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 least expensive or the most 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 uninterpolated 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). A 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 3 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. Similar, but updated to also handle medium format 120 film and 127 film types, there is the F2D Saturn Film to Digital Converter, which borrows much of the Titan’s feature set and accommodates larger film formats.

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

And, 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 Film2Digital MovieMaker-PRO 8mm and Super 8 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. Even sleeker is the Kodak Mini Digital Film Scanner, which handles 35mm, 126, and 110 film formats, has a 14MP resolution, and has 128MB of built-in memory, along with an SD card slot, for storing your scans. In the same league, but with a few more tricks up its sleeve, is the NovoScan 3-in-1 Scanner, from Braun. It, too, scans 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

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

Midrange Film Scanners

A midrange 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 midrange, with the Prime Film XEs super edition, which 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

Plustek also makes a trio of what could be described as midrange film scanners, each of which is designed to handle 35mm negative strips and mounted slides. Beginning with the OpticFilm 8100, this sleek model offers a 7200-dpi hardware resolution along with a 3.6 Dmax and 48-bit color depth. Fast scan speeds are possible, with full-resolution scans taking just under 2 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

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 2-minute routine calibration.

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

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

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

In contrast to 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

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 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

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, beginning with the Perfection V600. This mid-level film-scanning flatbed 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. It also 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.

Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner

Moving up a degree in quality and versatility, Epson’s Perfection V850 is a popular option for achieving high-resolution, well-detailed scans of film up to 8 x 10" in format. This consumer-level flagship photo scanner offers 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 midtones. The Perfection V850 utilizes 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. It features a built-in 8 x 10" transparency unit and includes sets of film holders for scanning 35mm film strips, 35mm mounted slides, and 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 it is capable of batch scanning to automate a portion of the process and is compatible with an optional fluid mount tray for boosting the apparent sharpness of scans. Finally, the V850 also features an impressive software package comprising the robust SilverFast SE Plus 8 scanning application, as well as X-Rite i1Scanner for critical color profiling and ensured color consistency.

Epson Perfection V850 Pro Scanner

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

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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291 Comments

I want to scan Polaroid images for posting to the web. Can I use one of the budget flatbed scanners from Epson such as the V19 or V39? Thanks.

Hi Dean,

Yes, you can definitely use the Epson V19 or V39 to scan your Polaroid images for posting on the web. 

I have 2 questions:

1. I have a Minolta damage multi scan 'll scanner, which is old but did very high quality 35mm and medium format scans. It had a scsi connector, so I had to buy a very expensive adapter to FireWire 400. I briefly used it with my Mac mini years ago ( os9),and it worked. Now I want to use it again, but aside from a couple scans it did where half the neg (35mm) was scanned and half black, now I can't even get the mini to recognize the scanner...with vue scan,which is supposed to get scanner to work with different is. I have also tried with a 400 to 800 FireWire adapter, to use my imac and vue scan, and it wasn't recognized. Advice I get from vuescan has not been helpful, but I am no scanner..computer whiz. So..is the problem all the adapters..scsi..400fw..800fw, vuescan or my inability to figure out vuescan advice..which doesn't match what is on the screen . I would hate to throw a perfectly good dedicated scanner out..but...

2nd question:   my other option would be to buy a panda cue scan 120 or Pacific image of 120 pro multi?  I don't know if they are affordable. Not sure about Epson 750 or 850. I would have to buy used and there are contradictory remarks about dust for b and w film, which most of is. Lastly maybe best would be to use my Nikon d600, my Nikon pb4 bellows, a Nikon 55 mm flatfield lens and some holder to keep the film flat in front of the lens. Would that combo of lens and bellows work..and what can I use to hold 35mm or 6cm. X 6cm film strips.

That's it thank you

In regards to your first question, one issue could be the connections. Either the SCSI connector is failing or it could be the Firewire adapters. Another issue could be that your Mac Mini and iMac are auto-updating their OS, which could cause older device to stop working on them. As for getting a new film scanner all together, the Pacific Image PF120 Pro Multi-Format Film Scanner, BH # PAPF120P is really the least expensive option for scanning both 35mm and 120 (6x6) film strips. Aside from that, the Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner would be a flatbed option at a much lower cost and with the advantage of scanning prints/flat art if you ever needed to do that.

https://bhpho.to/2X7yLqo

 

I am looking for an AUTOFEED film negative scanner that can digitize UNCUT 36 exposure 35mm negative rolls. I have hundreds of rolls to process and cutting the rolls into strips is more labor than I want to undertake. I already have an Epson V550 Flatbed Scanner and an Epson FF-680W Print Scanner which are both excellent at what they do; however it is not this. Any suggestions?

Although we do have film scanners with an auto feed option, they would only accept film strips rather than uncut rolls. I'm very sorry. 

Thank you Kirk! Which of those do you recommend?

B&H has the Pacific Image Prime Film XAs which does take whole uncut rolls. I believe it may be on sale at the moment (2/13/2021). I think it might pay for itself if you have a lot of 35mm rolls to process

Thank you Dillon!

Any suggestions for APS Cartridges - I have a bunch of those too;) ...and there are probably some 110 Format strips lying around somewhere! HaHa!

I have all the prints to accompany my negatives; however my thinking to date has been that the ultimate end quality achieved by direct scanning of negatives will be higher than that from scanning prints. As of now, print scanning would be with the Epson FF-680W.

However since the final results will be for "snapshot viewing", not professional use, is it worth it? Perhaps I am overthinking this. All polite suggestions appreciated. Thank you!

Pacific Image PowerFilm Scanner sounds ideal for me, as I want to quickly scan the cut negatives without the hassle of mounting. But the reviews are not mostly good. And the scanner appears to be 10 years old on the PI website. Is this the only unmounted feed scanner available anywhere? 

Hi, I have many old black and white rolls of unmounted 35mm film. They are not cut in strips, but full rolls, and I would not want to cut them. Which scanners allow feeding in full rolls of film? Also, the film is slightly  curved and i am afraid this would distort the scan unless the film is pressed in the scanner.  But pressing the film while moving it frame by frame may scratch it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Dear Sirs,

I have inherited hundreds of 60x60mm (56x56mm) negatives. Could you kindly give me your advice on which scanner should I buy? My question might have been asked already but I can’t find it. Please kindly help. Most grateful

The Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner, BH # EPPV600 would be ideal to scan your negatives using its 6 x 6 cm film holder.  https://bhpho.to/2X7yLqo

 

I have inherited hundreds of negatives that I believe are a mixture of 35mm, 110, 126, 127, 120, 620 & as yet unidentified size. I have looked at the Epson flatbeds but they will not scan 110. Is there a scanner that could handle all of these sizes or will I have to buy 2 scanners to cover all the formats, eg a V600 to cover 120/620 & a Scanza for the 110?

While there is a scanner such as the Wolverine Data F2D Titan 8-in-1 High-Definition Film to Digital Converter, BH # WOF2DTITAN which can cover 35mm, 110, 127, & 126 film formats, this would still require another scanner just for the 120/620 film such as the Epson V600. 

https://bhpho.to/3tlkGp4

 

Time to update this article as a large number of products mentioned are discontinued/no longer available, so it's not very helpful in deciding what to buy.

Have you considered the relatively new Kodak Slide n Scan?  I'd be very interested to see how it compares in the rest of your list.

Hi Michael- I haven't yet tried the Slide n Scan, but from a quick look at it, it seems to be pretty similar to the Kodak Scanza. The form factor is a bit different between the two but I think the functionality and scan quality should be very similar.

Hello,

I am new here. Researching scanners to archive old family photos. Some date back to (est.) 1915's or so and thus black and white, until the dawn of color film. I have all sizes. I can not find any discussion about flat bed scanners vs (for example) the Epson Fast Foto FF 680W. Some of the pictures are mounted on the thick, what I would call, framing board or post cards of the time so I have to use a flat bed for them. I understand the Epson is great for archiving mounds of photos that are boxed up - zipping through a stack of 36 at a time - but nothing i have read suggests it is good for archiving old and faded photos.

I have a CanoScan 8800F with Windows Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0 (the guide is copyrighted 2007) which still functions well. BUT is is ghastly slow. I can put on several pictures of different sizes, and with adequate spacing, it reads all of them. I can also do film and slides which I don't have as many of and not as concerned about right now. Just lots of old pictures to deal with. I tried scanning in at 300 dpi and 600 dpi but when I went to crop and zoom for more detail on the scans at 600 dpi on faces the "pixels" showed up more pronounced and the effort was useless.

I am hoping to purchase a scanner that is faster but gives me very good detail. I am most interested in archiving then producing books as family keepsakes. Some of the pictures are full body and I would like to be able to crop and zoom in, especially on faces. I also need to photo shop many of them to refresh the color, adjust lighting, hues, bring out the details, etc. and save as a copy.

All the advise you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Should I continue with my current CanoScan or is updating going to save me time and give me better quality results?

Thank you,

Denise

Never mind my questions.  After reading through the questions and answers list for the Epson 680W on B&H reviews..... This unit is useless since it will not support Tiff for old photos. Bummer because the reviews otherwise were very encouraging. Oh well, since the Epson is a bust I guess I am back to researching flat beds. Bummer.

"Note that this scanner always returns JPEG-compressed data. So even if you select uncompressed TIFF as the output format, you're always getting lossy JPEG data from the scanner.

Answered by Peter on May 31, 2020"

Hello Denise,

We’re sorry to hear that you’re having trouble.  A scanner that we were going to suggest is Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner, BH # EPPV600 which will offer higher resolution for what you're trying to achieve. It can also scan negatives and slides if needed at some point. 

https://bhpho.to/341gnnR

 

Hi There,

So I've gotten back into 35mm analog photography & have been developing my film at home. Now I need a scanner. I used the Epson v750 while taking a photography class but one if my classmates suggested the Plustek 8200i SE. I use a Mac & just updated to the new OS Big Sur. I have read that Plustek does not readily update compatibility with Mac so I'm in the fence as to what scanner to get. I want good image quality however I'll be using LR for editing. I was also leaning towards an Epson v600. What are your thoughts? Thx!

Which scanner you choose would depend on if you are only planning on using the scanner for 35mm film.  All of the scanners listed above have their benefits.  The Plustek 8200i SE is only designed for 35mm film, but does have a higher 7200 dpi resolution for scanning.  The Epson Perfection v600 has an optical resolution of 6400 dpi, but it has the benefit of scanning both 35mm film strips, 35mm mounted slides, and medium format strips in addition to photos and documents up to 8.5 x 11.7" in size.  If you are only scanning 35mm film, then the Plustek scanner would be a good option for your usage.  Unfortunately, the Epson Perfection v750 Pro has been discontinued and is no longer avaialble for purchase, but it has been replaced with the Epson Perfection V850 Pro Scanner.  Epson currently has drivers and software for macOS Big Sur 11 support.  I contacted Plustek concerning their drivers & software, and they state the scanner's software, Silverfast, is compatible with the newest Mac operating system.  However, they are still developing an update for the drivers to run on the latest Mac operating system.  They state they expect the update to the drivers in a few weeks​.

I'm looking for the best film scanner I can find, bar none. I shoot primarily B&W - 6x6 and 5x7 mostly - though occasionally shoot 35mm and 6x6 color transparency, and, as well, have fifty+ years' worth of 35mm slides, many of which I'd like to scan. 

Is the Epson V850 the best possible scanner available today? Its technology has been around awhile, though. Is there any chance there'll be an update before too long? I've found an Imacon FlexTight Precision II, but I don't know whether to trust expensive, unsupported hardware, even if it's currently working. Seems like a pretty pricey gamble. It's just that I've compared scans made by both Imacon and Epson scanners, and Imacon won, hands down. But it appears that that's a technology that's sadly long gone. 

Hi Stephen,

Yes, the Epson Perfection V850 Pro Scanner is the best possible option to scan film behind the medium format size. As of now, Epson hasn't shared any plans to update the V850 any time soon. If and when they do make an announcement, we will make this known through our e-mail newsletter. 

Hi there, do all these scanners allow for brightness adjustments? Some of the scans I've received from my local film labs have dark grey or dark purple shadows, so I'm thinking that scanning the negatives myself would be better than editing in post.

Hi Lucy- the scanners themselves don't allow brightness adjustments, per se; rather, it's the scanning software and photo editing software will permit you to increase brightness. But simply put, yes; all of the scanners and their respective software applications will let you adjust brightness, contrast, and color.

Hi Guys: I am a professional photographer in the process of building a new web site to re-launch my business in a new region. In addition to my newer digital work, I have a ton of old 35mm negatives and mounted 35 mm color slides. I may want to use some of those shots on the new site. That said, I have to be cost-conscious as I capitalize the new business launch. I will not need digital files for printing huge wall sized enlargements. I will only need to use the files for imagery on the upcoming web site. Therefore, I'm trying to find the right compromise between high-resolution and cost-effectiveness since I need to be careful with expenses as I capitalize the new business. Do you have any advice about which device might be best for me?  Thanks!

There is an option for cost-effectiveness and high resolution with the Pacific Image Prime Film XEs Super Edition Film Scanner, BH # PAPRIMFILMXE which will offer a 10,000 dpi scanning resolution and a user friendly interface. 

https://bhpho.to/32i9z4P

 

Thanks for the quick feedback, Kirk.

I can see that the Prime Film XEs Super Edition scanner offers a higher scanning resolution than either the Plustek OpticFilm 8100 or the Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE. That said, how would you compare it to those products with regard to ease of use, compatibility with a MacBook Air, etc.

p.s. I'm also a little concerned about the Prime compatibility since the specs on your site indicate it needs to work with a Mac OS of 10.5 or later and I'm up-to-date on my MacBook with a 10.15.6 OS... which is a bit confusing, unless it's a typo on your site.

Hi Robert,

You're very welcome. All three of those models are user friendly, but the Plustek models would have better dust and scratch removal software to utilize. In terms of compatibility, the XEs Super Edition is going to work with your Macbook running Mac OS 10.15.6. 

I really appreciate you for publishing this blog here about photography and buying guide; it’s really a helpful and very useful for us. This is really appreciated that you have presented this data over here, I love all the information shared. Great article 

 

Thanks for the feedback, David

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?

A scanner such as the Epson Perfection V850 Pro Scanner would be ideal to scan either your 8 x 10 prints or your 35mm black & white negatives. https://bhpho.to/3hijQ61

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.

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