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My mother needs to scan about 20 years of 35mm negatives (and she takes tons of photos, so we're talking very high volume). She is afraid (despite my attempts to convince her otherwise) to mail the negatives to a scanning service, as many of the negatives have not been printed. Can anyone recommend a scanner that will produce good images, is reasonably easy-to-use, and will work with a Mac? Ideally, I'd like it to have a hard drive so it does not have to be connected to the computer, but I'm flexible on this.

I appreciate any help you can provide.

Thanks, Evie

asked Dec 02 '13 at 08:53

EvieB's gravatar image


edited Dec 02 '13 at 08:54

I presume most of those shots won't ever be printed or really dealt with beyond the scan. If they're mostly snapshots that'll be viewed on a iPad or a live photoframe, then the scan resolution can be pretty low, right?

If some of them are really good and can be expected to be printed in a large format, then the scan resolution should be very high.

Currently, scanners at BH Photo Video go for $90 to $2000. Maybe eBay would be a better choice, but get some idea of what resolution she'll want before going much further.

Perhaps instead you can find a local photoshop or even an amateur who can make contact prints - that's where a whole roll of film is in a protective page, a film sleeve, then that's laid on a full sheet of print paper and then exposed & the paper developed. That's a contact sheet and you'd use a loupe to look at the whole roll to see what promise it held.

Then pick your scan targets from that.

Or, if you've got the cash, etc., get Mom to accept sending off a single roll for commercial scanning. Then work up to 5-10 rolls at a time. Her stash will be mostly safe and you won't have to fight the whole cleaning, organizing, filing process of scanning 20 years of "very high volume" shots.

And you mentioned a hard drive - have you given any thought to where you'll digitally store her trove?

This whole thing is a far-from-trivial exercise. There's a reason these services are offered.


answered Dec 05 '13 at 03:54

Wayne%20Ruffner's gravatar image

Wayne Ruffner

Cheap scanners are not worth it - they are slow and give mediocre results. Best option for decent scanners that you can buy new seem to be the Plustek 8200 SE and AI scanners, but you are still looking at a $300-$400. You can buy them used, but the cost of the the latest version of the software to make it work with your mac puts you back in the price range of a new Plustek scanner. You will also want a second negative carrier (so you can reload the one while the other is being scanned).

Your best bet are used high end "prosumer" Nikon Coolscan IV and Minolta Dimage IV scanners, which you can find pretty regularly on amazon or ebay for $300-500+. They are better than the Plustek, and the Nikon is faster (and does not require negative holders). Do your homework on the specific model and software you need make sure it will work with whatever computer you have.

You may see people using homemade adapters for scanning negatives with flatbed scanners, and even some flatbed scanners that were built with scanning negatives in mind, but I would avoid them - the results are only adequate, and you will either need to post process them manually or spend money on a scanning software. On top of that, it will much slower than a dedicated scanner

I have 3000+ film photographs covering 25 years (mostly negatives, some prints, a handful of slides). The best of the scanners takes 20-60 secs per frame, plus the time to load the negative holder and post-process the images. I estimated that it would be at least 60-100 hours, and probably more, to scan everything.

After researching the DIY options, and messing around with one of the better flatbed scanners, I came to the conclusion that a service (e.g., ScanCafe) was the best and ultimately the least expensive solution for me. I did the first batch with expedited processing (they do the scans in the US) and was very pleased with the results - they use more sophisticated scanners, automate most of the post processing, but still check and tweak each frame. If you create an account with them they will send you emails with special offers - the sale this weekend is $0.19 per image in the prepaid value box. At that price, I could do my whole library for not much more than the cost of the scanner and software.


answered Dec 07 '13 at 20:52

sajudson's gravatar image


edited Dec 07 '13 at 20:58

Hi there,

After years of photography I was in the same situation as your mother and have tried various solutions. From flatbed to dedicated film scanners. In the end I bought the Wolverine stand alone scanner: http://www.amazon.com/Wolverine-F2D20-MegaPixels-Digital-Converter/dp/B009URRG7O/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1386728938&sr=8-3&keywords=negative+scanner

I use one of those big batteries for charging mobile phones to power it so I can use it anywhere. It takes an SD card so you do not have to be tethered to a PC.

And here's my take on it....it produces images easily and quickly and from there you can choose the best ones and then you can send them to a scanning service to get the best quality.

I found that I threw about 80% of my negs away either because the exposure/focus is hopelessly wrong or there are multiple shots of the same scene or they are simply not worth it. Anyone old enough will tell that for each roll of 24 exposure film, for most people ony a few were any good.

I'm assuming that your mum was not a professional photographer because if she was we would not be having this conversation here :-)

Hope this helps


answered Dec 10 '13 at 18:35

elvisbrown's gravatar image


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Asked: Dec 02 '13 at 08:53

Seen: 2,837 times

Last updated: Dec 10 '13 at 18:35

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