A new mini-lab film scanner has been launched which its creators say can cut the time to scan a roll of film down to under a minute.
The Aura 35 scanner is claimed to scan film 60 to 80 times faster than legacy minilab scanners.
The new scanner has been created with the help of France’s Nation Photo, which owns a chain of photo labs in Paris.
The scanner will have a maximum scanning resolution of 4000DPI and a choice of colour management depending on the customer’s preferences.
The finished units are likely to cost tens of thousands of euros but the makers’ intentions are to lease them out to labs on a lease-to-basis with no upfront costs.
The new scanner has been optimised for intensive daily use in a photo lab setting, and will use a modular construction and standard components in order to make repairs easier.
The scanner is currently in development, but was unveiled at the recent Photopia photography trade show in Hamburg, Germany.
Kosmo Foto was given advance details of the scanner some months ago and was able to interview the machine’s inventor, Adrien Veau, for more details on the new machine. (You can also see a short YouTube video of the new scanner below.)
What is the scanner built to do?
“It is made to scan strips of 35mm film (negative colour, bw, slides…) Starting from four frames for cut strips. Labs typically keep the strip whole before scanning since it’s easier to handle. We will enable labs to scan a lot faster than using legacy scanners, as we hope to capture a full 36-exp strip in about 40 seconds or less at full resolution, when the comparable resolution with the fastest scanner (Noritsu HS-1800) takes maybe a good 10-12 minutes.”
When will they be produced? When will you ship?
“We expect the prototyping phase to run until about mid-2024, at which point the scanner should have been running in production for a few months, and the first issues will have been smoothed down. Mid-2024 is about when we will compile the changes we had to make to the prototype into a new iteration starting clean, which should hopefully be the pre-series model.
“Pre-series in the context of low-volume electronics assembled by hand does not make as much sense as say for an iPhone, so it should be pretty much 99% of the final released product, which we will keep iterating on during it’s lifetime. If anything, the pre-series should simply be considered as the first version of the production model.
“We do hope to release the pre-series units for sale by the end of 2024, if nothing catastrophic happens and we can manage tooling lead times. (Moulds for some parts can take up to two to three months to come to us).”
How much will renting one cost?
“We are aiming to sell these through leasing, with a full-service agreement during the leasing period and scanner swaps should anything break during that. The monthly lease cost should be about €300-500 for a few years.”
Are they being produced in France?
“Yes! Designed and assembled in France, and unless we need something extremely specific, most if not all of the manufacturing for the parts will happen in France, or in the EU. Some of the off-the-shelf parts (motor, sensors, image sensor…) that we use are not made in France of course. We want to offer a very high-quality product, and it just makes sense for us to have the production close to us so we can monitor it.”
Is it a Nation Photo product or are you setting up a new company.
“It is a new company entirely, with some familiar faces running it. This allows us both to get access to resources that a 20-year-old lab cannot claim in the tech world, and to separate risk and cost, because hardware projects remain very risky, and time + cost intensive.
“Even if this project originated at Nation Photo, we believe that there is a general need for such a machine and this is why we want to offer it to our industry. It is a virtuous cycle where we are securing the production tools of labs, thus taking part in securing the future of film altogether.
“Scanning is the worst bottleneck in labs today, and many are forced to deliver very low-resolution files just to keep up, and there is still the unknown of using very old hardware all day, every day, with few spare parts available looming over labs.”
Why are you doing it now?
“As mentioned before, I believe that right now is the right time for such a project. The only option that labs have currently for scanning any sort of volume is to go on eBay or to a reseller to buy a 15-20 years old scanner, pay cash for it and not get any warranty or parts.
“If this was any other business, this would seem odd, but until now, there was simply no alternative. With the Aura 35, we want to help labs by both offering a scan quality that is on-par or better than their current solutions, and make a 20-years technology leap into the future, by allowing them to be a lot more productive, by scanning much, much faster, and integrating a proper workflow for order management, automation, file delivery, printing…
“We now have awesome tools that are just not accessible when you need to use a scanner that runs on Windows XP and was designed only to print or scan to CDs.