What is a negative scanner and how much should a decent one cost?

Created by  
Filed under Questions

slide scanner questionsA negative scanner is a piece of equipment which allows you to scan slide negatives and film negatives and turn them into digital images, in a similar process to that of using a traditional scanner.

If you need something to let you scan in old 35mm negatives or slide negatives to the computer, a negative scanner is the thing you need.

How long does it take to scan in negatives with one?

Negatives can usually be scanned in small batches of around 4-6 depending on the scanner involved and the capabilities of it.  Scanning can take between a couple of minutes per batch, upto 10-15 minutes again depending on the scanner and also the results you are looking to achieve.

Is the quality good and how much should a decent one cost?

With prices ranging from around £40 upto many hundreds of pounds you should expect to get quality in comparison with the price.  Like many things in life you get what you pay for, however having said that if you are a novice to photography or negative scanning then the lower end of the market may still be more than adequate for your purposes.  You could always upgrade at a later date should the quality not be up to your required standards.

Many PC scanners come with negative holders that may do the job also so consider looking for a holder if you currently have a normal flat bed scanner.

For those into photography that use a negative based camera should consider converting to a Digital SLR such as the entry model EOS 1000D from Canon.


23 Comments on "What is a negative scanner and how much should a decent one cost?"

  1. Bernard Jelley on Thu, 22nd Jan 2009 9:08 pm 

    Is there a reasonably priced negative scanner that will scan
    2 and 1/4 inch transparancies

  2. admin on Fri, 23rd Jan 2009 9:33 pm 

    You could use a flatbed with a transparency adapter which would be the easier method if you already have an existing flatbed scanner. Otherwise i would suggest looking at the Epson Perfection range depending on the price you are looking to pay: http://www.epson.co.uk/products/product_hub/home_scanning.htm.

    If they suite your needs but the price is out of your range then second hand via eBay may be an alternative option.

  3. Tony on Tue, 23rd Feb 2010 6:05 pm 

    I have quite a few of the ’80s fashionable ‘disc’ camera negatives and would love to be able to scan them to SD or PC. Does kit exist to be able to scan theses thumb nail size negatives??

  4. admin on Tue, 23rd Feb 2010 6:46 pm 

    Hi Tony,

    Do you mean something like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disc_film

    If so I don’t believe there is a purpose built negative scanner for disc negatives.

    Your best option would be to use a flatbed scanner with a high resolution setting of at least 6400 dpi due to the small size of disc film as this would give the best results using some dedicated negative software.

    Your other option is to get someone to do it, a quick look around and it appears these will do it: http://www.processc22.co.uk/ although the price is not cheap and as you have quite a few it may be worth attempting it yourself.

  5. John on Mon, 29th Mar 2010 1:23 pm 

    I am looking for a cheap scanner that I can use with 35mm and 110 negatives….any ideas….ta

  6. Louise Cotton on Thu, 26th Aug 2010 4:13 pm 

    I am thinking of buying a negative scanner (for 35mm negatives), but don’t know what quality of digital copies I need in terms of dpi’s or megapixels. I would like the quality of a copy to be such that a print taken from it would be of the same quality as a print taken from the original negative (the object of the negative scanning being to be able to throw away the boxes of negatives).

    Advice please!

  7. admin on Thu, 26th Aug 2010 6:10 pm 

    Hi Louise

    One of the purpose built negative scanners such as the Veho would give the same sort of quality as a print taken from the original negative.

    To improve the results further you could always use additional software to tweek the scans instead of the bundled software that comes with the scanner.

    There is an article on software for negative scanners here.

  8. Sue Booth on Sun, 28th Nov 2010 9:05 am 

    what a great website…answers my questions but I do have one more…
    Christmas is coming, and I thought I would get one for my dad, and set him off with all the slide photos he took as I was growing up.
    Is any one scanner easier to use than another? I got him a video editing suite for Christmas a couple of years ago and he had trouble loading it (it may be his pc but I am sure it isno older than mine)and he is not online – do you know if this would be a problem?

    so..ease of loading up and use/ does it need online access?

  9. admin on Sun, 28th Nov 2010 10:31 am 


    The purpose built negative scanners are probably the easiest to use and install. They usually come comeplete with the software required, if not other options such as those suggested here will work also. The Veho and the ‘Ion Pics 2’ series make the process of scanning easy and simply connect via USB, no internet access is needed.

    In your case the best option may be the Ion Pics 2 SD as it will work without a PC plus the pictures can be stored onto an SD card and taken to any high street photo developer for processing.

    Any further questions just ask.

  10. Rich on Sun, 12th Dec 2010 11:35 am 

    Can anyone recommend a negative scanner that works well with an iMac? My budget is around £60 to £100. Thanks!

  11. admin on Wed, 15th Dec 2010 8:14 pm 


    Unfortunately we do not have an iMac so cannot recommend a negative scanner that would work well from personal experience.

    However we suggest having a look at the Veho range given your price range.

    The Veho VFS-008 is a stand alone scanner that also works with Mac:


  12. Penny on Wed, 26th Jan 2011 8:44 pm 

    I have discovered hundreds of negatives of my family, many of them pre-1920s. They range in size (smallest: 3″ x 1.75″; largest, 3.5″ x 2.5″) and are individually cut. Is there a negative scanner that doesn’t cost a fortune that these negatives would fit? All advice welcome but nothing too technical please! Thanks.

  13. admin on Sat, 29th Jan 2011 4:53 pm 

    Hi Penny,

    You could use a flatbed with a transparency adapter which would be the easier method given the different sizes. I would suggest looking at the Epson Perfection range depending on the price you are looking to pay: http://www.negativescanners.co.uk/category/brand/epson/.

    If they suite your needs but the price is out of your range then second hand via eBay may be an alternative option.

  14. Helen on Sun, 10th Apr 2011 2:17 pm 

    So, I’m looking for a decent scanner, not the bottom of the budget range that will take 35mm film (colour and B&W) that will work with a Mac and give me good results. Which should I consider? I’ve heard that flatbed scanners are not a good idea and the review that I read about the Veho wasn’t too encouraging. Thanks.

  15. admin on Sun, 10th Apr 2011 9:06 pm 

    Hi Helen,

    We have no prior experience of working with negative scanners on the Mac.

    You may get some good advice by asking on one of the Mac forums.

  16. sam on Mon, 1st Aug 2011 4:07 pm 

    hi, im studying photography and realy like using film but i need to edit in digital, i have a budget around £100 – £200
    what scanners offer top quality for colour and B&W negatives, also for 35mm negs and medium format negs.

  17. admin on Mon, 1st Aug 2011 8:02 pm 

    Hi Sam,

    For quality you would be better off with a flatbed style scanner capable of scanning negatives. You then have the advantage of being able to scan different sizes etc. plus it will also double up as a traditional scanner. The purpose built negative scanners are great as entry level models and occasional use but do tend to lack quality.

    The other end of the scale are the Plustek scanners but these may be out of your price range.

    Have a look at what Epson have to offer as they make good quality scanners: http://www.negativescanners.co.uk/category/brand/epson/.

    Whatever you decide it would be worth looking at software such as VueScan or Silverfast as you be able to get the most out of your scanner that way: http://www.negativescanners.co.uk/programs-to-convert-35mm-negatives-into-positives-via-a-scanner/.

  18. Oluwole Dare on Thu, 4th Aug 2011 7:08 am 

    1. I started photography long time ago, and am now landed with many small reels of 8mm films which i can no longer watch. how can i convert them to digital form to watch on my computer?
    2. i also have a lot of 35mm negatives and 35mm positive slides. can you help please?
    3. can i combine the two above in one machine?
    PS. I am a short time visitor to Uk

  19. admin on Thu, 4th Aug 2011 10:54 pm 


    We do not have any knowledge of film real so are unable to make any suggestions as to what machine you would require.

    Sorry we cannot help you further.


  20. Alexandre on Mon, 24th Oct 2011 11:08 pm 

    I’m trying to find a way to scan my thousands of B&W and colour negatives. I have a very old CoolScan III (scsi) that is almost impossible to use in the new computers (no drivers for W7, 64 bits , etc…). There’s a Firewire scsi conversor, that costs a lot. I have some questions:
    – How worst is a flatbed scanner (those news, as Epson V330) compared with dedicated film scanner like Nikon?
    – Are these ‘box’ scanners (Ion, Veho,…) better than a flatbed scanner? (considering negatives, of course).
    Thank you very much!

  21. Dan Harrison on Tue, 25th Oct 2011 7:45 am 

    Hi Alexandre

    Thanks for your email. In short, given how much a negative scanner costs, they are very cost effective for scanning negatives. The scanner is designed to perfectly balance the lighting so that you get a good digital image without needing much photo manipulation. Combined with the hassle that a dedicated scanner will save you compared to a flatbed scanner, a negative scanner will save you time too.

    I hope that helps.

  22. Alexandre on Tue, 25th Oct 2011 11:38 pm 

    Thanks Dan,
    Let me see, by negative scanner you mean Ion, Veho, etc…, right? Dedicate scanner is like my old coolscan. For your answer I think that you’re recommending me a negative scanner. It would be great for the price and the size of these scanners, but I’m really worry about the quality.
    I read in your recent post that a flatbed scanner capable of scanning negatives for quality is better. Maybe I misunderstood something.
    Thanks again!

  23. Dan Harrison on Wed, 26th Oct 2011 7:48 am 

    Hi Alexandre

    It’s impossible for me to tell you either way about quality. I suggest you try to find someone locally so you can test both? Perhaps even at a shop?

    Kind Regards

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!