A Flatbed Scanner for Photo Negatives?
December 10, 2016 12:14 PM   Subscribe

I need a recommendation on a good flatbed scanner that can handle 35mm slides as well as color and b&w photo negatives of all shapes and sizes.

I've inherited my family's photo archives which consists of 25 35mm slide carousels (100 slides each) as well as hundreds and hundreds of photo negatives. Most of the negatives are 35mm but a couple hundred are old 120-size and some are even a bit bigger than that. I'm trying to scan them all for reference purposes before I properly archive all of these negatives and would like to find a flatbed scanner to accomplish it. Ideally, I'd like to fill the entire flatbed with negatives and let the software identify each image regardless of size. Unfortunately, the only thing I can find are scanners that require the use of frames into which each negative must be loaded. That's a SLOW way to accomplish my goal and not always practical since some of the older negatives don't quite fit.

Can anyone point me to a flatbed scanner that will do what I'm seeking? If not, I'm open to good alternatives.
posted by Jamesonian to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I've never seen a flatbed for this purpose, though it might exist somewheres. The sorts of scanners I've come across that do negatives - and admittedly this was a little while ago, but the sightings took place at academic libraries and computer labs in photo departments, etc, so they were high-quality ones - were boxy, hmm, more like a cube than a flat bed scanner, and not very large, and had a small tray for holding the negative, which sat on the front of the thing. For whatever that's worth..
posted by elgee at 12:37 PM on December 10, 2016

You could use a digital camera With a wider lens to shoot a few columns and rows of negs then crop down to each neg in your favorite software.
posted by ridgerunner at 12:44 PM on December 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm an amateur film photographer. I have an Epson v600 that I use to scan negatives. Dedicated negative scanners are no longer a thing, at least for anything approaching consumer grade. The Epson gives good results and similar products from Canon are also well regarded.
posted by chrchr at 1:49 PM on December 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have the Epsom v700 that looks like it's been replaced with the v800.

It might be worth looking at the second hand market if you want something with more capabilities. I've been happy with my v700 for years.
posted by michswiss at 2:06 PM on December 10, 2016

Just to note, the v700 does exactly what you're asking for. I load up a 12 35mm negatives into a provided holder. Fire up the software and it will manage the scanning of all 12 in one go. It also handles positives / slides and multiple other film formats
posted by michswiss at 2:09 PM on December 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have an Epson v700. You might be able to get away with one of the cheaper epson scanners, but the cheaper scanners don't scan negatives that are larger than 120 film (ie 4x5, 5x7, etc). The Epson v700 comes with a bunch of different sized film holders.

All the scanners that scan negatives use some kind of frame to hold the negative (unless you're doing wet-mount, which is a huge pain). The negatives can't sit directly on the glass because you'll get newtons rings which will make your images unusable.

Protip, It's way way easier to remove dust from the negatives rather than removing dust in software. Buy a pack of cotton gloves, some lint free wipes, everclear, and a bunch of canned air.

Before every scanning session, wipe the scanner's glass (top and bottom glass) down with a lint free wipe with a bit of everclear on the wipe, wipe the film holder down too use. Use the canned air to clean off the film holder and scanner glass.

Pull the cotton gloves on, hit each negative with the canned air, and use a lint free wipe to gently swab both sides of your film.

After you've scanned the film/slides put them in archival plastic storage sleeves. Put your storage sleeves in an archival binder.

I scan a lot of film.
posted by gregr at 3:08 PM on December 10, 2016 [13 favorites]

Check out the Epsom site for deals on refurbished scanners!
posted by fshgrl at 4:28 PM on December 10, 2016

My technique is basically what gregr said except that because I use the scanner at school, I have to ask the equipment office to clean the glass.

I'll add that even though I do all those things, I still often get some dust spots on the scan. The good news is that the "Spot Healing Brush Tool" in photoshop does an amazing job of fixing white spots from dust and filling them in contextually.
posted by octothorpe at 12:37 PM on December 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

How many photos do you have, and what's your budget?

There used to be dedicated film scanners that professionals used, that reportedly get the best results. For example, the Nikon Coolscan Film Scanner series used to be popular, and is now still quite expensive on eBay. Nikon no longer supports them, so if something breaks, you're on your own.

Scanners like that have automation attachments that will automatically pull a whole negative strip through and make successive scans. Sort of a "set it and forget it" feature, for a single strip at least.

Though if your family photos are mostly keepsake snapshots taken by amateur photographers, like most of our family photos, having the "best" film scanner won't be an incredible advantage.
posted by reeddavid at 7:01 PM on December 11, 2016

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