Looking for a slide and negative scanner.
September 26, 2010 8:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a film and slide scanner and wonder what people suggest. Am I better off getting a dedicated slide/film scanner or do some of the higher end flatbeds work just as well (or better)?

I want to start scanning my negatives and slides and I want something that works well. I don't want something cheap, but I also don't want to overspend. What's the best type of scanner I should look for? Are dedicated film/slide scanners the way to go? My current flatbed has a film and negative attachment but it is 100% worthless. I know the higher end ones work much better, but I don't know if they're as good as the dedicated scanners.
posted by Joseppi to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say it depends on how high a resolution you need. At least one way of determining this: What's the largest print image you want to achieve from a scan?
posted by artdrectr at 8:14 PM on September 26, 2010

I know my father (An amateur photographer with decades of slides) noticed a big improvement when he moved from a really good flatbed with a slide mount to a slide scanner. Not in terms of resolution, but in terms of artifacts.
posted by Canageek at 8:28 PM on September 26, 2010

A dedicated film scanner is always going to be better than even the best of the high-end flatbeds, but with negatives you're probably not going to notice the difference. With slides, however, you most likely will. That's not to say you won't be happy with what you get from something like an Epson V700/750; I know I am.
posted by Venadium at 10:19 PM on September 26, 2010

I use a Perfection 3170 for slides, and honestly I think it looks excellent. (Also, it was $30 on Craigslist.) What are you using it for? Quality requirements vary.
posted by zvs at 11:07 PM on September 26, 2010

Consider paying someone to do the job instead. Scanning negatives and slides can be hugely labour intensive, and there are many companies out there who will take the lot off your hands and do them all as a job lot. You hand them the pile of negatives and slides, they come back in a few days (weeks?) with all the digital copies. It really depends what volume you anticipate working with though.

Is this a one time hit, all the old family photos, a big pile of work to get through? Or do you anticipate this being a regular thing, always having new ones to scan after you've got through the old? With the big (or even not so big) one time hit, in terms of both time and money saved, you always stand to make a huge advantage over leaving it to the experts.

Finally, to answer your question... My family looked into this, and we couldn't leave it to the experts, because we only had a trickle feed of family slides from an awkward family relative (and never the whole lot). Flatbeds just didn't cut it. There were actually very few slide scanners we found that reviewed sufficiently well, and in the end we got something like the Plustek 7600SE (can't track down my order details just now). It's a really great device, while remaining affordable and reasonably easy to use (but a lot of slides/negatives is still a lot of work).
posted by Elfasi at 1:34 AM on September 27, 2010

I have done a lot of scanning recently of slides and glass plates, and have an older Epson Perfection 4990 Photo, as well as a Polaroid film scanner. Here are my observations:

- The quality I have been getting from the Epson scanner is great for positive transparencies. It is also much faster than the film scanner. I think the quality on negatives is a little less great, but still completely acceptable 99.9% of the time.
- My strategy has been to reserve the film scanner for the slides that really demand the highest of quality, and this usually means slides likely to get printed at greater than 8x10". I did this because of the high volume I need to get through (thousands) (also making an external service cost prohibitive).
- I played around a lot with various software for scanning, and came back to using Epson's software, turn off all processing options except Digital ICE, and used that only when needed. Most processing can be done better later in Photoshop. ICE, however is a physical technology in the scanner that can not be reproduced in software. Turning off processing options means greater scanning speed (usually 2x as fast or more).
- A flat bed scanner is obviously much more useful than a film scanner, since it can handle large format and is good for all purpose scanning of documents etc.

My recommendation is that you buy a good flat bed scanner (Epson is a good choice here), and for the few slides you want to go all out for, get them professionally scanned.
posted by SNACKeR at 5:36 AM on September 27, 2010

I've got a Coolscan 4000, I was debating between getting this or getting an Epson V700/V750 and decided to get the Coolscan. I use Vuescan as my scanning software. I have nothing by 35mm to scan. If I had to get a scanner that could do medium format, I would proably get the Epson since the Coolscan 8000/9000 is too expensive. You can google for comparisons and read opinions, but it can all be summed up as:

The Epson is more useful than a Coolscan 4000/5000 since it can do MF, LF and non-tranparent things, disregard if you just want your 35mm film scanned as best as you can afford. The Epson, while it has a higher resolution on paper than the Coolscan, does not scan photos as sharp as the Coolscan does. There are several A/B comparisons, all with various settings, but here's just one. You want to look at the large version. The Coolscan resolves down to the grain, the Epson does not. The Coolscan with it's higher D-max, can punch through darker slides better.

As for the scanning settings, I agree with SNACKeR, turn all the options off. Digital ICE (or the equiv in the Vuescan software I use) is debated by many. Some claim that it softens the image and if you like the image enough to print it that you should invert the time in photoshop cloning out and healing out the dust and scratches yourself, others claim it softens the image but nothing that cannot be brought back with some USM, others claim it doesn't at all. You can scan everything with ICE on and at, say 2000 dpi and 8 bit and run as many through as fast as you can and go back for a second time for the ones that are really nice.

A 4000 dpi image with 16-bit color is a 140 MB image, cutting the color to 8-bit halves that and dropping the resolution to 2000 dpi (giving you a ~6 megapixel image from 35mm) leaves you with a 18 MB image, much more manageable.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:38 AM on September 27, 2010

One more comparison link for you ... clicky clicky!
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:41 AM on September 27, 2010

Not that I have gotten around to buying the damn thing yet, but I got some good suggestions here.
posted by JoanArkham at 1:00 PM on September 27, 2010

Response by poster: I mostly want to have digital copies of my negatives and slides. I have much more negatives than I do slides and the digital version I've made at this point could be much better. Ideally I'd like them to be at least 8x12/8x10 at 300 dpi. Some, but not all, would get re-printed.
posted by Joseppi at 4:39 PM on September 27, 2010

« Older Best Dictionary for a Fifth Grader?   |   Melted plastic stain removal Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.