What is the Best Scanner for 35mm Negatives?

In this day and age of instantaneous picture-taking, it’s hard to imagine that people mailed their 35mm film to be processed or brought it to their corner drug store where it was sent out. This was prior to megastores like Walgreens and Walmart offering these services on site. Whether you took photos back in the day as a serious photographer, hobbyist, or simply to document family and friends, you may have stacks of 35mm negatives hidden away somewhere. If you still have the old envelopes from these film processors, we encourage you to get them out of storage. They will evoke nostalgic memories before you even peek inside and you need to get the negatives scanned!

Age deterioration and color-shifting are two reasons why you need to seriously consider scanning negatives. But with so many product choices, it can be a little intimidating to know where to begin. When you’re shopping for negative photo scanners, it helps to look at online reviews from unbiased sites and even better, get a recommendation from someone you know. With that said, what might be the best negative scanner for someone else, may not be the optimal choice for you. As a start, you need to consider these factors:

  1. Price
  2. Efficiency (ease of use)
  3. Speed
  4. Image quality (resolution and megapixels)

Film Negative Scanners

Based on several different reviews from reputable photography-related sites, we decided to feature the following 35mm negative scanners. As a bonus, many negative photo scanners also have the capability of scanning 35mm slides, additional negative sizes, and even Super 8 and 8mm film. Scanners range in price from under $200 to more than $1,000, although we only included affordable and mid-range models. As with any major purchase, we suggest you compare prices from different retailers since this can vary to a large degree, especially on more expensive models.

Kodak Scanza

Price: $149.99–$169.99

Max. Resolution: 14/22MP

Doesn’t require computer

Pros

  • Extremely fast and easy to use
  • Scans different film sizes
  • Minimal cropping

Cons

  • Mediocre scanning quality
  • Very basic film holders

Wolverine Data 8-in-1 HD Film to Digital Converter

Price: $149.99–$179.99

Max. Resolution: 7200 dpi

Doesn’t require computer

Pros

  • Very fast
  • Scans many different film sizes
  • LCD display

 

Cons

  • Internal memory limited to 40 images
  • Built-in software is inadequate
  • Low-quality materials

 

Epson Perfection V550 Photo Flatbed Scanner

Price: $199.99

Max. Resolution: 12800 dpi

Requires computer

Pros

  • Excellent quality scans
  • Automatic multi-frame scanning
  • Dust and scratch removal
  • Good color and contrast

Cons

  • Crops frames excessively
  • Loss of some fine detail
  • Somewhat slow
  • Unreliable auto exposure

Plustek OpticFilm 8100 Film Scanner

Price: $349–$399

Max. Resolution: 7200 dpi

Requires computer

Pros

  • Compact
  • High-resolution scans
  • Minimal cropping
  • Good quality-price ratio
  • Multi exposure feature
  • Superb bundled software

Cons

  • No auto dust/scratch removal
  • Challenging to align frames properly
  • Tricky driver installation
  • Shadow detail isn’t optimal

 

How to Scan Negatives

 

Although you may be able to scan negatives with a flatbed scanner by creating your own holders, it’s best to use a dedicated photo device like the ones discussed above. Whatever method you choose, you’ll want to avoid getting fingerprints on the negatives and carefully remove dust prior to scanning them. A compressed can of air, white cotton or nitrile gloves, and lens cleaning tissue or a lint-free soft cloth are handy items to keep on hand if you’re a DIY scanner. If you select a lower-end model, be prepared to devote quite a chunk of time to color correcting and retouching scratches/dust with a software program (e.g. Photoshop).

 

Leave the Heavy Lifting to a Professional

 

If you have hundreds or even thousands of negatives, you may want to consider getting them digitized by a high-quality lab that has superb equipment at their fingertips. The photo scanning equipment we use at ScanCafe is way beyond the quality of commercially available scanners and capable of producing superior results. In fact, we have revived 175 million faded images and counting at our state-of-the-art facility in Indianapolis, restoring all these precious memories to their former glory. 

 

Life is full of complicated situations, but scanning negatives doesn’t have to be one of them when you choose ScanCafe to digitize your celluloid memories!

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