By Nathan Barry
I’ve always been a keen (amateur) photographer and even though I made the switch to digital fairly early on without shedding a tear for the death of film, I still have a lot of memories tied up in six by four inch pieces of glossy paper. Until recently they were all stored in boxes in a cupboard. A cupboard that also housed the boiler. A boiler that developed a leak. A leak that soaked a lot of the photos.
I saved what ones I could and transferred them to a nice, dry box, stored them somewhere safer and promised myself I’d get them all archived digitally somehow. That was about a year ago and they’re still sitting in that box. My scanner is perfectly adequate for the odd one or two, but I don’t have the time or patience to sit there and do hundreds of them, even four at a time. Apparently, I’m also too lazy to arrange for one of those send away services, so when Ion offered me a review unit of their new iPics2go gizmo, I jumped at the chance.
The iPics2go is essentially a box that has a space at the top that you slot your iPhone 4 or 4S into, and then place a photo into a double-sided tray – one side takes 6×4 prints and the other is for 5×3 photos – and slide it into the bottom of the box. The box is designed to frame the shot perfectly and focus it correctly. The four supplied AA batteries power up a bank of LEDs which illuminate the photo nicely. Fire up the free app from the app store and it’s a snap to snap a photo of your photo. The app does some processing on the image and then presents it for saving. Nine times out of ten it tries to fix the white balance for you, and more often than not makes it too yellow, forcing you to readjust it. The whole process takes about a minute per photo (including putting the photo in the tray), and you have to tap on screen buttons about seven or eight times, which seems a bit excessive for such a simple process. This prompted me to try just using the Apple Camera app to speed up the process and I found I could do three a minute this way.
Not being tied to sitting at the computer feeding photos in to the scanner meant I could digitise the photos whilst watching a movie, and thanks to iCloud’s Photostream feature, all of the pictures were automatically copied over onto the main computer, ready to be rotated and tweaked if necessary. By the time the movie had finished I had snapped about 150 photos, and then the iPhone’s battery gave out.
When I went to the computer to check the photos, I found out that some of that processing time in the official app was actually 100% necessary. Most of of the photos taken with Apple’s Camera app had a noticeable glare at the left and right edges, caused by the LEDs used to illuminate the photo. The ones taken with the official app didn’t seem to have any glare, so I can only assume that the app reduces this glare automagically. So I trashed the whole lot and started again the next evening – with another movie, of course! You can see the glare/dark area on photo 4 of the comparison pictures above (click to embiggen).
The unit also comes with a 35mm negative and slide adapter, which works almost exactly the same way. You position the negative in the holder, then close it up and it’s held tightly shut by magnets. This time, the holder slots into the box above the LEDs, which then shine through and reflect off of the white base to illuminate the negatives. Selecting the negative option from the app automatically inverts the images and crops the photo to the right size, so obviously this results in a lower resolution picture than the photo option (1491×966 as opposed to 3168×2352). The auto colour correction kicks in again, but seems to have a bit of trouble detecting black and white negatives, as it turned most of mine red! It’s certainly a much quicker process than scanning the photos, and gives good enough results for viewing on your computer or TV, and the fact that the lighting and colours aren’t 100% accurate gives the pictures a subtle Instagram kind of feel, which is fine for me as it adds a retro touch to photos are mostly from the previous century anyway! Although, having said that, I did keep some of the pictures to one side that I felt were worthy of a proper scanning. What I wasn’t really prepared for though was the extra time I spent reminiscing about the content of the photos – my university graduation, rebuilding my original Beetle, high school trips, photos of my Mum before she died and others of my Dad the same age as I am now. It made me wish I hadn’t been so lazy when I first put all those photos into storage, and what gems I had lost in the boiler leak. We’re always saying you should back up your computer and digital files regularly and often, but the same should be said for your analog life too.
The iPics2go is relatively cheap at around $60 (Amazon currently has it for only $44), much better value to my mind than its big brother the iPics2SD, but I foresee a good deal of eBay action for them as it’s not something you’ll need to keep around once you’ve snapped all your photos.
Thanks to Ion for supplying a review unit
Convert Your Analog Photos to Digital With Your iPhone and the Ion iPics2go | GeekDad | Wired.com