Negative Scanner recommendation


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Feb 25, 2009
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I am going to soon be scanning a lot of old negatives my mother has stored. They are of many of our family members and cover a few generations.

Anyone have a recommendation on a good home negative scanner? I have an HP scanner and love it. Its flatbed, however.

The only film scanner I have used is the Plustek 7300, which I do like - but if you just want to get a lot of negatives onto the computer it will take a very long time with this scanner (3-5 minutes per frame). I usually scan them in at 6000x9000 pixels - a single scan of one frame (you can do up to 16 scans per frame) takes about 4 minutes at that resolution.

If you scan at a lower resolution it will go faster, but you're still talking at least a minute per frame.

For the amount of negs it sounds like you need to scan, a flatbed might actually be the better option - you could probably do a whole roll in one scan. Or you could send them out. Not sure how much that would cost, but it will definitly be faster.
I can recommend the EPSON v700. Its an excellent scanner and can handle a wide range of film formats. Its not limited to 35mm the way most of the dedicated film scanners are and costs much less than the few higher end film scanners that do handle larger film sizes.

I've been quite successful making simple cardboard adapters to allow various extinct film formats (126, 127, 616, 116, ...) to fit one or another of the EPSON carriers. Other than my personal and my father's 35mm work, my collection of old family images is largely B&W negative film and mostly in film sizes other than 35mm, 120, & 4x5.
Wow just before you think about anything remember scanning speed. Flatbeds with negative scanning capability may be great these days but when it takes 50min to scan 8 frames you'll soon lose interest in the negative digitisation, trust me I went through the same idea a little while ago.

Do yourself a favour and try and find a dedicated negative scanner that is fast.
Flatbeds with negative scanning capability may be great these days but when it takes 50min to scan 8 frames you'll soon lose interest in the negative digitisation

oops, I thought they were faster than that - sorry.

I thought the 3-5 minutes per frame it takes me was going to be long compared to a flatbed.
Do yourself a favour and try and find a dedicated negative scanner that is fast.

CxThree, before you choose the scanner do an inventory of the old negatives. You need to narrow the list of scanners considered to ones that will handle the film sizes you have.

A faster scanner does you absolutely no good if it can't handle the film you have. Most dedicated film scanners on the market only handle 35mm. Ones that handle 120, or larger, are quite expensive.
Thanks. Honestly I do not know much about film photography so I need to dig into these photos and see what they are. How can you tell when looking at them?
35mm above

medium format (120mm)
First Roll of 120mm from the Holga on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Changed pic to link to a different negative where you can really see it. If you never really got into film photography, im guessing it will be 35 mm.
Thanks. These do not have the holes at the top and bottom like the image you posted. I guess I can go by the camera shop near my home an ask them what it is. It looks more like the flickr image you posted, but not a long of a strip.
The Flicker image is not accurate enough to differentiate between some of the roll film sizes. Here is a short list of common sizes:

35mm: 35mm wide, sprockets on both sides, 24x36mm image (8 sprockets / image) for full frame and 18x24mm image (4 sprockets / image) for half frame
110: 16mm wide, sprockets on one side, 13x17mm image
126: 35mm wide, sprockets on one size 28x28mm image, one sprocket / image
828: 35mm wide, sprockets on one size ~28x42mm image, one sprocket / image
127: 46mm wide, no sprockets, several images sizes standard with square 40x40mm images being the most common in the 1950's.
120: ~60mm wide, no sprockets, many image sizes standard
620, 105, 117: same film spec a 120 with varying spool sizes & paper differences.
220: same width as 120 but twice the length and different paper arrangement
116, 616: ~70mm wide, no sprockets, usually a 62x110mm image.

While 126 will fit in standard 35mm carriers, for either flat bed or fiilm only scanners, the 35mm carriers will mask a significant portion of the top of the image often preventing a usable scan. The same applies to 828 "Bantam" images. Mounted slides in either of these two formats also present problems. Similarly, mounted 4x4 square 127 slides, often called "super slides' and which used a 2x2" mount like 35mm, will fit 35mm slide carriers but will crop severly.

There are other formats that you may encounter when digging through old family images. There were a number of 16mm sub-minature formats, some very similar to the size of 110 and others somewhat smaller to allow for either a single row of sprockets or for two. There is also the Minox format which is 9.5mm wide film and an 8x11mm image. None of these sub-minature formats are likely in famaily snap shot collections unless there was a photo enthusiast in the family.

When the images get as old as the 1930's ,and earlier, you will encounter the occasional film pack negative. These can be anything from 2 1/4 x 3 1/4" to 4"x5" and 3 1/2" x 5 1/2".

There are also several proprietary roll film sizes that were made in the first half of the 20th century. These turn up occasionally. Manufacturers sometimes tried to lock the buyer of their camera into buying only their film. Kodak did this to an extent, but did it by changing the spool (e.g. the 120, 620, 105, & 117 family) which put less strain on the labs then and the scanner now.

Again, most dedicated film scanners only handle 35mm. Some handle APS with an optional attachment. Its possible, with many of these, to modify the negative carriers to get them to scan 110 but many of the auto functions (crop, exposure, ...) will have to be disabled. The more expensive (>$1000 USD) professional models sometimes hand 120 and occasionally 4x5 as well. These offer the possiblility of modifying carriers to handling 126, 828, and 127. Those that take 4x5 can usually be modified to accept 116/616 negs.

Flatbed scanners in the $200-1000 USD range more often handle 120 and some handle up to 8x10 (EPSON v700/750). I've used my EPSON v700 to scan many odd old formats. I build "adapters" for the odd film sizes using black poster board to allow the negs to fit the next larger carrier. These are easy to create and don't require any alteration to the negative carriers themselves. 127 Super Slides are the only ones that would require a permanent carrier modification. These I've just scanned by placing the slides on the scanners glass with some cardboard shims to raise them to the same height as a carrier.

Wikipedia, as usual, has some good information. Search using the format "620 film" replacing "620" with the film size number you looking for.
Thanks a ton. Great info and suggestions here. I will look at that Epson too.
I confirmed today that this is 220 film. Look slike I need a flatbed scanner for sure. The local camera shop priced out scanning it and it's $5 a frame. they suggested that I look at the Caon flatbed scanners. They have those in the store and they get good results from them. FYI. Thats not the one they use for the $5 per frame charge. :)
If you really have alot of pics to scan. Should really look at the Nikon Coolscan 9000. Yes its $2,220 or so. But the quality difference is shown in the end result. Basically your break even would be 450 scans (going by the local camera store price of $5 each). Thats not considering that if you did not want to keep it. You can probably get 80-90% back on reselling it.

I happen to have an Epson 4990 pro flat bed scanner. And just recently picked up a Nikon Coolscan 5000 (35mm only). There is a large difference in the picture quality as the Nikons will pick up a larger tonal range. I was happy with the Epson until I saw the results from the nikon. The Nikon produces results much more closer to my original slides than the Epson. I am probably going to pick up a 9000 this summer to do my MF stuff.

They are pricey, but I can attest they are worth it. Should also mention they are fast as well. Much faster than the flat beds. Night and day!

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