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Scanning 35mm slides

Send out to a bureau or do it myself?



3:26 am on Feb 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

i need to scan about 2,000 35mm slides (colour and black and white) by around June, with another 18,000 or so to follow in the next year. i have a bit of spare cash and it's in my interests to get as many scanned as possible for a photographic site i'm building in australia.

i don't have much experience in this area and i'm not sure if i should send them out to a bureau (cost about AU$3.50 each) or hire/buy a scanner (around $AU1,500) and get a student in to scan them for me.

could anyone tell me whether it is possible to get really good scans from 35mm slides using anything other than a drum scanner? i'm looking at a Canon FS4000U which claims to be able to do great slides but several people have told me that i should send them out as drum scanning is the best option.



9:24 am on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

this all depends on what you want to do with the pics when you have them on the site. Drum scanning is definetely the best for highest quality. Like when you want to have them on your site for someone to download and put them into print magazines.
For creating your own catalogue (products etc) a 35mm scanner operated by yourself(student) will do just fine. The resolution these devices offer is enough for webpublishing.
A highly informative site on all photographic topics (incl. scanning) is photo.net (hope its not too much against TOS to post sitename here, but it is all free info there).


10:07 am on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I have a couple of clients who do this sort of thing, and both of them use outsourced specialist scanning bureaux. Of course, my clients are working with larger collections (50k and 300k) so it makes sense for them to do it that way. The time overhead would kill their businsesses.

Your client may well be able to get a scanner and a student in, and once his own work is done, offer scanning as a service


10:42 am on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

thank you both - he has 40,000 35mm slides all stored in several (non-fire proof) filing cabinets in his home. he's a very prominent music/rock photographer and his slides go back 20 years. it would be a tragedy if they got wrecked. he sells to magazines, bands, does billboard, album covers, glossy mag covers, etc. this is why - after hours and hours and hours of research - i am coming to the conclusion that we should get them professionally done. just don't think a home scanner would do it, even though they claim to.

i firstly want to get them scanned so that he has some security if his house burns down (ie an off-site archive). and for that i was thinking of very good quality high res images (eg .tiffs) but secondly i am building him a massive transactional website. I will probably offer hi res jpegs for download with special requests like .tiffs emailed through to me.

quite honestly, the time and effort factor didn't even enter my head - d'oh. i was so fixated on whether anything other than drum scans can result in a perfect scan for work of this nature that i didn't even take into account the hours and hours it would take to scan them in. the AU$2.20 (tax deductable) per drum scan we will have to pay probably makes a lot more sense in the short term - it is probably sensible to get the best 2,000 done and take it from there.

thank you - jellyhead jane clearly let lack of file format knowledge override common sense:-)


11:08 am on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

The other most importnat thing to rememeber is that scanning is a skill. The person who is scanning the 35mm will have to have a understanding of colour and the scanner. And it is something that you have to be trained up on. There are plenty of bureaus around that employ any old guy to scan and run films and cromalins etc that don't have any idea of repro. Companies I have worked at in the past have been just as guilty. And the problem is that you end up with pretty useless scans that you could have got out of your crappy desktop scanner.

To be honest $3.50 doesn't seem much to me, the decent repro houses we use in the UK cost at least £10 a scan. We ended up getting a drum scanner and employing a trained scanner to operate it. You really can tell a huge difference between the stuff he outputs and if you give it a go!


11:50 am on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

hmmm. okay - so it's not just down to the fact that a drum scanner outputs better quality than a flatbed? the scanning person actually sits and does some adjustments too?

in that case the idea of a home scanner/student would be out of the question.

but more importantly i guess the lesson here is that i should get a few quotes and a sample outputs of the same trannie to compare quality/price.

very good advice, thanks.


1:23 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Don't be afraid to negotiate - 20,000 total scans is a lot for most labs - if you can make a commitment for a certain amount of business - particularly if the lab can do the work during slow times - you may get a much better price.

Also, be careful how many slides you send to the lab at any given time. The lab I work with is reluctant to take large bodies of expensive work at any given time for insurance and security reasons. Labs can burn down, too. If your chosen one does, will their insurer reimburse your photographer for the value of the art, or just the value of the film?

How will the images be labeled and cataloged? Be sure the lab will use your photographer's numbering system and not lab job numbers as the image names.

In the meantime, you may want to suggest your client seek out a more secure storage environment for his work. Whether you scan the originals or not, more secure archival storage of the originals would be a good idea.


1:41 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

JJ, time is a factor, too. I've got years of slides and negatives that I'd like to get in digital format, and I bought an Epson Perfection 1650 Photo scanner partly with that in mind.

All the reviews I read suggested this was a great scanner for slides and negs, and indeed, it does a pretty decent job. However, the time required to scan a batch of four slides or a neg strip was, IMO, excessive. One review I read said that a scan took 25 seconds per slide, but I found the real time - including loading the carrier, scanner warmup, prescanning, thinking, scanning, thinking, saving the files, etc. ended up taking multiples of that. In essence, it works great for converting small numbers of film images to digital format, but converting hundreds or thousands would be a hugely time consuming task. Of course, the work doesn't require constant attention, so it can be done while multitasking with some other activity.

My conclusion was that for large conversion projects it would be worth investing in some kind of auto-feed slide scanner that is designed to run unattended. I didn't actually price these out, but I suspect one might pay for itself vs. outsourcing if the number of slides was in the thousands. EBay might be a source for a used one - these have been around forever, although I'm sure the newer ones offer better performance and more compact size.

The other issue with outsourcing or self-scanning is how much attention will be lavished on each image. If you are expecting that someone will be examining the images, tweaking the color, rescanning, etc., I would imagine that would be quite expensive. I'd lean toward automated (but good quality) scanning of the whole batch, and then tweak the images as needed prior to printing. I'd hope that a high res, high color scan would pull enough information out of the slide to allow adjustment later.


2:20 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

yes, these are my major concerns! massive, enormous earning potential in a very interesting industry, but frankly my guy is soooo in the dark ages it never occured to him that he may be burgled or have a house fire. he was amazed when i told him i could actually create a back up for him. great photographer but way more creative than academic:-)) i also really am at a loss as to whether to accept faster scans (ie hi res jpgs) or try and outsource the lot and fiddle with the colour later or even accept a poorer quality image. or if a bureau will even be better than doing it myself with a really decent scanner.

the cataloguing issue for me is huge right now - his filing cabinet is appalling - for example, i asked him where an image of "dave grohl" would be right now in his bloody stupid filing cabinet. the answer was that it could be under "d" for dave, "g" for grohl, "f" for foo fighters or even "n" for New Years eve gig in Time Square. or maybe it was under "z" because he couldn't be arsed to think about where to file it.

clearly he has a need to get a low res database at least - that would be quicker and cheaper - (along with my grand plan of external hi res tiff archive) with a search facility to elimiate these issues so that he can search and return all of these combinations. actually he has done hundreds of shoots that he doesn't even remember right now and is therefore not making money from simply because 40,000 slides is a heck of a lot to store in your brain. yikes.

my challenge is to not only get this (very successful, despite all of the above) guy online, but to jump into his whole business and modernise it in a way that is non-confrontational for him. he currently writes out invoices on a bit of A4 paper(to me looks like toilet paper) and keeps no record of who bought what and when. i want to automate the entire business. ideally i want to set him up and then have him scan in images himself in future.

i have now explained archive/search engines business to him and the utter joy and amazement on his face was a priceless moment. the penny dropped with the whole deal and he now thinks i am the cleverest person in the universe - in fact i am sure he thinks i invented them myself. shudder.

clearly we have a need to get his best images, scan them in bit by bit over the next year and create a whole new filing system in a way that he can manage himself - and i will handle the entire online component thereafter. i thought i may get 200-500 done a month over the next year. i can launch his site with 2,000 images. i hoped a bureau may scan a good quality image, number them, write that number on the trannie and then me and my client will sit down and keyword - only my client knows who on earth he shot and when.

hmmmm - it's all very complex but i don't want to walk away from the most interesting project of my entire life just because it's all too hard! i have another month at least to research all the ins and outs.

oh dear, jungle-jane has a lot to chew on:-))


5:42 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I've been scanning my Dad's old collection of slides, and have done around 800 so far. I'm using a Nikon Coolscan LS-2000, which was one of the better of the cheap film scanners at 1200 pounds at the time.

Here are some of my thoughts:
* Go straight for the best quality image you can. Never think about going for low res or bad color versions because it's quick and easy. You'll regret it in the long run as it will probably mean scanning them all again, and you'll hate it.
* Don't worry about the low res versions - you can always run a photoshop droplet to automatically produce the low res versions afterwards.
* Film may well be the most economical storage medium. You can get multiple terabytes of storage very cheaply by leaving them on film, yet doing the same digitally leaves you with the headache of massive amounts of data that you now need to maintain, backup, and catalog. For example, my Coolscan can produce 16-20 megapixels from each slide, or about a 25MB TIFF file. IIRC a drum scan can be over 100MB due to higher resolution and color depth. 18,000 slides is at least 450GB on my scanner.
* Scans are slow and take time and practice to do well. You may well get the best results with the student option as he/she will do it the way you and the artist want, assuming you pick the right person. I wonder whether you'll get the same results from a lab.
* I'm guessing you'll need to spend quite a bit more on a real quality film scanner than I did. Don't even think about flatbed scanners - they are a complete waste of effort for film.
* Do your research up front - it's worth investing quite a bit of effort to get your plans set up right from the start.


6:02 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

a drum scan can be over 100MB

There is no point in pulling 100 meg scans from a 35 mm transparency. All that will give you is very detailed looks at film grain...

Consider how the work will be used most of the time. A 20 meg file size should give you a enough resolution (in a TIFF) for a letter-sized magazine cover at 300 dpi. A 7 megabyte file will give you 4 X 6 at 300 dpi.

You can always re-scan the occassional image where super-high resolution is required. But I'm not certain you want to go to the expense of scanning and storing all 20,000 images at the highest possible resolution - unless, of course, your typical user will require super-res images.


6:19 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

>the most interesting project of my entire life

Sounds like it to me, stick at it :)

A friend told me that an LA publishing company were scanning his 'tranies' using the top of the range Nikon coolscan and getting excellent results (his are tens of thousands of glamour shots). We tried a less expensive brand and had disasterous results. So, you'll need to invest if you're gonna do it yourself.
Hey, maybe the photographer will get into one of the image programmes and start doing some neat stuff. (Don't suggest it 'til you've got them all scanned in though, LOL)
Good luck and have fun. :)


6:47 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Since the objective of the project is not only making the images easier to market but also archival backup, I'd scan at the highest resolution that will pull useful information out of the slides. 100MB sounds like overkill, though.


6:50 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

One bright spot, JJ - if you scan these yourself, by the time you are halfway through the project, you'll probably be able to buy a 1000 GB drive for under $99! ;)


7:04 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

You could probably get close to 50 megabytes of useful information, depending on the film - but is it worth doubling your scanning time and storage costs for the extra info? With 50 megabyte files, a CD will only hold about 13 images - your 20,000-image collection would require 1,500 CDs!

Looks like a rewritable DVD will be in your future...


7:56 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator 10+ Year Member

Even with the archive on a HD I would make a SAFER backup. I have had 2 hard drive crashes in the last year. One 120 gig and one 45 gig)c:

If you do it at a bureau they will have to give them to you on disk so that may be one less step you have to worry about.

So my advice is to back up, and make backups of the backups. Also since fire damage was mentioned you should maybe get a safe deposite box/high security storage solution for the backups. I would agree that the dvd burner would be a good investment, just make 2 of each.


9:29 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

you have 4 options:

[ul][*]digicam and photograph projection of slide
[*]digicam and photograph slide directly, with macro lens
[*]"normal" scanner with slide adapter (eg. mentioned epson perfection)
[*]film scanner

is a question of price and time. a normal scanner costs between €100 and €500, a filmscanner (much better quality, much faster) around €1000.

i once payed students to scan 7000 prints for online usage with a plain normal scanner, they scanned around 150 an hour.

[b]sample pics[/b] (by user winsoft from the forum digitalkamera.de):
photograph of projection: http://www.schulacc.de/Bilder/MarokkoLeinwand.jpg
detail: http://www.schulacc.de/Bilder/MarokkoAusschnittLeinwand.jpg
direct photgraph of slide: http://www.schulacc.de/Bilder/MarokkoPaintedRocks-Foto.jpg
detail: http://www.schulacc.de/Bilder/MarokkoAusschnittFoto.jpg
setup: http://www.schulacc.de/Bilder/Diaduplikat-Anordnung.jpg
normal scanner (HP scanjet 7400): http://www.schulacc.de/Bilder/MarokkoPaintedRocks-Flachbettscanner.jpg
detail: http://www.schulacc.de/Bilder/MarokkoAusschnittFlachbettScanner.jpg
film scanner (nikon super coolscan 4000 ED):
detail: http://www.schulacc.de/Bilder/MarokkoAusschnittFilmScanner.jpg

my suggestion: buy a film scanner (there are some which can handle up to 100 slides automatically), pay a student per hour and sell the filmscanner afterwards.


[1][[b]edited by[/b]: Brett_Tabke at 1:25 am (utc) on Feb. 8, 2007][/1]
[1][edit reason] links doa [/edit][/1]


11:14 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


werty makes a very good point (amongst many good points) the storage medium is paramount to safety. I didn’t realise that safes had different ratings until a fire destroyed 3 years worth of work including the contents of the “total waste of time safe” that housed the backups – so check the specs!

I would be interested to know what you decide to do – have a similar project though no where near as many images to digitise, would be grateful to know which of muesli’s solutions you pursue and why…



11:16 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

Here's my two-bits.

If your client is going to invest in archiving a lifetime of high-quality photographic artwork, my advice, having spearheaded the archiving project for a photographer a few years ago, is to spare no expense and do it right.

If you go cheap, you'll find that the quality isn't archivally sufficient, and they'll just have to spend more money later doing the same thing over again.

This is an investment that should only have to happen once, and thereafter the only ongoing expense is transferring files to updated media and formats.

If you can establish a strong personal alliance with the scanning bureau, go that route. Otherwise I would not trust artistic slides to a bureau, no offense to those whose bureaux exercise top professional standards. I've seen good bureaux make mistakes that make my hair stand on end. If the individual handling the slides is personally invested, there is a better chance of real care, in my experience.

If a student is going to do the scanning, they should establish a thorough routine, including white gloves, dusting, file quality checking, checklists, etc. In my project I failed to check every file on some scanning done with a Nikon slide scanner and later found streaks in them, requiring me to rehandle slides that had already been put in safe storage.

Make sure the file naming convention is established prior to onset of scanning. Make sure to read scanner reviews once you've established the highest quality available.

Once the photographer has a scanner, the scanner will probably see regular usage as new works are archived. So it seems to me to be a necessary investment in the durability of the art.

Good luck!
Designerina (deon)


11:24 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

There is no point in pulling 100 meg scans from a 35 mm transparency. All that will give you is very detailed looks at film grain...

To be honest I don't know what you can push film to, and of course it will vary considerably on the film used. My Nikon LS2000 is certainly not coming close to the abilities of the film types I've scanned so far. I completely agree there's no point in scanning beyond the resolution of the film. It's a bit like the people who insist on scanning 200dpi photo prints at 600 or more.

  • digicam and photograph projection of slide
  • digicam and photograph slide directly, with macro lens
  • "normal" scanner with slide adapter (eg. mentioned epson perfection)
  • I feel that these first 3 options are non-starters for film/slide scanning, and even more so taking into account the nature of jungle_jane's client.


    11:36 pm on Feb 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


    Drawing back to your original question.

    I would be more tempted to get a bloody good scanner, and get a student in, the learning process would be invaluable, but also the cost overall will be reduced. Ascertaining that money is no object, i would still head this way, amasing what offshouts can happen when faced with situations like this.


    12:02 am on Feb 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member

    I feel that these first 3 options are non-starters for film/slide scanning, and even more so taking into account the nature of jungle_jane's client.

    i don't fully agree but i do for most cases. a filmscanner is the best option as it's best quality (especially if the slides are dusty!) and fastest.

    scenario when option 2 (shoot slides directly) makes sense: you already own a digital SLR (eg. i have a nikon d100) with an appropriate macro lens, you can't afford a filmscanner but have space and time or maybe cheap workforce to do the direct shoot setup.

    scenario when option 3 (flatbed scanner) makes sense: you really don't need the pics for anything else then online, you already own a good flatbed scanner, you don't have enough harddisk space to store high-quality images, you can't afford a filmscanner, work force is maybe cheap.

    see? there's not always only one option.


    12:15 am on Feb 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    I recently scanned 1400 slides using an Epson 2450. What I found took most time was not the actual scanning, but sorting out the slides into a logical order and labelling them prior to scanning. Over time slide boxes get mixed up and slides get into the wrong boxes etc.

    After making many mistakes myself, I would strongly recommend doing the thing properly the first time. To me that means a dust free environment (Ha! easier said than done!), cleaning the slides, and then scanning straight into Photoshop and adjusting as necessary, at least getting the colour balance right.

    The mechnical scanning was the easy bit and I found the Epson 2450 quite adequate. It did 4 slides at a time, but it had always finished before I had got the next 4 sorted out and dusted. It was probably faster than one of the single-shot professional scanners.

    [afterthought] The Epson was OK because the scans were to be used in slide shows, on the web, and as an index. If a high quality print is required at a later date the intention is to go back to the actual slide. [/afterthought]

    [edited by: HarryM at 12:26 am (utc) on Feb. 25, 2003]


    12:18 am on Feb 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member mivox is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

    scenario when option 3 (flatbed scanner) makes sense

    I don't know about that... after looking at the examples given above, for something like Jane's project, I would consider a film scanner to be the minimum option. If not that, I'd go with a bureau/drum scanner.

    I'd think on a project this large, you ought to be able to ask the local bureaus for "portfolios" of their scanning work, to make sure they are up to snuff.


    7:08 am on Feb 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member

    might get 3 bureaus to do 5 sample scans for me and burn onto disk. and then test 3 or 4 scanners at a shop (but probably won't be able to get copies made - that would be a bit cheeky - so that i can compare them all. it's probably the only way i could logically weigh up actual quality, cost and time.

    thinking film scanner is the way to go - i will probably rent one - my client already has a very good flatbed scanner for everything else (which he's never used!)

    wow. i have learned so much. i am very grateful



    7:15 am on Feb 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member

    one other thing - i didn't realise dust was an issue. i assume i would have to buy a slide cleaner type of thing? or can i use screen wipes? assume a bureau would clean them for me - i had best ask if that's included in the cost!



    11:57 am on Feb 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member

    a film scanner comes with special software (ICE) that reportedly does a good job removing scratches and dust. of course, cleaning will give better results but is also very effort intensive.


    12:58 pm on Feb 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    jungle_jane - I think you really need to weigh the cost/benefit of sending these out vs. do-it-yourself. 20,000 high-res (100 meg) images scanned at a service bureau could cost upwards of $200,000 and would take nearly 3,000 CDs to store.

    Or you could get a Nikon Coolscan for a couple of thousand, hook up the fifty slide adapter, and let it run. Then you're talking about a $10,000-$20,000 job...And although you could pull 4,000 dpi scans, 2,500 dpi might very well suit your needs.

    The bottom line depends on what you want to do with the finished product, and how much income you can generate from it. Do you need the absolute highest quality images and will you realize the annual income stream to justify such a huge investment? Or will "very good quality" images suffice at a fraction of the cost?

    At any rate, get those images into archival-friendly packaging in a fire-protected vault somewhere ASAP! Water-tight to protect them if the sprinkler system goes off...


    1:41 pm on Feb 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

    I agree with MardiGras - a job of this magnitude will pay for a decent automated slide scanner many times over, not to mention a DVD burner. You could even justify an inexpensive PC with some massive hard drives to serve as an accessible storage device - not as your permanent record, of course, but a way to access images more quickly than messing with your CDs or DVDs. From a personal standpoint, you could turn a better profit on this, too. Check with an outsource scanning firm or two. If MG is right about the $200K fee, you can do it for $150K (if the client can afford it), and get credit for saving $50K while providing better quality.


    1:43 pm on Feb 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member korkus2000 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

    I also have to agree with the 2 previous posts. Get the equipement and do it yourself if you have the time.
    This 37 message thread spans 2 pages: 37

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