epson sells the scanner alone for $100 less.

Information: 800-873-7766 or

Michael James

Solar Power Pack does work of most outlets

Power, it is said, corrupts. But try living without it.

Solardyne's Solar Power Pack might be the answer if you find yourself miles, or hundreds of miles, from an outlet. Weighing in at about 24 pounds with accessories that include a backpack, the unit can be lugged almost anywhere. It provides many hours of AC or DC current.

Solar panels charge up the battery in about six hours. The panels are waterproof, but you should keep the Power Pack away from water to avoid shock or worse. The owner's manual cautions to "treat it with the same respect that you would any AC outlet."

The Solar Pack could light a field hospital set up by relief workers or keep the freezer from thawing in a power outage, among other tasks.

The Solar Power Pack also comes with jumper cables, just in case the car battery goes on the fritz. It sells for $549 at the company's Web site.

Information: 866-244-5815 or

Ed Timms/KRT

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