How best to scan film today?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by eric_meyer, Jul 10, 2015.

  1. I know I'm slow getting around to an issue most faced long ago, but I wonder what the best approach is today. I have around 100 rolls of color negatives. What scanning options are still available, and what's adequate and cost-effective? Buy a scanner -- which? Or what sort of scanning, from a local shop? Any special issues with some rolls up to 40 years old? Thanks.
  2. Unless your time is not valuable to you, send them to a service like ScanCafe. They are well respected for very good work at a very reasonable price.
    The scanners you can buy new today for under $1000 are rather marginal for 35mm film. The Nikon, Minolta, and Canon dedicated 35mm film scanners are all discontinued. (ScanCafe uses vintage Nikon CoolScan V scanners.) Flatbed scanners just aren't really sharp enough for 35mm film, but they're quite nice for medium format and large format.
    Yes, scanning older film is a little tricker, in that there needs to be some compensation for faded dyes. But that's not really that hard on color negative film so long as it's reasonably well-cared-for. I've scanned 1950's Kodacolor with great results.
  3. This is by no means a complete answer, but I can address some points.
    • When I started getting my negative and slides scanned 30 years ago, it was expensive. I found it worth purchasing a dedicated film scanner rather than paying for the service. Perhaps another reader could share recent experience with film scanning services.
    • There are bargains in film scanners on older models. There is a catch. Make sure you have access to the software and a computer that is compatible. I maintain a 30 year old Mac because it is compatible with my film scanners.
    • Scanning film yourself can be very time consuming. My scanners take minutes per image. With APS film, I can pre-scan an entire roll and pick the images I want scanned and then let it work unattended. For 35mm and medium format, it is one frame at a time.
    • 40 year old negatives will show some fading. It is not hard to recover a good image, but it will require separate settings for the red, green, and blue channels.
  4. The scanners you can buy new today for under $1000 are rather marginal for 35mm film.​
    I don't fully agree with that; the 35mm film Plustek and Pacific Images (Reflecta in Europe) are quite good. The point, though, is that it will cost you a good deal of time as they're quite manual. If that is not an issue, they could be cost-effective; but the point of how valuable your time is, is sure valid.
  5. If I were starting over, I would "scan" film using a digital camera, macro lens and some sort of rigid slide copy attachment for the lens. I have a Nikon film scanner, but it's slow and takes a lot of desk space. The resolution is 4000 ppi or 24 MP, about the same as many newer FF cameras.
    With a camera like that, I'm not shooting film any more, but I have a lot of old stuff I never got around to scanning. Flatbed scanners promise a lot more than they deliver. They're slow and it's hard to get the film placed just right on the bed.
  6. I have one of these. The seller obtains these from closing minilabs and refurbishes them. It is the number one reason I still shoot 35mm film, it'll scan a 36- exposure roll (color or B&W negative) in five minutes with results that are more than adequate for most purposes. I have an Epson 4990 flatbed that works well, and is especially good for medium and large format, but it was extremely tedious to scan 35mm with it; it would be a day-long project for one roll!
    The only possible drawback is that they only work directly on Windows XP, but there are workarounds for newer versions of Windows and Macs. Just to reiterate, it only works with negatives.
    Here are the specs. After I got one, I asked myself why I waited so long.
  7. If they are all 36-exposure rolls, it will be about $800 at ScanCafe. Less if they are 24-exposure rolls.
  8. david_henderson


    Mr Mayer
    To get your question answered optimally I think you need to provide the following
    • 35mm or medium format negatives?
    • What is your purpose in scanning ? Do you want to be able to print from the scan , or just see/send the pictures on screen? If you want to print, how big?
    • Do you value all of these negs equally or is it sensible for you to go through them and identify those that should be scanned and those for which you're happy not to have a scan? This simply gets the quantity down so bringing different techniques and costs into play.
  9. I have some comments about the time issues. Over several years, I scanned thousands of negatives. But then, I worked out of a home
    office, and I did batch scanning, so I just didn't sit around and twiddle my thumbs. And, 100 rolls isn't huge, but it is a non-trivial amount.
    So if you do decide to scan, not only will there be a learning curve, but make sure you have something else to work on that you either
    enjoy or needs to be done. Maybe study that foreign language you've been meaning to do, read some good books, brush up on your
    quantum physics...anything...just don't sit around and listen to the scanner hum...cause you will go mad! Mad, I say, mad!
  10. I agree with Allan Cobb. Try to get a used mimilab scanner. Then after scanning your old rolls you could easily sell it
    again if you no longer need it.
  11. SCL


    Although I use an old Microtek 35mm scanner, which is slow, I've heard a number of very positive comments about buying used Pakon/Kodak 135 scanners, formerly used by a number of minilabs. Unfortunately the limited supply and heavy demand has driven up the prices. The positives I've seen are that they can scan a whole roll in about 5 minutes, give good color (for digital display at least) and are quite reliable. Downside, is that they only work with older computer OS - XP. They use their own software as well, although I've seen one fellow figure out how to use his with Vuescan. Whatever you decide, if you do purchase a scanner, give consideration to getting Vuescan (professional lifetime version) is cheaper and so much better than other packages out there, unless you are going for high end professional gear.
  12. @Allan Cobb: I'm going to order one! Thank you.
  13. Excellent Peter, you won't be disappointed. There's a Facebook page dedicated to the Pakon F-135 scanner with techniques and links to software upgrades. There are also some YouTube videos showing how it works (in this one, an individual is running XP "virtually" on his Mac) which are quite helpful in stepping you through using the software (which is a little quirky but easy once you get used to it), as well as a Flickr group. Happy scanning!
  14. Allan Cobb: Why are you congratulating Peter Simpson? The OP is Eric Meyer. Maybe I'm up too late and need some sleep.
  15. Thanks for all these great ideas.
    @David Henderson: These are 35mm negs. I would want to be able to print from the scan not just view (so backup or substitute for the negs), but I don't think I've ever gone larger than 8x10. Some images (especially older) don't need to be scanned, surely more than the 20% exclusion someone mentioned in connection with ScanCafe.
    @Allan Cobb: I wouldn't have thought of a refurb minilab scanner. Can it handle cut strips of 4-6 negs?
    @others: ScanCafe seems to have mixed reviews online -- work done in India(!), QC issues, communication issues... (haven't looked into it yet myself)
  16. PaKon, cut strips, yes
  17. Hi Eric, yes, I think the minimum length is actually 2 frames, but I wouldn't do it with less than 3. Really short lengths increase the chances of film getting stuck inside.
  18. I too am about to embark on a similar scan journey.
    In my case some 25,000 coloured slides of 90 percent transportation and the balance, other.
    Have scanned my 135mm b&W negatives and with each roll on an Epson flatbed have also made a contact sheet. The negatives had been stored in 3 ring binders in PrintFile™ pages. The scanned images have been placed on Fuji brand compact discs, One disc can hold an amazing number of images!
    So am looking at many (roughly 40) 600 slide capacity boxes containing many slides.
    Shall do an intial sort,
    and then using a Nikon 5000 scanner acquired many years ago when I was far more ambitious start on the slides.
    However have a query. What is the best method to retain the scanned colour images?
    Am thnking of the hard drive method for the colour slides, saving them as JPEG's so if I expire, the images can be used by others on a machine that can read the images on the hard drive/solid state drive. As my machinery is all Macintosh (can't abide by Microsoft), best do the save as a more or less universal format
    I have almost given up photography entirely, so shall not be adding to the stack of slides so to speak.
    Digital results in colour prints, as does C-41 colour negative so why bother?
  19. david_henderson


    OK. If you want the flexibility to make prints up to 10" x 8" from the scans that pretty much rules out consumer flatbed scanners (either yours or someone else's) . Not all will agree with that, but consumer flatbeds foten do not deliver anywhere close to resolution they claim. I have to work pretty hard to get a good 12" x 12" from 6x6 film. Equally it rules out most of the scanning services offered by photo labs which simply fall short on resolution. You need approx. 20MB and mostly the offers fall well short of that - also most labs will reserve their most competitive prices for scanning full rolls, often at the time of processing.
    I wouldn't use Scancafe- I've read too many ambivalent or critical comments on the internet to make me want to take the risk of two long excursions into the postal services as well. At the very least I'd want this job done in my own country with a decent tracking service.
    Even if you sift to reduce the number of strips to scan, getting this job done in the USA ? by a scanning service using a 4000ppi film scanner is going to cost thousands rather than hundreds of dollars. Some of the cheaper services offer only 2000ppi , or want to charge you extra for sending the files as Tiffs which I'd prefer- or will charge extra for scanning at full res 4000ppi. I think you'll do pretty well to get a quality service for less than $1 per frame . Of course if your time is in shorter supply than your money, that might still be a good way to go. There's certainly no shortage of US-based bulk 35mm scanning services available.
    The cheapest way to get what you want at the quality you need is to buy a decent film scanner and sell it on the minute you're done. If you buy well then the loss on resale could be small to zero- and if that's the case it doesn't really push you into a corner on buying the cheapest you can find- the market for quality, working Nikon 5000 seems to be quite resilient. I'm intrigued by the used lab scanner route too, but unless I'm mistaken no -one has yet indicated what resolution these machines actually deliver, bearing in mind that you're ideally going to get over the 20MB mark to reach your maximum print size.
    Finally if you dropped your print size criterion to say 9" x 6" then that will open up a number of lower cost alternatives. For example you could get 2000 ppi scans made by a service; or buy a lower resolution scanner. Dropping further to 7" x 5" will open up more options- bearing in mind that you could still use the original neg to make larger prints
    And a couple of ancillary issues. No matter how carefully you select a service or learn to make scans, you cannot assume that every scan(or even most scans) will emerge from the scanner perfectly colour balanced , dust free and so on. You need to allow some time for post processing work. Second, keep your digital archive remote from your negs. You don't want to lose them both in the same fire or flood.
  20. I started to scan all my memories to remain immortal.
    It became too much work. It was quite a chore. Then I
    realized I was going to die anyway. So now I'm only
    scanning a few hundred of family shots that I could pass on to them now to enjoy with me before I die. No one's really going to care or want to see the rest of the stuff.
  21. Then I realized I was going to die anyway. So now I'm only scanning a few hundred of family shots that I could pass on to them now to enjoy with me before I die.​
    This is what everyone finds out, but I suppose 36 x 100 rolls is not too bad as this is what the OP has and I assume many will not be worth digitizing, but 25,000 is truly out of the question. I use a repro lens and slide copying outfit - in my opinion much superior to any scanner (at least for 35mm slides and black and white negatives) in terms of speed and quality tradeoff, but I would never think I could scan 25,000, let alone 5,000. Are they of such amazing historical/aesthetic worth that they actually need digitizing? How many shots did Cartier Bresson print up? 500 max?
  22. Well, you could take the scanner with you. You'll have
    plenty of time then.
  23. Old photos that pop up always seem to have a small but fanatical following even though no one knows where they came
    from or anything about them. To me slides run the risk of passing into obscurity more so than ol snapshots. Here is one
    that I found in a box of about 1000. Slides I found from my parents. No one knows who he is, just a friend in 1943 but to
    me it speaks to the civilians who suited up and went off to DDay or maybe some Island in the pacific. Scanned with a
    Canon 8800F and maybe not the best scan but not better than nothing.
  24. Try lading again
  25. Resized to fit
  26. Resize again
  27. Using a refurbished minilab scanner might well be a good idea if you can get it to work on your OS.
    This photo, shot on 35mm Ektar 100, was scanned with a Kodak 660 film scanner to an almost 10-megapixel digital image:
    Click the download button above the photo to download the full-res version.
  28. Mr. Andrews:
    "40 year old negatives will show some fading. It is not hard to recover a good image, but it will require separate settings for the red, green, and blue channels."
    When purchasing a Nikon 5000 slide scanner, the software included Applied Science Fiction's ROC (for return of color). I don't know that one could not use programs like DXO, Photoshop, and Paint Shop Pro or some combination thereof to get the same results, but ROC automatically got you 90-100% back to the original colors in most cases. It was especially effective with Ektachrome that turned reddish-brown. Applied Science Fiction was acquired by Kodak and then apparently was sold to a marketing company. You can still purchase it as a separate module for use with any scanner. Normally, I'd be leery of a marketing company, but these people have been responsible and have even sent me new codes for one of their products I had bought from Kodak as I changed computers. Somebody there is bright enough to make the most out of the goodwill they paid as they bought the product, which is to our benefit. The only downside is they are marketers, not engineers, and the software has not been improved upon. Still, it's plenty good as the last generation change was made by ASF.
    The limitations are on size of the input file. With my Nikon 9000, the purchased ROC will do a 6X6 and 6X7 slide, but often runs out of memory on 6X9s. With my Minolta 5400 II that scans at 5400 ppi, the purchased package will easily do the max scan. The supposedly 6400 ppi scan from the Epsons, using 6X9 or 4X5 film, are not doable. I don't know there's enough of that equipment used that it would pay the marketers to port it up to a 64 bit iteration, which would solve the problem.
    ROC has saved me untold hours of manual adjustment.
    With my continued acknowledgement for both your work on Kodachrome and your sharing of its knowledge here on Photonet,
    A. T. Burke

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