Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner: The Mighty Scanner


Sometimes simplest is best. And that’s absolutely true when it comes to that little scanner. Go on reading after the jump to know more about my first experiences with this gadget!

I was lucky enough to be one of the first lomographers to get my hands on a Lomography Film Scanner as a tester. Along these weeks, I have had the chance to try all the features and possibilities of this mighty accessory and, believe me, I had a lot of fun with it.

Before using it for the first time, I expected my scans to be a little bit disappointing, as my phone is a three-years-old iPhone 3GS. But even using such a classic, the quality of the scans came out surprisingly good.

The scanner is very simple, and this is why it’s really easy to set up and use. That’s what you will get:

  • One backlight base. There you’ll have to plug the two AA batteries in. On the left side, there is an entrance for the film (where it reads “Insert film here”, that’s fools-proof!). Just put the beginning of the film strip in, and smoothly let it go into the film path by turning the advance knob. Turn the switch on and, voilà!, let it be the light!
  • Three spacers. These pieces will allow you to raise your phone so it can properly focus the image of the negative. For my iPhone’s camera, two spacers were enough. Use only as few spacers as you need to get the picture in focus. If you use too many of them, you’ll just set up the phone far away from the negative, thus making the image ridiculously small on the screen. That’s a trial-error process at the first time.
  • One adjustable holder for the phone. Release the two arms at both sides by pressing the button at the bottom of the holder. Put your phone in place and hold it by pushing the two arms against it. Now run your phone’s camera app and slide the phone up and down, right and left, until the camera aligns with the hole on the scanner and the picture is clearly centered and focused.

Now, turn the knob to advance the film until the frame of your choice. Tap on the screen to get the image focused and correctly exposed, and shoot!

At this moment, the official Lomography app for the scanner is not still available, but it will make the color inversion (negative to positive), allow you to make a movie from your LomoKino’s scans and even scan panoramic pictures. Until the app is released, you will have to manually invert the colors using the software of your choice. The process will depend on you personal preferences, and there’s a wonderful tutorial by Lomography on how to do that.

Color negative, black and white, X-Pro or E6-developed slides, the scanner can deal with everything!

In my case, I used an easy workflow: after taking a picture of a negative, it was automatically pushed from my phone to my Mac via iCloud. Once there, I used desktop software to crop the frame, invert the colors, and make automatic color/contrast adjustment. But to make it absolutely computer-free, you can use any of the myriad of photo-editing apps which are available to carry out the whole process in your smartphone.

The process of inverting the pictures may sound a bit tangled right now, but in fact it is quite easy and fast. And I’m sure that by using the official app, it will become absolutely unpainful and even faster.

A few more shots scanned with the Smartphone Film Scanner

When taking the picture with the iPhone’s camera app, sometimes it’s useful tapping in different parts of the picture until the image is properly exposed. Keep in mind that you are viewing a negative copy of the final image, so darker is actually lighter.

One of the things I tried was shooting panoramas. After scanning a panorama photo in different parts, I merged them all together by using my photo-editing softwate. That’s the result:

If there’s something I have to outline from the scanner, it is its simplicity. It’s so easy and intuitive to use, that you will need no introduction. Just take it out from the box, and it’s ready to play. Every time. It also results in an immediate need for using it: one of the best things I noticed is that I don’t feel that laziness that keeps me apart from using my Epson V500 so often. You don’t depend on a computer. It’s weightless and you can take it to virtually any place. It’s fast, very fast. And that’s why it becomes so handy when you need a quick idea of how a negative will look like after inverting the colors.

A typical setup for a pleasant scanning afternoon!

It makes much faster the task of scanning lots of forgotten rolls of developed films. OK, probably it will not give you a high-resolution-scan (at the end, it depends on your smartphone’s camera), but it’s incredibly rapid and easy to use, and it will yield scans that will be adequate for most purposes. Specially, if you want to get your pictures immediately uploaded to the web or shared on your social networks.

Its intuitive operation paves the way to using it in every new experiment your mind could imagine, and I’m sure that we will be soon reading a lot of crazy tipsters to squeeze all of its capabilities.

I have to admit that the scanner surpassed my expectations. It’s a simple product with amazing possibilities, its fast and easy to use, and the experience of scanning with it, came out even more satisfying than I supposed it to be. Give it a try and it will not disappoint you!

You can see more of the scans I made using the Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner here.

written by vgzalez on 2013-03-13 #gear #film #review #analogue #experience #scanning #tester #scan #requested-review #kickstarter #lomography-smartphone-film-scanner #first-contact


  1. adi_totp
    adi_totp ·

    great review!

  2. guanatos
    guanatos ·

    awesome review!

  3. ripsta
    ripsta ·

    make me wanna buy one..yeahhh

  4. vgzalez
    vgzalez ·

    @adi_totp @guanatos Thank you guys!
    @ripsta You wouldn't regret!! :)

  5. istionojr
    istionojr ·

    procedural reviews and enhanced with variety of the shots, surely I do agree with @ripsta ;)

  6. chrissyb
    chrissyb ·

    hi i have just read the review after coming across this item on firebox - i have 5-10 camera films in disposible cameras and some just in pots from a few years back can i just take them out and use them on this item or not - (sorry for the amature question but i dont have a clue) please help

  7. kalieaire
    kalieaire ·

    I've had this for several days now, and I can say that I really am not as happy as I wanted to be when I pre-ordered this. The main criticisms I have is that:

    1) The backlight used for this setup is too dim (causing you to have to increase the exposure and adding chroma noise on top of film grain)
    2) The orientation of the camera phone in relation to the film does not use the full size of the sensor (this was probably a design decision done for balance and ease of manufacturing)
    3) The photos that my iPhone 5 take are highly compressed jpegs further adding artifacting to the files - Though this isn't an issue with regards to Lomography (unless they have the ability to develop an application that can store the files in a 16-bit or higher format), but this is an issue with my workflow.

    I think if Lomography wanted to make a better unit, they'd develop a film scanner that has an EOS or Nikon F-Mount attachment.

  8. vgzalez
    vgzalez ·

    @chrissyb Yes, sure you can!

  9. vgzalez
    vgzalez ·

    @kalieaire I totally agree with you about the orientation of the camera. About the light, it is not dim at all. It works perfectly even for the darkest scenes. Did you try it with fresh batteries? And about the quality of the files, definitely it is not a product intended for replacing a flatbed scanner producing gazillion-pixels, 48-bits color resolution files. If you have a Canon or Nikon digital SLR, and you're serious about analogue photography, probably you already own a flatbed scanner (actually, I do!). But, from my point of view, this scanner is prompted to people not having a flatbed scanner nor a reflex camera, just a smartphone, and making for them easy, quick and cheap the task of scanning negatives. Or for weird guys like me, looking for a fast alternative to break free from their huge TIFF-producing beasts :) Nevertheless, I have to admit that a EOS-compatible attachment sounds really desirable, but probably you'll be limited because of the lens, not allowing you to take a macro picture in which the negative would fill the whole sensor area. So you'd have to spend a few more hundred bucks on a macro lens; again, much the opposite way the Smartphone Scanner goes.

  10. kalieaire
    kalieaire ·

    @vgzalez hey dood, thanks for your response. so a little background from me. i'm a professional photographer and have experience in many different media formats from digital 35mm, medium format, large format and the same and then some in analog. I've done flatbed scanning, drum scanning, and i also have a dedicated plustek 8200ai for 35mm negatives.

    i do understand the point of the lomography scanner, it's the reason I bought it as well.

    However, i just feel that there are certain things they could have done to make it better.

    for example, quad AAs or AAAs would've been better to give better power to the backlight, grab your sekonic and tell me the meter reading off it from the spot meter so we can compare. for the best performance, the amount coming off the sensor should be enough light to make the smartphone shoot at its lowest iso, highest shutterspeed, and smaller aperture to get to the sweet spot for optimal resolution, reduced vignetting, minimized edge distortion, and optimal low noise performance. these are simple design considerations that any engineer with any photography background can define as requirements.

    the backlight itself could have an IC with a rudimentary buck/boost regulator to make sure the backlight has the same amount of output whenever it is online and up to the point that the batteries quit.

    What would be even more useful would be if the backlight had different settings to increase/decrease exposure. I do understand that all these features introduce complexity and cost, but we all know we'd have paid for it anyway.

    I've run my batteries in the smartphone scanner and they were freshly charged eneloops. I have the black series with extra capacity, and I also match them (I come from the RC Car world where we match and pair batteries for performance). I consistently get poor performance, high noise and crappy photos. I'm using camera+ as well.

    ----- with regard to an eos/f mount model, optics actually aren't that hard. the impossible project guys working on the smartphone print machine are doing a great job. their costs were relatively low and they're coming out with an impressively technologically advanced product. i'm really proud of their team. i have no doubt that they could come out with something as simplistic as a dslr scanner for under 100 dollars. just fyi, people are already doing DIY dslr scanners with macro lenses and enlargers, it's just a little big. the other hope you had was for a dslr to use the entire frame to capture an image. Well let me burst your bubble right now, that's actually not needed.

    I'll state for the record that a 35mm film resolution doesn't beat 12 megapixels. It's roughly 11mp or so if you're using reconnaissance film, for ilford pan f 50 is around 10 and low grain iso 50 slides are like velvia or kr 64 would be like 7 or 8 MP.

    soo using a full frame of any sensor is a moot point as long as the portion of the frame that's being used is at least 11mp worth.

    this dslr scanner is doable, and they could make it all metal so easily

  11. vgzalez
    vgzalez ·

    Hi, @kalieaire! Thank you so much for sharing your detailed response with us! You really have a lot of nice information and you look so pro. Maybe you could suggest any of your tips to the people at Lomography so they can improve the product in forthcoming versions! :)

  12. kalieaire
    kalieaire ·

    The people at Lomography are monitoring this review. I'm sure they've taken what I've said into consideration and said "forget you". In the end, we're all here to make money. What the consumer wants is always secondary, especially if it's something that cuts into profits.

    With regards to empirical testing, the spot meter reading I got off my Sekonic is F2.8 (+.2) @ 1/4S @ ISO 64 using a pair of fresh AA Eneloop XX.

  13. kalieaire
    kalieaire ·

    I also received the following meter reading with 2x AA Eneloop batteries (2000mah series) White that have been used for 24hours continuously. They yielded an exposure value of F2.8 @ 1/2s @ ISO 64. This leads me to believe that the backlight is made specifically for lower power usage rather than performance.

  14. kalieaire
    kalieaire ·

    The iPhone 5 will generally take photos at the following settings: ISO 1600, 1/15s F2.4. ISO 1600 is a horrible choice for a smart phone camera with regards to noise. 1/15S is doable, but f2.4 is also a non-optimal aperture.

  15. vgzalez
    vgzalez ·

    Dear @kalieaire, I can figure out that you wouldn't complain at your Chevy because it is not able to take you to the Moon. For such a trip, you'll probably better contact the NASA and arrange a space shuttle rental. Very much the same way a car is conceived, built and bought to drive it on roads, the Smartphone Film Scanner is just a handy accessory to help you use your phone to scan negatives. It was never designed for (or was sold as capable of) anything else. Thus, from my point of view, it's a bit meaningless criticizing a product just because it is what it is, and nothing else. Probably any of the professional scanners you're used to work with, will provide you with the high-end standards that this small piece of plastic, together with your iPhone 5, are not able to. From my experience, the staff at Lomography will be glad to help you with with your complains and suggestions at both the Customer Service and Product Development departments. Thank you so much for taking the time to contribute to the Lomography community with your comments!

  16. chrissyb
    chrissyb ·

    thanks vgz so to clarify i have disposible cameras that have never been developed but pictures have been took so i can remove the film from the camera and then use the film on this item i wouldnt habe to devolpe the negatives first? thanks again

  17. vgzalez
    vgzalez ·

    @chrissyb No, you'll have to develop the negatives first so they can be exposed to light. Take the cameras to your lab, ask them to develop de film inside, and when you'll get them back, you can scan the film strips at home and share the pictures with the world! :)

  18. motionpicture
    motionpicture ·

    I'm glad you pointed out that you can merge sections of a panorama in editing, I usually shoot 35mm in my Diana so the exposures are 12 sprockets wide and of course the Smartphone Scanner is only 8 sprockets wide.
    I hope they have a trick to do that in the forthcoming app.

More Interesting Articles