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Got Slides? Get Kodak Carousel

Reviewing: Kodak Carousel 5200  |  Rating:
Joan Young By Joan Young on
Badge: Editor | Level: 34 | Audio & Visual Expertise:

With the digital revolution, slides are quickly becoming as obsolete as LPs. But the quality of the projection of slides far surpasses home digital projection in clarity and brilliance of color, even yet.

I’m pretty sure you’ve never found the time or energy to scan all those slides, despite how often you’ve promised yourself you would start the project. If you would like to see your slides again and no longer have a projector, or don’t have a good one, there are lots of used ones available. Kodak discontinued making the carousel, the industry standard projector, in 2004, marking the end of an era.

This projector, the 5200, was the top of the line from Kodak. I still use it for my media programs because I just can’t tolerate the washed-out look of digital projection. We bought this new in the late 1980's, and bought the best because we were giving quite a few media programs, and wanted a reliable and versatile machine.

This came with a standard 102 mm lens. Other focal lengths are available, so if you buy used you might want to check to be sure the lens hasn’t been swapped for a specialty one. This one creates a projected image about 3 feet wide at a distance of about 10 feet, about 6 feet wide at 20 feet, etc.

It takes carousel trays. These trays generally hold 80 slides, although they are available to hold 120 slides. Many people report that the 120-slide trays tend to jam. I use one all the time, and have never had any trouble with it. I am not sure if this is due to this being a high-end projector, an extra-good tray, or just plain luck.

The 5200 unit comes with a remote control which allows for forward and reverse.

There is a tiny flip-up door which allows enough light out the back so that you could see to read a piece of paper to prompt yourself during a show. I don’t like that this is low and stationary, so I always keep a small flashlight handy.

On the body of the unit you can also forward and reverse, and focus slides manually. However the machine does auto-focus as you go through a program, so you’ll only need the manual focus if you feel that the auto function did not get it quite right. There is a fan selection for cooling the unit down before shutting it off (very important to preserve bulb life), and a low and high lamp setting.

You can adjust the height of the front, and one back leg also screws up and down for leveling. You can raise the front about 2 inches, but to create that much difference between the front and back will cause quite a bit of distortion. There is no keyholing adjustment... that came with the digital age.

It accepts a stack loader (originally sold separately, but some used units may be offered with this in a package deal.) If you can get one, it’s well worth it. A stack loader allows you to take a stack of slides which are not in a carousel, place them in the loader and then cycle through them. This is much easier than loading them one by one in a tray.

The feature of this unit which sets it apart from the lower ones is the preview screen. This is really handy when you are searching for a few slides in unmarked piles or trays, or want to preview a program. It pops out from the front of the projector, making a tiny screen on which you can see the picture.

The only thing I don’t like about this projector is that when it overheats a door pops open to cool it off, making a lot of noise, and a sudden spot of light in an unexpected location. This can be disruptive when it happens during programs.

The lamps used to be quite expensive for this machine, $30 or more. But those have also come down, and I see them now for $12 sometimes. Changing the lamp is not difficult, but they are delicate, so you need to be careful to not damage a new one when you install it.

I have had slides jam in the projector, but have always been able to extract them with tweezers without damaging either the machine or the slide.

We have used this projector a lot in the approximately 20 years we’ve owned it. Most recently, I give 15 to 20 hour-long programs a year. It has been in for a factory repair once, for a sticky forwarding mechanism.

You can get good projectors so reasonably now, there is little reason to relegate all those great vacation shots to the attic or dustbin.

Update On May 16, 2008: (Apologies for the mediocre quality of the video, although it’s much darker after uploading than it looked on my computer. In time, perhaps, I’ll be able to get better equipment. This was shot with a small point-and-shoot digital camera)