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10 Best Ways to Convert Photos, Records, Videos and Tapes

It’s a digital world, but most of us are still holding on to a lot of analog media. There are the vinyl records we couldn’t bear to part with; the home movies shot with an analog camcorder; the lovingly-created mixtapes on cassette; and, of course, the photographic prints and 35mm slides from holidays, vacations and family gatherings of yesteryear. Service bureaus are getting rich charging exorbitant fees to bring these analog memories into the digital realm, but there are plenty of good tools available for anyone who’s interested in taking the do-it-yourself approach. Here are some the best.

Audio-Technica AT-LP2D-USB Stereo Turntable

This belt-driven turntable features a built-in analog-to-digital converter that digitizes your vinyl records in real-time and transfers them to your Mac or PC using a USB cable. Once you’ve captured the tracks, use the included software to edit out the inevitable pops and clicks and save them as MP3 or WAV files. The aluminum platter spins at speeds of either 33-1/3 or 45 RPM, and the tone arm automatically lifts when it reaches the end of the record. An integrated pre-amp means you can also connect the turntable directly to self-powered speakers or a stereo system.

$110, www.audio-technica.com

Audio-Technica AT-LP2D-USB Stereo Turntable

Audio-Technica AT-LP2D-USB Stereo Turntable

Alesis TapeLink USB

Who doesn’t have a few shoeboxes filled with cassette tapes stashed in a dusty corner in their entertainment center? Drop them into the Alesis TapeLink USB, and you can bring all that great music into the digital realm with 16-bit resolution and at a 44.1kHz sampling rate—the same as a CD—without having to buy it again. The deck has normal and high-speed dubbing modes, dynamic noise-reduction circuitry and full auto stop to prevent tape breakage. Once you’ve transferred the audio to your PC, use the included software to remove hiss and other unwanted noise.

$199, www.alesis.com

Alesis TapeLink USB

Alesis TapeLink USB

Pinnacle Dazzle DVD Recorder Pinnacle Dazzle DVD Recorder

It’s easy to transfer video recorded with a digital camcorder to your PC, but what about all those tapes you shot with your analog camcorder? Pinnacle’s Dazzle DVD Recorder makes it easy. It doesn’t matter whether you used VHS, S-VHS, VHS-C, 8mm or Hi8 – just plug your camcorder’s or VCR’s audio and composite or S-Video outputs into the Dazzle, plug the Dazzle into your PC’s USB port, and you can instantly burn those movies directly to a DVD you can play on your computer or DVD player. Want to edit your movies before committing them to disc? Dazzle Video Creator Plus includes a copy of Pinnacle Studio video-editing software.

Dazzle DVD Recorder, $49.99; Dazzle Video Creator Plus, $89.99, www.pinnaclesys.com

Epson Artisan 800

Photographic prints don’t last forever, especially when they’re exposed to sunlight or stored in less than optimal conditions (e.g., a cardboard box in the garage). Chemicals used in the developing process in the 1970s and ‘80s have caused millions of prints to take on a distinctive reddish hue that you might think has forever ruined your precious memories. Fortunately, a flatbed scanner can capture and automatically restore those prints to their original luster. An all-in-one printer/scanner/fax machine, like Epson’s Artisan 800, can do that and make a whole new print in just a few minutes.

Epson Artisan 800, $250, www.epson.com

Read our review of the Epson Artisan 800.

Epson Artisan 800

Epson Artisan 800

Ion LP 2 CD Turntable

With Ion’s LP 2 CD, you don’t even need a PC to bring your vinyl records into the digital realm. This belt-drive turntable has a CD recorder built right into its chassis, so you can leave it in your entertainment center and use it to play your LPs on your stereo. It spins platters at 33-1/3-, 45-, or 78 RPM, which means you can play even the oldest recordings in your library. There’s a USB port, too, so you can connect it to your PC and use the included software to edit out scratches and other problems.

$399, www.ionaudio.com

Ion LP 2 CD Turntable ww

Ion LP 2 CD Turntable

 

Ion VCR 2 PC Nikon Super CoolScan 5000 ED

Shutterbugs using 35mm cameras often shot on slide film because it offered superb color saturation, and slideshows were much more fun to watch than sitting around a table and passing prints. Some high-end flatbed scanners come with adapters for digitizing slides and film negatives, but none can compete with the performance a dedicated film scanner like Nikon’s Super CoolScan 5000 ED can offer. Scanning slides or film negatives delivers better results than scanning prints because a print is already a second-generation image. The Super CoolScan is a pricey product, but you get what you pay for: Superior optics, resolution of 4000 dpi, and the ability to capture an image and transfer it to your PC in just 20 seconds.

$1,100, Nikon

Ion VCR 2 PC

Many of us still have libraries full of VHS tapes, even though we dumped our broken-down VCR years ago in favor of a DVD player. Those tapes hold value for us or we would have dumped them along with the VCR, but tape ages poorly, especially if it’s not stored in the best of conditions. Connect Ion’s VCR 2 PC to your PC’s USB port and you can digitize them in short order. You can also plug your old analog camcorder into the VCR 2 PC and transfer those tapes, too. The device comes with software to convert the video to a format that can be played on an iPod or other digital media player, too.

$150, Ion Audio

Nikon Super CoolScan 5000 ED

Ion VCR 2 PC

Plustek OpticFilm 7200

Not everyone has the budget for a high-end scanner like the aforementioned Nikon Super CoolScan 5000 ED, but that doesn’t mean you need to give up on your dream of recapturing all your photographic slides and negatives. Plustek’s OpticFilm 7200 is a little slower and a little clumsier to use, but it’s also a whole lot cheaper than Nikon’s product.

$200, www.plustek.com/usa/

Plustek OpticFilm 7200

Plustek OpticFilm 7200

Stanton T.90 USB Turntable

This is the third and last USB turntable we’ll cover here. We’ve included three products in this category because each one serves the needs of a different audience and each one offers something a little different. Several features set the Stanton’s T.90 apart from the Audio-Technica and Ion products we mentioned earlier. This is a direct-drive table, for instance; the other two use belts. And the T.90 incorporates a number of DJ-oriented features, such as the ability to adjust tempo without changing pitch, a pitch-control slider, and two start/stop switches (so you can operate the turntable in “battle mode,” i.e. with the platter spinning counterclockwise). It also has a S/PDIF in addition to USB digital output.

$200, www.stantondj.com

Read our review of the Stanton T.90 USB turntable.

Stanton T.90 USB Turntable

Stanton T.90 USB Turntable

Epson Perfection V700 Scanner Epson Perfection V700 Scanner

Epson’s Perfection V700 flatbed scanner is a dedicated print and slide/film scanner, so it doesn’t offer any of the printing or faxing features of the Artisan 800, but it greatly exceeds that device’s capabilities when it comes to scanning. The all-in-one offers excellent optical resolution of 4800 dpi, but it can’t scan slides or film negatives. The Perfection V700 boasts a dual-lens system that automatically deploys one lens for scanning documents and prints at resolutions up to 4,800 dpi, and a different lens for scanning slides and negatives—including 35mm, 2 ¼-inch, and 4×5-inch formats—at resolutions up to 6,400 dpi.

$500, www.epson.com

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