Plustek SmartPhoto F50 review

Price when reviewed

Film cameras are becoming increasingly rare, but most households still have a few bundles of prints with negatives, and maybe even some transparencies left over from the good old days. Plustek’s compact SmartPhoto F50 aims to help you digitise these old snaps, then share, or archive them along with the rest of your digital photo library.

The scanner boasts a native resolution of 1,800 x 1,800ppi, which produces scans roughly equivalent to a 4.5-megapixel camera, and it will process either 35mm negatives or transparencies.

It’s powered entirely over USB, which keeps setup and cabling simple, and scanning is straightforward: just mount your originals in one of the plastic trays supplied, slide it into a slot at the front of the scanner, press one of two buttons (one for transparencies, one for negatives) on the front and you’re away.

You won’t be hanging around waiting for your scans, either. From click to preview, the F50 takes just 10 seconds, and then a mere 10 seconds more to produce a full-size scan at native resolution.

Plustek SmartPhoto F50

Despite these positive points, however, we have trouble recommending the SmartPhoto F50, and there are two main reasons for this. The first is that it doesn’t feel like a £51(exc VAT) product: the product itself is boxy and plasticky, the manual feed mechanism feels light and insubstantial, and the software looks as if it was designed in the 1980s for Windows 3.1.

Crucially, however, image quality was very poor in our tests. Scans from negatives looked horribly bleached no matter how much we fiddled with settings, and although results from transparencies were a big improvement, with good detail capture but they also looked a little dull and flat. With no colour balance or saturation control in the driver – just resolution, bit depth, sharpness, brightness and contrast – you can’t fix the problem at source either.

The Plustek SmartPhoto F50 is otherwise simple to use and competitively priced, but the quality of its software, physical design and, most importantly, its results are such that we can’t recommend it.

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