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.

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

I'm starting my own photo/media transfer business.  I will likely need multiple scanners for photos, negatives, slides, and 8mm film.  Some people will want only digital images while others will often want hi-res files they can have made into large prints.  What are some good models to start with?

Hi Stephanie - 

For 8mm/super 8mm movie film:

Wolverine Data 8mm and Super 8 Movie Reels2Digital MovieMaker

reflecta Super 8 Scanner

The OpticFilm 120 Film Scanner from Plustek converts all your 35mm negatives, mounted slides, and 120mm medium format film into digital files you can edit and view on the computer. It can do this quickly with an automatic batch scanning feature and uses a high resolution 5300dpi sensor with 48-bit color depth to capture all the detail from your originals. The newly redesigned film holders ensure proper positioning during scanning and ensure the images won't be skewed or misaligned. The scanner's built-in infrared channel provides dust and scratch removal without cumbersome post processing. Additionally, the included IT 8 calibration slide ensures accurate color results the first time, reducing the need for repeated scans or extensive post processing color correction.

The included SilverFast Ai Studio 8 works together with the scanner to improve your workflow and ensure proper results the first time. This updated version features an improved user interface and provides an advanced preview option that lets you see the results of adjustments beforehand.

I'm starting my own photo/media transfer business.  I will likely need multiple scanners for photos, negatives, slides, and 8mm film.  Some people will want only digital images while others will often want hi-res files they can have made into large prints.  What are some good models to start with?

Hi Stephanie - 

For 8mm/super 8mm movie film:

Wolverine Data 8mm and Super 8 Movie Reels2Digital MovieMaker

reflecta Super 8 Scanner

The OpticFilm 120 Film Scanner from Plustek converts all your 35mm negatives, mounted slides, and 120mm medium format film into digital files you can edit and view on the computer. It can do this quickly with an automatic batch scanning feature and uses a high resolution 5300dpi sensor with 48-bit color depth to capture all the detail from your originals. The newly redesigned film holders ensure proper positioning during scanning and ensure the images won't be skewed or misaligned. The scanner's built-in infrared channel provides dust and scratch removal without cumbersome post processing. Additionally, the included IT 8 calibration slide ensures accurate color results the first time, reducing the need for repeated scans or extensive post processing color correction.

The included SilverFast Ai Studio 8 works together with the scanner to improve your workflow and ensure proper results the first time. This updated version features an improved user interface and provides an advanced preview option that lets you see the results of adjustments beforehand.

I have several thousand slides from professional sports I shot in the 1990's.  I'd like to digitize them at the best quality possible for professional use, both for printing and publication.  What would you recommend for a scanner and software?  Thanks.

Hi Bill - 

The OpticFilm 120 Film Scanner from Plustek converts all your 35mm negatives, mounted slides, and 120mm medium format film into digital files you can edit and view on the computer. It can do this quickly with an automatic batch scanning feature and uses a high resolution 5300dpi sensor with 48-bit color depth to capture all the detail from your originals. The newly redesigned film holders ensure proper positioning during scanning and ensure the images won't be skewed or misaligned. The scanner's built-in infrared channel provides dust and scratch removal without cumbersome post processing. Additionally, the included IT 8 calibration slide ensures accurate color results the first time, reducing the need for repeated scans or extensive post processing color correction.

The included SilverFast Ai Studio 8 works together with the scanner to improve your workflow and ensure proper results the first time. This updated version features an improved user interface and provides an advanced preview option that lets you see the results of adjustments beforehand.

I have a large number of half-frame 35mm slides. Will any of the scanners you profile handle converting these slides?

Hi Strve -

The slide mount should be the same as for 35mm.  So the 35mm mounted slide holders should work fine.

Thanks for this post, very useful!

I have a few hundred negatives to scan (35mm and 4,5x6 / 6x6) as well as slides (positives?) and here in Portugal I can buy Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II for €200. Epson V600 is a bit more expensive (around €240).

Do you think Epson is worth the difference? Or is there another scanner you would recommend under €300?


Hi there, I have a Lomography Horizon that takes panoramic photos but it costs a fortune to get each roll developed and printed. Which scanner would you reccomend for digitizing to a good enough quality to print from? or would it cost as much to get them printed each time?



Hi Jonno - 

If you go the scanning route, you should use the The DigitaLIZA 35mm Scanning Mask from Lomography.

It holds your 35mm negatives flat and in place so you can properly scan them with a standard flatbed scanner with a backlight/transparency unit.

Unlike other scanning masks, the DigitaLIZA accommodates the digitization of experimental analog photographs by scanning the whole negative strip, including the sprockets, without defining the frames individually. This lets you scan overlapping exposures, doubles, triples, and panoramas.

Scanning area is 9.1 x 1.3" (230 x 33mm)

Distance between film and the scanning plate is 0.05" (1.2mm)

In the long run, owning a scanner will be far more effective than sending out the negatives to be printed.

Convert film, slides, prints, and other documents into high resolution digital images with the Perfection V850 Pro Scanner from Epson. The high 6400 dpi optical resolution and 6400 x 9600 dpi scan resolution along with a 48-bit color depth ensure fine detail will be captured and colors will be accurately reproduced. Also, a rating of 4.0 Dmax allows users to capture a wide dynamic range.

Thanks! Great article. I'm an avid film shooter, mostly 35mm but occasionally 120. In the past I've tried the wolverine scanners and wasn't very happy with how they tried auto correcting the exposure of my image. Currently I am using an Epson flatbed v550, I do like it, but the scanning process takes forever. Thanks to this article I am going to order the PrimeFilm XA! It seems to be the best scanner for my needs.


Hello, can you please advise me as to the best scanner for archiving family photos and slides.  Large volume of slides from the last 5 decades, some of which are needed for historical archiving of service in Vietnam.  Also a large number of photos, most 3x5 to 8x10.  Which scanners are best for all this and documents as well?  I am an apple user, and not a professional photographer. so I need something understandable for family archiving.  Thank you

There are 2 scanners that I recommend which will cover your needs. They are the V600 and the V800 by Epson. They both are flatbed scanners, both have a transparency media adapter built into the lids which allow for the scanning of film. Both have features for scanning documents, converting them to editable text, PDFs and automatic Scan to Email. And there's Auto Border Detection so you can lay down multiple photos on the glass platen and each photo will be  scanned as a separate file automatically. Another important feature that both scanners have is  Digital ICE, a commonly found app in dedicated film scanners that removes dust and scratches digitally on film, also removes the appearance of tears and scratches from damaged photos on the V600. The Epson Easy Photo Fix app restores faded color photos with one touch. Both can boast having an optical resolution of up to 6400. So that means the scan quality must also be the same, right? Wrong! Image quality of a scanner depends heavily on the type of sensor and it’s image processing  (which includes color processing and image enhancement),   the scanner’s optical system and dynamic range (measured on a scale from white at 0.0 to black at 4.0, with the higher end of that scale important for scanning transmissive items like film). Oh yeah, and resolution plays a role in quality scanning, too.

Now I'll present the differences between these two scanners:

The dynamic range of the V800 is 4.0 compared to the V600's 3.4 This means the shadow and highlight areas will hold more detail on the V800. The V800 is a scanner specially for photo and film print reproduction and restoration. It has upgraded photo and film scanning and restoration features, ability to scan all sizes of film, up to 8x10. You can scan up to 12 slides at a time  as oppose to only 4.  And you must not forget that Dual Lens thing the 800 has. The V600 is the affordable of the two. And it is our number 1 selling photo scanner for home use. Itgis a good quality scanner and gets the job done. However, the V800 is superior in what it does, and that is photo and film restoration and print reproduction

I am looking for an affordable scanner that can handle 120 film in a 6 by 7 cm format. I would like a relitively high resolution so that the images can be used to produce large prints without too much image degridation. What would you suggest?


The Plustek OpticFilm 120  has the 4 major elements that are needed to produce high quality film scans: sensor, optics, dynamic range and considered one of the top prosumer dedicated film scanner, top image quality results from 35mm film strips, slides, and 120/220 film from 6x4.5cm up to 6x12cm in sizes. It is designed for advanced amateurs or professionals that require the image quality and an ICC profiled scanning system. It 's advanced high-sensitive color CCD is powered in combination with Silverfast Ai Studio. It includes an 8 element glass lens with 5,300 dpi optical resolution and stable light sources. Dynamic Range of 4.01 (with SilverFast Multi-Exposure) and a a maximum density of 4.8 that is penetrable (in theory). Included are new and improved patent, adjustable pitch 120 film holders that clamp down to ensure flat film for in-focus scans. Included are a holder for 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7, 6x9 and 6x12 frame sizes. The 6x7 holder is designed so you don't have to cut 3-frame 6x7 film strips. Plustek does retail extra film holders which we should be carrying soon.  And what makes this scanner stand out over the others besides the aforementioned highlights is the automatic motorized film
transport system that speeds the scanning workflow. No need to manually advance each frame one-by-one.

A more affordable approach would be the Epson V800. It also has an advanced dual lens optics. 1 lens is optimized for it's focal point above the platen glass where the film plane is located on the film holders. This is how it achieves such sharp scans for a flatbed. 4.0 dynamic range and a true optical resolution of 4800dpi, with 3600dpi the sweet spot and  plenty enough for medium format. It also doubles as a professional photo scanner.

I want to digitize 35mm color slides to be shown with a digital projector, in lecture rooms that seat 50-100 people.  What do you recommend for resolution and other qualities of the scanner?  Thanks!

If you have a considerable amount of transparencies to digitize, I will recommend a slide scanner that is very popular among librarians, art historians, professors, and similar occupations that involve cataloging, archiving and similar-types of film archiving .
The Pacific Image PowerSlide 5000 CCD Slide Scanner is the perfect scanner for these types of applications. With the included  slide magazine, you can load up to 50 slides at once and scan them all continuously and automatically without assistance. For additional flexibility, the scanner has the ability to scan a single slide at a time.The scanner is compatible with both Mac and Windows OSs and allows you to adjust color, brightness, saturation, shadow and highlight detail and more before making your  final scan. Another unique feature of the scanner is the Quick Slide Viewer. This is on the scanner itself and has a built-in light, similar to a small light box, that allows you to view the slide before scanning. The PowerSlide 5000 comes with its proprietary CyberView X scanning software  and ImageFolio for post-scanning editing. There are also other compatible scanner drivers that you can purchase and use: VueScan has a compatible scanning software that is popular. They have both a macOS and Windows version. Silverfast Ai Studio is another scanning software option that not only includes enhancement and correction tools similar to VueScan that are applied during the final scan. Silverfast also has a tailored batch scanning application for scanners that have auto-feed  film capability like the PowerSlide 5000. It allows you to load the magazine, then go through the quick Preview mode where you choose only the images you want scanned at a particular scan setting configuration that optimizes image quality for these images and bypasses the frames you haven't chosen. By batch scanning in this manner will greatly increase your workflow speed exponentially. Another feature is Silverfast's SRDx Dust and removal application. Unlike infrared based tools like Digital ICE or MagicTouch which are ineffective with silver halide-layered type film (Kodachrome and panchromatic black and white negative film), SDRx has been developed to effectively remove dust and scratches on color slides, negatives and kodachrome.  

A few pointers that will help with your scanning: check the mounts to see what condition they are in. Ones that are bent or damaged you would want to replace since these run a greater chance of getting jammed. The 2mm thick mounts are recommended. You can find them here.

You will also want to check for dust and try to remove as much as possible before scanning. A can of Air is great for this along with an anti-static cloth, brushes and cotton gloves for handling.

I am looking for an automatic feed scanner for my 3 x 5 in. pictures with a good resolution, at least 600 dpi or better.  I have a Pandigital PANSON05 and it works great but I am not satisfied with the resolution.

Any input would be appreciated.

Hi Al - 

This is our only product that may fill the bill for you:

Take your precious, priceless memories and make digital copies for preservation or just sharing with friends and family with the super-fast FastFoto FF-640 High-Speed Photo Scanning System from Epson. Able to scan 4 x 6" photos at a rate of up to 60 ppm, this scanner will make the digitizing process take no time at all. Also, if you aren't just handling photos, this unit can process documents ranging in size from 2 x 2" up to 8.5 x 120". A color depth of 48-bit internally and 24-bit externally furthers the possible quality by ensuring accurate color rendition in your scans.

For speed, the FF-640 has single-step technology which allows users to scan the image and any handwritten notes on the back in a single pass. This also applies to documents for fast two-sided scanning. Thanks to the built-in ADF with a capacity of 30 photos or 80 documents, users can process many items at a single time. Additionally, it connects to a computer via a simple USB 2.0 connection. Along with the scanner is custom FastFoto software with Smart Photo Fix Technology that can automatically restore your images as you work.

Scan 4 x 6" photos at 60 ppm / 120 ipm at 300 dpi or at 33 ppm / 66 ipm at 600 dpi

Scan letter-sized documents at 45 ppm / 90 ipm at 300 dpi or at 33 ppm / 66 ipm at 600 dpi

Effective pixel resolution of 5100 x 8400

ADF can handle up to 30 photos up to 9 mil thick or 80 documents up to 80 gsm

Works with wallet-size, 4 x 6", 5 x 7", 8 x 10", and panoramic photos

Carrier sheet can handle delicate photos and documents up to 8.5 x 11" in size

Help in creating slideshows, displays, and more

TWAIN and Mac driver support

Thanks for the article.    Interesting devices - nearly every one has both 1 and 5 star reviews, so it sounds like even for big money it can be a crap shoot.     Also surprised so many are 'old' (2013 or so) Looks like they aren't 'continually improving' scanners....   

But the article was a great start, and has me doing some research.   The Epson flatbed may be in my future.  :)

I am looking photo scanner that scans negatives especially for the small negative . All the ones I see seem only to do slides and the large 35mm negatoves  I am looing for one that does the smaller negatives too..Can somes one let me know if there is any that does both ...

Thank You 



In order to scan film smaller than 35mm, like 110 film,  you will need a 110 film holder, and a flatbed scanner that has a built-in transparency media adapter (sometimes called a film adapter) which is basically a lamp in the lid (or a replacement lid) of a flatbed scanner. We carry a 110 film holder that will be compatible with the Canon and Epson flatbed scanners that have a TMA. It is the Lomography DigitaLIZA 110 Film Scanning Mask. You can also have a custom-made 110 film holder from Film Scan USAThe most popular consumer based models are the Epson V550 and V600 and the Canon Canoscan 9000F Mark II models.

Thank you for good helpful article!  I have Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II and is looking for scanner software.  I will be scanning 35mm film a lot, as well as 120 film.  Also, I would printing 17 inch width then 24 or 44 inch in future.  What is software would you recommend it?  

We are a museum with a large(ish) collection.  Many slides are on glass with unusual sizes;  162 x 120,  108 x 82 etc.  what would you recommend?

Thanks for an amazingly helpful article. I'll be the oddball. Is there a particular scanner that is good for showing the film sprockets? Or if one is compatible with lomography's digitaliza sprocket showing holder? To get super specific, scanning film shot with a sprocket rocket.

Hi Katie,

The DigitalLIZA will work on any flatbed scanner with a built-in transparency unit, such as the Epson V800 and V850. Alternatively, you could also work with any of the scanners that handle medium format film and secure your 35mm film within one of those larger format holders (there will be empty space on the sides of the strip). When going this route, you'll have to manually make frame selections in the scanning software you're using (auto frame recognition will not work), but you'll be able to record the entire film width no problem.

I don't see any answers to the questions people have posted, and I am certainly interested in the answers to many of them.  Perhaps they are being answered by email.  Here is my question:

I work for a non-profit museum that has many negatives of different sizes and age.  This includes some glass negatives.  Is there one scanner someone would recommend for this type of work?


Hi Pam-

For glass negatives, I would look at flatbed scanners since the plates have substantial thickness and no flexibility. I'd recommend either the Epson Perfection V800 or V850 in conjunction with scanning software that allows you to fine-tune your settings. 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. These scanners are also a good choice for other various film types, and can easily handle a huge variety of film formats up to 8 x 10".

For glass negatives, I would recommend contact printing the negatives and scanning the print.  Safer and better quality in result.

We are looking to scan slides and the older glass slides with a metal frame. What models on a budget would best handle the metal glass slides without needing to take them apart? We have a couple hundred metal slides and thousands of standard slides.Thank you for your time.

Older glass slides in metal frames will not fit in the slide holders that come with dedicated film scanners, due to their thickness. So your only option would be a flatbed with a built-in transparency media adapter (TMA). The most economical way to scan these would be the Epson V550. Since scanning film requires the light to shine down from the lid through from behind the film, you are limited to the width and link of the TMA’s opening.  On the V550, that allows 3 to 4 slides  at the most. You would place the glass slides on the scan bed directly below the TMA.  In order to help with the scanning, I recommend the Silverfast SE Plus for the V550. The Auto Frame function that comes with it detects the originals to scan and aligns them at a right angle automatically. This is extremely helpful when you can’t place the mounts in the film holder. The advanced dust and scratch removal application SRDx, selective color correction SCC and NegaFix will help repair and restore the images, saving you hours of post work of rehabilitation.

For increased workflow and higher quality scans, the V800 would be the best option. It’s TMA is much larger, allowing you to lay down over 12 slides at once onto the scan bed (as oppose to 3 or 4 slides). It comes bundled with Silverfast SE, which also include Auto Frame Detection, SRDx, Selective Color Correction and Negafix.

Out of all the different types of film to scan, black and white negatives are the least demanding. Its  D-Max (also called dynamic range) is lower than that found in color negatives and transparencies (up to half of the typical D-Max found in transparencies).  Plustek's OpticFilm 8100 is a good recommendation for scanning black and white film. Its specs list 3.6 for it's D-Max, which is more than enough to support excellent shadow and highlight detail; 7200dpi as its maximum optical resolution (however I believe that is a bit exaggerated). Reviews and testing on the scanner report the optimum “sweet spot” would be to scan at 3600dpi. This will produce a file large enough to print larger than 11x14 at 300 dpi, and at this setting you will get sharper scans.  Another difference between black and white versus color negative or transparency film  is dust removal software. Digital ICE, which is common in most film scanners, relies on an infra-red scan pass to detect dust and damage. Silver halide films (and Kodachrome) are virtually opaque to IR in the dense areas of the image (ICE will work well with C41 process films and Ektachrome films) which makes it  useless with traditional silver emulsions. The Plustek OptikFilm 8100 does not come with IR so you are not spending extra  money for something you will not use. Instead it comes with Silverfast’s SE Plus software. This software includes SRDx, a non-IR based dust and scratch removal application that works very well with black and white film and kodachrome. You would still want to clean your negatives before scanning. Canned air helps removing some dust. Negative cleaners and a queue-tip for oils and tougher dust. And cotton white gloves to avoid oil from your fingers. The time and energy you save by utilizing this software for dust and scratch removal will save hours in post work. 

So many scanners to choice from. What do you recommend for scanning 35 mm b&w negatives. Eventually would like to print at least 8x10. Thanks

Hello, I shoot double exposures on to both 35 and 120 film and rarely want to cut my negatives into standard strip lengths. Are there any scanners that can take over sized lengths of film negative? I am looking for fairly high/good quality scans as well.

Many thanks


I was reading this page and comparing notes with Ken Rockwell's assessment and I'm a little confused. He's advocating for dedicated film scanner in most cases but suggests flatbed if you're looking to save some cash. But there are some many dedicated film scanners for a fraction of the cost of the nikon coolscan now.

Here are my needs:

   - 35mm negative and slide scanning (may at some point want the ability
   to scan 120 but not a must)
   - Auto feed
   - Great quality and dynamic range but mostly the end-use will be digital
   on computer/web
   - Sharpness in scan: this article made me think twice about flatbed -
   - ICE or similar/just as good dust/scratch removal software
   - Easily operable software to insure color fidelity or color profiles
   that match to film
   - Budget: preferably under $400 but would love it to be sub-$300 (although I am considering of the higher end Epson models v700 series or v800)

 Can you help me sort through the endless counterintuitive reviews and

My dad took tons of 35mm Kodak color slides in the 1960-1980 timeframe. He used excellent lenses and camera. Using a slide projector they look pretty darn good. On a cheapie slide to digital a few years ago my brother scanned a bunch with hardware from the XP era and put them on a thumb drive (size 2904X1987/1.88MB). I used picassa and printed on plain paper at 8X10 size. The image is a pretty long way off so I picassa cropped a width of about 4 inches and blew the resulting crop up to 8X10. The result is blurry. Was wondering if modern high pixel slide to digital hardware/software would improve the cropped image if I do a do-over. Point is I found a service in town who will probably do it for $25 a slide and I would want to do about 5 or 6 slides. So in the $125-150 range can I get good results if I buy and do it myself? Or should I cave and go with the service? Am I expecting too much out of the whole slide to digital thing? What machine would you suggest?

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?

The least expensive model that is compatible with medium format film is the Epson Perfection V550 Photo Scanner. This scanner makes it quick and easy to scan 35 mm and medium format film, slides, negatives and printed photos. Scanning at a high-quality 6400 dpi resolution, with a 3.4 Dmax and 48-bit depth, you can create enlargements up to 17×22 inches directly from the V550. Easy Photo Fix software provides a quick way to restore faded colors from photos, and DIGITAL ICE technology aids in the removal of scratches, creases or other damage created due to time and wear and tear. Images may be uploaded directly to Facebook, Picasa and other cloud services. The V550's film tray for medium format does not include one for mounted film. You would need to take the film out of its mount in order to fit on the tray. Unmounting will not damage the film. You may need to clean the edges up with a film cleaner. You can remount it after with new mounts. We carry these in the 6x6cm and 6x4.5cm format. If removing the mounts is not an option, then I would recommend the Epson Perfection V850. With a 4.0 D-max and more advanced image processing sensor, shadow and highlight detail will be noticeably improved. Greater bit depth ( the scanner's ability to accurately analyze and reproduce the full color spectrum of the scanned information.) will contain the more subtle color shifts that are inherently retained in transparency film. It has the greatest depth of field for flatbed scanners of this scan bed size. Its focal plane will be deep enough for the mounted transparency’s film plane to scan sharp. Also, the mount will keep the film from touching the scanner’s glass to avoid Newton Rings. The SilverFast SE Plus scanning software that comes with the scanner includes IFF Engine (Intelligent Frame Finding)  that intelligently searches for photos, slides and filmstrips, which lie on the flatbed or in the film holder. All image frames are now perfectly found. In addition, the frame outset option ensures that no images are cropped during scanning.  The  Auto Frame Alignment in combination with the Automatic Frame Detection will not only find and frame the originals, but it will also align them in a rectangular order with a single mouse click. 

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, 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:

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.


Peggy Smith wrote:

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.

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