Scanning Negatives
September 27, 2004 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Film scanning! I have a fair number of negatives (easily a few thousand) which I need to scan (every day they call to me telling me that they are decaying and need to be recorded digitally). (the more it is inside)

I have never scanned film before, and the cursory reading I've done thus far seems to indicate that it can take a while to get good at it, which makes my initial idea of just renting a scanner for a week or two seem unrealistic, it seems I might need a month or more. Is it better to rent or buy, and which models might I want to look at? I likely won't need to do much film scanning after I do these, but I know many scanners do film as well as being regular scanners - my idea is that I could probably afford to rent a better-quality scanner than I could afford to buy (is there a major difference in quality/features that are actually useful between the cheap and expensive ones?). Any tips and tricks about film scanning would be appreciated. I'm just starting to learn about this, so I don't even really have a solid-enough frame of reference to know what I should care about and what I shouldn't.
posted by biscotti to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
 
Thousands?

First piece of advice would be to edit down more. I don't know many famous photographers who could justify a collection of thousands of images. If the film is all 35mm, strip-scanners can do a decent job. The Nikon Coolscan's are great because they have built-in dust & scratch removal technology (ICE). There's a review of one here.

The problem is, you can only fit a maximum of 6-image strip into the holder at a time. And it takes a couple of minutes to scan each neg. That's a crapload of time for thousands of images. You might want to outsource the operation to a bulk scan company, though it'll likely cost you what a high-end scanner would have cost you -- sans effort.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:43 AM on September 27, 2004


Thanks Civil_Disobedient. Only a few of the pictures are my portfolio images, the majority are just snapshots of personal historical value. Given that digital memory is cheap, I see no reason to have to "justify" having this many pictures. That said "a few thousand" probably overstated it now that I think about it, I probably have around two thousand or so that I want to keep. Thanks for the link.
posted by biscotti at 11:03 AM on September 27, 2004


I've had film scanned by professionals, and I've done it myself. Having a pro do it is far preferrable. The time it was requiring me to turn out decent results was laughable, it was costing me 10x as much (as in, if I was paying myself to do it) as paying someone else to do it. I really don't remember the prices now but in the bulk range it's probably not too bad.
posted by RustyBrooks at 11:06 AM on September 27, 2004


Civil Disobedient's suggestion to limit the number of scans is probably more related to the time/effort per scan than digital memory. 10 minutes a scan (you are going to want to crop, adjust levels and brightness, etc) x 2000 pictures is 333 hours, or 14 24-hour days. Even if it's just 1 minute per picture (highly unlikely) we're talking about 33 hours of straight scanning.
posted by RustyBrooks at 11:10 AM on September 27, 2004


Given that having them scanned will cost $.50 -- $1.00 each -- closer to the $1 than the $.50, it seems -- that seems unviable for a couple-few thousand shots. At that price, you might as well buy a fancy-ass expensive scanner and just do a couple rolls a day while you're doing other stuff over the course of a year.

It sounds to me like biscotti just wants to get them all backed up; cropping and editing can happen if she wants to print or otherwise display one and in the meantime there's a raw tiff on a cd.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:21 AM on September 27, 2004


If you just want to back up old images because of digital permanence, I would follow these steps:

1. Have someone scan the images for you.
2. Vow to yourself to never, ever, ever shoot film again.

If your time is cheap (or you're just willing to sacrifice nights and weekends for a couple of months) you can buy a scanner. Either way is going to cost you a grand or so.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:50 AM on September 27, 2004


I'll second or third or whatever the Nikon Coolscan. I bought the slide scanning attachment for mine and it works great. I haven't used the negative attachment very much but the few dozen times I have it's worked well.
posted by substrate at 12:10 PM on September 27, 2004


I have a Nikon Coolscan and it is very good, and it couldn't be much easier to use. Note that the ICE only works for colour film, not B&W.

My approach was to buy a second hand scanner on Ebay, do the scanning whilst doing something else like watching telly so as not to die from boredom, and as soon as Ive finished scanning all my film, put the scanner back on Ebay.
posted by chill at 12:30 PM on September 27, 2004


Biscotti, i used to scan film and slides ina service bureau as part of my job. We (Seriously overcharged) at a rate of $6.00 a scan. It will take a long time if you do it yourself. As noted above most scanners will only fit a strip of 6, and then you have to wait for each scan to take place. If you're not going to be doing this in the future, I'd also recommend biting the bullet and getting it done by a professional.

http://negscan.infolution.net/

I have no relationship with these guys, just did some Googling, so I can't vouch for them, but the prices seem extremely good. The only thing I don't like is that they store the images in jpg, which is generally a no no. You might be able to ask to save them as tiffs, they charge 0.32 a negative for a 4000 ppi scan. They give you a 4% discount for over two thousand. So 2000 scans would cost you about 615 bucks. It would be hard to buy a good film scanner at that price, and then you'd still have to do the scanning.

They actually have a lower price for 2000 ppi scans but you probably want to stay at 4000 ppi for archival purposes.
They have a sample of their 4000 ppi scans here
posted by jeremias at 12:34 PM on September 27, 2004


Oops, I just noticed the page I looked at was based in Germany. That would make me a little nervous especially if I was sending negatives in the mail. But if you can find similar services, .32 per scan for a 4000 ppi is great.
posted by jeremias at 12:41 PM on September 27, 2004


I'm with those who recommend jobbing it out. But if you do it yourself, don't worry about touching up the scans. Once they're digitized, touching up can be done on a selective basis at any point in the future, should you take special interest in particular prints, or even in 30 years when some new technology gets invented that can do the whole thing in one batch (while you hover overhead in your personal jetpack, watching Simpsons reruns on your holo-irises)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:41 PM on September 27, 2004


touching up can be done on a selective basis at any point in the future

Absolutely... another reason I recommend someone else doing the scans. If you're doing them yourself, the temptation to adjust the images will be too great ("just a little gamma correction, promise!"). The scans should be treated as archives that are never touched directly. The issue at hand is more than just "technology in the future will make cleaning images easier." There's also the problem that, unless you're working on a calibrated, super-dooper monitor, you might make the images worse without even realizing it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:16 PM on September 27, 2004


If all of these negatives have been shot since the late 60s, you don't have to scan them for permanence. In fact, you'll have a more permanent solution if you go to light impressions and get some archival envelopes and boxes. I bet they'll last longer than the ability to read a .tiff in the physical format.
posted by jmgorman at 2:15 PM on September 27, 2004


If all of these negatives have been shot since the late 60s, you don't have to scan them for permanence. In fact, you'll have a more permanent solution if you go to light impressions and get some archival envelopes and boxes. I bet they'll last longer than the ability to read a .tiff in the physical format.
posted by jmgorman at 2:15 PM on September 27, 2004


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