Copying 35mm negatives to digital?

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What would give the best quality results when converting 35mm negatives to digital?
If time isn’t a problem then you could always do it yourself.  However the best option as far as quality is concerned is to use a professional photographic company who specialise in negative scanning and copying.  This obviousy would be a more costly route, but may be ideal for small numbers of slides or film which may not warrant the purchase of a negative scanner.

If you truly want the best quality way to get negatives into digital files, dedicated film scanners are specifically designed for the job, and works better than a traditional flatbed scanner that you would use for everyday scanning. The Nikon Coolscan scanners are professional quality devices, yet not that hard to use, ok they may require a bit of learning and tinkering to get the desired results, but they are not beyond the use of an amature or someone learning to convert negatives for the first time.

They used to be very expensive, but not as bad now, try looking at the shop section of this site, available from the top menu bar to get a better idea.  As with many things digital, the newer the scanner, the newer the technology and generally the better the scanner, modern versions have Digital ICE, a feature that can automatically retouch out dust, scratches and fingerprints perfect for those with an untrained eye.

If you don’t wish to buy a film scanner just for a small batch of negatives, another option is to send them to a professional person or company as mentioned above, although as said previously the cost may far outweigh the price of a cheap 35mm negative scanner.

Another advantage of working on your own slides and film is that you never need to hand over your precious negatives which often are irreplaceable, and may become lost or damaged at the hands of others.

Whatever scanner you decide to use, good scanning software can make a big difference to how the digital images turn out. Often the software included with a normal flatbed scanner will not have the capabilities to manage conversion of negatives into digital prints.  Try using some dedicated software such as Silverfast or VueScan and see which software works best for your needs, the best advice would be to try different software on the same set of slides and see which results you prefer before making a final choice, you could even use different software depending on the type of slide or film negative.

Once you have the digital images on your computer you can then use a photo printing company to get your images printed or store them on one of the many USB Hard Drives available where they can be kept in digital format for future use.


3 Comments on "Copying 35mm negatives to digital?"

  1. Dr John Mathews on Tue, 27th Oct 2009 11:35 am 

    I have several hundred colour negatives up to 50 years old, some in cardboard and others in glass mounts. I want to whittle thios down to a half by eye, and digitese the rest.
    I do need to retain some information – date and details.
    I have a Canon Powershot A520 and a computer if I were to do it myself. If they went to a lab I’d be worried about the labelling.
    Please let me have your advice
    P.S. I do have a Canonscan 3200F

  2. Ion Photo and Film Scanner | Negative Scanners on Tue, 19th Oct 2010 8:30 am 

    […] auto exposure and colour balance and have pre bundled software although we always recommend trying other software options to get the best out of your […]

  3. terry reed on Wed, 20th Oct 2010 8:56 pm 

    I’ve been looking at details on scanners for a couple of years, but find the description of the resolution in “d.p.i.” (dots per inch) confusing, because film size is in milimetres and it doesn’t say if this measurement is actual pixels or separate red, green and blue dots per inch. It gives no idea of file size or format either.

    I get my negatives scanned at the time of processing, and put on CD, but the scan resolution/ file size is poor. Worst of all is the incorrect exposure of the scans, which are under-exposed (show burned out highlights), so no amount of fiddling in Photoshop can put back the missing detail.

    I don’t want to buy a Nikon Coolscan, as it’s a lot of money and I really would like to know a bit more about how it performs. No shops know anything. Very frustrating.

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