Scanning Film: A Buying Guide

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Scanning Film: A Buying Guide

In the age where darkrooms are scarce yet film photography is seeing a resurgence in popularity, a scanner can be your best option for converting film originals to usable digital files for printing, sharing, and archiving. Whether you are an active film photographer or just have an archive of negatives and slides from the past, a film scanner is an incredible, dedicated tool that will breathe new life into your filmic originals.

Ranging from the most basic models for simply producing a web-shareable image to the top-of-the-line versions for creating large-scale, print-worthy files, all film scanners, in their most basic sense, perform the same function—using a light source to illuminate your film and an image sensor to record the details. Where scanners begin to vary from one another is the precision and sophistication of this process, along with the technologies used for recording. More than offering just an increase in resolution, higher-end scanners will also provide you with a longer dynamic range, higher Dmax, more accurate color balance, greater sharpness and, to put it simply—better, more realistic results. The ultimate goal of a scanner is to acquire as much information from the original as possible to give you latitude for further editing, retouching, and printing.

How Will You be Using Your Scanner?

Scanners should also be chosen based on how you plan to use them. From entry-level options that only support basic scanning of 35mm film strips to high-end variants that scan numerous mounted slides in batches, the most expensive or the least expensive model is not always the right one for you. Consider the film format you plan on scanning most frequently, as well as the volume you intend to process, and the ultimate image quality you wish to achieve.

For example: for medium format, make sure your scanner can accommodate 120 film.

If you're looking to archive your closet full of thousands of 35mm slides, look for a model that allows batch scanning of multiple originals with one command, to save time and effort.

What do you plan on doing with your scans? Are you looking to just create digital versions of your old photos to share on social media, or are you an active large format photographer without a darkroom looking to produce large-scale, fine art prints?

In addition to the scanners themselves, the software used to control the scanner is an important consideration. Many scanners come with a robust application that is capable of reaping all of the benefits afforded by the hardware, while other scanners support optional third-party programs to improve the overall performance. In the case of some entry-level models, as well as the top-quality scanners, proprietary drivers may compel you to rely on additional editing software to fine-tune your results.

Other Factors to Consider

Dust-reduction technologies will cut down on additional cleaning time of your photos after scanning. This should not prevent you from cleaning your negatives with a cloth, blower, or compressed air prior to scanning, regardless of how effective a dust-reduction feature claims to be.

Scanning resolution: Note how scanner manufacturers report theirs. The two most common variants are hardware resolution and optical resolution. While there is no standard on what either of these terms means, precisely, it is a safe assumption that hardware resolution involves some kind of interpolation to achieve the increased resolution the scanner is purported to provide, while optical resolution tends to stand for an un-interpolated product and a truer measurement of the scanning sensor's capabilities.

Color depth (or bit depth) are other numbers to consider when making comparisons. The higher the number is for these values, the better. Simply stated, color depth is measured in bits, and is usually presented as the summation of the three color channels of an image—red, green, and blue—so 16 bits per channel would read as 48-bit. The greater the number of bits per channel, the wider gamut of colors possible for creating more nuanced images with smoother gradations.

Dmax is a measurement of optical density and the amount of detail the scanner is capable of recording in the thinner parts of film (shadows in negatives or highlights in positives). The higher number represents a greater ability to reproduce detail in the deepest of shadows. Refer to our article on dynamic range for more information on Dmax.

Entry-Level Film Scanners

For the most basic analog-to-digital conversions, a range of compact, entry-level models is available to perform the straightforward task of providing you with a digital file of your film for online sharing or printing. Designed to simplify the scanning process, these models tend to incorporate automated film handling and frame-recognition capabilities, along with auto exposure and color corrections. Typically quite affordable and compact in size, these scanners' merits lie in ease of use, stand-alone operation, speed, and convenience at the expense of resolution and control. They are typically intended for scanning 35mm film—either strips or mounted slides—or sometimes smaller formats, as well as an occasional 4 x 6" or 5 x 7" print.

Wolverine is a popular entry-level scanner manufacturer, and its key entry in this genre is the F2D Titan 8-in-1 Film to Digital Converter. Capable of scanning many popular film formats, including 35mm strips, slides, and smaller film formats, this scanner uses a 20MP sensor for producing JPEGs in as little as three seconds per scan. It also has the convenient ability of stand-alone use, features a 4.3" LCD for previewing scans, and can save files to an internal memory bank or directly to SD memory cards. For those working with filmic moving pictures, Wolverine also has a pair of 8mm/Super 8 converters: the Film2Digital MovieMaker-PRO, which can output full HD 1080/20p movies, and the Reels2Digital MovieMaker, which can output HD 960 x 720/30p movies.

Wolverine Data F2D Titan 8-in-1 High-Definition Film to Digital Converter
Wolverine Data F2D Titan 8-in-1 High-Definition Film to Digital Converter

Along similar lines is the veho VFS-014-SF Smartfix, which is a 14MP scanner capable of working with 35mm strips, slides, 110, and 126 films. It’s also a stand-alone scanner, sports a 2.4" LCD, and has a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery for on-the-go use. The Kodak Scanza is another 14MP scanner, with up to 22MP hardware resolution, capable of scanning up to 35mm films, and features a large 3.5" tilting LCD for easy stand-alone use. In the same league, but with a few more tricks up its sleeve, is the NovoScan 3-in-1 Scanner, from Braun. It, too, scan 35mm negatives and slides, at 5.1MP, but it has the added ability to scan prints up to 5 x 7"—perfect for digitizing family archives made up of film and prints.

Kodak Scanza Digital Film Scanner
Kodak Scanza Digital Film Scanner

A bit unique for entry level, the Pana-Scan 120, from Pana-Vue, has the unique distinction of being a value-oriented medium format film scanner. Typically reserved for much higher-end scanners, this model is capable of scanning 120, 220, and 620 film sizes, in formats ranging from 645 to 6 x 9, using a 14MP CMOS sensor. It is a stand-alone model, although it can be connected to a computer via USB, and has a 2.4" LCD and the ability to save files to an SD card. While capable of scanning medium format film, this scanner is likely best suited for Holga, Diana, Lomo, and other medium format applications where sheer resolution isn’t of the utmost importance.

Pana-Vue Pana-Scan 120 Transparency & Film Scanner
Pana-Vue Pana-Scan 120 Transparency & Film Scanner

Closing out our look at some entry-level models is a device that you might be hard-pressed to classify truly as a scanner; however, it is a unique tool for simply digitizing your film for quick online sharing. Lomography's Smartphone Film Scanner makes use of your smartphone, a dedicated iOS or Android app, and a AA battery-powered backlight to allow you to photograph your film and quickly achieve a usable, shareable image. The dedicated Lomoscanner app automatically converts negatives to positive imagery, allows you to stitch together panoramic photos, and can be used to animate movies frame by frame.

Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner
Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner

Mid-Range Film Scanners

A mid-range film scanner differentiates itself through the use of higher-resolution sensors, for recording at greater dpi values, as well as an improved range of manual controls for fine-tuning the look of your scan. Models in this range also tend to include more sophisticated software applications, refined dust- and scratch-removal capabilities, and improved image quality and sharpness to support making larger print sizes, in addition to sharing your film photos online.

Pacific Image is another popular scanner manufacturer, whose models begin at the mid-range, with the ColorScan 3600 and PrimeFilm 7200, which are straightforward 35mm negative and slide scanners with 3600 and 7200 dpi resolutions, respectively. Both use Magic Touch Technology for auto dust and scratch reduction and both come with proprietary software for performing some light color and contrast adjustments to image files.

Pacific Image ColorScan 3600 35mm Slide & Film Scanner
Pacific Image ColorScan 3600 35mm Slide & Film Scanner

For users looking for an expanded feature set and improved scanning characteristics, the Prime Film XEs super edition allows you to record up to 10,000-dpi scans of your 35mm film strips or mounted slides with a 3.9 Dmax and 48-bit color depth input, for outputting 16-bit JPEGs or TIFFs. Multiple-pass scanning, also called multiple-exposure scanning, is featured in this model and uses several scanning passes over a single frame to gain more shadow and highlight details than a single scan can record—similar to HDR photography. Additionally, this scanner has Magic Touch Technology, to minimize dust and scratches for cleaner initial scans. For a higher Dmax of 4.2, there is also the XAs super edition, which offers many of the key technologies of the XEs, but with the capability to record a slightly longer dynamic range.

Pacific Image Prime Film XEs super edition Film Scanner
Pacific Image Prime Film XEs super edition Film Scanner

Plustek also makes a quartet of what could be described as mid-range film scanners, each of which is designed to handle 35mm negative strips and mounted slides. The newest of this bunch is the OpticFilm 135, which offers an optical resolution of 3600 dpi along with a Dmax of 3.4, and 48-bit color depth, to produce sharp scans with a wide color gamut and extended shadow detail. Motorized film handling permits batch-scanning multiple frames in one action and, with an active scanning area of 1.37 x 8.9" (35 x 226mm), panoramic images can be scanned, in addition to standard 24 x 36mm frames. Automatic film holder recognition also benefits switching between the various 35mm film formats. Full-resolution scans can be made in less than four minutes, while smaller, 600 dpi scans take just 40 seconds. The OpticFilm 135 is bundled with Plustek's Quickscan Plus software, which offers a variety of editing controls, as well as the ability to share finished images directly to social media sites.

Plustek OpticFilm 135 Film Scanner
Plustek OpticFilm 135 Film Scanner

Moving on to the 8000-series of scanners, the OpticFilm 8100 is a sleek, blue model offering 7200-dpi hardware resolution along with a 3.6 Dmax and 48-bit color depth. Faster speeds are available with this version, with full-resolution scans taking just under two minutes to perform, and half-res scans taking about 30 seconds to complete. This scanner is also bundled with SilverFast SE Plus 8 software—a more advanced software option for greater control over color, exposure, contrast, and other image adjustments. A step up is the OpticFilm 8200i SE, which adds an infrared channel to the 7200-dpi hardware resolution, 3.6 Dmax, and 48-bit color of the 8100. The IR channel adds the ability for the included SilverFast SE software to detect dust and scratches in scans more effectively, for instant removal using the iSRD function. Also, for both scanners, Silverfast SE Plus 8 also allows you to perform multiple-exposure scans for extended detail with less noise.

Plustek OpticFilm 8100 Film Scanner
Plustek OpticFilm 8100 Film Scanner

Rounding out Plustek's lineup is the OpticFilm 8200i Ai, which features the same functionality as the 8200i SE, and adds a more robust software counterpart, SilverFast Ai Studio 8, as well as an included IT8 calibration target. In addition to a greater range of control features offered by the software, it most notably includes the Auto IT8 Calibration feature that works to ensure consistent and accurate color balance from your scanner with a two-minute routine calibration.

Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai Film Scanner
Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai Film Scanner

High-End and Specialized Film Scanners

Closing our look at the range of options for digitizing your film is a look at the top end and some more niche models of dedicated film scanners, with options that represent the utmost in quality and capability.

The first model that separates itself from the pack is the PowerSlide X, from Pacific Image. Dedicated to batch-scanning mounted 35mm slides, this scanner employs a slide magazine for scanning up to 50 slides at a time under a single command. The CCD sensor records imagery at up to 10,000 dpi with 48-bit color depth, and automated Magic Touch technology can be used to reduce dust and scratches, adjust color balance, and reduce the appearance of grain to cut down significantly on retouching time. Prior to loading up the 50-slide magazine, a Quick Slide Viewer light box is also built into the exterior of the scanner, allowing you to preview individual slides prior to the scanning process. This is the ideal scanner for users looking to digitize expansive collections of slides in the most efficient manner.

Pacific Image PowerSlide X Automated 35mm Slide Scanner
Pacific Image PowerSlide X Automated 35mm Slide Scanner

Similarly, Braun offers the MULTIMAG 7000, which is also a mounted slide batch scanner capable of scanning up to 50 slides in a single command. The CCD sensor design offers a top 10,000 dpi, 48-bit color depth, and a Dmax of 4.2. Also, preview scans can be made in as little as 15 seconds and 5000-dpi scans take approximately 2.5 minutes to perform.

Braun MULTIMAG SlideScan 7000 Film Scanner
Braun MULTIMAG SlideScan 7000 Film Scanner

Also dedicated to automatic batch scanning is the Pacific Image PowerFilm which, instead of mounted slides, is designed for fast and efficient scanning of unmounted 35mm film strips of up to six frames each. Up to 10 different strips of film can be scanned with a single command, and either 24MP or 6MP settings can be used.

Pacific Image PowerFilm Scanner
Pacific Image PowerFilm Scanner

In contrast from the batch scanners, Pacific Image also offers the PF120 Pro Multi-Format Film Scanner, which is focused on scan quality and versatility with the ability to handle up to medium format film. The 3-line CCD sensor affords 3200 dpi optical resolution, along with 48-bit color depth and a Dmax of 3.6, for scanning 35mm film strips, mounted slides, or 120/220 strips in formats up to 6 x 12cm. Additionally, Magic Touch automatic dust- and scratch-removal technology is featured here again, to reduce time needed to remove dust spots or scratches on your film.

Pacific Image PF120 Pro Multi-Format Film Scanner
Pacific Image PF120 Pro Multi-Format Film Scanner

Film’s resurgence isn’t limited to still photography, either, proven by the unique reflecta Super 8+ scanner, which uses a 9MP CMOS sensor to digitize Super 8 movie film to full HD 1080 at either 18 or 24p. The automatic reel operates in a frame-by-frame manner, scanning each frame in 2.5 seconds, and it supports reels up to 600' long. Also, for the professional cinematographer, there is the inimitable Cintel Scanner 2 from Blackmagic Design, whose capabilities outweigh the scope of this article but, suffice it to say, is the ideal (and only) choice for those shooting feature-length films on 35mm stock.

reflecta Super 8+ Scanner
reflecta Super 8+ Scanner

Flatbed Scanners

While not truly a film scanner in the sense of the aforementioned scanners, there are a select number of flatbed scanners available that incorporate a transparency unit for converting film originals to digital files. Previously lamented for their inability to resolve fine details and produce true blacks, a crop of "photo flatbed" scanners now can hold their own against many dedicated film scanners, and typically have the distinct advantage in allowing more versatility over the film format you are scanning, with most allowing you to scan medium format 120 film, and with a couple being the sole new options for scanning large format sheet film.

Epson has been a leader in this genre of apt-performing flatbeds for film scanning, even considering one of its entry-level scanners, the Perfection V370, is capable of scanning 35mm strips in a pinch. But if you’re looking to do more than just the occasional film scan, you should first look at the Perfection V550, an entry-level film-scanning flatbed that has a 2.7 x 9.5" transparency unit for scanning 35mm and 120 film formats using the included holders. An optical resolution of 6400 dpi, along with 3.4 Dmax and 48-bit color input, avails high-resolution, well-articulated scans of negatives and positives, and DIGITAL ICE technology helps to reduce the appearance of dust and scratches from scans.

Epson Perfection V370 Scanner
Epson Perfection V370 Scanner

Featuring a similar set of core specifications as the V550, the Perfection V600 adds a couple of distinctions for more well-rounded scanning capabilities. Namely, the V600 includes ArcSoft PhotoStudio software for greater control over the look of your scans, as well as the ability to refine the look of imagery after the scanning process. The other key difference between the two scanners is the latter's ability to apply DIGITAL ICE corrections to film and reflective scans, for removing dust and scratches from scans of documents or prints up to 8.5 x 11.7" in size.

Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner
Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner

Moving up a degree in quality and versatility, Epson offers a pair of popular options for achieving high-resolution, well-detailed scans of film up to 8 x 10" in format. The Perfection V800 and Perfection V850 are the consumer-level flagship models of the company’s photo scanners, offering an impressive 6400-dpi optical resolution, 48-bit color depth, and 4.0 Dmax for increased detail in the darker regions of scans, as well as an extended tonal scale between shadows and mid-tones. Both of these scanners utilize a unique Dual Lens System and ReadyScan LED light source for intuitive switching between reflective and transparency scanning, as well as quick performance with virtually no warm-up times. Both scanners also feature a built-in 8 x 10" transparency unit and include film holders for scanning 35mm film strips, 35mm mounted slides, medium format 120 film strips, and a 4 x 5" sheet film holder, as well as a film area guide for scanning 8 x 10" sheet film directly on the glass bed of the scanner. Additionally, both models are capable of batch-scanning to automate a portion of the process and both are compatible with an optional fluid mount tray for boosting the apparent sharpness of scans.

Epson Perfection V800 Photo Scanner
Epson Perfection V800 Photo Scanner

The two scanners do differ in a handful of ways, however, with the V800 comprising the aforementioned specs and including a copy of SilverFast SE 8 software for refined control over the scanning process and the ability to edit and adjust imagery post-scan. The V850 steps it up a bit and incorporates a high-reflection mirror and anti-reflective optical coatings into the physical design for cleaner output with reduced distortion. This model also includes an additional set of the mentioned film holders, allowing you to scan your film and mount and prepare your next scan simultaneously. Finally, the V850 also features an upgraded software package comprising the more robust SilverFast SE Plus 8 scanning application, as well as X-Rite i1Scanner for critical color profiling and ensured color consistency.

Lastly, Epson also has a whole different beast for film scanning on flatbeds, the massive Expression 12000XL Photo, which notably features a separate, but included, 12.2 x 17.2" transparency unit for scanning ultra-large-format film, as well as multiple smaller formats in one go. This scanner offers 2400-dpi optical resolution, 48-bit color depth, and a 3.8 Dmax, and includes a series of film holders for scanning up to forty-eight 35mm frames, thirty 35mm mounted slides, eight sheets of 4 x 5" film, or six frames of 120 film in one pass. SilverFast Ai software is included with this model, along with an IT8 target for color consistency and, without the transparency unit in place, this scanner can also scan reflective media, making it ideal for graphic arts studios and other large-format reproduction needs.

Epson Expression 12000XL Photo Scanner
Epson Expression 12000XL Photo Scanner

Scanning without a Scanner

Finally, even despite film’s increasing popularity, film scanner evolution seems to have plateaued (or at least dramatically slowed down), causing a unique discrepancy between renewed excitement to shoot film without a wide range of new and exciting tools with which to share and work with the images after they’ve been processed. One popular alternative to the film scanners mentioned above is to re-photograph your film using a mirrorless or DSLR camera in conjunction with a macro lens and a light table in order to gain a high-resolution digital version of your film negative or positive. There are a pair of articles on Explora—Scanning without a Scanner and The Franken-Scanner—that cover this topic in much greater detail. But in short, your current digital camera may be a perfect solution to digitizing your film if you’re willing to put in the added time and effort compared to the relative ease of a dedicated scanner.

Let us know if you have any film scanner questions in the Comments section, below!

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257 Comments

I have a large collection of 35mm b/w negs in strips and also a lot of mounted slides, which I would like to scan.  However, I also have 8x10 prints and older family photos in smaller sizes.  Do I need two scanners, one for the negs/slides and one for the prints? Or is there one you can recommend that might be able to do both?

So, I've been using an Epson Perfection V500 Scanner for years.  I recently got some black and white 35mm neg film back from the processor, and even on their low-rez scan, it's better than my highest rez scan on my Epson.  I'm just not getting the detail that the lab got with their low rez scan.  I thought maybe this was due to the film holder not holding the negs flush against the glass. Has this changed in the newer Epson models?  
 Or, is it just that the technology of my older Epson model just isn't as good as the newer technology? 
I'm trying to decide if I should go with a new Epson, but I really want the detail of my negs to come out -- even the grain if so desired. 
Please help me decide what to do.  (I also scan 120 format negs as well, so that limits my choices a bit).  Thanks so much!

I'm sorry to hear that you are not happy with the quality of your scanner. Your lab is probably using a very high end scanner that is dedicated for film scanning. The Epson's are made to be print scanners first but adapted for scanning film. Thus, they are not the best for film but they are pretty good especially considering the price. A dedicated 35/120 film scanner would cost well over $1000: 

https://bhpho.to/2WRuuIG

Another option to consider is using a different film holder such as the Lomography Digitaliza:

For 120: https://bhpho.to/2BpmlUx

For 35mm: https://bhpho.to/2ZUDYFi

These holders are better at holding the film flat to produce a sharper scan as compared to the original Epson holders. Of course a newer model Epson would also help improve the scan quality as compared to the older V500: 

https://bhpho.to/39qOzuK

Hello Bjorn Petersen,

My Dad in the 60 and 70’s took hundreds and hundreds of pictures using 35mm film with his Kodak camera and they are slides. I would love to covert all his negative and slides

Thank you, Antonina Wallach

Sorry asking for your recommendation on which device I should buy to covert images to digital.

An option such as the Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE Film Scanner, B&H # PLOF8200ISE would be ideal for scanning 35mm film, even mounted slides. 

https://bhpho.to/3j20lzQ 

Hi, thanks a lot for the article above, it did help. I have read most of the comments below, but couldn't really find one that matches my query.  I do understand that the V850 pro would be good, is there a big difference between the V750 pro and the V850 pro? (a friend is selling his V750 pro).  I am a professional photographer and come from a family of photographers. I have just received all the family negatives and want to start digitizing them, but as these are litterally thousands, of not tens of thousands of negatives, I am looking for a good way to batch process these. I would like to get good image quality, but since there are so many negatives, I still want to make sure I don't do this til my retirement (and I am just 37 years old).  Most negatives will be 35 mm (4 photos per negative), others are a different type of 35 mm (??) with 8 photos per negative and also have some 120 (but these are maybe around 50 images), the vast majority will be the two other formats.  With the Silverfast 8 software, it can automatically detect the images in the negatives and batch process those? Or do you physically need to marquee tool around every image first? I have looked up a lot of info, but it's hard to find a video of how this actually works in real world situations.

As there are so many negatives, I wouldn't mind paying some more money to get a faster scanner (is the mentioned Epson Expression 12000XL better for this?). Would be awesome hearing back!  Thank you in advance.

I contacted Epson USA regarding your inquiry.  According to Epson, besides the bundled software, the only difference between a V-750 and V-850 is the light source.  Speed would not be an issue.  The V-750 uses a "cold cathode" light source while the V-850 uses LEDs as its light source.  The V-750 came with a "wet mount" for film, and the V-850 gets a second set of film holders instead.  The SilverFast software should be able to do "thumbnail" previews and select and scan individual images.

So i'm new to all this developing stuff, do you need to develop your film to scan it?

If so, will the scanner be able to change film that was developed in black-and-white to color on the scanner?

Hey Miles- Yep, scanning happens after you've developed your film. So any film that you've shot needs to first be processed, either by yourself or a lab, and then you work with the finished negatives or positives (slides) depending on the type of film you shot. In regard to color and B&W; the short answer is 'No;' if you shot with black-and-white film, there is no color information there and your images will be monochromatic. But the more creative answer is that it can be done, but with many caveats and quirks- take a look at Allan Weitz's article on "digital hand coloring" to get an idea of what I mean: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/how-to-hand-color-bw-photographs-digitally-in-photoshop 

hii!! i want to buy a film scanner for 35 and 120mm. i have been searching almost for 1 year and everything say that the best film scanner is the epson 850vpro. the thing is the scanner is in the market for many years ago  and i have been waiting for some brand who announce new film scanner with new technology, but nothing. if someone knows about a brand that announce some or other film scanner for professional photographer, please let me know...

thanks for information...

Hi Carlos- You're right, the Epson Perfection V850 Pro is definitely one of the best scanners available, especially considering you're working with both 35mm and 120 formats. We don't know of anything new coming anytime soon, but, personally, I wouldn't be too concerned about it if you have scanning you'd like to do now. Even though the V850 is an older model, the model it succeeded (the V750) is still an incredibly capable scanner itself. I wouldn't worry about the V850 suddenly becoming obsolete, especially considering the world of film photography isn't an especially fast-moving genre.

We have several hundred slides from the 50s and 60s taken by an excellent professional photographer.  The image sizes are 2¼" x 2¼" and the frames are either metal (2⅝" x 2⅝") or cardboard (2¾" x 2¾"), which I believe is the standard 120 film/medium format.  We would like to get a high quality scanner but do not need batch-scanning—happy to scan each individually.  We are using a Mac and would be happy with either a flatbed or another type.  The main thing is quality as we plan to print a commercially available book of the best photos.  Could you make some suggestions?  Many thanks for your help.
William
B&H customer

Hi William- I think you'd be best served with an Epson V850 for your situation, especially with the ability to take your time you could look into the fluid mount (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1086837-REG/epson_b12b818272_fluid_mount.html) to get a bit more detail out of your scans and improve the quality of any potentially scratched film.

Hi Bjorn,

Interested in your recommendation for a scanner with preview slide and film capabilities and medium format .

Willing to go a higher than say, the Wolverine which looks handy but perhaps limited.

The flatbeds appear a bit cumbersome (to me).

I have a fair amount of old slides and film, mostly 35 some medium format--hopefully salvagable.

Ideas?

Thanks

Mark

B&H Customer

Hi Mark, I think I'm a bit confused when you say that you're looking for a scanner with "preview slide and film capabilities." Are you referring to the PowerSlide X and MULTIMAG 7000, which have the small, 35mm-sized integrated light box? Or do you mean a scanner that simply makes a preview scan?

If you're looking for something to scan medium format film, mounted 35mm slides, and are opposed to a flatbed, then your only real option is going to be the Pacific Image PF120. Many scanners above do mounted 35mm slides, but only a few will handle medium format 120 film (the Pana-Vue Pana-Scan 120 has the unique distinction of handling medium format film, but not mounted slides). If you're willing to expand to a flatbed, though, your options will increase with the Epson V800 and V850 models, which are perfect for mounted slides and 120 film scanning.

Hello Bjorn,

I am interested in buying a film scanner with the following features:
- 35mm film/slides (other formats not needed),
- Low quantities (just one strip or one slide at a time, more quantities and/or speed not needed),
- Top image quality!
I.e. I want to put the money mainly on quality.
What would you recommend?

Thanks in advance,
Raul Waldman.

Hi Raul- with this in mind, I'd recommend the Plustek OpticFilm 8200 Ai or the Epson V800 or V850, and I would lean a bit more towards the Epson V800 or V850 if they're in your budget and can spring for the optional fluid mount (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1086837-REG/epson_b12b818272_fluid_mount.html); they are more versatile scanners since they're also flatbeds and can handle larger film sizes, too. Outside of these, I'd also recommend looking into a good macro lens if you already have a high-resolution DSLR or mirrorless body- the quality you can get from re-photographing your film (or scanning without a scanner, if you will) is right on par with most scanners at this level and can even yield higher resolution results depending on the amount of effort you wish to invest,

Thank you Bjorn!

Best regards,
Raul.

I have read several reviews on the Epson V600 and most saw that the film and slide scan quality is poor.    I have alot of color slides and negatives that I want to digitize to select some to print so I need a quick scan then for the selected ones a high resolution scan.  I have Photoshop so can do adjustments but want a sharp digitized file as a starting point.    The price of the Epson is in my ballpark so do not want to go much higher but would spend $300.   Would you recommend the V600 for me?  Thanks.

I guess it depends on the exact requirements you're looking for in a scanner and the future output of your scans, but I wouldn't say that an Epson V600 is by any means "poor." If you take the time to learn how to use the scanner within its limitations, it's a very capable model with the ability to easily produce scans for large format printing. Keep in mind that a lot of "poor scan quality" issues are actually issues with how well the film was exposed--no scanner can make up for a poorly exposed negative or slide. I think the V600 would be a good choice for your budget and it gives you the versatility of scanning any smaller prints you might have, as well.

I'm looking at getting into medium format and really want the look the full size (6x..) film provides as opposed to the newer, smaller digital sensors offer. Which of these would be the best for scanning 120 film? I see the Plustek OpticFilm 120 was recommended earlier in the thread, but is not longer available. is the V800 the best option?

Thanks!

Sam

The Epson V800 is only recommended if you're thinking of scanning 4 x 5 film other than your 120 film. That being said, a better suited scanner for scanning more than one strip of 120 film is the Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner, B&H # EPPV600.

https://bhpho.to/2X7yLqo

I have a lot of 3" x 5" film B/W film negatives that I need to digitize.  It seems scanners don't typically support this size. Which scanner(s) do you sell that offer scanning film negatives of that size and work on Macintosh (currently using El Capitan 10.11.6

The Epson Perfection V800 Photo Scanner BH #EPV800 would be a great choice and can handle neg's up to 8"x10". The problem will be keeping your unconventionally sized negatives flat as there are no 3"x5" holders made. I would also suggest getting the  Epson Fluid Mount BH #EPFMKPV800 which will allow you to scan without a holder and will increase your image quality and reduce any scratches or other imperfections your film may have especially if they are old and have been stored for many years.

I checked the negatives, and they are actually about 2.5" x 4.25" in size.  Do you think the V600 could work?  The V800 is a bit pricier than the budget for this unique preservation project.

Unfortunately, no, I do not think that would work.  The film holder that is included with the purchase of the Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner is designed to hold negatives that are up to 6 x 22 cm (2.36 x 8.66 inches) in size, which is slightly narrower on the short end than the 2.5 x 4.25 inch negatives you own, and as such, they would not sit flat on the negative holder for proper scanning needs.

I got the Plusteck OpticFilm 8200AI to scan 3 decades of film. It came with a negative and slide carrier, but I bought another negative and slide carrier to improve my workflow. When one carrier is being used in the scanner, I can load the other carrier with film so I don't have to stop and load.

Great article, though see it's a few years old, & some recommended products are no longer available.

I have a large collection of 35mm transparencies I shot as a professional travel photographer in the 1990s. I want to digitalise them to the highest quality & scan accuracy for publication in both printed & digital media. What scanner & software would you recommend? Many thanks.

Hi Frances,

Sorry for the confusion, the article has been updated recently, as of July, 2019. If your transparencies are mounted slides, I would recommend the Pacific Image PowerSlide X (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1361847-REG/pacific_image_ps_x_powerslide_x_automatic_slide_scanner.html) or the Braun MULTIMAG SlideScan 7000 (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1397669-REG/braun_34530_multimag_slidescan_7000.html); both of these scanners are perfect for handling large volumes of mounted 35mm slides. If your film is not mounted, then the Pacific Image PowerFilm (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1434256-REG/pacific_image_power_film_scanner.html) may be the best bet for handling large volumes of images.

If you're willing to sacrifice a bit of speed and efficiency for quality, you might take a look at the Epson V800 (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1083200-REG/epson_b11b223201_perfection_v800_photo_scanner.html)- even though it's a flatbed, it's a great option for film.

I have pretty much all 35mm negatives that I want to scan with the main purpose of reprinting them.  I want them to print as close to the original as possible and I don't want to spend over $500.  What would you suggest?

A great film scanner that is within your budget would be the Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE Film Scanner B&H # PLOF8200ISE.  https://bhpho.to/2V7oKMn

I have a few hundred mounted slides from the late 50's and 60's that measure 2 3/4" square. Is there an entery level to mid-range scanner that can handle that size slide.

I have a lot (probably close to 1000) of B&W negatives from my grandfather that date between 1900-1938. Most are in surprisingly good condition.  Their size is 3.5 x 6 inches.  I'm trying to find a film scanner that can handle negatives this size, but the largest I have found can only scan up to 3 x 5 inch negatives. Does anyone know of a scanner that can handle the size negative that I have?

Unfortunately, I was not able to find a film format that was 3" x 6" in size.  While I did see some formats that were 3" × 5¼" in size, 3¼" × 5½" in size, 3¾" × 5½" in size, and 4¼" × 6½" in size, I did not see any that were 3" x 6" in size.  In any case, all of these options have been discontinued for multiple decades and are no longer considered standard film formats, so they do not have designated negative holders for use with these negative sizes.  As such, an alternative I would recommend would be to purchase a flatbed scanner such as the Epson Perfection V800 Photo Scanner, B&H # EPV800, which has a built-in transparency unit that is 8” x 10” in size and which may be used to scan your negatives.  For a more economical option, the Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner, B&H # EPPV600, would also be a viable solution that would work for your planned usage needs, but do note that its built-in transparency unit’s dimensions are 2.7” x 9.5”, so it would cut off approximately 0.3” (7.62 mm) of the 3” short edge of your negative.

The specs for the V600 say it is 6cm (2.36 inches), but you indicate a 2.7" capability.  I'm a bit confused.

On Epson's website under the Specifications for the Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner, under the "Transparency Adapter" section, it states the Transparency Size is 2.7" x 9.5".  Under "Supported Film Size," the largest medium format strip size listed is 6x22 cm (2 frames).  6x22 cm = 2.36" x 8.66" in inches.

https://epson.com/For-Home/Scanners/Photo-Scanners/Epson-Perfection-V600-Photo-Scanner/p/B11B198011

Any recommendations for a self-service slide scanner? Looking for something that customers can use without a lot of handholding

I've been bitten by the Minox bug, so to speak, and an amazed at the detail I can get from these with high resolution film and especially wet enlargements. What scanner do you recommend to get the most out of subminiature format films?

I have a large number of very old black and white negatives, from when my grandparents took photos with the little black box of cameras.    Any chance there is a scanner/converter that would work to bring these to life?  I also have alot of 110 and some 35mm.  Possible there is one scanner that could convert them all to digital format?  I know they are going to need cleaning up once digitized.  Thank you!!

I would recommend the Epson V600.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/647187-REG/Epson_B11B198011_Perfection_V600_Photo_Scanner.html

The V600 has 6400dpi, 3.4 dmax, 48 bit color depth, and dust and scratch removal software. It comes with film holders for 35mm and 120 film and you can use this adapter for 110 film:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1036931-REG/lomography_397_digitaliza_110_film_scanning.html

I should add that I' also love 120 negative film scanning capability.  

Hello and thanks for a great article! I'd like to enlarge my polaroids and polaroid transfers (on watercolor paper) to large, wall-size fine art prints for gallery submission.  I also would like to convert digital files to slides and create large prints from my slides, so wondering the best path would be.  Could you make some recommendations about what I could use at home without having to take out a loan?  Thanks in advance!

I would recommend a good flatbed scanner for scanning the Polaroid transfers such as the Epson V600.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/647187-REG/Epson_B11B198011_Perfection_V600_Photo_Scanner.html

The V600 has 6400dpi, 3.4 dmax, 48 bit color depth, and dust and scratch removal software. You can turn the dust software off if you feel it is trying to fix the defects that sometimes occur in Polaroid transfers.

As far as creating slides from a digital file, I don't think that is possible anymore. We used to sell items like the Mirus film recorder or Polaroid Pro Pallette 8000 film recorder. Those devices produced a slide (or negative) depending on the type of film you used in them. Those types of film recorders have not been made, or supported in several years. I have looked them up on Ebay in the past and saw some labs selling them with Windows 98 or NT computers specifically to run them as they did not work with newer operating systems.

For large print output I recommend outsourcing it to a lab. There are many online labs that allow you to upload the file and choose a large print size.

You could also consider a large format inkjet printer for yourself but I would not recommend them unless you find you are spending too much with the lab.

hello guys, I need a high speed high definition film scanner witch be able to scan film material in : 35mm(2perf,3perf,4perf), 8/16/super8/super16/super 35 with cold led illumination...

any suggestion plz?

Hi Patrick,

Unfortunately your options are fairly limited for at-home movie film scanning. To handle your 35mm and 16mm films, there is the Blackmagic Cintel (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1044790-REG/blackmagic_design_cintelscan4k_cintel_film_scanner.html) which is LED-illuminated, and to handle your 8mm films, there is the Wolverine Film2Digital MovieMaker-PRO (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1371442-REG/wolverine_data_f2dmmpro_moviemaker_pro_8mm_and_super_8.html).

Glass plate negatives are very delicate, and even if they appear to be in good condition, they can be damaged easily. Another potential issue is Newton's rings. This can happen when placing negs on a flatbed scanner. I don't know whether a glass negative will suffer from Newton's rings. It's possible that it won't, but you should still be aware of it. If you're really concerned about damaging the negs, you might consider laying down a piece of transparent acetate (or something similar) on the scanner. This will really help protect the negs, and help you lift them back up. But it increases the odds of Newton's rings. Another option would be to create spacers or a frame made out of matte board on which to place the glass negatives, thus raising it above the glass. The thinner the better. The reason most flatbed scanners have a very limited or very shallow depth of field is because their focusing are mostly automatic and do not have a manual feature. This means you cannot adjust the focusing point and the glass (your negative) is thicker than modern negatives or slides. And since you will be essentially scanning through glass on to a glass negative, you raise the chance of having refraction of light issues since you are adding a third glass surface and thickness to the equation. This might lead to undesired effects, every time the light of the scanner goes through a glass surface it will undergo some kind of refraction which can produce many different kinds of optical effects, aberrations, etc.

The best scanner that addresses these problems is the Perfection V850 by Epson. It  has an Anti-Reflection Optical Coating that is applied to the CCD glass to help eliminate or minimize the amount of reflections. Abnormal Ghost images are reduced. They also have the greatest depth of field than any flatbeds in this size (the Epson Expression 12000XL is considered to have the greatest DoF of any flatbed scanner in the prosumer market).

Other recommendations for best results are to scan in 48-bit color mode, and as a TIFF file, even with black and white negatives. In this way you will have an unmodified negative. Also, negatives hold a ton of information, and a mere 256 grayscale levels won't be enough to play with. And post production enhancements will be limited with less potentially optimum ability for enhancement or improvement. Also you ,ay want to experiment by making two different scans (one for each side of the glass) and see which one results in a better scan.

Our historical society has a collection of 4" X 5" glass emulsion negatives and slides that we need to scan. Any suggestions?

Glass plate negatives are very delicate, and even if they appear to be in good condition, they can be damaged easily. Another potential issue is Newton's rings. This can happen when placing negs on a flatbed scanner. I don't know whether a glass negative will suffer from Newton's rings. It's possible that it won't, but you should still be aware of it. If you're really concerned about damaging the negs, you might consider laying down a piece of transparent acetate (or something similar) on the scanner. This will really help protect the negs, and help you lift them back up. But it increases the odds of Newton's rings. Another option would be to create spacers or a frame made out of matte board on which to place the glass negatives, thus raising it above the glass. The thinner the better. The reason most flatbed scanners have a very limited or very shallow depth of field is because their focusing are mostly automatic and do not have a manual feature. This means you cannot adjust the focusing point and the glass (your negative) is thicker than modern negatives or slides. And since you will be essentially scanning through glass on to a glass negative, you raise the chance of having refraction of light issues since you are adding a third glass surface and thickness to the equation. This might lead to undesired effects, every time the light of the scanner goes through a glass surface it will undergo some kind of refraction which can produce many different kinds of optical effects, aberrations, etc.

The best scanner that addresses these problems is the Perfection V850 by Epson. It  has an Anti-Reflection Optical Coating that is applied to the CCD glass to help eliminate or minimize the amount of reflections. Abnormal Ghost images are reduced. They also have the greatest depth of field than any flatbeds in this size (the Epson Expression 12000XL is considered to have the greatest DoF of any flatbed scanner in the prosumer market).

Other recommendations for best results are to scan in 48-bit color mode, and as a TIFF file, even with black and white negatives. In this way you will have an unmodified negative. Also, negatives hold a ton of information, and a mere 256 grayscale levels won't be enough to play with. And post production enhancements will be limited with less potentially optimum ability for enhancement or improvement. Also you ,ay want to experiment by making two different scans (one for each side of the glass) and see which one results in a better scan.

I have a View Master stereo camera that I purchased in the mid-1950s.  I have many 3D reels of photos that I shot from about 1955 to 1979.  I would like to digitize these photos somehow.  I used 35mm slide film, but the images are in approximately 8mm size.  For example, a 36 exposure roll of film results in approximately 70 stereo pairs.  I have a cutter for this film and blank stereo reels that I inserted these frames into.

Check with PSU in Nashville Tennessee 

Phone 615-383-3150. They might be able to do it for you.

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