What is the best way to sort hundreds of old large format negatives?

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Many purpose built negative scanners only take standard size 35mm film and slides, and anything larger such as 120mm or the larger old glass plates would not be suitable for using with such scanners.  There is however a solution.

Take a regular scanner (if you need to purchase one then consider viewing the options available from the negative scanner shop section of our site, then take the followin steps:

  • carefully place film side down in the scanner
  • place an incandescent lamp over negative without the scanner lid in place
  • cover negative, with thin paper or opaque plastic to protect the negative
  • scan to photoshop, and invert in photoshop to turn the negative into a picture
  • crop, adjust contrast and brightness as necessary

This should then have the same or very similar effect as using a negative film or slide scanner, and may even be an alternative to buying a purpose built scanner altogether providing you have the right equipment and necessary photoshop skills in the first place.

Film Scanning – Convert or backup your microfilm records or 16/35mm roll film to Adobe PDF or TIFF format via our film scanning and archiving service.


12 Comments on "What is the best way to sort hundreds of old large format negatives?"

  1. Ken on Thu, 30th Jul 2009 12:38 pm 

    Going to try this have a load of 110 negatives from when the family was young …If works well can put on disk for each to have copies …..If not only out a little time ….Have been looking for this kind of information …Tried just scanning and a program on my computer and it was not even close but it was not a program for photos just drawing ” paint “on most PS’s Thank You

  2. Pedagogue13 on Fri, 19th Feb 2010 6:42 pm 

    In 2003 I bought a Umax Astra 4500 scanner with TPU 4500 transparency unit (under £100 the pair). With this I have scanned 100’s of Victorian 1/4 plate negatives (approx 10cm x 8 cm) – great bit of kit. also does other neg sizes down to 35mm.
    However now have a laptop with Windows 7 – can’t use the scanner, no drivers available nor can I find a modern equivalent to deal with the large negs for under £600!

  3. Franklin Shepardson on Sat, 20th Mar 2010 3:03 am 

    I am trying to find a 120mm,2 1/4 X 3 1/4 negitive/slide converter. I pray that some one will be able to help me. TYVM Franko

  4. admin on Sat, 20th Mar 2010 8:42 am 


    I would suggest buying a standard scanner and seeing if you can get someone or make a transparency unit yourself to fit the negative/slides.

    There are new options but they are not cheap:

    Epson 4870 (not currently available)
    Epson V750 (expensive)

  5. Terry on Mon, 22nd Mar 2010 10:41 pm 

    I have a large number of old, I mean really old (1950’s) celluloid negative films, all without sprocket holes or cardboard frames, of various small sizes from about 5 x 5 cm sq upwards. What are the best models for handling these (if any) and, within reason, price is not the object

  6. admin on Tue, 23rd Mar 2010 5:18 pm 


    Can you provide more detail on the type of film you have, if at all possible send me some pictures of the film in question.

    You can email pictures to pictures @ negativescanners.co.uk (remove the spaces before and after the @ symbol).


  7. Brian Jones on Wed, 15th Sep 2010 8:15 pm 

    I don’t understand line 3 above

    “cover negative, with thin paper or opaque plastic to protect the negative”

    when using an ordinary scanner to scan negatives. How can that work?

  8. admin on Wed, 15th Sep 2010 8:41 pm 

    It helps protect the negative from the additional light source, having a lamp too close to the negative may halm it. Although a better option would be to create a lightbox which would provide a constant source of light.

  9. Frakn Belke on Sun, 24th Oct 2010 4:03 am 

    I already have 2 dedicated 35mm slide scanners (Minolta & Polaroid. Unfortunately, I am short on cash & prefer not to buy another scanner (flatbed). Could anyone recommend a cheap scanning service place (preferrably in UK) to have different old larger negative films (as old as 30’s)
    Thank you in advance.

  10. Frakn Belke on Sun, 24th Oct 2010 4:04 am 

    …..I mean to have them scanned

  11. Beth on Fri, 12th Nov 2010 8:37 pm 

    Hey there,
    i have lots of 120 & 35 mm film needing to scan in for archives and a website. any suggestions?

  12. admin on Sat, 13th Nov 2010 7:14 pm 


    Something like the Canon 9000F would do the job fine, obviously depending on budget. If you can find a model prior to the 9000F such as the 8800F cheaper then this would also work.

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