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Transfering 35mm pictures to digital?

by Starfish564 / January 4, 2009 9:09 AM PST


I have a bunch of regular 35mm print pictures that I would like to transfer to digital to put online, email, etc. What would be the best way to do this? I've seen advertisements for local places that say they can do this by using the actual print, or by using the negative. My question is, which way would give the best image quality? Or doesn't it matter? Please help. Any advice would be very appreciated:)



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by cabbiinc / January 4, 2009 11:40 PM PST

When looking for scanners and comparing them to a service there are a few things to consider.

1) quality. Some scanners will scan better than others. Usually you can tell the difference in the specs. A high dpi count with a good color gambit will usually yield a good result. Most prints are made (or recommended) at 300 dpi. So if you wanted to print your pics at 300 dpi, but you only had a 600 dpi scanner, you'd be able to print at twice the size of your negative. That's not even a 4x6. 2400 dpi or larger is what your goal is, but often times you wont need that much. For web purposes you can only really display at around 72 dpi, so a 600 dpi scan would let you enlarge it pretty big on the screen before distortion. Note that interpolated dpi is no where near as good at native dpi (sometimes called native resolution). Interpolation just means that the computer guesses at the extra pixels. The colors will be pretty close but if your looking for sharpness you probably want a higher native dpi.

2) time. Look at how long you wouldn't mind scanning your collection. If you want this done pretty soon, send it out. Many home scanners are not fast. I have an older Microtek and it takes about 65 seconds to scan 12 negatives (one pass). We used to have a scanner that only did one neg at a time, and that took 30 seconds. But then you also have to add the time it takes to set up the next slide/negative. It gets time consuming.

4) cost. If you want high quality it's going to take some cash. If your just doing a couple of negs at high quality you might just send it out. It'd be cheaper than buying a $2,000 machine. On the other hand if your looking at thousands of print quality negs then buying a home scanner may be what you would need to do. You could always get a cheap scanner for the "just for web" stuff, and send out those few gems that you want in high quality.

5) software. Your going to need something that will interface with your scanner and give you a proper color reading. All print quality scans will need to be sharpened. Most scans will need some tweaking. If this isn't something you'd want to do then you may want to send the work out.

Questions to ask when sending work out.
What will the dpi be?
What format will it be?
How will I receive my digital images?
What color gambit will it be? (sRGB is fine for most applications, Adobe RGB is better if your going to be editing the photos, like in photoshop)
How long will it take?
Are you insured against damage to my slides/negs?
Do you have a guarantee?

I hope this helps.

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Thank You!
by Starfish564 / January 5, 2009 6:18 AM PST
In reply to: Scanners.

Wow! Thank you SO much for all that info. That is a big help for someone like me just getting started converting over to digital vs. 35mm. I think I'll print out your reply to refer back to as needed:) It sounds like my best option would be to send out to a lab to have this done. Since I'm a.) not looking to buy an expensive scanner, and b.) I'd only be looking to scan a select group of favorites, not hundreds of prints.

Another question for you: what lab do you recommend for good quality work? Ideally I'd like to be able to do two things with my pictures. Be able to have them online, and also have the option of getting prints made to display (4x6 through 8x10 maybe larger). Photography is a hobbie of mine and I like to frame and display certain pictures. I'm not looking for perfection, but image quality is important. I can't stand pictures looking grainy.

Thanks for the help!


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labs have automatic scanners
by sauna6 / January 11, 2009 2:35 AM PST
In reply to: Thank You!

I've used a service like for prints and slides, and have been happy. Some Photoshopping afterwards is often useful, though. My own scanner is too slow for this, especially with slides.

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by abdosh5 / January 5, 2009 12:37 PM PST
In reply to: Scanners.

i have great collection of old photos in various albums how can i transfer or copy them to my laptop for printing etc would appreciate any assistance in this regard abdosh

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See Previous Discussion Thread on This Topic
by retexan599 / January 9, 2009 12:25 PM PST
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35mm pictures to digital
by dwjonesrn / January 9, 2009 10:30 PM PST

Negatives are the BEST way to do this. If you have a photo printer (ie: EPSON photo printer or Canon) that can handle negatives use the negatives. If you want to have them done by someone else I would recommend going to a photography lab versus the local drug store. After you have the negatives transferred to a CD, make sure you keep the negatives for reprints etc. , as they produce the best images.I personally keep my negatives and all my digital backup storage drives in a firesafe. There are also water and fireproof devices out there too.

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Digitizing Photos
by Zouch / January 10, 2009 6:56 AM PST

I think cabbiinc has covered most of the bases. I'd agree with the comment that the number of photos you want to transfer will probably be the deciding factor. Personal scanners are slow - a few dozen, fine but if you get into hundreds, you are looking at a very long and tedious process!

But for what it's worth, I have a Canon 8400F scanner, which has a built in slide/negative scanner. It was about $150 US new but I think this model has been discontinued now. I think the scanners with the separate light in the lid work better than the ones that use reflected light but that's personal preference. The carrier that comes with mine will take the standard 35mm strips that your processed film comes in and will process each strip (5 frames) in one pass. The Canoscan Toolbox that comes with the scanner does a good job of scanning the negatives. I would certainly recommend using the negatives, rather than the prints, you'll get better quality results but make sure that you blow any dust off them with a photo blower.

My scanner produces excellent colour rendition - it has a very slight green shift but unless you have the scanner print and one produced by regular photographic methods side by side, you wouldn't notice.

My scanner also came with an OEM copy of Photoshop Elements, not the full program but more than enough to make general manipulations of the image, so check what comes with the scanner if you decide to buy one. If you don't get an image manipulator with the scanner, you could try Irfanview for simple manipulation or The GIMP, which provides pretty much full Photoshop capabilities but for free! There is a learning curve with The GIMP but once mastered, you'll have everything you need for your images from any source.

Good luck!

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