Monday, November 12, 2007

Review: Imagers

Using Imagers for my negative scanning appealed to me for two reasons. First they are the only place I can find that digitize the frames at 4 different resolutions. Second, they are based in the Atlanta area which would eliminate shipping charges for me. I selected two representative rolls from my collection and dropped then off at the Imagers office in Atlanta at around 5 pm on a Monday. Each roll was stored in its own PrintFile negative archival page. By Tuesday afternoon they called me to tell me that my job was done and I could pick it up anytime. Their web site says a typical turnaround is 3 days, but they got mine done in a day! The package included my negatives in the archival pages (just like I had left them) and a jewel case with my disk and two "insert-sized" pages of thumbnails.

The negatives were mine and the thumbnails were my photos. Unfortunately the images on the disk were not mine. Even though the job number written on the disk was correct, somehow my order had been replaced with someone else's. I called Imagers the next day and they were very apologetic. They promised to put the correct images on a disk and ship it to me overnight. The following afternoon my disk arrived via UPS at no additional cost to me, and this time it contained the correct images.

Imagers is one of the most expensive labs I have seen, but they digitize every frame at 4 different resolutions. The idea being that you can choose the resolution you need for the application you have. Small images are intended for use on the web and as mail attachments. Intermediate sizes can be used for reproducing 4x5 photos, and the largest size is big enough to print 8x10 photos. The disk I got back had the following imae sizes:
  • Extra large: 4050 x 2712 (2800 dpi)
  • Large: 3150 x 2109 (2222 dpi)
  • Medium: 1805 x 1209 (1300 dpi)
  • Small: 500 x 335 (360 dpi)
The medium is large enough to create a 4x5 image and still have 300 dpi. The large is enough to print at 8x10 and have over 300 dpi. The extra large should be quite adequate for nearly any possible need, but I find it odd that it isn't 3000 dpi like many other companies provide. But what disappoints me most is the small is actually too small. These days screens don't get much smaller than 1024x768 and many of them have an even higher resolution. When I place my photos on a web site I typically make them 800 x 531 and would never make them smaller than 600 in their widest dimension. So an image of 500 x 335 seems too small, and is certainly a size that I don't have much use for.

The other disappointment with the results is the complete lack of organization for the images on the disk. I asked Imagers if they would organize the images by roll, and they said they were unable to do that. So my two rolls of pictures appeared on the disk in a single directory with sequential numbers from 1 to 46. The first roll was 1-25 and the second roll started after that. Even more frustrating was the fact that the numbering did not match the order on the negatives. Each strip was digitized and the images were numbered in reverse. So as I step through the images on the disk in numerical order, I am actually looking at frames 4, 3, 2, 1, then 8, 7, 6, 5, and so on. In order to get the files back in a coherent order I had to do some Unix shell scripting to get the file names in to a sequence that matched what was on the original negative strips.

On the plus side, all images were remarkably free of dust and other speckles. They were all framed and oriented correctly. Most of the images were color balanced correctly, although some outdoor shots were not. I was pleased with the resulting images, and the negatives made the round trip unharmed.

The bottom line with Imagers is that the extra resolutions they provide are outweighed by the inconvenience posed by the poorly organized file structure, and for me the higher price cannot be justified. Here is a sample image from the set I sent in for processing.


fast turnaround and good quality results
excellent service
despite 4 resolutions, none suitable for web
cannot separate rolls
files are not numbered in same order as negatives

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