Slide photo scanner advice

-- Last Updated: Dec-27-06 12:59 PM EST --

I have come across some old family slides from the 1950's, including northwoods camping/paddling trips, and would like to digitize some for sharing. No previous threads on PNet, but I have found some info on home-made adapters for copier/scanners, and info/reviews on slide/photo flatbed scanners like the Canon CanoScan 8400F (approx $125). Would appreciate any real-life experience in this direction, especially resolution when printing up to 8x10. Does something like the Canon do a decent job, or must you invest a lot more to get good results?

Dun’t know

– Last Updated: Dec-28-06 8:32 AM EST –

much about de Canon scanner, but me Epson Perfection 2450 scanner works ok with slides. Ah's finds most midrange flatbeds do ok. But... only ok. Yer want quality scans, go fer dedicated film scanners.
Nowdays, ah' mostly uses me' dedicated Nikon Super CoolScan 5000 ED fer me slides an' negative film strips. Top notch quality but it's alot of wampum ('bout $1000). Ah's still likes me Kodachrome 64 slide film over digital. Plus ah' gots so many older Nikon film cameras which ah' kin not bear ta leave unused.

Fat Elmo

Canon Bulk Scanner
Forget the model name, but Canon has a bulk feeder scanner that handles both prints and slides. - real nice feature to have if you’re doing any quantity. Think I found it by googling “bulk feed scanners”…

I find that flatbed adapters are…

– Last Updated: Dec-27-06 1:12 PM EST –

... pretty poor. That's based on my own results with a Canon 660 U flatbed scanner with factory-supplied film and slide adapter and light source. This unit supposedly provides 1200 x 1200 dpi resolution for film/slide scanning, but the results are pathetic, and totally unsuitable for printing at the dimensions you say you want.

A dedicated film scanner is the way to go, but like FatEkmo says, they are pricey. I went with a high-end Canon film scanner, and the resolution is fantastic, but the machine has serious exposure-control problems, and some day I'll probably see if I can get it fixed. In the meantime, I need to push the machine to its limits to get proper exposure on a nice well-lit scene. In any case, it can't begin to match the exposure latitude of the original Kodochrome slides, but the scanned copies aren't too bad overall. On the plus side, the resolution of a Kodochrome slide scanned at 4,000 dpi beats the pants off any image I've seen from a digital camera (of course, the file size for an un-reduced photo is absolutely enormous!)

As an art director…
I’ve found that almost all home-scanned (35mm and smaller) slides are of inferior quality.

The CanoScans give the best results (canon builds the “engines” for most home scanners), but are poor to intermediate in quality.

Depending how important the slides are, and their original quality, my advice would be to go to a graphics arts service bureaus or “professional” (ie: caters to professional photographers shop where you can have the slides drummed scanned.

5x7 @150 dpi is usually acceptable for home use. Look for it to cost about $10 per scan.

150 dpi?

– Last Updated: Dec-27-06 2:42 PM EST –

You must be talking about the output dpi for the print, not the scanning dpi. In any case, a commercial studio will know what to do, and that was a good idea.

As a camera person
Most of what you can buy in a store for under 150-200 will be fine for most users. It is sort of like buying a $200 drill for home use the $50 will work fine for home use.

Forget the scanner?
I plan on trying this technique some cold and rainy Saturday this winter. I already have 3,000+ slides, a projector, a digital camera and a tripod.


That’ll work

– Last Updated: Dec-27-06 4:30 PM EST –

somewhat ok for TV/monitor viewing, but he wants to print to 8x10 an' dats not gon'na give ya a real good image fer dat. Printin' an' TV/monitor viewin' be two different ballgames. De most yer gon'na git ta see is 72 dpi (dots per inch) on a monitor, while printin' is 300 dpi fer bottom o' de line an' 600 ta 1200+ dpi fer somethin' decent.

Fat Elmo

By the way, back in me early days (late '60s) of printing B&W, before ah' could afford an enlarger, ah's used ta mount a negative in a slide mount, put it into an old Revere/Wollensack projector and project the image onto photographic paper. Used a black piece o' cardboard as a shutter (one thousand one, one thousand two...) Dat too worked, not good but worked.

Kodachrome 64 was my hobby for 20 years!

I just received a CanoScan
for Christmas and have maybe 50 slides scanned so far. I’m at work and am not sure of the model (but looking online it looks like the 9000 series). I am outputting slides at 300 dpi. A run of 12 slides takes between 5 and 10 minutes depending on the corrections applied, then each slide is reviewed and tweaked using Adobe Photoshop. In an hour on Christmas day I got probably 30 slides done.

Of the slides completed, maybe a third were acceptable as scanned, half needed some “level” correction, and the remainder needed some color shift correction (due to initial processing or aging).

I haven’t printed any yet, but judging from the comparison to my direct to digital photos using a 6 meg canon I’ll be happy enough with 8X10’s. Plus the main reason for the scanner is to archive several thousand slides from the families history (1950’s to present). Then I’ll be able to look at as often as I want.


I have a white elephant, a Minolta
Dimage Scan Dual IV. Konica Minolta got out of the camera and scanner business earlier in 2006. If you wanted a new film scanner, I would recommend Canon.

My experience with slides is that good to excellent results can be achieved, even though a lot of my slides are 30 years old, and require some cleaning up using software, by hand.

Same goes for scanning negatives. I usually am not after a print. Instead, I scan at about 850 dpi to produce images to display on my 19" LCD monitor. I have about 6000 scanned photos at present, and I view them using the Windows XP Slide Show function. It semi-randomly pulls out images from the My Pictures file. This has reconnected us with images from the 60s up to the present.

You have to be willing to use some software correction to arrive at good results. Old slides are likely to have spiderwebs of greenish crap, unless your slides were stored in much better conditions than mine.

Flatbed scanner
I have scanned quite a few slides using a flatbed scanner and slide adapter. Just make sure what ever unit has the light attachment to do slides and negatives. They work quite well.

You get what you pay for
People think they can go to Best Buy and pick up a scanner that will give them great results. This is just not true. You are buying a consumer (mediocre) product that will give you consumer (mediocre) grade results at best, and that is if you spend the time to refine your techniques. You will not get great results from a $100 scanner. There is a reason it only cost $100. Just remember “you get what you pay for” . . . just like boats

Depends how picky you are

– Last Updated: Dec-28-06 3:02 AM EST –

I bought a Polaroid SprintScan 4000 film scanner back in '99, used it A LOT, and just replaced it with a Nikon Super CoolScan 5000 ED. The Polaroid cost $2000 back when it was king of the hill; the Nikon costs less than half that and is much better. Technology marches on...

The SprintScan 4000 was good, really the best of its day. And its results were better than film scanned on flatbeds. The 5000 ED is even better.

I haven't printed from scans off the Nikon yet but made lots of 8 x 10 prints from the Polaroid scans. Both of these scan at 4000 dpi (I always do actual-size 4000 dpi scans and use those as master files) so there is lots of data to work with to produce excellent prints of that size or larger. The files are large, more than 50 MB straight off the scanner.

I wouldn't even bother with flatbed scanners unless I'm scanning prints, NOT film. Epson came out with a couple of new flatbed scanners that supposedly were good enough for "pro" use with film. I was interested in them till I saw examples of the HORRIBLE film scans that came off them. Not even remotely as good as what my old SprintScan did, let alone the CoolScan. You want to scan film--get a film scanner, unless the slides are so beat up or poorly photographed that it doesn't matter.

Home-scanned = not same as “consumer”

– Last Updated: Dec-28-06 6:37 PM EST –

The best compact film scanners are perfectly suited for home use, but they give much better results than the cheaper scanners. There are more than a few pro photographers who use the best film scanners at "home" which often doubles as "workplace" for them.

I doubt anybody is going to pay $50 or more per slide (for each drum scan) to archive a bunch of old family slides. Twenty of those, and you've more than paid for a high-quality film scanner that you can continue using for many more scans, plus you control the process.

Now, if it's a 4x5 or larger slide that's a really good photo (not a snapshot), a drum scan might make more sense.

Except he asked for 8x10 size
I scan all slides and negs at 4000 dpi, then downsize from that “master file” as needed. Can easily get 300 dpi file size at 8x10 output size from that master file, with room to spare. No need to pay someone $50 per slide for drum scans (plus transportation costs) when the above can be obtained with excellent quality from a good film scanner right at home.

Also, calibrate your monitor
If you buy a high-quality film scanner, don’t overlook a hardware-based monitor calibrator also. They do not cost much and can save many hours of frustration. The human eye/brain has very poor color memory and is prone to adapting to ambient light. The calibrator will bypass the faulty human and come up with more consistent results.

For years, I did it with the “eyeball” method using software calibration. I got fairly good results, but since using a hardware calibrator I’m totally convinced it’s better. At the very least, it’s less subject to things like eye fatigue and it takes less time–important, since monitors should be calibrated regularly. They don’t stay the same for their lifespans.

Slide Scanning
I am no photographer but I have scanned a fair number of slides recently. There is a lot of confusion out there. A lot of misinformation. Be careful.

A few comments. DPI refers to dots per inch and refers to printing. When scanning, PPI or pixels per inch is used. Pixels are the very small square objects which come with information like color, contrast, brightness etc. and put together form the image on your screen.

Scanning is frequently performed at 300-400 ppi. But per inch of what? The “what” is the image size scanned. Slide scanners often offer a number of possibilities; 1 x 1.5 (film size), 4 x 6, 13 x19 etc. If you multiply the 300 ppi by the image size one arrives at the resolution or the number of pixels (e.g. 300x4 x 300 x 16). More pixels the higher the resolution but the larger the computer file one needs to work with. Very high resolution is only required if very large photos need to be printed out.

Another thing to consider, is the format of the file you save and work with. “Tiff” files are very large and difficult to work with. Most use “jpeg” which uses compression methods to reduce the size of the digital file and at the same time minimize the loss of information. “Jpeg” compression involves combining the same or very similar pixels. (e.g pixels in a section of black). Result is a smaller file. In PhotoShop there is the ability to adjust the compression (once compressed one cannot uncompress because information is lost).

The guy I working with has been scanning (Nikon CoolScan IV ED) my slides at 300ppi with image size of approx 13 x 19in. I like the files I work with to be in the range of 2-3 megs. Some larger , others smaller. These are very adequate for producing 8 x 12 prints and gives me opportunities for producing larger formats in the future or blowing up sections of the original.

I hope I was of some help.

I’ve used the Nikon cool scan and the Epson Expression flatbed scanner for slides, here’s the summary

The Nikon scans looked a bit better

The auto feeder on the Nikon never worked for me or for anybody else I know

The Nikon “died” every year and needed to be repaired for a few hundred bucks

The Epson has a multi-scan function so you can set it to scan 12 slides and walk away

The new Epson Perfection scanners have better specs that the Expression scanners and they’re only a few hundred dollars.Needless to say I would recommend the Epson over the Nikon.