Not long ago, John from Promote Systems wrote me an e-mail asking if I still use my 1V and if yes that he has something interesting I could try. I was interested what his team have developed so we talked a little and half a week later I got the Meta35 in my hands. This is what I say about it…
Meta35 is developed as a Canon ES-E1 alternative, but it doesn’t stop there! It also replaces Nikon and Minolta equivalent systems. I’ll base my review on the Canon part since I own a 1V, but other supported cameras work the same.
What is Meta35?
Well first of all, let’s talk about Canon ES-E1 and what it’s based on. Back in the days when the 1V was released it had a lot of new technology put into it, one of what was exif memory. Basically it remembers all of your metadata as you shoot and saves it in its memory. Every film roll is marked with a number before the first frame, under that number you can find all of its metadata. To get access the memory you needed to buy a small kit called ES-E1 which included a adapter cable and software utility, you connected the 1V to your PC imported the scanned files into the utility and the software done the rest. You could also access custom / personal functions and change them in the utility since changing C.Fn. on the camera is a pain in the ass and you couldn’t even get to the P.Fn. without the utility. It was a nice kit to have with your 1V. So why develop Meta35 if Canon has its ES-E1? First, you can’t buy the ES-E1 kit in a shop, you can find some second hand ones on e-bay but they have a hefty price tag – around 600$ as of this review. The second thing is that the utility was made for Windows 95 and no it doesn’t work on new operating systems. That’s where Meta35 comes in, basically doing a better job than the Canon version and it works on new Windows and OS X systems.
The kit contains the USB adapter, cable for your camera model and a USB drive with the utility. Once you install the utility and connect your camera you are ready to import your film exif. After that load the scanned pictures into Meta35 and you are shown all of the metadata for each picture. In case your pictures aren’t scanned in order you can move them to make sure that the correct exif is on the correct picture. You can even exclude exif from the embed if you didn’t scan some frames. Plus you can write your own data like copyright, locations, titles and keywords. Once you are done just press the Embed Data button and the utility writes all of the exif data into the pictures, it also makes a backup folder with the original pictures in case something goes wrong but in my testing everything worked fine, still nice that it makes backups just in case.
Once you enter the Camera Setup menu you’ll get into all of your cameras custom and personal functions plus some camera settings. I was always frustrated with the C.Fn. menu on the 1V since it’s just numbers, you ether remember what number is what function or like me, carry a PDF of the manual on your phone. Meta35 has a nice menu with all of the functions on it, it says on what C.Fn. you are on and has nice descriptions of each mode which is a great step forward than the number system on the camera if you ask me. Another thing that Meta35 has is function profiles, you can save different settings into profiles and load them on the fly. That means you can have one profile for fast action, another for landscapes and a different one for all around use. Each have your personalized settings for that style of shooting.
I must say that the Promote Systems team did in fact surprised me, the kit worked very well and I was thrilled to see that they managed to replace the ES-E1 entirely. They didn’t stop there and started adding more features like function settings profiles and more metadata entry. As I talked to the team they were super exited about feedback and said that they will add new features if people will need them. Please keep in mind that I had a development version of the software and told about a few improvements, some of which are already live in the current versions and some will come with future updates. The kit can be bought on their site for 149$. Please consider that the Canon version was 200$ from the store and now sells for triple the amount second hand, if you use a 10 year old PC that you can use it on. Promote Systems has my respect on developing this for a selected user base who still use top of the line SLR cameras. Big thumbs up!