Equipment review: Zeutschel OP 500 microfilm writer: as writing to microfilm continues to go from strength to strength, IDMi looks at another copy-from-monitor solution.
To the best of IDMi's knowledge there are only three copy-from-monitor microfilm writers currently in production. The Zeutschel OP 500 is the second one reviewed by IDMi, having covered the Micrographics Data AW Series 1 in Issue 56, and with the SMA 51 still to come in Issue 59.
The Zeutschel OP 500 is typical of the genre and is capable of writing to 16mm or 35mm roll film. The device uses a very high resolution monitor to display images within in a cabinet, from which an image is captured using a high specification microfilm camera.
As with all Zeutschel equipment, and typical of almost anything produced in Germany, the build specification of the OP 500 is very high, and with a design which will not intrude on a workplace as some microfilm equipment tended to do in the past.
Finished in a two-tone grey with the by now commonplace Zeutschel 'trademark' of a flash of red, the unit sits on wheels for ease of installation.
Internally the device is well thought out with easy access to film loading, monitor and electrics. The monitor sits vertically and to the right of the cabinet interior, with a mirror used to dived the image up to the camera head.
When IDMi visited Zeutschel at Tubingen, we were first entertained by Jorg Vogler, one of the two directors and President of the company. We were then given a thorough demonstration by technical specialist Tobias Beck.
The demonstration began with an overview of the software. The PC is connected directly to the device, and the software is used to process and queue images and meta-data ready for writing to film. With a large range of processing tools, conversion of files in batch mode is possible. The software will recognise and process a variety of file formats, consisting of TIFF, JPEG, JP2 & PDF. When the job creation process is complete, the software controls the camera head and drives the device to begin the writing process.
Next the camera head was shown. This is a well engineered unit which sits under the lift-up canopy to the left, as seen in the image above. The device can film to both 16mm and 35mm roll film formats, and to a variety of formats on-film and to various reduction ratios to suit the requirements of the job. With a 600m film reel capacity as an option, this makes the device extremely flexible for larger jobs, which in turn would mean require less supervision or manual intervention.
The monitor cabinet was also shown, which is accessible via a pull-off cover at the front. The high resolution monitor (name and specification withheld,) is secured in an upright position (at 90[degrees] to the ground,) and a high quality angled mirror diverts the image up into the lens axis.
IDMi neglected to ask at the time why Zeutschel had adopted this configuration for the filming path, as other units have the monitor flat on the base of the unit and parallel to the camera head. However other than introducing an element of checking and/or adjustment when installing, there is no perceived issue with this method of layout.
Zeutschel had prepared a 35mm colour sample for IDMi. This contained images taken of our own test chart which was designed by us to give a standard means of assessing copy-from-monitor devices. (One of the current debates within this sector of the OEM industry, is the method used to determine the overall quality of not only the camera, but the monitor in use as well. Watch for an IDMi article on the subject in the New Year.)
The quality of image produced by the OP 500 is superb. We requested our sample in colour, partly on the basis that this is the ultimate test of these devices, but the rationale also being that if an image is excellent on colour film, there is no good reason why the same quality should not be present on mono.
There is an option which is set in software to perform what Zeutschel describe as a 'high-resolution' setting. We inquired further about this, and Zeutschel's response was that they [Zeutschel] use 'microstepping' technology, (which is piezo technology also used within high end digital cameras,) and by a (company secret) function the manufacturers are able to achieve a high quality image, including a correct image exposure.
Also, as opposed to other archive writers from Kodak, Fuji or Staude (including the OEM product SMA51) which have a film output density of 1.6 to 1.8, Zeutschel are able to guarantee a film output in accordance to the microfilm standard with a film density of 1.0, with maximum variation within the image of 0.1.
Zeutschel go on to state that this feature guarantees no loss of information of thin lines or of low contrast text within the image file.
All microfilm writing device are by their nature, volume oriented. The whole rationale behind the capture of digital files to film is speed and accuracy. The Zeutschel OP 500 is no exception, and from the results seen in our own test images, the device is more than capable of quality, and at 3 seconds per exposure for standard resolution, fast enough to make film a viable medium for storage of information for long-term projects, archiving or digital preservation.
The fact that the optional 600m reel is available is also a boon to volume production. At standard resolution a 100m film will be written to in just over 2 hours. By using the 600m option, potentially the machine might be left to run over-night, and we assume the software is clever enough to separate the films into 30m sections, to Keep me end result compatible with other equipment.
Discussed in other articles in IDMi, the applications for digital to film conversion are many. This device can be used in virtually any situation where there is an electronic document/image management system which either has a legal requirement to keep documents for longer than (say) 5 years, or where that system contains files of any type, where a nondigital copy is preferred to long-term digital storage. (A preference often dictated by the need to avoid technology updates and the ensuing potential for the complexities of migration.)
An excellent machine which is flexible in format and provides good quality results with efficiency of execution. Production speeds are good and at standard resolution this is one of a limited number of devices capable of producing such a result.
With the backup of Zeutschel and their partners around the world, and in combination perhaps with other devices made by the same manufacturer, users can take take comfort from the fact that Zeutschel have been around for a long time, are very well established, and set to continue on their path of success.
Manufacturer: Zeutschel GmbH
Country of Manufacture: Germany
Certification: NRTL (USA & Canada) & CE Certified (Europe)
Product Name: ArchiveWriter
Model: OP 500
Formats: 16 or 35mm standard archival roll film (Landscape or portrait orientation)
Patents: Not disclosed *
Method: Filmed Off Monitor
User Can Change Film Formats: Yes
Mono: 1 second per frame (Standard Resolution)
Colour: 1 second per frame (Standard Resolution)
Colour: 9 seconds per frame (High resolution)
Supply Voltage: VAC 110 - 240
Monitor Size: A3
Optical Resolution: Not disclosed *, but in compliance with ISO, ANSI & DIN Standards
Input Format (Digital): TIFF, JPEG, JP2, PDF
Output Format (Film): 35mm--various * 16mm--various *
Special Services Required: None
* please refer to manufacturer