How should I scan 500 40-year-old slides?
April 28, 2008 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Recommendation for professional 35mm slide scanning services, either through the mail or in the Washington D.C. metro area. Best recommendation for extremely long term archival storage of slides. About 400-500 slides.

I have recently come into possession of some very valuable 35 mm slides that are very old. There are about 400-500. Most of the slides are about 40 years old, however some are as old as 55 years old (I didn't think slides went back that far).

The slides are a combination of "Kodachrome Transparency", including the oldest, and "Agfachrome". The way the slides have been stored for the last 30 years at least has guaranteed that they are almost entirely dust and scratch free.

I want to scan these at a very high resolution, but I'm not comfortable dropping these off at a Ritz or Penn Camera store.

Any recommendations for a mail-away service? Any experience with ScanCafe? Any ideas on how I should tell them to do it?

What about storing these slides? The massive B&H catalog doesn't not include anything for storing slides, so any ideas for storage would also be helpful.

Finally, if anyone knows any particularly useful photoshop plugins or filters for color correcting these slides, I'd appreciate that as well.
posted by Pastabagel to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
There's Chrome in Georgetown.
posted by princelyfox at 10:16 AM on April 28, 2008

There's something very funny (for me) about your post considering how many slides I have that I shot when I was a teenager 40 years ago - you make it sound like you just discovered some prehistoric cave art. :-)

I have not used an slide scanning services, but you can get awfully nice technology to do this yourself nowadays. As far as I know, nothing still beats a Nikon CoolScan V with infrared technology (to do dust removal). I personally own an older Minolta scanner that does not do infrared dust removal but I am extremely envious of my brother who owns a Nikon infrared model. Unfortunately he lives on the other side of the country so I can't easily borrow his unit. Although you say the slides are dust-free believe me you want infrared dust removal.

A couple of years ago I used some Adobe photo element program that did amazing color correction. Most scanners will have some color correction software built-in or bundled with the scanner.

As for archiving, you can buy sleeves to hold slides but keeping them in boxes is probably as good as anything. I have many old slides lying around (some that my grandfather shot many moons ago). One of the advantages of slides is that not much can happen to them, I don't think.
posted by thomas144 at 10:23 AM on April 28, 2008

> What about storing these slides? The massive B&H catalog doesn't not include anything for storing slides, so any ideas for storage would also be helpful.

A while back I actually asked an AskMeFi question on slide storage.

The two major storage options are either to store them carousels, and then keep the carousels in their cardboard boxes, or you can store the slides in plastic pages in binders. Once upon a time keeping them in carousels was an expensive option because the carousels weren't cheap, but nowadays you can get carousels pretty much free as people throw them away.

Bindering takes up less space, but the slides are more difficult to work with and IMO it seems like they'd be more vulnerable if any moisture got trapped in the sleeve with them. However they'd probably be more protected against external moisture (if a pipe broke in your house or something).

For now, I keep all my slides in carousels, stored cool and dry -- mostly because that's how they've been for decades -- but I'm still mulling over the idea of going to sleeves at some point in the future.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:41 AM on April 28, 2008

I just got done using DigMyPics a few months ago and was very happy. I also looked at ScanCafe but their customer service, while responsive, wasn't as good as DigMyPics. I spoke to the owner of DigMyPics on the phone because I had some special concerns.

For what its worth both ScanCafe and DigMyPics use the same drum scanner as mentioned above by thomas144, you can see that here and here.

There is a price difference between the two:
*ScanCafe 3000 dpi is $0.24/scan but if you want a TIFF file add $0.09/scan. If these are B&W then it is $0.99/scan.
*DigMyPics 2000 dpi is $0.49/scan, no extra for TIFF.

Also, for both you have to pay for the media they mail you the scans back on. Large files = lots of DVDs. For ScanCafe they offer an external hard drive for $100 so that really adds to the price. But DVDs do cost money too.

Also for both you will pay to get the slides there and back which means FedEx or UPS costs. It is worth it to have the tracking but just note that the cost is there for both.

DigMyPics also sells archival boxes (extra cost) that they can place your slides in when they are done scanning. ScanCafe might also have this but I am not familiar.

Also, DigMyPics and ScanCafe seemed to have been in a fight a year or so ago for what its worth. You can read some about that here if you care.
posted by firetruckred at 10:49 AM on April 28, 2008

There may be two sides to the DigMyPics/Scancafe story:

I haven't used either service, but I'm particularly interested in Scancafe's business model: They encourage you to send in all your slides, without pre-editing, and then let you review your scans on-line and "discard" up to half of them -- charging for only the ones you decide to keep.
posted by Dave 9 at 11:22 AM on April 28, 2008

First, my disclaimer, I own a company that digitizes slides, and yes, this is my first post here, but I won't plug my business and I think I have something unique to contribute.

I'm a one woman operation, so I can't claim to compete with the likes of DigMyPics! or ScanCafe (they're up to 8 million scans now according to their website!) but I have enough orders to keep me busy and interested and the business solvent. Enough of that though.

Regarding Storage
I used to think that carousels were the way to store slides until I had someone send me a carousel full of slides that had been stored along with a piece of black foam for 40+ years. At least I think that's what it was because the foam had disintegrated and all that was left was this black dust that had coated both sides of every slide. Yuck. Carousels have their benefits, but they leave the film very exposed. Even slides bundled in a stack with a rubber band wouldn't have been that dusty at the center. I think the archival boxes are a good way to go, but the best way is to get them digitized sooner rather than later. Especially the Ektachrome slides. I have found them to have the worst fading over time.

Here's a link to some photos of different slides and their digital captures that I put together yesterday, I hope to keep adding to it over time.

Another comment I wanted to make is about how much corporate DRAMA there is in this business! The links above to ScanCafe and DigMyPics show that off pretty well. Is this common in other web niche industries?
posted by sajego at 12:36 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hijack: Does anyone know a European/UK equivalent to the above services?
posted by Jofus at 2:54 AM on April 29, 2008

« Older Distill my bleeding parts   |   What is cash gifting? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.