Anyone try ScanCafe?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by marc_rochkind, Nov 22, 2007.

  1. About ScanCafe:
    • Their web site is totally first class
    • They're cheap
    • They send the originals to Bangalore, India, for the work
    • They're slow (about 5 weeks or so). Related to previous item, of course.
    • Each image is touched up in Photoshop for free on request. They also use ICE. (Nikon scanners)
    • (the best part) You look at the images on a web site prior to paying and receiving the scans, and you can reject up to 50% of them without paying. The idea is that instead of sorting through the slides you want scanned, you just send the whole lot off and decide later.
    • They're pretty new... I think they've been in business only about 2 years or a little less.
    • I'm about to send off some 110-format negatives as a trial run. (My film scanner won't take 110, nor will any scanner that I know of.)
  2. And if they lose your negs/chromes in shipment, or damage them in the scanner's transport (possible w/Nikon and other scanners)?
  3. Losing in shipment would be possible with any service. Damage in the scanner is possible
    even if you do it yourself. (Not that scanning 110 yourself is an option.. do you know a way to
    do it?)

    My original question, however, was whether anyone had experience with ScanCafe.

  4. No.

    but i normaly send stuff to well know place just at 10min drive...not oversea to have them let say they dont loose it, they dont damage it..but they just forget to do it or to call you back..what can you do if it done in India? sail over there yourself to see whats the problem?

    * if you do go, please bring me some cheap tshirt made from a 6years old kid, they are so expensive when they are made by adult in canada.
  6. Here is a good, independent review of ScanCafe from another user. I'm certainly biased, but I think he makes a good point that sending images to ScanCafe is as safe, if not safer, than most other services. Thomas Hobbs - Dec. 10th Thanks Damon ScanCafe
  7. I would like to digitize several thousand 10- to 25-year old negatives, a job with a degree of urgency measured in months or years. ScanCafe seemed right for that so I decided to try it.

    I sent a small test order (about 100 negs) to ScanCafe just before Christmas.

    After a few status update e-mails (received, processing, etc.), I received this January 15 email:


    I am writing today to provide you with an update on your ScanCafe Order including a new estimated online date for Order #XXXXXXX.

    In December, ScanCafe was the recipient of phenomenal editorial reviews in Money Magazine, Popular Photography, as well as other publications. Although great news for us, this significantly increased demand for our services during the holiday season. Although these were very welcome reviews, they were for the most part unexpected and have created a backlog in our scanning process. Therefore, we have moved your online date back.

    Your new online date estimate for Order #XXXXXXX is February 18, 2008.

    We are sorry for the delay but our goal is to provide the highest quality scans so we can not take short-cuts to get your order completed more quickly. We know you will appreciate this in the end, and we greatly appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

    We will be increasing our capacity and hope to reduce this turn around time as best as we can. Please don't hesitate to contact us with questions at [. . .]

    * * *

    2 notes:

    1. Be warned about this delay. Delay per se is no problem for me, but may not be for you.

    2. I am hoping this is in fact a general problem for them, and not any problem specific to my order. Have others received similar messages?

  8. david_henderson


    "Why outsource when you can go local in NYC?"

    Well if you're offering something that makes your scans worth maybe fifty times what Scancafe charge, maybe you'd better say. Being in Manhattan might be a reason for maybe 2% of the people here.

    I have to say that from what I've read about Scancafe I'm quite impressed and inclined to give them a try. If I want a dozen slides scanned I'll either do it myself on a film scanner or get a drum scan made locally depending on the application. But for big batches of a back catalogue I think these prices are a very attractive alternative to spending a huge chunk of life in front of a scanner, and you never know I might end up being able to sell my scarcely used Nikon 9000 and use the money to get all my portfolio (save those already scanned by stock libraries and printers) scanned on the same machine. And I am always impressed by businesses that realise they have an issue and proactively communicate why and new dates to their customers. Most businesses keep their heads down and hope the customers won't notice- not usually a good sign.

    "bring me some cheap tshirt made from a 6years old kid"

    I thought they'd stopped this sort of thing :). Or did you mean from an an old goat?
  9. It's still slower than advertised, and I think price went up a bit in last month or so, but my experience with ScanCafe was good. Interestingly, I compared scanned negatives that they did for 19 cents with scans of same negatives done locally -- I believe by our excellent professional photo place in DC, Chrome, for about $5. First take: from a distance the local scans looked much better - colors brighter & less muddy-looking. Second take: the ScanCafe scans had far more detail, the local scans pumped up the brightness of colors and washed out the details. I could easily do the same to the ScanCafe scans with Photoshop.

    I could upload examples if people really want to see.
  10. Being a competitor of ScanCafe I am most certainly biased.
    I always try to buy American and try to skip Chinese or such products wherever I can. No need to bring up where all our manufacturing jobs went just so we can save a few bucks. ScanCafe is exactly the same thing for image scanning. Just ditch a US job and have some folks in India do the job at a lot lower income level.
    However, I see a huge advantage in being a smaller competitor. I take the time with each customer and they can call anytime to find out their status or make special requests (like placing them into folders, giving the folders certain names, DVD slide shows with custom chapters and labels, having their disc custom-printed, keeping the slides in sequence etc.). There simply isn't an easy apples-to-apples comparison possible since I don't think that they have many steps that are included in our price (e.g. cleaning the slide before scanning, etc.). All our customers' images are PS enhanced and there are a lot of other quality improvements included in the price as well. Try to do this with ScanCafe. I guess this is why most of my business comes from repeat customers.
    If you look for a cheap way that costs US jobs and gives you limited customer service, go with ScanCafe. As with everything in life, you get what you pay for.
  11. Richard-
    I'd certainly be interested in your service in competition with ScanCafe, if you'll provide contact details. I've been checking out ScanCafe for a couple of years now, since I first saw Marc's writing about it on his site.
    Thing is, SC is still only for USA & Canada. If you can provide a comparable service to UK (and maybe Europe) you'll get my custom and I guess a good few more. I don't have a load at present, but I'm buying film cameras lately, and looking to outsource my scanning.....
    Look forward to hearing
  12. Hi Jim,
    Thanks for asking. The website is I would be happy to help you on your project.
  13. Does anybody know about their labor conditions? Do they have 10 year old boys and girls doing this?
  14. I prefer to keep my film within the US. But be aware that catastrophe can strike even if your photos stay in the US.'s facility burned to the ground last year. So perhaps you should ask about building deign and fire safety.
  15. "Does anybody know about their labor conditions?" (scancafe)

    "We pay our Indian employees a rate of compensation that is a full 25% above the average plus retirement and insurance benefits; this allows us to hire and retain the most qualified image processing technicians."

    They also have a $1,000 shipping guarantee which they will pay you if they lose your items.

    I have an order in with them now. They don't do medium format B&W negatives so I had to send those to Britepix. BritePix is fast. They scanned 300+ old B&W negatives and even cleaned them up in about a week. I'm still waiting to receive the scans and negatives but they put up a slideshow so I could check them out on their site. Britepix is in Miami but they send the negatives/slides/prints to their Costa Rica production facility. Their rates are very low.

    Scancafe has the lowest rates but like I said (at this time) they don't process medium format B&W negatives so I only sent them the color negatives to be scanned. Another plus with Scancafe is you don't have to pay for the scans you don't like. You can discard up to 50% of the order.

    Here's an article from Money magazine that was helpful in comparing services. It is 2 years old though.
  16. ScanCafe's website now says they do medium format 120 BW scans at $1.99 per scan.
    Wish they had told me about this last month, because they refused to scan my 6x6 BW order and sent the negs back to me, which I just received yesterday. Now I've got to repackage them and send them in again. They could have done a better job communicating about this.
  17. Just wondering if anyone knows HOW to submit the negatives. I want them to scan only certain frames and not every frame on the strip. Can you mark the negative sleeve to indicate which frame to scan? I would be using glassine negative pages and marking them with permanent marker. Any idea how it works?
  18. I am a sports photographer and had the same problem regarding the negatives. A friend of mine had worked with and was happy with their service. I didn't feel too comfortable working with them because they appear to be a smaller outfit. So I decided to just send them a few film strips. They were extremely responsive and helpful (I had the choice of crossing the images out on the negative itself or the sleeve). They completed them in just a few days. The quality was great. I then sent them more of my archive (about 600 more) and it took them a little over a week with the same great service. Works for me.
  19. I'm in the process of reviewing 5783 slides and negs I sent off to scancafe in August. I'm writing about the whole process here:
    The slides were pretty good, but the negs leave something to be desired. I wonder if they'd be better for smaller jobs--it seems as if the technician got tired of it all and stopped being careful. A lot will need work in photoshop. I'd use them for huge jobs like this, but for smaller jobs, i'd just pay to have it done locally.
  20. I am in the process of reviewing about 3300 scans. I am happy with the quality I see in the small, review versions of the scans. I was prepared for the time it took to get them so that was not a problem (about 4 weeks).
    THE PROBLEM: Even with a hig bandwidth, high speed computer, the review process is slow and tedious. I have communicated with them several times - they keep saying to use firefox (which I use) and that there might be a "temporary glitch" in their system.
    Unfortunately it seems this "temporary glitch' is occurring every day and at all times, since i have been working at this for about 10 dyas at all different times. I've tried several computers in different locations, all with brodband or T1 access.
    The scancafe pages are slow to respond, sometimes seem to hang o freeze entirely, you can't tell if something is going to happen or if the system has stopped responding, navigating back and forth between folders is slow, tedious, painful. Overall, the review process has been a bummer.
    I get the feeling the scancafe people WANT you to get frustrated, giveup "rejecting" scans, and just hit the "checkout now" button and buy all the scans. So beware - they say you can cut your costs by rejecting up to 1/2 the scans, but they (or their system) makes it tedious and time consuming to do so. Makes you go "hmmmmmm". ;)
  21. I posted above, before I got the scans back from India. My overall experience of scancafe was hideous. It went from okay, to bad, to worse. To those liking their scans small online, remember images look better small. I've written 14 posts on my blog about this experience: (choose the links with scans mentioned) and intend to write more because it was such a frustrating process. In the end, the biggest issue is that their technicians aren't trained in photography. Those "adjustments" are pressing a few buttons in photoshop, which can have horror results. More on all this in the blog. I also agree with the above--they don't want you to choose only half, and make it hard to do so.
  22. @h d and @ anastasia k, and for everybody:
    wanted to chime in on our (ScanCafe's) review process. It is slow, for sure, if you are reviewing multiple thousands of photos at one time. Our thumbnails are pretty good sized (around 200K, to help with reviewing) and it is frankly a technically challenging thing to load, say, 3,000 of them all up in snappy way for a web browser's session. When we designed our site, we didn't anticipate the volume that we currently have and that's the main reason reviewing very large sets of images is slow (even in many desktop apps doing something similar is pretty challenging, iPhoto has been tinkering with this problem for nearly every release i note). We are working on it, though--in fact, a major re-architecture is underway as we speak, not to mention some nifty interface improvements (comment here if you'd like to be in on the beta for that).
    We continue to do some pretty amazing work, at an outstanding value, but I will let other folks chime in on that. But it's true we might color correct some arty photos (say, shot with a blue filter) unless you let us know in advance, in the scanning notes for your order, that your color cast is on purpose. Easy fix though, and one we're happy to make.
    Hope this helps.
    Wade (at ScanCafe)
  23. Stay away from ScanCafe. I sent over 4000 images to them, organized & packaged immaculately. What I received back was a box, 3 times the size of the pictures with everything tossed haphazardly around. Many of the pictures were bent & written on. My hours of organization were completely wasted.
    The images, absolute crap. Everything looked blurry, way over corrected. Tried scanning an image on my $149 all in one and it looked far, far better. I contacted ScanCafe and they attempted correction to the images my now all the colors look blotchy and digitized. The photos look grainy. Still communicating with them but they don't think they can do any better.
    I am just an ordinary person & not being that picky, but these are very obvious defects in the pictures.
    Complete waste of my time and money. Considering disputing the charges on my credit card. Very frustrating.
  24. Thank you, everyone, for posting all of this. I am curious, has anyone had trouble with the payment options for scan cafe? It looked to me like the site was not secure, so I stopped my trial order.
  25. @Alison--payment was one thing I had no problem with at scancafe. @Wade--why don't you break down larger orders in some way until this is resolved? My images were loaded out of order anyway, so it's not like that mattered, and you could log into more than one order at once.
    Final opinion is that this place is for people who were happy with the quality of the 1hr photo at the drugstore, and have small orders. If I had 600 images instead of 6000, I'd have had 10% of the problems, which would have been much more tolerable.
    I've finished the entire process at this point, other than archiving all the images in Lightroom (have archived about 17%). The reviews are updated and have been moved from the link above to
    If anyone recommends somewhere else, I still have my med format negatives to scan. Thanks.
  26. I sent about 40 35mm transparencies to Scan Cafe for conversion. I selected "RAW" formatting, as I use Lightroom for processing and wanted high resolution. I had several problems:
    1) They sent me an email inviting me to preview the conversions...this never worked...there was no link or method to perform a vapor. Why do they promise a preview and not deliver?
    2) The CD disk finally arrived with low res jpg images. I complained, but there was told that they had no record of my selection of a different image format. Basically they said..."you got what you selected"...but it was not true. There was no effort to compromise, help, etc.
    So...two broken promises. They failed to deliver on the promise that I would be allowed to preview and select the images I wanted. They failed to faithfully execute my order according to the options that I indicated.
    I would not use this service.
  27. Just an update for this thread, our review process has now been completely upgraded. It's a significant improvement, and so far feedback from our beta testers and customers has been extremely positive. So that might address some of the concerns here.
  28. @Frank:
    Hi Frank, I'm concerned to hear about your experience (I work at ScanCafe). Searching our customer records, I can't find any Frank Smith's or even Franklin Smith's. Did you possibly order under another name?
    Also, it's very unlikely that images would be both blurry and overcorrected, and we don't understand what you mean when you say your scans were "blotchy and digitized", and we have a special QA step that is specifically for packaging originals correctly, so we'd definitely like to get to the bottom of this. We find that in investigating cases like this we almost always learn something that we can apply toward process improvement.
    The email that you received is automated, and contains a large blue button that you can click on to preview your images. I wonder if perhaps your mail client didn't download the image? Can you forward that to us, there may be some clues in the html itself. send to admin (at)
    Also, we do have an order with your name on it, but it wasn't for 35mm slides, it was for paper photos. And we don't offer RAW as a format option, so I'd like to understand how you came to understand that we did. So can you contact us? We'd like to get to the bottom of your experience.
  29. I sent a box of slides to Scan Cafe and UPS LOST THEM!
    So my advice is not to ship slides to be scanned. I'm still waiting for Scan Cafe to send back the paper work to UPS. And I have tried to call them twice to follow-up on making a claim to UPS and they have not called me back.
    How do you put a price on original slides? Now my slides are GONE! Shame on me for shipping such valuable items via UPS.
  30. Several years ago I sent 2500 slides to ScanCafe for scanning. I kept most of them, paying hundreds of dollars for the service. They provided a website with all my photos and sent back my slides and 2 CDs with the photos. Subsequently I sent some additional slides with the same result. The CD is difficult to work with and I have gone to my account on the website when I needed to look at the photos easily; I also provided access to my children so they can view their family and childhoods.
    Last week I wanted to check some photos at my account and discovered them to be inaccessible. I contacted ScanCafe and received a call back next day indicating that after a time, the data in the account is deleted and is not available to me any longer. I told them I was never informed of this policy; in fact, when I made the original order I was told that I would have the ability to view my account/slides at any time. I also told him that I was in the process now of organizing all of my old hard copy photos to be sent for scanning and due to this issue, I would be unable to consider them for what would be hundreds of dollars of additional business. (He replied that he didn't blame me.) I said that I hoped they would be able to restore the account information as it was part of what was offered in the beginning. The person said they would send a ticket to their web team to see what could be done.
    24 hours later I received a brief, terse email from someone at ScanCafe saying that after 3 months all data is deleted and there is nothing they can regards. I responded indicating that their dismissive tone was unacceptable, they had not informed me in advance etc, in fact I had been provided information contradictory to this policy. I asked to be contacted by someone w/seniority from customer service.
    I have not heard back from them. My photos have gone to a different company (the only recourse is to take away real business). I am posting a negative review of ScanCafe - interested in using them?...beware.
  31. ScanCafe did an amazingly bad scan job.
    Out of focus, poor exposure, stretched in one axis.
    But worst of all, my slides came back scrambled out of order,
    which has taken many hours to repair
  32. I have used scan cafe for about 750 scans (two batches), primarily slides, also negatives and prints. I am very happy with the results -- they have come back clean, organized, without any quality issues. I just sent off another batch and am recommending them to my in-laws. I compared my images to some that a friend did at home and I am so happy I did not go that route, too much work both in scanning and correcting.
    I am not getting into the India or not battle (personally I am totally comfortable). Yes, you send them away, but I think the real risk here is UPS and that would be the case for any non-local option. It is a little frustrating to wait so long, but I can live with it.
    It boils down to -- this is such a strong value that you can actually get all those family slides liberated to be seen.
  33. Tried them a few years ago. I was quite happy with the service overall. Most importantly, I was happy with the scans. My only complaint was that they were somewhat slow. Took them about 4 months for about 1000 high res TIFFs (including shipping back and forth). Just sent them a second batch of 1500 regular JPEG scans. I will keep you updated.
  34. I used them in 2009 (more or less) to make DVDs from VHS tapes. The quality was pretty crappy, but I think this was because the VHS quality was pretty bad! Anyway, the service was not lighting fast, but it was nothing to complain about. At the end of December I sent in some slides to be digitized and received a letter that there was some reason for a delay and my order wouldn't be processed until March. So it's March and still my order hasn't even been processed. When I inquired they gave me a date of 4/16. I asked for compensation for the delay and they refused. I'm not really in any hurray for the order, but I think this is out of bounds. Not even a 20% off coupon for my next order? This just tells me they're not interested in my business,
  35. I used them in 2009 (more or less) to make DVDs from VHS tapes. The quality was not great, but I think this was because the VHS quality was not great! Anyway, the service was not lightning fast, but it was nothing to complain about. At the end of December I sent in some slides to be digitized and received a letter that there was some reason for a delay and my order wouldn't be processed until March. So it's March and still my order hasn't even been processed. When I inquired they gave me a date of 4/16. I asked for compensation for the delay and they refused. I'm not really in any hurray for the order, but I think this is out of bounds. Not even a 20% off coupon for my next order? This just tells me they're not interested in my business and don’t respect their customers.
  36. I used them in 2009 (more or less) to make DVDs from VHS tapes. The quality was not great, but I think this was because the VHS quality was not great! Anyway, the service was not lightning fast, but it was nothing to complain about. At the end of December I sent in some slides to be digitized and received a letter that there was some reason for a delay and my order wouldn't be processed until March. So it's March and still my order hasn't even been processed. When I inquired they gave me a date of 4/16. I asked for compensation for the delay and they refused. I'm not really in any hurray for the order, but I think this is out of bounds. Not even a 20% off coupon for my next order? This just tells me they're not interested in my business and don’t respect their customers.
  37. I wasn't even aware that this was an overseas company until I read this thread so my review doesn't hinge on that fact. I have used the service twice: once as a small trial run and then I bought their value box which is for scanning 600 or so photos. I will not use them again. I have two major complaints:

    1) They are SLOW (which I now know is because of the overseas element)

    2) At ever turn they try to nickel and dime more money out of you using deceptive emails / call center reps.
    The response time is incredible. I ordered a value box and sent it in around early Feb. Here I am near the end of April and it still looks like it will be a couple of weeks before I have anything in hand. The previous order of a handful of photos was not much faster. It looks like to me that 2mo. is the absolute minimum for this service and often it takes even more time. These are standard print scans. Nothing elaborate.

    For me the more problematic piece is their frequent attempts to extract more money from you while they are holding your photos hostage. With the value box the directions keep telling you to pack it as full as possible but of course if you go over their 600 picture limit they hold your order until you pay them additional money at a higher price per scan. That's not the worst.
    Their favorite scam is that when the scan is almost done (after months of waiting) they send you a "quote" mail which requests "restoration fees" for certain prints, often well over $10/scan. If you are not careful and clear every check mark and push the right button you end up ordering restorations which add up to much more than the scan job. I wasn't careful the first time and ended up paying for this. The second time I was expecting it and I asked the operator collecting my money for going over the 600 print limit that my order not have any restoration done (I have owned Photoshop since V2). She assured me that they never do restorations on the value package. Sure enough a week later the restoration quotes started arriving in the mail. I carefully cancelled the first one and immediately received a second one with a "sample" showing me what I would be missing.
    So I will not be using them again simply because I really don't like the service I received. They are incredibly slow and use deceptive business practices to extort money from you once they have your photos in hand.
  38. theres a old saying " you have what you pay for "... in that particular case, it seem to be very true; cheap price = cheap service / result / relation / business
    get yourselft a nice epson scanner, for probably the same price or even lower, will take you approx the same time, but all will be safe at home and no email scam.
  39. I used them for the first and last time recently for some 6x4.5 negs and slides. They missed their 8-10 day promise, so I called them, I was told that if I wasn't "so off" in my estimate of number of frames, they would have been willing to refund me the difference between rush and normal service, I miscounted 24 frames, instead, I had 26. They proceeded to miss the four black and white frames I sent them in their scanning, but have allegedly found them, still waiting for the package to arrive to see if they are enclosed. The scans were AWFUL. I own a 35mm coolscan, and a 4,000 dpi scan shows film grain, all of theirs were out of focus during scanning, no grain to be seen. Their "dust reduction" is something awful. When I use digital ICE on my coolscan, the vast majority of the time, there are no artifacts, but maybe one or two small dust marks remaining, it's obvious they didn't use digital ice on my scans, but instead used the healing brush in photoshop set MASSIVELY too big. Instead of dust, I have major artifacts which, if the scans were even worth keeping, would prove even more difficult than just spotting out dust. The final issue is it took three weeks of back and forth for them to arrange a refund for me plus it's been a week since they issued the refund, and they admitted yesterday that they still hadn't shipped out my originals to me.
  40. Marc's experience is a world from mine except for the fact that the service is super slow.
    • Their web site is sometimes unusably slow.
    • They're very expensive and they charge more than they advertise. There is an up-charge for Tiff files. They raped me by charging me for services I didn't realize I was selecting. I thought it was 33 cents an image but I paid almost 80 cents an image.
    • They do a very poor job of cleaning negatives
    • You can only delete 20% of your negatives without charge.
    On the plus side, they do a little to improve each image after they scan the dusty negative. They should move the effort to the negative. They do scan into great detail - 32 meg files. There are better options out there.
  41. Hello everyone!
    The next time you place an order with scan cafe use the code OEMSCAN20 to get a 20% discount on all orders.
    This code is valid indefinitely and for any type of orders placed.
    Spread the code! Help your self and and your friends save money.

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