I have tried two different versions of “scanners” where you use your smartphone as the digital source. I’m talking about the smartphone scanner from Lomography and the Picto scanner.

I can say of the batch I’m not a fan, and I can’t really see the benefits of using one of these over a normal scanner, they are of course way cheaper, but other than that I don’t see the greatness in them.

Anyway – I used my Huawei P20 smartphone for this little test. It has a pretty decent camera, and can shoot RAW photos. I’m going to make a quick rundown of both scanners, and then I’m gonna to make some image comparisons, and a conclusion to end it all off.

First up is the Smartphone Film Scanner from Lomography

It’s very well-designed no doubt about that. It’s all plastic and it uses two AA batteries for the light source, that’s all good. There should be an App for it, but I wasn’t able to find it, I just used my in phone camera.

Once you get your negative in the scanner – it can be a bit tricky at first – then there is this little nob on the front of the scanner, you use that to slide your negative through the scanner, a nice feature, that works very well.

You place your phone on top, camera facing down and you shoot through the little hole on top, you can adjust the distance from the phone to the negative, by removing one, two or three of the plastic elements between the top and bottom of the scanner. The closer you get to the negative, the bigger an image. I was down to one element and a pretty large image of the negative, but unfortunately my camera wasn’t able to focus at that distance, so I had to use two elements in order to get focus and get a much smaller image.
Below you can see the difference between the two, as you can see the image on the left is about a half time larger than the other one, it’s just not in focus. But on both there are still a lot of “unused” image space left, here I’ll lose a lot of resolution, when I have to crop down to the actual photo negative.

It’s cool that you can “scan” the negative with the borders, a not so cool thing is that I don’t think you can scan slide film that’s mounted in frames, at least I wasn’t able to figure out how.

The build quality of this scanner is ok, I must say that I was a bit afraid to break the distance elements when I need to change the height. But once you have the height that fits your phone it’s not something you’re going to change a lot. Of course, you need to take the bottom off, when it’s time to change the batteries.
The phone holder on the top, is a bit to tight and not very user-friendly at first.

Then we have the Picto scanner

Which apparently is designed here in Denmark, yeahhh! That’s nice. It’s mostly made out of cardboard and some plastic – the negative holder and battery chamber is plastic – it uses 2x AA batteries for the light source. I like that is very compact – when you collapse it – and light weight, It’s very easy to have this one with you on the road, if that’s a thing you do or need.

The Picto have an app – free in Google play – and it consists of two parts, one where you “scan” your negative, here you can adjust the lightness and zoom in on the negative. The second part is a photo editor, that is pretty useless, I mean why can you add a filter – Instagram hipster looks – to your analog photo!? Then you can add some lame looking frames, make it round, adjust the exposure and contrast, well maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see the point. The first three effects are just stupid and unnecessary, you already adjusted the exposure with the slider in the scanner mode, and then there is contrast which I don’t see the point in either, I just skipped this part – after checking out the different settings.

I don’t know if it’s only my phone that had this issue, but I had to slightly lift my phone off the scanner, between each scan, in order for it to catch focus on the negative, it was super annoying, and made the “scanning” process a lot longer.

The Picto scan lets you “scan” your framed slide. And even though it doesn’t have the same clever negative slider system as the Lomo scanner, it’s just fine getting the negatives through this “scanner”.

The quality of this scanner – even though it’s made of cardboard – is actually pretty good, and a very cool thing – as I mention before – is that it only around 5 cm high when it’s collapsed and weighs close to nothing.

Time for a bit of photo comparison.

An advantage of using the in phone camera with the Lomo scanner, is that I could shoot in RAW, and then convert the photo in Negative Lab Pro through Lightroom. The RAW mode on my phone doesn’t allow you to zoom, as a result – as you can see above – the “scanned” image is very small, and as mentioned I’ll lose a lot of resolution when cropping.

The Picto images was saved as Jpeg’s because I choose to use their App for the “scanning” I was then able to zoom to get the maximum size of the negative.

I have also added a photo scanned with my Plustek 8200i scanner, I scanned in 48bit and 2400dpi, I converted it in Lightroom using the Negative Lab Pro plug-in, that’s how I normally scan my negatives. I did this because I thought it would be fun to see the difference.

Lomo Scanner
Picto scanner
Plustek 8200i

And here’s a 100% crop of the three images. The image from the Lomo scanner, was – because I need to crop so much from the start – almost a 100%. There is a lot of RGB noise here. I used NLP for the conversion, which gives the photo a nice contrast, it might still a bit to the green side in tone, but that’s an easy Lightroom fix.

The Picto scan is very bad, I think it’s because it is a Jpeg and I zoomed – digitally – with the camera to get a larger image. it’s slightly bigger in resolution than the Lomo scan, but it’s also a bit blurrier i sharpness. I actually think the color conversion is ok, it’s of course a bit to magenta, but in lack of better tools, I think it’s ok. And again an easy fix in Lightroom.

And of course the Plustek is just nice and crisp, Yummy!

Lomo Scanner
Picto Scanner
Plustek 8200i

Conslusion

As I said, in the beginning I’m not a fan of either one. The digital images you get of your negatives are in such a poor resolution that they are practically unusable, I wouldn’t even use them for a post on Instagram.
I see that it’s a very cheap way to get your negatives digitized, but I would still say that it’s a vast of time, I would rather save up for a real scanner.

But if I should choose one of them, I would properly go for the Picto scanner – and that’s another thing why do they call it a scanner, when it’s obviously not, it’s a device to help you digitize your analog film with your smartphone – because of it’s size when it’s collapse, that way it would take up a minimal of space in the closet, where it would end up, will I use my Plustek to scan my negatives.

Do you have any experience with smartphone scanners? Am I doing it all wrong here?
Drop a comment below.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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