A Very Special Scanning Negatives Query
March 14, 2006 6:35 AM   Subscribe

StupidQuestionFilter: I have a disposable camera, I would like to open the camera up and scan the negatives into a computer. Is that possible, or is some processing necessary before the negatives are physically reminiscent of the pictures you took... I know nothing about cameras. Should I just spend 5 dollars to get them developed elsewhere or is the DIY route possible?

I checked to see if this was previously posted and it doesn't seem that anyone is as stupid as me.
posted by cloeburner to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
Best answer: You will have to get the film developed. You do not necessarily have to pay for prints though - just ask for the negatives and you can scan them without the added expense of prints you don't need.
posted by fire&wings at 6:37 AM on March 14, 2006

Bust open the camera and you will find a normal roll of film like any other 35 mm negative ready to be developed.

Since developping is the same price w/ or wo/ the camera, I see kids bust them open to get the AA battery for their walkman.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:38 AM on March 14, 2006

Best answer: When you take a photo, you're exposing the film to light. When you just open up the camera, you're exposing the entire thing to light. In essence, it wipes out the images on the film. The DIY route is extremely expensive (it requires a few chemicals to get it done, all which can be found at a camera-specialty shop), and it'd probably be better to just get them developed for the $5.

Also, depending on your scanner, you might have trouble getting them to not just show up blank. When you do scan the negatives, leave the lid of the scanner open - it might work.
posted by itchie at 6:40 AM on March 14, 2006

Do not bust the camera open - not all disposable cameras have a normal roll of 35mm in them. As itchie says, you will risk exposing the entire film.
posted by fire&wings at 6:41 AM on March 14, 2006

Response by poster: Well I work at a hospital computer lab which has some pretty nice scanners that are made to scan transpararencies and negatives and the like, but all of your advice is quite good. I shall give you all best answers now. Cheers.
posted by cloeburner at 6:42 AM on March 14, 2006

Response by poster: Oops, typo: *transparencies. And, sorry StickyCarpet, in light of fire&wings latest comment I am weary of bestowing the high honor of best answer on your post.
posted by cloeburner at 6:46 AM on March 14, 2006

Cloeburner: the negative you get back with your prints after processing has been treated so that it ceases being sensitive to light. The negative in your camera (disposable or otherwise) remains extremely light-sensitive until it is treated. So you can't just take the film out of the camera and scan it; one second after you take it out, it will be permanently ruined.
posted by jellicle at 7:07 AM on March 14, 2006

Personally never seen a disposable that did not include a film can. Such a camera would have to be sent to a specialized service to develop, most developers pop open the camera and develop as usual, then send in the camera shells for a rebate.

But beware that the setup is backwards from normal, when you start shooting the film is outside the roll and as you shoot it winds onto the roll, so you should finish the roll before opening.

There are technical issues with image quality scanning negative. Briefly, the dark values are compressed into a very small numerical range at the bottom of the exposure curve and can only be captured accurately by a high bitrate scanner (at least 12 per pixel.)

You will get better results scanning slides, and possibly even from scanning the prints depending on your scanner.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:36 AM on March 14, 2006

I've tried scanning negatives, slides, and prints, and it's no question: you get far better results by scanning the prints.
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:29 AM on March 14, 2006

As an aside, make sure you are super careful if you ever pop open a disposable camera with a flash. There's a capacitor in there (think storage tank for electricity) that stores the charge for the flash and gave give you an unpleasant zap if it discharges on you.
posted by GreenTentacle at 8:40 AM on March 14, 2006

I've tried scanning negatives, slides, and prints, and it's no question: you get far better results by scanning the prints.

Not if you use a specalty negative scanner.
posted by delmoi at 9:23 AM on March 14, 2006

Note: many quick-print places scan the negatives to make the prints - the prints are digitally created, that is, and not made on an enlarger of any sort. Thus, chains like Ritz and Fox Photo will often give you a CD if you only want processing and it'll cost only $2 more than the processing itself - no prints - and you end up with scans about 2500 pixels on the long side. Certainly not nearly as high-res as you could do yourself with a slide / transparency scanner, but decent enough.
posted by luriete at 9:27 AM on March 14, 2006

If you just get it processed and plan to scan the negatives yourself (ideally with a negative scanner), it's more than worth it to spend a couple extra dollars and go to a "professional" film lab, or at least a chain like Wolf or Ritz. Drugstores will scratch the hell out of your film, and you'll have to spend a long time cleaning them up in Photoshop.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 10:33 AM on March 14, 2006

Um, actually, as long as the film counter reads "0" (which means there are no shots left--if you want to wind it to 0 without pressing the shutter over and over again, keep the shutter depressed and then forward the advance knob until you get to the 0 or arrows after the 0), when you crack open the camera you won't be exposing the film because it will already be wound back into the cartridge again.

And now you've got yourself a roll that needs to be dropped off for developing, with the possible bonus of a (weak) AA battery, if it has built in flash. Note: yes, you will get a nasty shock if you touch the circuit board or jam the camera open with something all-metal.
posted by availablelight at 10:56 AM on March 14, 2006

I work in a photo lab and was about to point out what StickyCarpet said above -- every disposable camera I've ever seen (and we get a lot of them where I work) has a film canister in it, always on the side of the camera that the film advance wheel is on.

Most decent disposables (namely the ones from Kodak, Fuji, Konica, and most store-brand models) have a way to easily get the film canister out without risking shocking yourself. On the Kodak ones, just slide a flathead screwdriver under the tab on the side of the camera that the advance wheel is on, and pry it open. On Fuji cameras, there's a slot on the bottom (usually marked with a small printed bar) that you pry open with a screwdriver. Some other brands have a piece of plastic covering the film canister that you just pry off.

The cheaper, no-name brands are often actually Fuji or Kodak cameras that have been cheaply "recycled", usually with lots of electrical tape. These can sometimes be a bit dangerous to open. (A coworker claimed he once found a dead cockroach inside one.)

Anyways, this is pretty irrelevant to the original poster's question. Just bring them to a photo lab and ask for negative-only processing with a picture CD. Far easier and probably cheaper than doing it yourself. Where I work, it costs about $5.
posted by neckro23 at 11:45 AM on March 14, 2006

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