New Tools Help Film Go Digital

Photographers may now have a fast and relatively inexpensive way to convert 35mm siles and negatives into digital files. Leica ( www.leica-camera.com ) yesterday announced the Leica digicopy, a lens-like optical system that attaches to a digital camera and transfers 35mm images to the camera. The goal, according to the company, is to help 35mm photographers make the transition to the computer age.

Not to be confused with a scanner, the digicopy is an optical instrument made up of three lens elements: a two-element achromat and a field lens. The digicopy is housed in a metal tube that can be affixed to the digilux zoom via the camera's tripod mount. The digicopy also has its own tripod mount.

Slides -- or negatives held inside the included film strip holder -- are fed through the end of the unit's tube. By then holding the unit to an appropriate light source, the camera records an image of the film. A bright sky or a light box will work as a light source. The camera's zoom function can be used to crop the image.

For color negative film, Leica offers an optional filter to correct for the effect of the orange-red making dye.

The digicopy works with Leica's own digilux zoom camera, as well as the Fuji MX 1700 and similar cameras.

The digilux zoom camera, which was also announced yesterday, features a 1.5 megapixel resolution and a 3X optical zoom. In the macro range, the lens will give a field of view about the size of a business card. The 1/2 inch CCD sensor offers 24-bit color depth, and a choice of five white balance settings. The camera measures 3-by-4-by-1.5 inches and weighs 8.5 ounces. It is Mac-compatible via a serial interface.

The Leica digicopy will sell for $259, and the camera will sell for $599. Both are expected to ship in November 2000.

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