Digitizing old Film Negatives

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Gamoe, Jan 2, 2012.

  1. Gamoe macrumors regular

    Sep 19, 2006
    I have a number of film negatives I'd like to digitize. They're mostly 35mm, although I do have a few odd Kodak sizes as well. I've seen those small portable negative scanners, but they all seem to use a 5 megapixel sensor. What are my options as far as getting good quality, high resolution scans on a budget under $200?
  2. ewlon macrumors newbie

    Aug 5, 2011
    I had the same question about 2 yrs ago as I have thousands of 35mm strips. Here's the answer I got from a professional that does this, LSI Morales.

    ""I believe you have mostly film stripes (35 mm and 120mm), I would recommend you to go for a film scanner, but a very good film scanner that allow you to scan both at top quality can cost a couple of thousands. But, there is a good second hand market for those devices, for example Nikon 9000, it is a very expensive scanner but is the best quality film scanner you get for your money, if you invest some USD.4000, you can make your scanning job and then sell the scanner again for about the same amount of money. If you do not have that budget then try the Epson Perfection V750 Pro, you can use the wet mount to create great quality scans.This scanner still costs a fraction of the Nikon and provides you with the best quality among the flatbed scanners for your purpose. 'Which of your software packages would you recommend that I use to start?'-- I would suggest you download and test the demo version of SE Plus and Ai Studio. Demo versions allow you to try the software and all its options, you can then decide what is best for your needs. We have a lot of documents you can start with as well as video tutorials. You can find all related information, videos and documents at: http://www.silverfast.com/knowledge/ ""
  3. siorai macrumors 6502

    Sep 14, 2007
    The Epson V600 is a pretty good 35mm/120 scanner for the price. I was pretty happy with mine and the only reason I upgraded to the V700 was to get the capability to scan large format negs. If I hadn't bought a 4x5 camera, I would have just stayed with the V600.
  4. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    Monterey CA
    Every single professional reviewing site says exactly the same thing:

    Flatbed scanners are not good enough for 35mm. You have to either buy an expensive dedicated 35mm scanner or send them out to a place that does them for you.

    The vastly better choice is to send them out! Pay the extra 10c or whatever and opt for the 4000mp scan. You can then put those scans into your photo editing program and do retouching, etc.

    If you also have a number of bigger negatives or reflective scans a top of the line Epson does a great job. Really like my V700 for this. Note that you can sometimes find a used one where somebody bought it for a project and then had no more use for it. That's how I got mine.

    But, obviously you must have a good number of big negatives and photos to scan to make the purchase of a scanner cost-effective or they too should just be sent out as well.

    Of course these flatbed scanners are also good for general scanning, although total overkill for that. The V600s and the like are more than good enough for reflective scans. Pay attention to the sizes of negatives you want to scan and the capacity of the scanner. The V700 and higher models have more scanning options per the previous post.
  5. NMMC4090 macrumors newbie

    Nov 25, 2011
    over here
    I received a Plustek 7600i for x-mas and I have put about 300 negatives through it already. The software that came with it, Silverfast AI, had to be updated with the newest version (free) before I could use it with Lion, but after that it has been painless. Overall I think it is working really well.
  6. pna macrumors 6502

    May 27, 2005
    There have been a few different threads on this in the past, and a number of us have weighed in in favor of sending them out. In particular, I've used scancafe and had great results. Yes, they send your negatives to India and can take a while, but I've never seen any report of problems whatsoever. Unless you've got a ton of negatives, you could still come out near the $200 price point. If you're not coming out near the $200 price point, that's even more reason to look into sending it out, as that's a ton of your time...

    Search for scancafe and I'm sure you'll turn up the other threads in the forum.
  7. dimme macrumors 65816

    Feb 14, 2007
    SF, CA
    I am in the middle of scanning my family's slides from the 50's through 80's. They are mostly kodachrome slides so I don't need a scanner with digital ice. I picked up a used SCSI Canon scanner film scanner on ebay and have it running on a PC with Xp and vuescan. I also got a Epson V600. I use the V600 for 90% of the images. For this project the images are for viewing on the web and 4x6 prints so the Epson quality is excellent for that. If I was making large prints or if it was for art photography it will not work.
    Up until a few years ago I ran a pro photo lab. We had drum scanners, high end creo flatbed scanners & Imacon scanners. I decided to scan my personal 35mm slide collection in 2004 when I stopped shooting film and started shooting digital. Then 10% of the film when on the drum scanner, and the rest went on the imacon. The imacon did a great job and I was able to make wonderful lightjet prints from those scans.

    So I would say the first question you ned to ask your self is what am I going to do with these scans. If you just want to view it on the screen or small prints the epson V600 is great. But if you want bigger prints and excellent sharpness check out the Nikons or other dedicated film scanners on ebay.
  8. Gamoe, Jan 3, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012

    Gamoe thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 19, 2006
    Thank you so much for the replies. I realize these are questions that pop up on a regular basis. I only ask because I've not seen a very recent one, and one always wonders whether the options have changed.

    First, let me make this clear- I love photos, but I'm not a pro. I shoot with an S95 which gives me the amount of manual control and quality I need. And pretty much all these negatives were produced by ordinary point-and-shoots of yesteryear. I don't think there were any SLRs involved. So we're not talking about extraordinary quality here. Just "normal" old-time photos here. As far as Photoshop, I do know some basic color correction and retouching, but again, I'm not a pro.

    As such, I wonder what kind of quality we're talking with the different scanning options. Unless I'm missing something, the 6400 x 9600 resolution from the Epson scanners would be equivalent to over 61 megapixels! Surely, even a fourth of that would be acceptable!

    Sending out the photos is certainly a possibility I would entertain, although I confess that I am puzzled as to why I would need to send my photos out of the continent for good quality and prices. Are scanning services so expensive in America?

    Some of the old photos are developed. They exist as 4x6 (and smaller) prints in photo albums. I suppose I could scan the prints in, but I figure I could get much better quality from scanning the negatives. I want to be able to use them in slideshows and print them out for photo albums and photo books. I would love to get my hands on a dedicated film scanner, but its way too rich for a broke college student.

    Again, thank you for the replies. They are really helpful.
  9. pna macrumors 6502

    May 27, 2005
    Others can weigh in on more recent domestic options, but when I did my research a few years ago, there was quite a range in terms of quality and pricing. Scancafe was there at the top in terms of quality, and was significantly less expensive than the domestic services. I think it was less than half. In addition, at that time they had a deal where you could reject up to half of the scans after they'd already scanned them, so you didn't have to do a ton of sorting ahead of time to get rid of all of the ones that really were losers. In total, the entire project ended up being a minimal time investment on my part up front, and the expense was low enough that I could actually do all of my father's slides, black and white negatives, and then both of our color negatives.

    It was still a significant cost, especially for black and white (which scancafe excels at), but it was totally worth it. And now the time I spend with those photos is quality time spent on the ones that are really worth it, as opposed to a bunch of time scanning ones that are less exciting so that I have them in the archive.

    Scancafe runs specials all the time, so you should definitely just sign up for their email list and you'll get more deals than you'd like.

    It's certainly possible that prices have come down here domestically, and I'd expect that someone would weigh in on that if so. Once I had everything scanned, I had no need to keep looking for better scanning options! If you can spend a similar amount of money to get the same (or better) result, without having to invest a bunch of your time in a project, I'd highly recommend you consider it. I suspect you have lots of other worthy projects competing for your time that aren't as easily outsourced...

    In any case, enjoy the nostalgia!
  10. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    The highest resolution listed are typically interpolated numbers, not optical.

    It takes a long time to scan yourself.

    Kodak supposedly made some discontinued decent scanners.
  11. Gamoe thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 19, 2006
    I am still on the fence on whether to send them out or scan them myself. I definitely understand you on the time issue- I don't really want to spend any more time than I have to digitalizing and fixing the images.

    But apart from my hesitation to send out irreplaceable photos, I am concerned that most services seem to produce a merely 7-megapixel file for each photo. Surely, one should be able to squeeze out a higher resolution from negatives? I am thinking somewhere in the range of 10-15 megapixels at least. I'd like to get the most out of the negatives while still being practical about the file size.


    So what could I expect the final resolution to be for these negatives?

    I'm glad you brought it up. I am looking into their units now. At what resolution did your final digitals come out at? And how was the quality?

    I'm leaning towards the Epson Perfection V600. I was also planning on upgrading my version of Photoshop Elements, so its nice to see that its included in the price. Apparently, it can even handle the handful of 110 film I have lying around, though there is no holder for it. But, from what you're saying it seems that it would not fit my goals.

    I want to have relatively high resolution photos to print and archive digitally. The idea is that they could be viewed now, in a few years and decades on super-high-res displays and handed down to the next generation to view and preserve using whatever technology is available at the time (I know those are perhaps pretty lofty goals, but this is my intention). The limiters, as usual, are time and money. I have more of the former than the latter, but not a whole lot of either. I can't spend much over $300 or $400 and I'm a little wary of combing through the used market to get something perhaps incomplete or damaged. Would something like a Plustek unit fulfill those goals, or should I simply send them out?

    I also have a number of old (some color, some B&W) photo prints that I am hoping to scan myself. The only thing I am worried about is color shift and other issues requiring "restoration". In any case, I suppose these could be handed to someone digitally to restore later on though, right?
  12. pna macrumors 6502

    May 27, 2005
    If memory serves, scancafe scans at 3000 ppi for 35 mm negatives, and that's where the 7 MP number comes from. Honestly, that's going to be fine even to make fairly good-sized enlargements with. I don't regret not having sprung for the higher resolution scanning option. If it turns out there's a print that I want to make that seems like it might benefit from a higher res scan (a possibility I deem unlikely), I'll have that negative re-scanned at higher resolution. So far it hasn't been an issue.

    More importantly, I suspect that the 3000 ppi they would get with their equipment scanning negatives is going to be on par or better than any potentially higher resolution you might get out of a consumer grade Epson

    How many negatives and pictures are you talking about, here?
  13. Gamoe thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 19, 2006
    So far, I've counted 1,321 photos in negatives. There are more coming, but this is the bulk. I haven't counted the prints yet, but I've got at least 10 large, hefty albums with large and small photos as well. Of course, some of the prints will be duplicates of the negatives, but a lot of the prints (especially the older B&W ones) are missing their negatives.
  14. NMMC4090 macrumors newbie

    Nov 25, 2011
    over here
    The Silverfast AI software gives the choice from 56 to 7200 dpi, however I found that for most of my negatives I went with 2400 dpi. The overall quality of the pictures were really good. Most of the negatives I am working with are not in the best shape. They were left piled up in a box for over 20 years, some were curling up on the edges, and a lot of them were scratched up. I have been pleasantly surprised at the results.

    The downside, and this is mostly because I am self teaching myself through trial and error, the software was intimidating with the numerous features. They have a "workflow pilot" that will guild you through the process if you want which has been great from a beginners perspective.
  15. dsblack macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2012
    I've been scanning 110 negatives with my old Epson Perfection 3170. Got the film holder from Filmscanusa.com. I use Vuescan Pro to run the scanner. Works pretty good, although the quality of 110 negatives is pretty poor. I'm just a self-taught hobbyist, but I believe I've gotten the most out of those negatives that I can get.
  16. pna macrumors 6502

    May 27, 2005
    This sounds like you're definitely a candidate for shipping them out. That's not a small job by any stretch, but it also won't be *that* much more than doing it yourself if you put any value on your time whatsoever. If you take advantage of one of the regular sales that scancafe puts on, you can get them to scan for about 22 cents a print/negative or less. That would be about $275 for that amount of negatives if you kept them all, but you can discard up to 20% of them in the review process and not have to pay for them. You can do the math on the big albums, but we're still talking about a few hundred dollars. If you do it yourself, you'll spend the $200 for the scanner (which isn't great for negatives), and when you scan the negatives, should plan on spending about 5 minutes per negative realistically if you want to do a good job with them. That's something like 110 hours of straight scanning, just for the negatives. I think that ChrisA pointed out that it would save you a lot of time to get a short-term, minimum wage job to pay for having someone else do the scans.

    I digitized my CD library a few different times before I finally had enough storage space to do it in lossless. That was pretty tedious, but also not terribly interactive -- you just stick the CDs in there and let them rip, with the track names autopopulating. Scanning pictures and negatives is a much more interactive process.

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