Introducing the pixl-latr: democratising the digitisation of film [with exclusive creator Q&A]
Innovative solutions for digitising film abound, from homegrown solutions using copy stands, digital cameras and scanning masks, to Nikon’s endlessly delayed ES-2 35mm film digitising adapter. Well, we can now add Hamish Gill’s pixl-latr to the growing list of options – available to back right now on Kickstarter and at the time of writing, already at over 50% of its modest funding goal. Amazing.
Time for an introduction…
pixl-latr is a ludicrously simple digitising stand for film negatives ranging in size from 35mm and medium format up to 4×5. For medium format specifically, it can be used to digitise negatives from 4×4 super slide all the way to 6×12.
It can be used flat on a lightbox, LED tracing board, tablet computer or another light source; or it can be used on its stand with a light source (such as a window or lamp) behind it.
pixl-latr serves two main purposes: to hold negatives flat and create an even light source across the entire negative for flawless scanning.
For the former, the pixl-latr uses a system of fixed “locator pins” and drop-in “gates” to align and uniformly flatten film for digitisation. In order to evenly distribute light across its surface, the pixl-latr features a built-in diffuser that scatters light across the entire negative. This means you can use a lightbox, LED tracing pad, window or even a tablet computer without worrying about dark patches or pixels appearing on your final files.
Here it is in action with 120 film:
Who is pixl-latr for?
Anyone who digitises film at home using their own film digitising rig, or wants to start digitising film by using a digital camera instead of a scanner.
The examples below show 35mm film from a Hasselblad XPan and a 4×5 negative along with the results captured with an iPhone and Sony A7r II (click/tap to view full-size images).
Sample 1: Hasselblad XPan + Sony A7R II
Sample 2: 4×5 film + iPhone
Sample 3: 4×5 film + Sony A7R II
- 35mm half frame, 35mm full frame and 35mm panoramic formats up to 12cm wide.
- Medium format 4×4 super slide, 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7, 6×8, 6×9, 6×12.
- 4×5 film.
- Integrated light diffuser.
- Removable stand.
- Constructed from 5mm acrylic.
- Rubber locator pins (currently metal).
Cost and delivery
Currently available on Kickstarter at one of three prices:
- Kickstarter super early-bird: £25
- Kickstarter early-bird: £30
- Kickstarter offer: £32
The pixl-latr is slated for delivery to backers in September 2018 and become available for retail purchase shortly after. Expected retail price will be £40-45.
I’ve been following Hamish’s trials and tribulations bringing the pixl-latr to life for quite a while now and sat down with him to ask a few questions about bringing pixl-latr to market and his plans for the future of the product:
EM: Why are you doing this, Hamish? Don’t you already have too much on your plate?
HG: I’ll go back a bit then, shall I? The idea for pixl-latr came about through not being able to find that low-cost solution for digitising 4×5 negatives. About 5-6 years ago there was a slew of low-cost 4×5 products coming to market but there lacked a way to cheaply get the resulting images online where – let’s face it – most people share their images these days.
Working with Steve from Chroma camera pixl-latr has now been developed to allow for digitising 35mm and 120 (up to 6×12), as well 4×5 film, and I’m hoping that the cost of the product will help democratise digitisation of film.
EM: What would you say to people who think this is a pointless product better served by what else is on the market?
HG: Buy something else… No product is right for everyone…
That said, I would still say the combination of low price and flexibility makes pixl-latr a great option for a lot of people. with it working with an iPhone on a basic level, but also offering something even to those looking to get really high-quality digital images with high-end cameras makes it quite unique – especially at the price point.
EM: Obviously, this isn’t success after your first version. Fancy talking about your failures so far?
HG: Hundreds of prototypes – that’s possibly an exaggeration, but it’s not far off. The key has been keeping it simple – which is harder than you might think. There seems to be a tendency to over-engineer to solve a problem – I didn’t want to do that, I wanted it to be as simple as possible. We looked at magnets to hold the frame on at one point: too complicated.
The trick was finding all the little design ideas that solved problems in the most simple, cost-effective way. It’s been a fun process…with a lot of head scratching along the way. I’ve been lucky to find Steve – it’s been great working with someone who understands photography, and product design in the way he does.
EM: So you’ve made the thing, now what? What are your hopes and aspirations for pixl-latr?
HG: I’m looking forward to seeing how people do use it – I’ve been using mine for black and white negatives, but I know there are loads of people out there digitising colour negs with digital cameras. I’m hoping to create a little bit of a community of users – people helping each other with tips tricks and techniques for using it. I want pixl-latr to be a low-cost catalyst for more people to start shooting film, especially the larger formats.
For the future, I’m looking at a “pro” version that will incorporate a different type of frame (details under my hat for now), I’m also looking at the costings for an 8×10 version that will also accommodate wider 120 formats such as 6×17. I’m also, also planning to offer gates for different film formats – especially some of the more obscure ones. I’ve already had a request for 110, 16mm (cine film) and 127!
All of that is dependent to a point on the success of this production version but now that I’ve gotten this far, I don’t think I’m going to let go, whatever happens.
The campaign runs until Wednesday July 18th and is already well on its way to hitting its goal. Learn more about the project over on its Kickstarter page.
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