this is something fairly new, at least to the general public, i think. i recently bought a negative scanner. yup, it scans 35 mm negatives and converts them to positives on your computer. the one i bought was fairly inexpensive, being that i mostly just wanted to try out the technology and see how it was.
i've got some old negatives of pictures i took 35 years ago or so. i long since lost or gave away the prints and wanted to get some new prints. i even tried scanning these on a normal flat bed scanner, but that just wont work. so, i was in Staples not too long ago and asked about this technology i'd see a bit about. they didnt have any in stock, but could order one for me. so, i went ahead and took the plunge.
the model i have uses a normal usb port. it can use usb 1.1 or 2.0, thus, it will work on new computers and some older ones. i have both and it also works with windows xp or windows 98. i believe it also works with windows ME and win2k, but i dont have those, so couldnt say for sure.
it comes with some basic image software, for doing simple things, like cropping and other basic paint type things. i simply turn that part off.
the scanner software itself was just a bit buggy at first. in fact, it wouldnt hardly work at all on the same computer i have my flatbed scanner on. on checking with their tech support, i found that this is normal and that microsoft seems to be responsible for this oversight. oh well. so, i simply moved the negative scanner to another machine. even then i had to upgrade the drivers to get things to work a bit smoother. but, it does work! in fact, this has become one of my favorite toys.
the scanner operates with two basic functions, a pre-scan and a final scan. you place your negative in the scanner, hit the pre-scan button and your image is scanned, reversed from a negative to a positive and then shown on your monitor. from there, you can manipulate the image with various filters to correct or even highly alter the image. after you've got it how you want it, you hit the final scan and the negative is scanned again with these filters intact. it then saves the new image to a file.
the biggest caveat is that the negative scanner will not work on the same machine as another type scanner ( i had two on my other machine). the up-side is that it does a very nice job of scanning negatives. you can even adjust the filters based on what the original film type was.
i'm attaching an image of one of the first scans i did with it. bear in mind that this is a 35 year old negative and the film is starting to degrade a bit. nonetheless, this is a fairly good representation of the original work. add in a bit of editing in paint shop pro, and the results can be quite impressive!
the name of my scanner is Prime Film 1800u. if i recall correctly, it's distributed by Pacific Image Electronics. a google search shld give you their respective sites. the cost of the unit was $129.00, which i consider to be quite reasonable for what i got. there are higher end units also, but this is my 'starter' and i didnt want to invest too much before seeing how well the technology worked. it seems to work just fine