bulk slide scanner for a mac - without breaking the bank
January 30, 2013 8:52 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to buy a bulk (i.e., 20+ in a stack) slide scanner that will work with recent-model (usb/firewire/thunderbolt) macs. I see prices ranging from $1200 for used Braun scanners, to some real cheapies that look like a mistake waiting to happen for under $200. What's in the middle? Most of the used Nikons in the $500 range on ebay are SCSI only; I'd love something that works with current hardware (i.e., NOT SCSI) and has a pretty wide gamut - something approximating the RAW quality I get from my digital SLR. Is there hope for me?
posted by luriete to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The usual tactic for this is to buy the best unit you can through Craigslist, get your scanning done in a timely fashion, and then resell it on to the next person who needs to scan a bunch of stuff. Final cost $0.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:56 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think this is basically something where you can have a modern interface, high quality, or a reasonable price, pick any two.

Do you have a Mac Pro? If so, there is no reason to fear SCSI; you can drop a PCI Express HBA into them and they'll work just fine. VueScan continues to support many SCSI film scanners, and is an amazing piece of software that you want to use anyway. That plus one of the Nikons or even an older Minolta (esp. if you need to scan MF slides) is really what you want.

But if you have an iMac or notebook Mac, you are kinda stuck. Some people have had success with the Ratoc FW-SCSI bridges, but they are no longer made and finding one on the used market can be challenging, and they have some compatibility issues and you have to mess about with the Ratoc firmware in some cases.

The cheapest decent, modern-interface, dedicated slide scanners with auto feed that I'm aware of is the Pacific Image Electronics PowerSlide 5000. And it'll run you ~$1200ish. For that price, I'd just buy an old PCI-based G5 Mac, put a SCSI HBA card in it, get an old Nikon with the slide feeder, and then sell the whole kit as a working setup when you're done. Honestly I suspect you could probably make money on the deal, since you'd be buying parts but selling a working turnkey slide-scanning setup.

If you don't care about auto feed, PIE makes 35mm film scanners that will take individual slides, but you'd have to sit there and babysit each one. That's probably okay if you only have a few hundred slides (it's brainless work; you can do it while working on other stuff once you get the scan settings configured), but not if you have thousands.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:21 AM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

I looked around for a while, and finally, instead, sent a huge box of slides to Scan Cafe. It took a while (they wait until they have a pallet of stuff to send, then send to India, scan them, and ship them back to the US), but it was done, I only had to pay for 50% of them [you preview online], etc, etc.

Quality-wise, it was FINE, but these were old slides that weren't taken by a particularly good camera to begin with.

It was just so nice to spend a little money (less than buying a scanner) and have the project DONE, instead of having to spend several weekends loading a scanner.

YMMV, of course, but it was the right choice for us.
posted by gregvr at 9:53 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I use two Nikon Super Coolscan 5000EDs with my macs here at the library. They are USB and I use good old NikonScan software with both macs running 10.6.8. The bulk slide loaders are Nikon SF-210. If you're buying used, make sure the bulk loader is in good shape - once the springs and metal bits get bent, it's pain to get things moving straight.

If you have a one-time project, I strongly suggest farming it out to a reputable scan jobber instead of trying to do it yourself. I can send you references if you like, memail me.
posted by gyusan at 11:09 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

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