VuPoint Solutions Digital Film and Slide Converter FC-C520-VPD review

The VuPoint Solutions Digital Film and Slide Converter FC-C520-VPD scanner makes it easy digitize 35mm slides and film.
Photo of VuPoint Solutions Digital Film and Slide Converter FC-C520-VPD

Aimed squarely at casual photographers who want to turn their old 35mm slides and film into digital photos, the VuPoint Solutions Digital Film and Slide Converter FC-C520-VPD can do what it promises. However, there’s only so much you can expect from such an inexpensive solution. As with the Editors’ Choice Kodak P461 Personal Photo Scanner that’s also aimed at casual users, whether you’ll be happy with the result depends largely on the level of image quality you were hoping for and the level you’ll accept.

Aside from its low price, the two key strong points for the converter are its speed and ease of use. Scanning slides and film tends to be a time consuming, labor intensive task, even with a relatively expensive scanner like the Epson Perfection V700 Photo ($550 street, 4 stars) or a dedicated film and slide scanner like the Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE . However, the FC-C520-VPD isn’t a scanner. As the name indicates, it’s a converter.

The word choice here is meaningful. Scanners work by scanning one line at a time and working their way down the image line by line. The converter works like a camera, using a 5-megapixel sensor to capture the entire image at once. The final result is in the same form as a scan, namely, a digitized image in JPG format. However, it takes a lot less time to capture the image.

Beyond that, the converter strives to make the process easy as well as quick, with only a few settings available. Once you choose them for a given session, capturing each image is as easy as snapping a picture with a point and shoot camera.

Setup and Basics
Setting up the converter is simple. Take it out of the box and plug the supplied USB cable into the converter at one end and either a computer or the supplied power adaptor at the other end. You can also optionally plug in an SD or SDHC card to capture the images to, but you’ll have to buy it separately. Alternatively, you can save captures to the 32MB internal memory. According to the number that initially showed on the 2.4-inch color screen, the 32MB can hold 29 images, with the number counting down by one with each image capture. When I plugged in a partially filled 2GB SD card, the number jumped up to 2138.

The converter itself is surprisingly small, at 4.0 by 3.4 by 3.4 inches (HWD), with the screen for displaying images and menus on the front, the controls on top, and the connectors and the SD card slot on the back.

In addition to the micro USB connector on the back there’s also a composite video-out port. You can use the supplied composite video cable to connect to a TV and show images stored in the internal memory or on a memory card. Having seen the identical feature show up on early dedicated photo printers and then dropped from later models due to lack of interest, however, my guess is that not many people will take advantage of this.

Capturing an Image
Also included with the converter is a slide holder that can hold up to four 35mm slides and a film holder for a strip of 35mm film with up to six frames. I had some trouble snapping the holders open at first, but fairly quickly found the trick that makes it easy—pushing up on a tab with my first finger while pushing down on an indentation with my thumb. Once you figure it out, loading and unloading film or slides is simple.

The converter’s menus are similarly hard to get started with but easy to use once you’ve learned them. If you dive right in expecting them to be self-explanatory, you may find them a little frustrating to use. Take five minutes to read the instructions in the manual, and you skip the frustration.

Part of what makes the menus easy to use is that there aren’t many options. For capturing an image, you can set the resolution to the native 5 megapixels or an interpolated 10 megapixels; set the image type for color negatives, slides, or for capturing color negatives in black and white; and change the exposure to lighten or darken the result, but that’s all. Other controls let you set the converter for capture or for playback using the screen, change the language, format the memory, and set the converter so your computer will recognize it as a USB device, which lets you copy images to your hard drive.

To capture images, you simply load slides or film in the appropriate holder, feed the holder into a slot on the side of the scanner, position the holder so the image fills the screen properly, and hit the Scan button. The capture takes less than 3 seconds at the 10 megapixel resolution and less than 2 seconds at 5 megapixels. When it’s done, you can move the holder to the next position and repeat the process.

Image Quality
The converter’s image quality isn’t as impressive as its speed, but it’s good enough for what you might think of as snapshot quality suitable for printing at 4 by 6. A 5-megapixel image translates to 456 pixels per inch (ppi) at 4 by 6 inches. That sounds like a lot, but both the printed photo and the image on screen lost detail compared with scans I’ve done of the same images. In some cases the lost details give the printed images a soft focus effect.

More troublesome than the soft focus was a color shift in some images. For example, in one case, a bride’s white gown showed a distinctly blue tint, and the colors in another photo were noticeably oversaturated. However, the oversaturation is not necessarily a problem, since many people prefer photos with colors that are punchier than they are in reality.

These image quality issues make this converter a poor choice for serious photographers or for anyone else who wants the best possible digital images. If you’re a more casual photographer, however, and are just looking for snapshot-quality images suitable for printing at 4 by 6, you may well consider the image quality acceptable. If so, you should also appreciate how much faster and easier it is to digitize your 35mm slides and film with the VuPoint Solutions Digital Film and Slide Converter FC-C520-VPD compared with other choices.

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Specifications
USB or FireWire Interface USB
Scanning Options Transparency
Automatic Document Feeder No
Maximum Scan Area 35mm
Ethernet Interface No
Flatbed No

Verdict
The VuPoint Solutions Digital Film and Slide Converter FC-C520-VPD scanner offers easy image capture for 35mm slides and strips of film, with image quality suitable for casual photographers.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc