pixl-latr Review – A Film Scanning Gadget for Someone Who Hates Gadgets – By Nick Davis

By Nick Davis

Let me preface this pixl-latr review with a confession that I am spectacularly impatient. I’m not restless, and I’m not in an unreasonable hurry. Those things are sort of incompatible with shooting film, right? If a task takes time, that’s fine. But I have no patience waiting for something that I don’t need to wait for. I don’t mind me slowing me down, but something else slowing me down will very quickly find itself in the bin.

With that in mind, I suspect you can understand why the first scanning tool I owned, a Plustek 8200, lasted precisely one roll of film. They’re great, and they’re very good at scanning 35mm, but I don’t even nearly have the patience for one of those. If I recall correctly, to scan every image on a 36 exp roll, I was looking at an hour or more. Nope.

the120ist with the pixl-latr film digitising frame
The pixl-latr – a simple gadget that actually improves your negative scanning workflow

DSLR Scanning – do I even need gadgets?

In my early days of DSLR scanning I was led to believe, by all the gadgets available, that gadgets were essential and you couldn’t scan film without them. So I moved from the Plustek to a Lomography Digitaliza. Or rather two Digitalizas to be precise, one for 135 and one for 120.

Same again. Awkward. Cumbersome. Slow. Bin.

Well, eBay actually. They’re bloody expensive.

After this second foray into gadgets I took a step back. Surely all I needed was a light source, a camera and the negative? So for a few years I did just that – camera on a stand, LED light panel, and me holding negatives with gloved hands flat against the panel while the camera took an image.

Scanning 35mm film using the pixl-latr
Scanning 35mm film is quick and simple with the pixl-latr

Scanning negatives using just my hands…

It was tricky, not ideal at all. Occasionally I’d get Newton’s rings, I also had a problem with trying to keep the film flat without getting my fingers in shot. Then there was contending with the light panel bending slightly under the pressure of my fingers, throwing focus out ever so slightly. And then there were problems with light creeping in around the unframed film, causing areas of lower contrast on the corners and edges.

But, as far as I was aware, there was nothing on the market that was going to serve me better than just doing it myself. There are lots of gadgets out there designed to improve or assist your film workflow, and frankly, a lot of them are just bullsh*t. Some of them don’t work at all. Most of them definitely don’t make things easier.

So I developed an aversion to workflow gadgets, and apart from a very select few, I totally avoided them. Still do.

Then along comes Hamish with his pixl-latr.

Really? What is a pixl-latr for?

Hamish explained it to me. I told him I didn’t need it. He told me to try it anyway. So I did.

I was surprised. It is simple, efficient, accurate, versatile, cheap, quick to set up and easy to store. Literally all the words I would have written down if someone asked me to describe a scanning gadget that would stand a chance of being used in my film-to-digital process.

35mm negative digitising using the pixl-latr
The pixl-latr comes with a variety of easy-to-fit film guides and masks, allowing you to scan any 35mm, 120 or 4×5.

Using the pixl-latr I can scan a 24 exp 35mm film in under 3 mins, and pretty sure I could break 2 mins if I really tried. Now that’s the sort of pace I’m looking for. I won’t be scanning all my films at that speed, of course. But using the pixl-latr I have managed 4 x 35mm rolls, 4 x 120 rolls, and 6 x 4×5 sheets in an evening with enough time left before my wife starts nagging me to go to bed to import into Lightroom, convert with Negative Lab Pro, clean up the dust and export JPEGs. And that makes me very happy.

Fine… FINE! I’ll use the damn pixl-latr

What I really like about the pixl-latr is that it doesn’t try to do too much for me. All I need is something to hold the negative still and flat at a uniform distance from the camera lens, and be quick and simple to move the film along to the next frame. I don’t need some fancy gadget that’s going to inaccurately try to remove my dust for me. I don’t need a digital touch screen, and I don’t need it to tell me my weight or my heart rate. Just hold my negatives. That’s it. And the pixl-latr does just that, and more importantly, it does it well.

Scanning glass plates using the pixl-latr
Scanning 3×4 glass plate negatives using the Pixel-latr, with the Simon Forster glass plate insert (sold separately)

Negative Scanning World Championships? Anyone?

My goal now is to get quick enough with shuffling film through the pixl-latr that I can set the camera to interval shoot one frame every three seconds, hit the shutter button once and bang out a 36 exposure roll in 1min 48s.

I may be obsessing over the wrong qualities here. It’s not everyone’s goal to scan film at world record pace. I’m just saying that, with the pixl-latr, you can. Of course, you can also use it to take four hours to scan a single roll, if that’s what gets you off, you freak.

But I think that’s my point… the pixl-latr is a simple enough concept and design that however you like to scan your negatives, it’s going to make you better at it. It does the things that are difficult to do, and leaves the rest of the choices in your hands. Finally, a gadget I can work with.

You can get yourself a pixl-latr and read more about it and accessory products on the pixl-latr website here (on sale over the Black Friday weekend! ????)

My name is Nick, I have a YouTube channel – @the120ist – talking about everything film photography related… but with a special emphasis on medium format (hence the name). If you shoot medium format film, or are interested in making that step into another format, head on over to YouTube and take a look at me making a pig’s ear of all sorts of medium format film photography. You might learn something! Probably not, let’s be honest… but someone somewhere has to be worse than me at this.

You can find my channel here.

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