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How do I convert all my film negatives to digital?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / December 19, 2013 8:43 AM PST

How do I convert all my film negatives to digital?

I have a ton of film negatives boxed up in my basement that I would like to convert to digital, so I can share them easily with my family and friends on DVDs. I know this task is going to be painstakingly slow, but now that I'm retired I have plenty of time on my hands. However, what I don't have in my hands is the knowledge to take on this task and I was hoping your members would be able to help me out. I'm not tech-savvy nor am I a tech idiot and given proper step-by-step instructions or advice on what I need to buy and do for this process, I'm pretty sure I can do it myself. Can you kindly please help me get started? I'm listening tentatively. I appreciate the help in advance.

--Submitted by George M.
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Yes, it is painstaking.
by bzkline / December 20, 2013 7:21 AM PST

There are many negative to digital units for sale today at reasonable prices. I bought mine on Amazon, but I know there are others, such as Costco that have them.

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Convert film negatives to digital
by wadetrek / December 20, 2013 7:40 AM PST

Greetings George,

The best way i have found to do this is with a negative/slide scanner. I use one i purchased from Amazon and it is made by Wolverine who make really great products. the model# is F2D14 , it's a14 MP and it converts both 35mm Slides and Negatives to Digital Images. Currently it has a 4 star rating with 236 reviews including a video review.
Here is the link in case you are interested,

The great things about this product is that it has a built in viewer so you can preview your images, it does not need to be connected to a computer to use and it comes with trays that you place your negatives in and you scan them directly to the built in Memory Card Reader that takes both SD & SDHC Memory Cards or directly to your computer when connected through a USB cable. It also has an internal memory for 8-9 pictures. You can also purchase additional trays. Usually takes about 5 seconds per image to convert...

Hope this helps.

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Converting negs and photos to digital: All of them !
by awasawas / February 7, 2014 9:36 AM PST

Do you really want to spend hours and hours converting all your photos and negatives? I am sure that you have several photos etc. Which have very little differences between them. Do you really want all the 200 photos of a wedding you took digitalised?
You want the essence of the wedding.
I would save all your hard copies because they seem to outlast digital so far. Go through your collection, seriously review and do not have the blurred ones digitalised , remove the repetitive ones. Have a word with a few professional companies that will do this for you. Haggle to reduce the price. They will do a better job for you. Enjoy your retirement!
I am not saying do not buy a machine for doing this. I am saying do not digitilise everything.

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As a semi-pro photographer for decades, definitely disagree
by avanabs / February 7, 2014 11:17 PM PST

The correct answer is "Absolutely positively yes!" them to digital. I'm also confused by your "outlast digital so far" comment. If you are referring to physical media, that's easily handled. Those do evolve over time, but with a little attention you can assure access virtually forever, and absolutely no degradation. My library is on a multi-media PC, connected to my large screen TV for viewing, and backed up to a second removable hard drive. Should I ever decide to change.upgrade OS's, a copy is trivial.

"Hard copy" photographs, whether prints, negatives, or slides degrade significantly over time...ask any museum or for that matter Kodak, Agfa, etc. Anyone who really cares about maintaining physical libraries has to indulge in humidity, temperature, and oxygen free storage. Digital is far easier than that.

When I converted all of my library (including about 11,000 underwater slides), using a wildly expensive Nikon scanner, about 8 years ago, I kept the best slides and I have compared them to the digital representation over time. The slides, in particular the Extachrome, but also the Kodachrome, show easily measurable degradation...specifically color shift. Prints are even worse, with negatives standing up the best but still degrading over time.

Anyone who really cares about their photographs should definitely digitize them, not to mention how much easier it is to look at them...mouse clicks or automated shows verses all the projector, screen, etc, mess.

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I think they may be referring to file format...
by JCitizen / February 9, 2014 9:34 AM PST

If you save all high resolution digital photos to TIFF image format, all original information is preserved forever, and can be used as a master copy for any compression you wan't later, like JPG. Copying JPG files does degrade the resolution over a short time, so I can't recommend it for original archive format.

The recording media is the next concern - because many burned DVDs only last about 5 years, so that is another way to lose quality in resolution, if not a complete loss in a disastrous way! If a person could find a professional service to "print" them to a DVD like the music industry does, then I would be confident of this archiving method, but then you'd want to keep them in a fire proof safe too! I really like wadetrek's suggestion for the Wolverine digital scanner, as I never knew they came out with a 14 mega-pixel version like that!! This is more than enough resolution to blow up original images with no more degradation that the original photo! Unfortunately, I can only trust internal magnetic hard drives for storage of such precious

memories, as I've seen too many external drives crash and burn. Perhaps an NAS with a good reputation and some RAID for file redundancy would help.
Of course it is probably way smarter to simply keep more than on source for backup, so you can use more economical media for archiving. This way, you don't need any one best technology to assure survival. Since cloud solutions have small storage room for free services. One could at least keep JPG images out there for a last ditch effort to store a facsimile of the memories. TIFF images take up a lot of room, but hard drives and flash memory are getting cheaper by the minute, but I'd never rely on flash memory alone for backup. With a magnetic hard drive, the likely hood the information will fail is zero if the hard drive is not smashed, burned, or some kind of security Guttman wipe is performed on the memory recorded there. Even if the hard drive controller died, a recovery service would always be able to recover the magnetic images. If the hard drive were simply accidentally formatted, recovery software can always solve that crisis. Professional recover services are VERY expensive, but what are your memories worth?

There again, if you have your complete archive on DVD or Blu-ray, and also on, say an SSD (flash) drive, and also on a hard drive, preferably on RAID - then any one failure could be cheaply recovered by simply copying the TIFF files from one of the other of the different backup schemes.

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by Jaybird1091 / August 12, 2015 9:43 PM PDT

Most photographers don't know this--even the pros--but DO NOT TRUST DIGITAL. Your computer's hard drives are rated to last 3-5 years. Flash drives last 5-7. DVDs last 5-10, and Blu-rays last 10-15, max. Even if you upload files to the cloud, those services DO NOT guarantee their ability to preserve your files. "Digital rot" is a very real, very pressing issue being worked on right now by the top minds in tech. Until they solve it, you're better off preserving your physical copies, or burning digitals to M-Discs.

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Wolverine slide/film scanner
by jjmartin1340 / February 7, 2014 10:24 AM PST

I had slides from the 1950s to 1980s. Setting up the projector and screen was a pain. I purchased a Wolverine F2D unit when it came out a few years ago. It has a 1.5" LCD screen to preview the images; I think newer models have a 3" or 4" screen. I did maybe a thousand slides over a year. The unit has some contrast/colour problems, but as many of my slides had faded or changed colour, it didn't matter too much. Pretty well all the slides had to be cropped and colour adjusted; some I even changed to B/W as their colour could not be restored. I have my computer hooked up to my HDTV, so it's real easy to look at the old stuff.
The main problem with the Wolverine is that the slide or film is horizontal, with the light panel under it and the lens above. Any dust that falls off a slide appears on it and the rest until it's cleaned. I bought a can of compressed air to use, the little brush supplied was quite inadequate. I wish it had been designed so the slides and light panel were vertical.
Overall, I'm glad I did it; I don't look at those old pics very often, and looking at the HDTV beats setting up a projector & screen. I don't think I could have done it if I wasn't retired.

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Dont Make Negatives
by ceh4702 / February 7, 2014 12:46 PM PST

When you turn in your film order a Kodak Disk. I think another way to do this is to make your own images from the pictures. I have seen this done by my sister at Walgreens. Some Departments have scanners that let you scan and crop photos and then save the results on disk or maybe as a disk or possibly a flash drive. I think they give you negatives so you can print more photos, so it seems you can have photos printed from the negatives to a disk.

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Do make negatives
by mach37 / February 7, 2014 5:10 PM PST
In reply to: Dont Make Negatives

If you are referring to having a CD made from your film, don't throw away the negatives. And if you are talking about scanning commercial 4 x 6 prints (or smaller), you will rarely get as good scans as when scanning from negatives or slides. Depending on your quality standards, you may still want to do your own film scanning. The CDs I have had made have not been to as high a resolution as satisfies me; but I am picky. Don't throw away negatives or old slides until you know the quality of digital copies meet your standards. Future increases in resolution, and monitor size and quality, may have you wishing you had made larger digital scans or prints the first time.

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negs to digital
by beep_beep / February 7, 2014 3:10 PM PST

have no pics to convert but just had to say the info is the simplest & best ever for anything that
even a dunce-head like me could probably do it/ wish all info was as short & easy to read & follow
& without all the technological jargon

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How manual is it?
by sea.bass / February 7, 2014 9:04 PM PST

I.e. do you have to advance each image individually? On my Canoscan you can scan a few images at a time, by the look of this piece of kit it requires manual intervention for each image. But I like the sound of it otherwise.

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Epson V370 Photo
by sales8man / February 7, 2014 9:49 PM PST

The Epson model above is your solution. I had exactly the same problem couple of months ago and was talked into buying it.
It works perfectly on photos, transparent negatives and positives.
I am very happy with it.

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Epson V370
by sfellman / February 17, 2014 2:07 PM PST
In reply to: Epson V370 Photo

have tried several different ways to digitize slides and wound up buying the scanner mentioned - was pleasantly surprised with what a great job it does, 4 slides at a time

depending on how much time you want to spend on a project like this, I'd be inclined to scan most all the slides/negatives except the really bad ones

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by sales8man / February 17, 2014 9:23 PM PST
In reply to: Epson V370

I had exactly the same experience.

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Digitizing negatives
by alsdock / February 8, 2014 5:51 AM PST

I have an old HP SCANJET 9300 scanner. It came with an attachment used to convert negatives into prints (digitizing). I was able to reproduce many old pictures, regardless of film type. This was especially nice when discovering old negative from my mother's house.
The process was relatively simple with the provided software. You would basically plug the attachment into the designated port on the scanner, position your negative onto the glass and blackout the surrounding areas. Select scan and watch your monitor for the image to appear. Adjustments for image quality and color can be made, and finally save into a file. Works like a champ.
You might be able to pick one up pretty cheap if you look around. I'll probably have to give mine up someday, but not anytime soon. Good luck.

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I really wonder though..
by JCitizen / February 9, 2014 9:50 AM PST
In reply to: Digitizing negatives

if the resolution of the flatbed scanners can match the resolution of the 14 mega-pixel Wolverine scanner? It would be interesting to know. I realize flatbeds have huge dpi resolution now, but how does that equate to pixel measurements for comparison. This would be especially important if one was going to throw the negatives away. I hate storage clutter, and would love to throw all my negatives away for good.

Many photos I take are a 400 speed film that is grainy enough that it wouldn't take much better digital science to be equal in resolution to those image sources.

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some metrics
by jreuter / February 10, 2014 7:58 AM PST

This is a controversial subject, as film is measured in resolving power of lines per mm at specific contrasts, not digital terms. A really good slow film (e.g. Velvia 50) comes in at 160 lines / mm at 1000:1 contrast. That roughly converts to 8000 dpi. Your 400 speed film isn't going to come near that.

The current Epson flat bed scanners with good film scanning rate 6400 dpi. The venerable Nikon Coolscan scanner rated 2700 dpi. My own older Epson scanner with 3200 dpi is fine enough resolution to scan the grain pattern on fast films.

In the long run, if you're planning on doing post-editing, it's probably more important to scan at 48 bit color depth than going for higher dpi.

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by robr / February 8, 2014 10:56 AM PST

Can any of these dedicated scanners do Koda Box Brownie OR 110 negs? Will these trays take those negs?

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by snapshot2 Forum moderator / February 8, 2014 11:43 AM PST
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by JCitizen / February 9, 2014 9:52 AM PST
In reply to: Scanners

Looks like that Wolverine Super F2D 4-in-1 Film to Digital Converter would be a good solution for that!

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Scanners don't care what film it scans
by alsdock / February 8, 2014 9:19 PM PST

Yes. The scanjet 9300 did mine (110, 35, Brownie and something else I'm not sure) The attachment (I can't remember what it's called) limits the size to about 6" x 6" . A template is used to retain your negative and black out pieces are used to block surrounding areas of the negative being scanned/processed. Maybe there's something on YouTube or the HP site

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Wrong scanner
by alsdock / February 8, 2014 9:32 PM PST
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I found the best way is to use a good scanner bed.
by DavidSteinerjr / December 20, 2013 7:41 AM PST

I use a Hp Deskjet 7500A. With that I can scan negatives, adjust them and save them. Then I would use Nero to create the slide show and burn it to DVD.

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Flatbed scanner
by lincolnhyde / December 20, 2013 8:26 AM PST

I purchased a Canon flatbed scanner specifically for this purpose.

Note that most scanners have a resolution which is perfectly adequate for pictures, but not for slides or negatives (for example 300dpi). Negatives should be scanned at a minimum of 4800dpi as the image being scanned is much smaller, so it needs to be blown up more. Also look for a scanner which includes a negative holder.

The biggest issue I've run into is that which any professional photo printer has - the negatives pick up dust, which is greatly enlarged in the resulting picture. To get a decent image requires time (as you indicated you have), plus a photo negative brush - camel hair with de-ionizer seems to work well, along with an ear syringe to blow off loose dust.

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by Brudigan / December 20, 2013 8:39 AM PST

I purchased a Pandigital model PANSCN05 to experiment. It will take small photos (3.5x5 or 4x6) business cards, 35mm film strips (negative or positive). Mounted slides MUST be removed from frames. I am trying to use it with my "instamatic" negatives which has the same width as 35mm but formatted slightly different. The instamatic picture is to one side where the 35mm is centered. There is also a slight difference in frame length.
Photos are scanned at 300 dpi and 35mm film at 1200 dpi.
Another thing I found out when I went to call for help, Pandigital folded about a year ago. They are still available, but support isn't!

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Get a good scanner
by shodanakk / December 20, 2013 9:11 AM PST

I did this for my collection of several thousand slides when I retired. You need a good quality scanner and a computer. I used a CanoScan 8600F, which was just fine. It comes with a set of guides for slides and various sizes of negative. My advice is to take your time, learn how to use the machine, and edit the images before you save or discard them. You also need a way to store the images. I found Picasa to work well. I store my images by date, so that they will store oldest to newest. Eg 2013 12 - Dec 12 grandchildren in the garden. Feel free to ask for more detail.

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George, Buddy, Do I Have A Solution For You
by Mr Windows / December 20, 2013 9:21 AM PST

George, I'm in exactly the same situation as you. I've got a ton of photographs in albums, and envelopes. And even more negatives in a special negative folder, and in more envelopes. I was at a loss as to what to do too. Now, don't get me wrong, I do have a scanner for the photographs, but it was the negatives that had me stumped.

That is until I happened to go to my local STAPLES for some office supplies. That's when I found the answer to my dilemma, and possibly yours as well. It's called a "Film, Slide & Photo Converter" from "innovative technology". The box says it "Converts 35mm Film Negatives, Slides, Photos, & Business Cards to Digital JPEG's!"

I haven't tried it out yet as my main computer is down for repairs, but when it's back up, and running this is one of the first things I'm going to hook up to it. Now, I'm not shilling for this product because, as I said, I haven't tried it out yet. I'm just telling you what the box says. I'm also not shilling for STAPLES, because I'm sure you can get this product at many other places, including on the Web.

All I can say for certain at this point, is we have the same issue, and this product seems to be an easy solution to that issue. I hope this helps.

Mr. Windows

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by richteral / December 21, 2013 4:26 AM PST

One should think twice what format to use for posterity; the data compression had better be lossless.

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You're Absolutely Correct!
by Mr Windows / December 21, 2013 8:34 AM PST
In reply to: JPEG?

Richteral, I know that it's JPG, not JPEG, I was after all, only quoting what the box said. I did make it clear that I hadn't used the scanner yet. However, even if it did save the files in JPEG format, there are lots of utilities right here on CNETS download section for graphics file conversion, or for editing.

While I have a couple of commercial file editing packages that I use, I also have a couple of freeware programs that I've gotten from CNET's Download Digest. GIMP is the first one that comes to mind. So yes, you are correct about formats, compression, and lossless, but all that can be addressed once you have the file in the computer.

By the way, and I'm sure that others have pointed this out by now, there are a lot of other negative scanners on the market. I just mentioned the one that I found, and felt would best suite my needs. I'm sure that now that George is aware that these devices exist, he will do his own research to find the one that best suites his needs.

Mr. Windows

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JPEG is not that bad
by mach37 / December 21, 2013 8:44 AM PST
In reply to: JPEG?

Most graphics editors can be set to very low compression loss. I have seen virtually no loss of image quality over three or four edits/saves of .JPG images. The size of the image file is important, of course. After seeing the need to scan images to successively larger sizes as basic monitor sizes have increased over the years, I would say that an image size of 1920 x 1080 pixels will more than satisfy most casual home users. In DPI, that would be roughly 200 dpi; often the default scan size is 300 dpi which more than fills a 22-inch monitor.

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