Photography / Buying Guide

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 clothblower, 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 produces a trio of popular entry-level film scanners, each with the ability to generate 20MP files of 35mm and smaller film formats and operate in either a stand-alone or computer-connected manner. Available in bright green, the Super F2D 4-in-1 Film to Digital Converter supports scanning 35mm strips or mounted slides, 126, 110, and single frames of Super 8 film formats at up to 5472 x 3648-pixel resolution. Both auto and manual color and exposure control can be used, and scans can be previewed on the 2.4" color LCD monitor. Internal storage can hold up to 40 scans, or files can be saved directly to an SD/SDHC card or offloaded via USB 2.0 connection. For a bit more versatility, the Mighty F2D 7-in-1 Film to Digital Converter adds the ability to scan 127 and 8mm formats to the feature set, while maintaining the same series of controls and stand-alone operation. If you'd like to add prints to the mix of items to scan, the SNAP20 Digital Image Converter offers reflective scanning of photos and documents up to 5 x 7", as well as 35mm strips and mounted slides. Additionally, each of Wolverine's scanners is able to record imagery in five seconds or less, making them ideal for digitizing large archives of photos for online sharing.

Along similar lines, veho sports a pair of sleek scanners, the first of which features a truly tiny form factor. The 3.0MP Slide & Negative Film Scanner can scan 35mm strips, mounted slides, and 110 film at an 1120 dpi optical resolution. Scans are performed in approximately two seconds and a USB 2.0 connection powers the scanner and allows you to transfer files to a Mac or Windows machine. Similar in specifications, the Smartfix Slide and Negative to SD Card Scanner ups the scanning resolution of its little brother from 3MP to 5MP, and allows you to save your scans directly to an SD/SDHC card. A lithium-ion battery can be used to power this model, making it travel friendly for scanning archives away from home, and it also incorporates a 2.4" LCD into its design for previewing scans.

Pacific Image makes a pair of distinct box-shaped scanners, which are both stand-alone scanners capable of handling 35mm film at 2400 dpi and prints up to 4 x 6" at 560dpi. The ImageBox 9MP Stand-Alone Scanner features Magic Touch Dust and Scratch Removal, which will help to ensure cleaner-looking scans of older, potentially damaged film. A 2.7" LCD is featured in the design and its stand-alone operation lets you save scans to an SD/SDHC memory card. For something a bit more unique among the entry-level models, the ImageBox MF 4-in-1 Slide, Film & Photo Converter shares many of the same features and specs as the other ImageBox, and adds 120 film to the compatible film formats. Being able to scan your medium format negatives and transparencies can be a noticeable advantage for the casual Holga or Lomo photographer, albeit the maximum scanning resolution at this size is 560 dpi, making it best-suited for web sharing of your imagery. Losing the reflective scanning option and stand-alone operation, the PrimeFilm 7200, however, does gain a notable boost in resolution for scanning your 35mm negatives and slides. Up to 7200-dpi scans can be made, and Pacific Image's Magic Touch technology is used again to reduce the number of stray dust and scratches in your final image that might need additional retouching.

Closing out our look at some entry-level models is a device that you might be hard-pressed to even truly classify 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. The device's body holds the smartphone in place for accurate recording of the film and has a film-advance knob for faster switching between sequential frames to be scanned.

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.

Continuing on from the Pacific Image models from the entry-level section, the two remaining models in the company’s lineup stand to suit an expanded range of end results. The PrimeFilm XE allows you to record up to 10,000-dpi scans of your 35mm film strips or mounted slides with 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 larger jobs and scanning more frames of film in a session, the PrimeFilm XA takes much of the feature set of the XA and expands it for more versatility. The same 10,000-dpi hardware resolution is featured here, as well as support for 35mm strips and slides and 48-bit color input for 16-bit JPEG and TIFF output. The physical design of this scanner, however, incorporates an auto-feeder function that enables batch scanning of up to 40 frames in one go. This greatly reduces the amount of time you need to tend to the scanning, making it ideal for converting large batches of film to digital files. Additionally, this model features DNR (digital noise reduction) enhancement, for cleaner-looking scans, as well as autofocus to ensure a high degree of sharpness.

Both of these Pacific Image scanners also include a full copy of SilverFast SE scanning software, a robust application that affords you a wide range of controls over scanner function. This software lets you fine-tune scanning settings, color control, and manage dust and scratch reduction with finesse for more controllable output.

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.

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 Multi-Exposure software, which helps to increase the apparent dynamic range of scans, as well as reduce distracting noise in the shadow areas.

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 more effectively detect dust and scratches in scans for instant removal using the iSRD function. This added software also allows you to perform multiple-exposure scans for extended detail with less noise, and apply automatic image corrections to fix color casts or other image defects.

Rounding out Plustek's lineup in this arena 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.

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 recent crop of "photo flatbed" scanners now can hold their own against many 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 sub-$10k option for scanning large format sheet film.

Canon's CanoScan 9000F Mark II can scan 35mm film strips and mounted slides, as well as strips of 120 film at a high 9600-dpi resolution with 48-bit color depth. A unique infrared scanning channel, dubbed Fare Level 3, works to remove dust and scratches from imagery, as well as lessen the appearance of unwanted fading and grain. This scanner is bundled with Canon's own My Image Garden software, which provides control over scanning settings, the ability to perform some image enhancements, and even manage and organize your files.

Besides Canon's sole option in the category, Epson has a series of apt performing flatbeds for film scanning. Beginning with the Perfection V550, this entry-level film-scanning flatbed has a 2.7 x 9.5" transparency unit for scanning both 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.

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.

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.

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 11000XL Photo Scanner, which notably features a separate, but included, 12.2 x 16.5" 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 up to 12.2 x 17.2", making it ideal for graphic arts studios and other large-format reproduction needs.

High-End Film Scanners

Closing our look at the range of options for digitizing your film is a look at the top end of dedicated film scanners, with models that represent the utmost in quality and capability. The first model that separates itself from the pack is the PowerSlide 5000 CCD Slides Scanner from Pacific Image. Dedicated to batch-scanning mounted 35mm slides, this scanner utilizes a slide magazine for scanning up to 50 slides at a time under a single command. The CCD sensor records imagery at up to 5000 dpi with 48-bit color depth and a Dmax of 3.8, and automated Magic Touch technology can be used to reduce dust and scratches, adjust color balance, and reduce the appearance of grain to significantly cut down on retouching time. Prior to loading up the 50-slide magazine, of which extra trays are available for preloading several sets of slides at a time, 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.

In contrast from the slides scanner, 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.

Similarly, Plustek has its OpticFilm 120 Film Scanner, which, as its name would suggest, can scan multiple film formats up to 120 with a maximum scanning area of 6 x 12cm. The CCD pairs with an 8-element, 5-group lens, which together are capable of outputting scans with a maximum hardware resolution of 5300 dpi, a dynamic range measurement of 4.01 (or 4.8 Dmax), and 48-bit color depth. For versatility in handling your film, the OpticFilm 120's holders are pitch-adjustable for ensured film flatness when scanning larger 120 film, and they also can be sized to accommodate a variety of standard medium format aspect ratios, ranging from 6 x 4.5 to 6 x 12. One of the best perks of this scanner is its inclusion of SilverFast Ai Studio 8, which is the full-featured application that can make use of the scanner's infrared channel for removing dust and scratches, as well as multiple-pass scanning for extended dynamic range. This software also allows you to perform Auto IT8 calibration, make Selective Color Correction adjustments, generate and apply specific film profiles for various film stocks, and apply intelligent sharpening methods based on the grain structure of the specific film.

Topping out our look at film scanners is a pair of models from Hasselblad, which, without a doubt, are at the apogee in regard to quality and functionality. Distinct from all other models mentioned throughout this article, the Flextight X1 and Flextight X5 utilize several unique scanning technologies, most notable of which is the combination of a vertical method of scanning and a virtual drum mechanism. Rather than using flat, rigid film holders that move laterally throughout the machine, Flextight film holders are made from flexible metal, are registered with the scanner using a barcode, and magnetically connect with the scanner for simple, safe, and secure film handling. During the scanning process, the holder is pulled into the machine and bent taught around a drum to ensure the utmost in film flatness for sharper scans. This vertical process also makes use of a downward-facing CCD to create a glass-free optical path between the film and Rodenstock lens for improved clarity without the need to wet-mount your film as you would with a traditional drum scanner.

One other main distinction the Flextight scanners hold over other models is their ability to use a 3F file format, which essentially serves as a raw file format if you were to compare it to digital camera capture. This workflow makes one initial, primary scan of the original at a specified size and with the full 16-bit-per-channel color depth, and then saves it as a permanent preview scan from which you can make edits and adjustments without having to re-scan the original film each time. Also like a raw file, the 3F file embeds your action history within it, for repeating or building on previous edits, and then allows you to output a final working file as a TIFF each time you need to share or export your progress.

In regard to the core specifications, both the X1 and X5 feature a 3 x 8000 CCD sensor and have a Dmax of 4.6 for the X1 and 4.9 for the X5. The X1 has a maximum resolution of 6300 dpi for 35mm scans and the X5 goes up to 8000 dpi for the similar area; both scanners have reduced output resolutions of 3200 dpi for medium format and 2040 dpi for 4 x 5" film formats. The X1 supports working with film formats up to 120mm wide, while the X5 supports 100mm wide formats.

While the majority of the specifications are shared between the two machines, the X5 does have a range of additional capabilities that make it a speedier performer for those looking for higher-end productivity. Notably, the X5 allows you to scan reflective media (prints) in addition to transparencies and negatives, and also supports additional batch processing and slide feeder components for scanning multiple originals in one go. The X5 also has active cooling, to improve the signal-to-noise ratio for cleaner shadows, and a light condenser for hardware-based dust removal, as opposed to just the software-based dust removal of the X1. Lastly, the X5 is simply a faster machine, which can output scans at up to 300MB per minute versus the 60MB per minute of the X1.

Items discussed in article

Discussion 167

Add new comment

Add comment Cancel

I have hundreds of medium format slides that my father took in the 50s and 60s that I am looking to convert to jpegs.  What is the most economical scanner to do this with?

I need a flatbed film scanner for making 8.5x11 high quality contact sheets. Can you reccomend one?

If you can make due with an 8 x 10" scanning area, I would recommend either the Epson Perfection V800 or V850. However, if it is essential to scan an entire 8.5 x 11" page of negatives for making contact sheets, then the Epson Expression 11000XL will be your sole option, which includes a transparency unit with a 12.2 x 16.5" scanning area.

Just purchased the PrimeFilm 7200 based on this review. What a piece of junk. Somebody missed the boat on this review. The hardware uses a 5 slide tray that passes over a dim light that transfers the image to a tif or jpg, but I never got the software to work. Loaded the CD to PC per instructions, rebooted, then plugged in the hardware, but received error message that it was initalizing the scanner. It never completed the process. Troubleshot per instructions but had to send it back. Called tech support but received voicemail to leave message and never received a call back. I expected more for the $180 cost.

Thank you for your order and this feedback. We regret your dissatisfaction and would be happy to help. I would recommend contacting our Customer Service with your specific order number, they'll be able to let you know your options going forward. They can be reached at cs@bhphoto.com, or 800.221.5743.

I've got the Minolta Scan Dual II (film scanner) which I havent used or years as it wouldn't work with the Mac OSX 10.2 etc. Although very slow  for scanning 35mm film it had its uses. I'm currently on the OSX 10.8. Any chance that my Scanner could be utilised with the help of an independent software? For my old but still useful flatbed scanner (Epson 2450) most of time I use the Epson software that came with the scanner. Any suggestion would more than appreciated! I need to digitalise a good number of negs for printing up to A4 size at least! Thanking you in anticipation!

You can download drivers for the Minolta Scan Dual II from VueScan’s website: https://www.hamrick.com/vuescan/minolta_scan_dual_ii.html

They have compatible drivers up to the latest Mac OS X

I am looking for a budget solution to scan 35mm slide and film, with an automated feed for the slides so that I do not have to put them in one at a time or in holders of ~4.  What would you recommend?

The only auto-fed film scanner we carry are the Pacific Image PowerSlide 5000 and the Braun Multimag 6000, which are really the same scanner just rebranded. However these only take mounted slides, no negatives. The best option for scanning 35mm negatives and slides with the quickest workflow are trhe Epson V800 and V850. These come wirth film holders that hold up to 12 slides at a time and 3 strips of negatives at a time. The fast prescan function allows you to sift through the loaded film and select which frames are to be scanned and which ones you don't want to scan. Once you make the selections, just click on "Final Scan" The V850 comes with 2 sets of holders. So you can load film while film is being scanned. All the other scanners have the holders of four. Not only are the V800 and V850 excellent film scanners, they also have professional quality-type photo scanning.

I am looking for something to replace a Nikon Coolscan 9000 that I used previously. I have negatives, 35 mm (both slides and film/color and black and white), old format black and white negatives up to 4" X 4" ( early 1930s), old 120 color negative strips.

What would be your suggestions? Some of the scanned files will be donated to the state museum as they are of historical importance so I need to provide files of comparable resolution to the scans of the Nikon Coolscan 9000. Basically professional quality throughout.

Thank you for any guidance.

The Nikon Super CoolScan 9000 was considered the best dedicated film scanner in the business next to the $20,000 drum scanners. This was from the high quality lenses that were developed and designed by Nikon exclusively for scanning film, very high D-Max, high quality lens holders, advanced image processing sensor and its versatility. The Plustek OpticFilm 120 is the scanner most similar to the Nikon and delivers professional image quality results from 35mm film strips, slides, and 120/220mm film, including 6x4.5cm up to 6x12cm in sizes. It is designed for advanced amateurs and professionals that require the ultimate in image quality with an ICC profiled scanning system. It has an 8-element glass lens with 5,300 dpi measured resolution and high-sensitive color CCD. With the included SilverFast Ai Studio, you can achieve a Dynamic Range of 4.01 and a theoretically maximum density of 4.8, providing accurate color and detail covering from the near brightest highlights to the darkest shadow details. The Plustek OpticxFilm’s 120 film holders have an adjustable pitch that ensures flat film for in-focus scans. It  also uses an automatic motorized film transport system that speeds the scanning workflow. The included SilverFast AI Studio 8 is the epitome of professional scanner software. As SilverFast's top-level version it is equipped with the most comprehensive functionality, which also meets the highest standards. It includes SilverFast SRD and iSRD, a combination of advanced dust and scratch removal functions that are especially effective with Kodachrome film. SilverFast Multi-Exposure increases the dynamic range and reduces noises. And IT8 Calibration that color calibrates in 2 minutes and ensures correct colors. Other SilverFast Ai Studio features are: WorkflowPilot - a step-by-step assistant for every workflow, Preview Concept – which gives you immediate control of any image adjustment, Multi-Tasking - concurrent scanning and optimizing, and Negafix – a convenient and professional way to convert negatives into brilliant positives. Overall, in the multi-format dedicated film scanners in today’s market, the OpticFilm 120 will give you scan quality and workflow solution most similar to the Super CoolScan than any of the other non-drum film scanners.

·         

Hi,

I have been scanning some old photos (everything from Polaroids to 35mm 4x6's to scraps cut from yearbooks) using my reliable old HP 6200c.  Needless to say, the quality of the scans is marginal even with post-processing.  I am looking at the Cannon 9000f ii, the Epson V600, The Epson V800 and the Epson V850, since I think a flat-bed will give me the best utility.  Any of these will improve the IQ over what I am now using.  I am leaning towards the Epson products and understand there are considerable differences in price.  I have been looking at reviews and reading through comments on multiple forums.  My questions:  Just how much IQ differrence will I see using the V800 vs V850?  Just how much IQ difference will I see using the V600 vs the the V800/850?  Many of these images will be viewed on a computer monitor but some will be printed, no larger than 8/12 x 11.  I have the specifications for alll these devices but wonder how much the final image will look.

Thanks.

Hi JP -

All three scanners will scan to create great looking images.  I am recommending the EPSON pair for their speed, flexibility, large format and 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.

The Epson Perfection V800 Photo scanner is aimed at the high end consumer market, whereas the V850 is targeted for the professional user. The main difference between the two models is the V850 has an Anti-Reflection Optical Coating and a high-reflection mirror. This coating is applied to the CCD glass to eliminate or minimize the amount of reflections. Abnormal Ghost images are reduced.  And the highly refelection mirror gives you up to 1/3rdx faster scan speed times than the V800. 

The V850 comes with Silverfast SE Plus, while the V800 comes with Silverfast SE. SilverFast SE Plus includes SRD and iSRD, a combination of advanced dust and scratch removal functions designed to work on Kodachrome film. Additionally, SilverFast Multi-Exposure can handle Kodachrome’s wide Dynamic Range.
The V850 Pro also adds X-rite i1Scanner software to the product bundle, including both reflective and transparent IT8 targets (including IT8 target for kodachrome), allowing for accurately-profiled color when scanning. 
Also, the V850 comes with 2 sets of each film holder to speed up your workflow. The V800 comes with 1 tray of each film format.

 CanoScan 9000F Mark II <> Perfection V600.  Would you be so kind and give me the pro/cons between the two scanners.  I plan on scanning, 35 m film, 2000+ mounted slides and hunderds of pictures. Most will be achived. I will also be using Elements 14 to do most of my editing on a Mac.  Your help will we greatly apprieciated.

Both scanners are going to work well and provide very comparable results and work with the Mac.  I would say the Canon ScanGear software and the push button controls on the Canon are additional features that would make it a slightly better scanner and easier to use.  It is also a bit more compact.

i have many mounted slides which scanner would be best to use in the mid price range

If there are kodachrome in your “to be scanned” library of  35mm mounted transparencies, then I recommend the 8200i SE by Plustek. It comes with a film holder for film strips with up to six pictures length and up to four framed slides. A maximum resolution of 7200--dpi and  D-Max of 4.1 Since traditional dust and scratch removal applications do not work on Kodachrome, the accompanying software Silverfast SE Plus does contains tools that will applicable, such as SRD and iSRD, a combination of advanced dust and scratch removal functions designed to work on Kodachrome film. Additionally, SilverFast Multi-Exposure can handle Kodachrome’s wide Dynamic Range. It also works on other film.

If you do not have any Kodachrome, then a cheaper option is the Pacific Image Prime Film XE. It comes bundled with CyberView and Silverfast SE, which is a simplified version of SE Plus without kodachrome support.  It does come with Dust & scratch removal, color enhancement & grain removal technology and a maximum resolution of 7200dpi and a D-Max of 3.9.

There is no mechanical auto-feed on either of these 2 scanners. Each frame must be advanced manually.
 

I have an archive of about 5000 plus teaching slides to convert (design history).  I would like this to be as fast and efficient as possible without sacrificing quality.  Cost is not an issue.  I use both a Mac and a lenovo, tried the Wolferine and it was not very pleasing), please advise.  thanks!

The Pacific Image PowerSlide 5000 CCD Slides Scanner is the perfect scanner for  for digitizing large volumes of catalogues, libraries, art historians, museums and similar-type jobs. The included slide magazine enables the scanner to convert a maximum of 50 slides at once. For additional flexibility, the power slide lets you scan single slides as well. The scanner also comes with a software program that you can use to assist in your digital workflow. The scanner is compatible with both Mac and Windows systems and allows you to adjust color, brightness, saturation, and more before the final scan. Another unique feature of the scanner is the QuickSlide Viewer. The quick slide viewer has a built-in light that allows you a chance to view the slide before scanning. With advanced 5000dpi optical resolution, 48-bit data conversion, 3.8 dynamic range, PowerSlide5000 captures and digitizes a crisp and vivid image from the slide. The Magic Touch software, a proprietary dust removal application similar to Digital ICE will eliminate the flaws from your original images by removing dusts and scratches automatically.  Scan speeds are dependent on the resolution you set. However, you can load up 50 slides, set the resolution and parameters, press “Scan” and walk away.

There have been reviews that occasionally mention slight shortcomings with the tone, color accuracy, contrast and resolution of the PowerSlide 5000 if you compare the scanned images with those from a dedicated film scanner. To avoid these and increase productivity, I recommend Silverfast Ai Studio for the PIE PowerSlide 5000. It is a professional scanning software that will bring out the maximum quality of your scans and functionality of the scanner. It includes an integrated Auto-IT8 calibration for very accurate color, a more efficient dust and scratch removal app, individual color profiles, a multi-exposure tool for increased dynamic range and a batch scanning tool specifically designed for the auto feeder.

I am a visual artist preparing a website and would like to add archives of my work (much of which is currently on slides)

Volume is not an issue for me as much as resolution, clarity and price. I would like to stay under $200.

What would you suggest is my best option. My preference is to do this myself with my own equipment, but if what I need is not one in my price range I would then consider contracting the conversion out to a vendor. 

Thanks!

Is there a reason why no one has responded? 

I am leaning toward the Prime Film XE

I do apologize for the delay in response. I would consider the Pacific Image Prime Film XE Film Scanner to likely be your best bet in the price range you are looking for. The 3.9 stops of dynamic range, as well as the 48-Bit Color Depth would provide the clairity and optical resolution you are looking for. The downside being having to manual slide the tray through the scanner for each frame. There is a bulk slide scanning option, the Pacific Image PowerSlide 5000 CCD Slides Scanner, which can handle 50 slides at time in an automated fashion, but is much more epensive. Though it is worth considering depending on the quanity of slides you may, and cost of sending the work out. Should you have any further question I would recommended emailing us at askbh@bphoto.com

thanks!

That is the one I had pinpointed as well but the reviews were so disparate I became doubtful.

Hi Margaret -

Overall the reviews are pretty good.  Her's another with slightly better reviews at alower cost:

The PrimeFilm 7200 35mm Slide/Film Scanner from Pacific Image converts your 35mm negatives and mounted slides into digital images you can see and edit on the computer. The new 7200 features a high 7200dpi resolution which allows the sensor to capture even more detail. It also enables you to produce prints as large as 12x18" at 300dpi. The unit's included slide and film holders ensure accurate placement of each frame over the sensor for correct results the first time. The built-in Magic Touch technology automatically removes dust and scratches from your images right in the scanner itself rather than via standalone software. Once you finish scanning the images, you can use the included ImageFolio v4.5 editing software.

The scanner is compatible with Windows and Mac OS, including both Windows 8 and Lion and uses a USB 2.0 connection for fast data transfers to your computer.

Scans 35mm film and slides

Automatic dust & scratch removal

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

I am looking for a scanner to digitize 35mm and medium format film for smaller-scale printing (up to 12x16) and web use. The Epson V550 and the Canon 9000F seem like the most versatile budget-friendly options. Are there any other scanners with higher quality and versatility to scan up to medium format in this price range?

Thanks!

When comparing the Epson V550 and Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II for scanning 35mm transparency film, the Epson is able to captured a wider dynamic range and higher color accuracy, resulting in a truer color rendition, higher contrast and more detail in the darker shadow areas. It also shows less chromatic abhoration or color fringing along sharp edges within the image. Color negative scans from both will sometimes require some color tweaks since there are no film brand presets. Epson does have a better color accuracy and preserves better detail in shadow and highlight regions. The optical maximum density of 3.4 places the Epson V550 Photo in the low ranks when it comes to scanning slides and negatives (Canon does not publish the 9000 Mii’s optical density). Good film scanners have a density value of 3.5 to over 4.The scan of a 35-mm negative or a 35-mm slide at 4800 ppi provides an image file with 32 megapixels. In both the Epson V550 and the Canoscan 9000 M II, out of these 32 million pixels only 4 million is actually real information contained in the scan; the remaining pixels are double and multiple. Thus, in case of scanning film material, both scanners provide some extremely inflated image files which have to be reduced to a rational size after the scanning. The maximum achievable resolution (to enlarge a 35mm transparency without any loss of detail and sharpness), is actually only 1700 ppi (approximately 4 Mb file). This is also true with the V550. The scanning of frameless medium format films with both the V600 and CanoScan 9000F works very well. Because of the larger format, a 12x16” print that’s targeted at 300 dpi printer resolution will maintain good detail. In both scanners in the case of the film adapter for medium formats, there are the same problems as with the film adapter for 35-mm images one has to struggle with: the flat film strips in one piece can be inserted without any problem, but again, in case of single images or curved film strips, it turns to be tricky. To greatly improve scan quality for both of these scanners, I recommend LaserSoft’s SE Plus scanning software. Its intelligent image automatic simplifies scanning and image optimization immensely. It’s tools include Multi Exposure which increases the optical densityfor maximum detail. It removes image noise and captures more details especially in dark areas of the image. It is model-specific. Silverfast SE Plus for Canon and for the Epson are both $199 currently.

Hello, I am doing research into starting a scanning business from home. I want a device that scans photo negatives, all size slides and hard copy photos. Would you recommend one or two devices? Thanks 

I think you would be best suited by two separate scanners: one flatbed and one film scanner. Besides the versatility of having two machines, you will also have more up time for handling more jobs at once, rather than being reliant and waiting on a single scanner. If you're looking to cover as many formats as possible, something like the Epson 11000XL would be ideal for flatbed document and photo print scanning, as well as some larger film formats if needed, and a dedicated film scanner, like the Plustek OpticFilm 120 or Flextight X5, could be used for higher quality scans of various film formats. If you're looking to split the difference, something like the Epson V850 would be suitable for scanning documents and prints up to letter size, as well as almost any film format you will encounter.

I am a professional photojournalist with a 40 year archive, mostly digital since 2002 but prior to that primarily 35 mm black and white roll film, cut and stored mostly in strips of 6, with a fair amount of Mamiya 6x7 120 film as well and some 35 mm slides. As a practical matter, most of the earlier work is inacessible to me now but there is much I would like to do with it. What I need is a scanner that can batch process the 35 mm film a roll at a time, reasonably quickly and at high quality. It is unclear to me if the Flextight x5 can do so. It's out of my price range at the moment, but sometimes when what I need is out of my range I find ways to get it anyway. What are the best options and what would you recommend?

In regard to the Flextight X5, it is capable of doing batch scanning once you add the optional Batch Feeder and, for strips of six frames of 35mm, this dedicated holder. For the ratio between quality and speed, the X5 cannot be beat; it's not the fastest machine available (although it is quite quick), but it is arguably the highest quality new scanner around. Another asset to this scanner is that it can scan your medium format film and, unlike the X1, can scan mounted 35mm slides (there is also an optional Slide Feeder for batch scanning mounted slides in a similar way to the Batch Feeder). The downside to batch scanning with the Flextight is that it requires a fair amount of pre-production and planning: you will need 10 of those film holders to make full use of the Batch Feeder, each holder has to be loaded with a fair bit more precision than your more typical plastic guide with snap-in rails, and you will need to load the feeder and configure Flexcolor (the software) to perform the batch scan. In the end, this method does expedite the typical Flextight process, and give you exceptional quality, but these scanners are by no means the fastest or most convenient.

Outside of the X5, you could go one of two ways- a flatbed or a dedicated film scanner. For your purposes, a flatbed, such as the Epson V850, has the advantages of accommodating the various film formats and it is able to scan about half a roll of 35mm in one command. On the other hand, the Pacific Image PF120 can also match your film formats, can perform batch scans, and is a dedicated film scanner with more tailored specs and features.

Help! I have a box of old negatives from the 1940s - 1960s. I think they qualify as "medium format" because most of them are 2" x 2.5". I want to scan them all to digital files so my mom can view them, and was just going to get an entry level scanner because she likely won't print much, but with the size of the negatives I'm unsure what I need. Some of the negatives are eve 3.5" x 5", although most are the smaller size. Can you clarify which of these machines that is currently available could handle the negatives I have? Thank you so much for this article and your help!!

The most economical way to go about this would likely be a flatbed scanner that could accommodate 35mm and 120mm Medium Format negatives. The Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner would be a great option in this regard. The ability to scan Large Format negatives like 4x5’s however does drive the cost up pretty substantially. The Epson Perfection V850 Pro Scanner could accommodate all three formats, but at nearly four times the cost. Depending on the quantity of Large Format negs you would like scanned it may be more cost effect to take those to a local print lab for duplication. 

Thank you so much! Without this article I probably would have ended up with one that doesn't take the film I have! I really apprecite the quick reply!

So, I'm a Mac user that will scan only 35mm slides and negatives.  From the following list what would you recommend if you had the option to purchase only one scanner. 

  • Nikon Super CoolScan 5000 ED (used)
  • Konica Minolta DiMAGE Scan Dual IV (used)
  • Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai (new)

Or would you go in a different direction? 

thanks, John

The image quality of a scanner depends greatly on the sensor and lenses used within the scanner's optical system and how well they reproduce color, tonality and gradations with little to no mechanical noise. The resolution is a representation of its enlargement capability.The Nikon Super CoolScan 5000 was considered the top dedicated film scanner for 35mm in its day (other than the high end professional drum scanners). Its high class lenses were custom-designed by Nikon specifically for this scanner. Its sensor contains a 16 bits A/D converter. This means that there is 16 bits per color channel (red, green, blue) available for the scanner, so it can differentiate 65.536 different shades/tones. Thus a black & white picture can contain up to 65.536 different shades of gray with an optimal scan. In a color picture 16 bits per color channel mean a total of 248 different colors, which come up to the almost unimaginable number of 256 trillion colors. The scans are output with either 8 or 16 Bits per color channel. The high resolution of 4000 dpi generates about 20 million pixels out of a 35mm slide! If you save such a file in the uncompressed TIFF format, you will get a file of a size of about 55 megabytes. This file size yet doubles if you save with 16 Bits per color channel. The scanner's true dynamic range is 4.8.  Dynamic range is a scanner’s ability to detect and reproduce the tonal range of the images being scanned. It is usually measured on a scale from white at 0.0 to black at 4.0 (4.5 or more for Kodachrome), with the higher end of that scale important for scanning transmissive items like film. The bad news is Nikon no longer supports this scanner. This means you will have a tougher time to find a repair center for any service. But you can still get updated drivers from VueScan., VueScan has downloadable drivers for the latest Mac OS X. You can find it here. The other bad news is locating the adapters and film holders. You will have to scour the internet to find them.

The sensor of the OpticFilm 8200i offers a maximum resolution of 7200 ppi. That sounds like very much: In absolute terms from a 35mm-image-scan with this resolution an image file with about 70 million pixels results. However, the effective attainable resolution is only about 3250dpi. The integrated infrared-light source enables scans with the hardware based dust- and scratch correction iSRD. It can also be scanned using the multi-exposure method, whereby the dynamic range can be lightly increased from 3.6 go around 4.1, in which the slides or negatives are sampled with two different exposures and the software after that calculates both scans to one picture. Shadow/highlights are a little improved. With the accompanying SilverFast I Ai, you also get IT8 Targets for  Kodak, Fuji- and Kodachrome films. This allows you to calibrate the scanner.

The DiMAGE Scan Dual IV generated 3200dpi scans with near-perfect exposure and contrast, great highlight and shadow detail, and high color fidelity with pleasing skin tones. Since this has been discontinued and is no longer supported by the manufsacturer, you will have the same issues as with the Nikon for service and finding film holders. VueScan does have drivers for this scanner. They can be found on VueScan’s website.
 

If it came down to price which would be the better choice,the Perfection V550  or the  CanoScan 9000F Mark II?

When comparing the two flatbed scanners for scanning 35mm transparency film, the Epson captured a wider dynamic range and higher color accuracy, resulting in a truer color rendition, higher contrast and more detail in the darker shadow areas. It also shows  less chromatic abhoration or color fringing along sharp edges within the image. Color negative scans from both will sometimes require some color tweaks since there are no film brand presets. Epson does have a better color accuracy and preserves better  detail in shadow and highlight regions. Both scanners have automated image enhancing and restoring applications. These do an amazing job in improving print quality. Applying these during the scanning will increase the scan time, but will save you hours of post-retouching. For dust and scratch removal, Epson’s Digital ICE, which removes dust and scratches by an infrared prescan on each  each color layer is more effective than Canon’s infrared-based proprietary program. Both scanners offer a color restoration and grain reducing applications. Both work fairly well. But again, Epson’s produced a better final result

I heard the Nikon Coolscan 5000 and 9000, though originating from more than 10 years ago, would be (much) better than the best new ones currently available in the market. What is your opinion? Thank you for your reply!

Hi Rene,

You're correct that both the Nikon COOLSCAN 5000 and 9000 scanners have quite the well-deserved reputation, and the prices they still command on the used market are certainly indicative of this. The main issue with working with an older scanner versus a new one is the support, connectivity, and compatibility. Nikon no longer supports these older models, so you will be required to use third party software options, will not have access to repairs through the manufacturer, and will be reliant on the used market for parts or accessories (such as film carriers). Older scanners also begin to lose compatibility with newer computer operating systems due to the lack of firmware updates, and the connections they use can sometimes become obsolete, too (the COOLSCAN 9000 uses a FireWire 400 connection, for instance). Many users of older scanners are required to work with a separate older computer simply to run the scanner, and then transfer the files to a newer machine for editing.

With this in mind, there is also a reason many users go through these hassles to work with older scanners. Newer scanners are often designed with convenience factors in mind, whereas older scanners were developed during a time when film was the primary medium being used in photography and were true professional-grade tools being used by many working shooters.

I also have a Coolscan 5000 and am trying to decide whether to keep and use it, or consider a newer model among the high-end ones that you recommend. Do you think the quality of using a Coolscan is worth the additional effort, given the features, software and convenience of newer models? Also, if you were to use a Coolscan, what kinds of third-party software would you recommend, assuming the Nikon software is no longer being updated?

Hi John,

I would definitely recommend keeping the scanner! The quality still rivals or exceeds many of the current scanners out there, but it is up to you to decide if the hassle is worth it. How will you be using the scans? Do you expect to print your scans or are the scans mainly intended for web viewing? If you'd like to print and archive, then it is still an ideal scanner and, in my opinion, worth the few workarounds. If you're just looking to scan for sharing some old photos on the web, then a newer scanner will certainly make things a bit more convenient and likely perform a bit faster, albeit with lower resolution and quality. Among the newer high-end scanners, only the Imacons will deliver noticeably better quality and format flexibility. The Plustek OpticFilm 120 would likely deliver pretty similar results, and it has the benefit of being more a more current model.

In regard to third party software options for the COOLSCAN 5000, I'd recommend SilverFast or VueScan.

in the mid-range category, any thoughts would be appreciated as to which is the better scanner for a collection of several thousand 35mm negative strips and mounted slides, the Pacific Image PrimeFilm XA or the Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai. They appear to cost the same. Quality is more important to me than speed as this will be a gift for my retired mom, and a slower scan will keep her busy for longer.

Hi, thanks very much for this very comprehensive and informative guide. Just one question, in the case of the high-end scanners, like the Powerslide 5000 or the OpticFilm 120, which file format is the output? Is it always JPEG, or can it also be RAW or TIFF? Thanks a lot. 

I have a plustek optic film 7600i running with silver fast 8.8. I have been scanning my extensive negative transperancy collection and am generally satisifed. I would love to automate the system as my strips are cut into 4 photo strips and require individual handling of each slide. 

If money is not an object which scanner would enable a speedier, more automated quality scanning?

Thanks

Izzy 

What do you recommend for 5" x 7" silver halide glass plate negatives?  For my purposes, a machine that could convert the glass plates and 4" x 5" acetate negs would be ideal.  Any suggestions?

Hi Becky,

For glass plate negatives, you're going to want to look at flatbed scanners since there is some substantial thickness and no flexibility to the plates. I'd recommend either the Perfection V800 or V850 in conjunction with scanning software that allows you to fine-tune the focus. Since the plates will not fit into any of the standard holders, you'll need to scan them right on top of the glass scanning bed.

For 4 x 5" acetate film, the V800 or V850 is a good choice again.

I have been confused as to what to buy. ....I have slides and negatives.  I also have old 8mm and super 8 (silent) movies from back in the day.   ....so is there one thing to buy?  ...a choice of things?  If I removed one of the criteria (slides, negatives, 8 &/or Super 8) is there something that is a choice to buy?  ...should I wait for something coming out in the future? ....is the cost prohibitive?   ...would greatly appreciate advice.

The movie film is a separate issue. There are many 'main street' companies that will transfer to DVD, but I would avoid this option and defintiely the compression associated with DVD. This route means you are losing resolution and may have problems if you want to edit the material.

I suggest finding a professional telecine service which can transfer the footage to a professional quality video file, such as Quicktime HQ. Then you can grade the footage if necessary and also edit with it. Consider such footage an important archive and worthy of care. Even of you don't want to grade or edit right away, having the option in future is good. Also keep the originat footage, technology is changing and this remains the master for this material.

Show older comments

Close

Close

Close