The Kodak HR Universal Film Scanner

Back in December and January, I wrote four blog posts about the issues surrounding the scanning of the Hugh Morton collection, in particular the estimated 200,000 slides. The silence afterward may lead you to believe that nothing more has happened on that front. Actually it has been quite the opposite!

In the last installation of the series, I mentioned we would investigate the purchase of a Kodak HR 500 or a HR Universal film scanner. In late February and early March, we took delivery on a Universal along with three accessories pulled together from various parts of the planet. The scanner comes equipped with “film gates,” devices used for scanning individual negatives or slides.

Film gates for the Kodak Universal film scanner used for individual negatives or transparencies.

This scanner is not, however, designed for one-off scanning; it is a production workhorse. The used scanner we purchased—Kodak discontinued the product line in 2005—is in great condition even after having made more than 1,000,000 scans in its lifetime. For production mode, the scanner uses “AutoStrip Gates” for cut strips of 120 or 35mm roll film (usually into lengths of four to six frames) and an “AutoSlide” accessory for 35mm slides, all manufactured by Halse Imaging Systems in England. We purchased a brand new 120 strip gate from Halse, while the 35mm strip gate (from the USA) and the slide unit (from Holland) are used. The AutoSlide accepts Kodak slide carousels that hold 80, 35mm slides.

Since the slides are the component of the collection on which I have focused, I leapt eagerly into the . . . .

The Kodak Universal scanner equipped with a Halse AutoSlide accessory with a partially loaded Kodak slide carousel

Oh boy! To make a long saga short, the AutoSlide accessory didn’t work from the very first day. After three visits from the Kodak repair man in consultation with Kodak repair HQ and an exchange of email to England, we decided to ship the unit to Rochester where they could compare its operation with working units on hand. Last Friday, after days and days and days of struggling, angst (I am not exaggerating), and detriment to my other responsibilities, the AutoSlide lived up to its billing. I loaded the carousel, hit the “go” button, and it worked flawlessly, generating nearly 600 scans during a day with a few interruptions and a couple meetings. A fully loaded carousel can be scanned in half an hour. For the techno crowd, those scans are 18MB TIFFs, 24-bit, with a pixel array of approximately 2000 x 3000 pixels. That 3000 pixels across the long dimension meets the “alternative minimum” in the National Archives and Records Administration guidelines described in part four of the 200,000 slides series.

So now I’ve got a lot of scans on my hands, which means more posts in the offing to discuss what we’ll be doing with them. Elizabeth will be so happy that I can get back to my share of writing!

15 thoughts on “The Kodak HR Universal Film Scanner

  1. Thank you a lot for thoses détails. I’m looking for a HR 500 with autoslide. I ve found some without autoslide. Do you know where to find one (HR 500 with autoSlide or just the autoSlide)?

  2. Arnaud, the AutoSlide is a separate unit manufactured by Halse in England. I recommend you contact Halse to see if they still make them, or try to find one being sold by someone who no longer needs it or through a used equipment supplier or broker.

  3. Hi Stephen,

    Why does your scanner run so slow? Our HR500s get through a carousel at that resolution in 15 minutes. Or are you running ICE at the same time? Then that would precisely account for the difference. We need a proper HR500 user group to provide internal support, as we will be orphaned by Kodak very soon.

    Have been reading other parts of your blog, reminds me of experiences we have had in scanning some large collections.

    Otto

  4. Michael,
    The HR-500 Universal and single frame carriers was $14,000 (used), the Halse slide carrier $15,000 (new), the Halse 35mm strip carrier $3,500 (new), Halse 120 strip carrier $6,000 (new), and the Kodak software $4,000. All totaled that’s $42,500, which sounds like a lot, but to farm out the work would have been significantly more expensive.

  5. Otto,

    I’m sorry, I overlooked your comment back in June. I just saw it for the first time this morning while responding to Michael’s comment.

    We’ve not been running ICE, and we’ve been scanning more negatives than slides since we got the scanner. We’ll have to check those times once we jump into slides again.

    As for the the support group, I think that would be great! Any others interested?

  6. Hi there, I was wondering if there was any place that you know of that might sell replacement film gates. Our 4×5 film gate has gone through a ton of wear and tear, and the magnetic part is starting not to stick anymore. Any help would be appreciated on this. Thank you in advance.

  7. Hi Stephen,

    In turn, it has been a while since I have been here.

    My offer still stands, I am keen to get involved in our own international HR500 support group. After this year, we will be on our own, like ship’s engineers.

    Anyone can send me mail via our http://www.oscans.com website. (Not trying to be difficult, just minimising spam.)

  8. Hi Guys,

    Just came across this blog. As you probably know Kodak “end of lifed” all service and support for the HR scanners as of Oct. 31, 2010. In addition, as of Dec. 31, 2010 Kodak has shut down the Kodak Professional Service & Support division and fired the last 11 engineers, of which I was one. As a now “former” Senior Field Engineer for Kodak Professional and a certified expert in these scanners, I have co-founded a new company to provide Repair, Parts, Software Support, Sales, and even Rentals of the HR500 Scanners and all their accessories. My business partner and I have been involved with supporting these scanners since their inception. We have the largest supply of parts available anywhere. Our website is http://www.hr500scanner.com We welcome any and all inquiries, and if there is enough interest, I would be happy to set-up and host a user group on the site. Please visit the site and email me at ray@hr500scanner.com to express your interest in starting up a user group.

    Thanks for your time,
    Ray Alpern
    hr500scanner.com

    P.S. to Joe,
    We have a vast supply of replacement film gates, in all sizes, both new and used.

  9. I found this article whilst looking for other information on the kodak hr500 as we also needs some new parts for our unit, im going to contact the ex-kodak guy above…thank god for the internet eh.

  10. Pingback: Groups: Choose someone to take the lead on digitization

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