Photo packs have come a long way in the past decade, especially those that are targeted toward outdoor and adventure photographers. Alaska-based adventure photographer Dan Bailey takes a closer look...
If you think you have too many friends, a good way to get rid of most of
them is to insist that they come over to your house and watch every
slide from your last vacation. Anyway, it worked for my parents...
Seriously, though, a slide show with a good story behind it can work
pretty well. Try to pick the best 10 percent of your images to show; if
there are 800 on the flash card after a trip, plan an 80-slide show.
About half of the photos will be setup shots, not to be dwelt on. For
example, you might flash a photo of a "Welcome to Vermont" sign for a
second before showing some foliage and barn photos.
LCD Projectors for Digital Files
There are two kinds of LCD projectors:
LCD projectors designed for business presentations, which means high
contrast PowerPoint slides in a brightly lit room
LCD projectors designed for watching movies, which means a wide
range of tones and viewing in a darkened room
Of these two choices, unless you are going to be projecting in a
brightly lit environment or have exceptionally high contrast images, the
best product available for displaying photographs is a projector
designed for showing movies. These are usually called "home theater"
What are the variables in home theater projectors?
resolution (higher is better)
brightness (brighter is better)
Any modern digital camera will be higher resolution than the best
projector. Basically the highest resolution consumer-priced projectors
are "HDTV 1080p" projectors with 1920x1080 resolution, a skimpy 2
megapixels. The next step down in price is a 720p projector offering
Brightness is measured in lumens. The bright projectors advertise 2000
lumens and are important to have if you're projecting in higher ambient
lighting conditions or on a screen more than 7' wide. The dim
projectors are down under 1000 lumens and have the advantages of lighter
weight, greater portability, less heat and therefore less fan noise.
Are 35mm projectors dead? Not if you have a lot of old slide trays
around. Nor if you want very high resolution without spending
$thousands on an HDTV projector. Professional labs will print
high-resolution digital files onto traditional 35mm slide film and then
you can get excellent image quality with a $100 optical projector.
If you're going to organize your collection into slides, it is nice to
be able to carry just the slides around and not the projector. Thus you
want to have the same trays that everyone else has. In the United
States, that means Kodak Carousel. In Europe, that means "European
Which model of projector to buy? It barely matters. The autofocus
feature is worth paying for. This compensates for the deformation of
slides under the heat of projection, not for focus errors in the
original photograph nor to set the lens for sharp focus on your
If you are going to glass mount your slides, you can use a variety of
fancy lenses ("flat-field"). Otherwise, you'll be pretty much limited
to the cheap lens that comes with the projector (softish in the corners)
or a Schneider "curved-field" lens (available from a variety of sources). The Schneider lenses
sell new for about $250 and are much heavier than the lenses included
with Kodak projectors.
You need a zoom and/or telephoto lens only if you are going to project
in big auditoriums, the slide projector has to be way far back from the
screen, and the screen isn't huge.
In the glorious days of film, medium format projectors sold for between
$1000 and $2000 and projected gloriously bright and high-resolution
images. We will probably have to wait until 2020 before comparable
image quality can be obtained from direct digital projection.
Quality came at a price, even in the old days. You usually had to
painstakingly chop up the 120 chrome (slide) strips, clean Gepe glass
slide mounts, and stick the delicate little images into the mounts. A
6x6cm image is too large to be left free to flop around in front of the
lamp. Blunt-nosed tweezers and/or someone with good fine motor skills
were helpful in getting the images into the mounts.
What were the high quality choices that you might find in the used market?
Rolleivision 66, taking straight trays. Original cost $1000 plus big $$ for a lens.
Hasseblad PCP-80 Carousel-type projector, looking like an inflated
Kodak, for 6x6cm images. Original cost about $2000.
Mamiya Pro Cabin, which has the unique ability to project
unmounted 120 chromes. You can just slide a strip
through the projector! The Mamiya is also capable of projecting 6x7
As of January 2007, the Mamiya and Rolleivision products were still available new at
There are several different types of screens available. What you want
is a flat or matte screen. This provides the sharpest image and
widest viewing angle and is also the cheapest type of surface. You'll
have to make the room reasonably dark. The other surfaces available
screens are designed for MBAs who give presentations in lit rooms.
The idea here is that nothing an MBA could possibly say would be
interesting on its own so the guy has to have slides with bullets to
show as well. Of course, even with the slides, the audience is liable
to fall asleep when he hears the tired bromides that Mr. GladHand
learned at B-school. So the the ambient illumination will be set
fairly high. Rather than just project onto a white surface, what
Mr. GladHand needs to do is project onto an array of lenses.
These little molded lenses reflect more of the projector light back
than a regular white wall or white fabric could. However, they also
narrow the angle of reflection so everyone has to sit more or less in
front of the screen. Worst of all from a photographer's point of
view, these lenses reduce the available resolution of the image. No
feature smaller than the little lenses built into the screen can be
distinguished. There is no point in taking the trouble to use a
digital SLR, prime lens, and tripod if your final goal is projecting onto
a screen with little lenses.
A perfectly acceptable brand of screen is Da-Light. I like the ones
that you mount up on your ceiling and then can pull down in an
instant. Remember to get a flat or matte finish.