Favorite way to scan negatives and slides (DIY or send out)?

Hey everyone,

What is your favorite way to get old slides and negatives into digital form?

Scanning service?


Wirecutter (now a New York Times property) took down their review of best scanning service providers(!); but I think the winner was one of these two:

ScanCafe – their home page is a bit rough; but pricing and other pages work well.

Can’t remember which one “won.” Found these via Google and they look familiar. I also wonder if they took down the article because the “winner” wasn’t great anymore…

I’m hesitant to ship out my negatives/slides and wanted to go local…

One local place yesterday gave me both a run-around and sticker shock! Roughly 7X the online service providers’ prices! :no_entry:

I will likely go with a blended approach – Scan at home the things I’m most worried about and send off things that are “minimally or less” important.

A “DIY gadget,” that’s recommended is:

Plustek’s OpticFilm 8200i Ai

Oddly the MOST recommended is a cheaper version of that model; but I like this one’s potential auto dust/scratch removal (even if it’s not perfect).

I’ve sold off or given away all my devices that could have done this; but they were pretty old. I’m sure “newer tech” is a good idea here.

Nikon used to lead the way in this area and I was surprised to not find them mentioned in online reviews.

Additional thought: Time!!!

I know time is money, etc. My “test project” is about 120 slides. My “big projects” are 400-ish and 600-ish slides and negatives (mostly negatives). I’ve heard moderately high-res scans can take several minutes; so about 25 per hour…

At the local guy’s rates, I calculated that the $500-600 investment would pay for itself in 158 image scans; using an online service changes that to about 1,000 scans! (That’s rough math [except for the 158] for anyone about to pull out their calculator).

What do you all think?



P.S. I looked at the post w/ the SlideSnap (way too much for my needs and I’m at 95% negatives vs. slides).

1 Like

I believe @OogieM has done a lot of this… I’ve been able to use my university’s computer lab for my slide scanning needs but it’s definitely slow, meticulous work to do well.

1 Like

I’ve just been doing some scanning this week. I’m currently capturing my old colour negatives and have also done slides and black and white negatives from my late father’s collection. (All 35mm film.)

After many false starts over several years I have a solid process working with an Epson Perfection V370 Photo scanner and VueScan software. I have the scanning process to the point where I can be running the scanner while doing other things on my computer at the same time. Yes this takes time, but it’s not dedicated time. I will generally scan one whole (24-40 frame) film in a single sitting. It’s a process that I expect to take time (and because of my regular lapses has taken years already).

Because I want this to be the last (and in most cases only) time I scan transparencies, I am doing 2-pass, 48 bit colour, 4800 dpi TIFF files. It does require a lot of disk space, but that’s more information than the negatives generally hold.

To clean up the resulting files — which I am doing selectively as I would with modern digital photos — I use Affinity Photo. You can see the results of my current ‘project’ here on Flickr. I should note I was a terrible photographer when it came to focus and exposure (digital is a great tool for learning!) so none of these were great from the original scans. Each photo from this batch typically has colour correction, noise removal, sharpening, exposure adjustment (curves), and colour boosting (saturation and vibrance) along with manual dust and scratch removal.

1 Like

I loked at both sending things out and doing it myself. Of the scan services Digmypics was the winner but my costs were much higher because my volume was much higher. I have about 30,000 slides and about 10,000 negatives to deal with plus another 50,000 or so digital only images to catalog.

I bought the SlideSnap and that works well. We already had a suitable camera and lens system for it s I just bought the automatic scanner parts. 80 slides scan in less than 5 minutes. It takes about 1 minute per slide for proper cleaning before scanning and about 3 minutes per slide for basic cataloging with another 3 minutes per slide for full cataloging.

Contrast this with scanning slides on a decent flatbed scanner. Same time cleaning and cataloging but the scan times are more like 24 minutes for 12 slides at least that’s what it was when I tried it. The Plustek scanner will be slower to scan due to the individual handling of each slide.

Alternatively you can rent a SlideScan from this place rental SlideScan

That covers slides.

Negatives are much harder to deal with. A lot depends on the format of your film. I have a variety of both color and B&W negatives in a variety of formats and finding scanner that has negative carriers for all types is difficult. My set of negatives includes these types

127 film 2.5 x 1.6 inches
3 1/4 x 2 1/4 Asco Super Pan
2 1/4 x 2 1/4
and some very old Minox film too

For your small collection it all depends on whether you have all the same format of film and slides or not. If it’s all 35mm then the Plustek looks reasonable. If you have a variety of formats then you’ll need to look at something else.

Automatic dust and scraptch removeal is IMO a waste of time/money. You can do any of that you need to later in post processing SW. Plus from a historical perspective you need to first capture everythign as it is. All modifications including things like scratch removal need to be clearly identified and you still always need to be able to go back to the original master image.

I highly recommend this book for info on scanning historical items.

Digital Imaging a Practical Approach

And of course this one

Peter Krogh’s Digitizing your Photos


PS the same folks that make the SlideSnap have a negative scanner too. I’m seriously considering it because of the wide variety of formats it handles.
SlideSnap Strip

Wow! … I’m glad I asked!

It’s all 35mm (95% negatives, cut into strips stored in “archival” plastic that goes into a 3-ring binder).

I hadn’t thought of; yet now agree that an untouched original is essential(!). Photoshop and other software has come a long way in dust/scratch removal, etc. and, if I had done this 10 years ago (and only had the scratch removal tech at the time), I would be upset with myself.

Thank you (@OogieM)! Thanks also to @dfay & @zkarj !

Looks like I have more reading to do!! :slight_smile:

FWIW on my 35mm slides I am using the SlideSnap and saving just JPG files. I’m not getting rid of any slides and once in and cataloged I can think about going back to scan to TIFF files the good ones. I considered saving RAW files but for the quick scan to sort and catalog it seemed overkill and takes a huge amount of space. Again, the volume I’m dealing with is huge.

For the negatives I am saving TIFFs on the larger ones at my scanner’s maximum resolution of an optical 2400 dpi. I calibrated the scanner with the USAF calibration target.

I am also as a separate project scanning about 1500 5x7 inch glass plate negatives for the historical society. They are being saved as TIFF files and each one is 378MB. It takes 30 minutes per negative to scan them.

I scanned several thousand slides and negatives a year or so ago. I was lucky to be able to borrow my friend’s Nikon scanner (a CoolScan 5000 if I recall correctly) and VueScan supports it. You can still buy these scanners but AFAIK Nikon hasn’t made any new ones for some time. As others have said, it was slow and tedious, but the scan quality was outstanding, and I didn’t clean the media at all before scanning. The automatic slide feeder helped a lot but it was finicky at times.


Consider this “simple” solution: use your digital SLR or mirrorless camera, a negative/filmstrip holder, LED light source and an inexpensive small copy stand. Here is my setup:

After initial setup for light, framing and focus, you simply shoot digital pictures of your negatives, then quickly convert to color positive images in Lightroom (see below). Very fast and very high quality. This is much faster than using a flatbed scanner or dedicated film scanner.

The wooden copy box with slide/negative holder is a Skier Copy Box 3 (http://www.skier.com.tw/web/shop/shop_in.jsp?pd_id=PD1599461016799).
This well-made small box includes a high-quality LED light source and a 35mm negative/slide holder that facilitates quick setup and handling of the 35mm negatives and slides. This comes from a Taiwanese company, but ordering is easy and secure.
The price is reasonable, considering that both the light source and film/slide holder are included.

Image from the 5050 Travelog blog (link below):

My camera is an Olympus OMD EM-5 mkII mirrorless camera, but any DSLR or mirrorless camera will work. You will need a macro lens for best quality, but a standard lens with lens adapter to allow close focusing will work. My lens is a 35+ y/o macro lens from a old Minolta film camera, using an adapter to mount on my digital camera. A new Olympus (or Sony, Canon, Fuji, Nikon, whatever) macro lens would be better quality, but even the old lens is fine for film negatives.

The copy stand is this one:

The final requirement to make this work is Negative Lab Pro, a software add-in for Lightroom. This does rapid color conversions of your digital negative images to color positives within Lightroom. You can use Negative Lap Pro’s pre-sets, or you can add your own corrections and edits in Lightroom. I have found that NLP’s pre-sets are excellent, with no further tweaking needed.

Link to Negative Lab Pro with short video:

Excellent review of the Skier Copy Box and Negative Lab Pro procedure:

There are alternatives to the copy stand and “copy box” I used. Below is a Youtube video link showing alternatives. This photographer used a generic Lightbox and a different film holder:

When I first started my project I built a light source using an inexpensive 7-inch ceiling-type light from a home supply store. This worked, but the light quality (CRI, or color rendering index) was not as good as that in the Skier Copy Box above. Also this home-made light box would still require a good film and slide holder, already included with the Skier Copy Box, Pictures of my home-made light box:




Thank you for the elaborate write up @Arthur !

You out a lot of thought AND work into your setup(!).

That looks doable. I might draw some inspiration from this (trying to decide how much space I have to dedicate to this).

Thank you for all the links! Looks super-cool!!

@Arthur FYI, letting you know I’m logging in again from my computer vs. my phone to get a second look at this whole setup! You, @OogieM, and all here have given me great ideas and insight!!

Now: To decide what to do :thinking:

Will probably try a little of everything(!).

Just to add:
I use both a scanner and DSLR scanning for scanning my film.


  • for 120 and 4x5
  • Epson V850 with SilverFast and Negative Lab Pro for conversions in Lightroom
  • wet scanning
  • I scan everything with low/fast settings to have a “catalog”
  • I scan 4x5s in highest possible settings (multi-exposure,…) if they are going to be printed


  • Nikon D850 with macro lens
  • setup similar to the posted above
  • when being very meticulous, I can take several photos of a negative and then stich it together…and get spectacular resolution, but it’s very time-consuming


  • for 135 film, DSLR scanning gets me the best results
  • for 4x5, the scanner is the way to go
  • undecided with 120 film, but bias towards scanner

Regarding the multiple exposures - is this a form of exposure stacking or photo stacking? This is a great use of that technique.

I am limited to a much less expensive camera than your excellent Nikon D850, but my Olympus OMD EM-5 II camera works well. What this camera lacks in sensor size, etc., is balanced by another feature - High Resolution mode. This works by using the sensor-shift image stabilization system to shift the sensor in sub-pixel amounts between multiple shots, taken automatically in rapid sequence over approximately one second. The multiple images are combined into the final super-res image. It’s a win-win situation of higher resolution and lower noise.

[quote=“Arthur, post:13, topic:22759, full:true”]…Regarding the multiple exposures - is this a form of exposure stacking or photo stacking? This is a great use of that technique…
Multi-Exposure by the scanner or the stitching?
Scanner: SilverFast Multi-Exposure :: LaserSoft Imaging
DSLR scanning: with a macro lens I can achieve 1:1 reproduction scale. I have to carefully align the camera to the negative (I know, stitching can account for some angling, but I prefer to start with the best possible “data”) and take several photos of a 120 or 4x5. Essentially, I am creating a “panorama”. Then I stitch them together in software.

1 Like