VALOI: new scanners for 35mm and medium format films

This post is by Jose Antunes from ProVideo Coalition

VALOI: new scanners for 35mm and medium format filmsAs film photography is experiencing a revival, many photographers will look for solutions to digitize their emulsions. VALOI, a company from Finland, offers solutions for both 35mm and medium format.

In recent years, there has been a notable resurgence of film photography. This resurgence can be attributed to a variety of factors, including a growing appreciation for the tactile and artistic qualities of film, a desire for a slower and more intentional approach to photography, and a nostalgia for the aesthetic of vintage and analog technology. As digital photography has become more ubiquitous and easily accessible, some photographers have turned to film as a way to differentiate themselves and create unique and timeless images.

Those photographers will, no doubt, also seek ways to transfer their images to a digital format, for the convenience of sharing them with the world. Those who want to control the whole process can do so with scanning solutions from VALOI, a company from Finland that offers two different systems for camera scanning, VALOI 360 and VALOI easy35 and is investigating the eventual development of a new one, VALOI easy120, for photographers using that medium-format emulsion.

Crowdfunded on the Indiegogo platform, in 2023, the VALOI easy35 system is a compact solution – the size of a water bottle – for scanning 35mm film and smaller formats. It attaches easily to the front of a camera and requires very little setup to achieve excellent results, according to VALOI. Perfect for aspiring photographers using 35mm or anyone scanning a family archive – both will obtain the best quality with minimal effort -, the product is quite different from those flimsy adapters you see advertised everywhere.

VALOI: new scanners for 35mm and medium format films 5Camera scanning made easy

“Valoi” is a Finnish word meaning light and creation — a nod to the creativity of analog photography. The Scandinavian roots of VALOI are visible in the minimalist and functional design of the easy35 system and its bigger brother, the VALOI 360, the two products available from the company.

The VALOI easy35 screws onto a macro lens allowing you to scan 35mm film with a digital camera. With the easy35 there is minimal setup, alignment or mistakes as the design ensures shading from light, perfect alignment and a firm attachment to the camera. The set comes with 280mm of film-distance tubes, allowing the use of most true macro lenses on the market.

The scanning experience is built around the modular holders that allow you to push film through quickly, scanning hundreds of pictures per hour while keeping the film flat for professional quality. A built in, CRI 95 light source ensures even, high quality light and retains high shutter speeds. The unit comes with the standard 35mm holder, and additional holders are available for the system: 35mm film with visible sprockets, 50×50 slide holder, and for the formats 110, 126, APS and Minox.

The VALOI easy35 system relies on camera scanning, photographing a piece of film using a digital camera. Besides being faster, it is a great alternative to scanning using a traditional scanner because you get to take advantage of modern digital technology. Camera scanning is closely based on the process of re-photographing images, a process that has been done since the very first photographs and that was very common until the onset of digital scanners.

VALOI: new scanners for 35mm and medium format films 6You need to use a true macro lens

The VALOI easy35 film scanning kit for digital camera scanning 35mm film costs $244.99. The kit includes:

  • VALOI easy35 body with built in light source
  • VALOI easy35 Standard 35mm Holder
  • VALOI easy35 Distance Tubes: 1x10mm, 1x20mm, 5x40mm (230mm total)
  • VALOI filter thread adapters: 39mm, 46mm, 49mm, 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 67mm (filter thread adapters are not needed for lenses with a 62mm filter thread size, as this is the native thread size of the easy35)

Once you’ve the kit all you need is a digital camera and a true macro lens, which are required to scan film this way. Most interchangeable-lens digital cameras will work and as for a macro lens, one capable of focusing to 1:1 is essential for perfect results. Generally, that means a focal length between 50mm and 105mm focal length. VALOI recommends different focal lengths for different format sensors – full-frame, APS-C and Micro Four Thirds so it’s better to check their website before buying.

​Besides the VALOI easy35 system, the company also offers the VALOI 360 system, a highly modular system capable of producing ultra high-end scans in all roll-film formats up to 120/220 medium format. Its modular design allows for a small up-front investment but with lots of possible upgrades, such as a dust brush and roller advance. This system is perfect for photographers with many different formats to scan and who wants the absolute highest quality.

VALOI: new scanners for 35mm and medium format filmsThe VALOI 360 System

The VALOI 360 Professional Scanning Kit costs $478.00 and includes a 35mm Holder 120 Holder, which is made for standard 120 film with a frame size up to 6×9, and film masks for smaller formats – 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7 film – giving users all the options when scanning 120 film. The kit includes the Cinestill CS-LITE, the best affordable light source for scanning film on the market and all the other VALOI accessories for this pack.

The Professional Scanning Kit is designed for those who want to build their ultimate scanning setup and be more hands on, but because the whole VALOI 360 system is modular, you can start with a minimal setup and add components to it over time, or simply choose the configuration you want. The company says that when new products are added to the system, they make sure they are compatible with previous and future products.

Although the VALOI 360 system offers a solution for two of the most popular medium formats – 120/220 – for many users a system as simple as the VALOI easy35 but for 120 (which is probably the most popular medium format film) would be a welcome option. Almost as soon as the crowdfunding campaign for the easy35 was launched, in 2023, users raised the question: Will there be a 120 version?

VALOI: new scanners for 35mm and medium format films 7VALOI did not want to compromise, but the company has been investigating the options and last April they assumed that they were considering the eventual development of a VALOI “easy120” and asked users to contribute to the discussion, sharing with them what they would like the system to be.  The suggestions will help guide the engineers through the development of a product that really serves the needs of those who want to scan their medium format films through a process as easy as with the… easy35.

VALOI: new scanners for 35mm and medium format films 8The challenges of building an easy120 system

While the whole idea is great, VALOI is aware that “the easy120 is not as obvious as you might first think” adding that “the form factor works very well on the easy35, but we have been doubtful that this can be scaled up to a larger size. With larger film sizes comes larger tubes, adding a lot of cost and weight. We don’t just want to bring ‘a’ product to the market, but one that is as universal as possible and as accessible as possible, within the constraints of the small market.”

It’s not just the problem, of the whole holder box and tubes, as VALOI also needs to scale up the light source and choose one that provides enough coverage for a very large negative while also being affordable with high quality LEDs and light weight. Stability of the lens and ergonomics are also key factors, as the system, which is going to be – much – bigger than the easy35 must be light enough to be comfortable to use and not “rip apart the lens” due to its weight.

Holders for larger format emulsions like the 120 are also more challenging to create due to the variation between film widths, due to the fact that “specification for 120 film dictates the backing paper width, not the film width, leading to different film widths with different manufacturers”… another headache for VALOI s the company tries to design a easy120 system that  follows keeps the VALOI easy-lineup logic: simple to use and just works so you can get on with your scanning.

VALOI: new scanners for 35mm and medium format filmsSuggestions from users help development

Prototype 1, shown at the end of May this year, points towards what the final product – if it ever makes the light of day – will look like. The plastic used for the Easy35 is gone, and the body of the easy120 prototype is made of thin sheet metal, which VALOI says allows to cut cost at scale. But nothing is definitive, and the next months the company will be tackling these and other issues with new iterations and designs. At this stage the suggestions from users of VALOI products or photographer seeking for a solution to scan their own medium format collections is welcome.

One word of caution from VALOI: “remember, that anything you see in here might not making it to the final product – we will be showing you success and failure, and we might not even know which is which until further into the development process.”