Scanning slides in bulk

My Dad was an amateur photographer. He has thousands of slides stored in old Kodak slide carousels which he would like to digitize. An ideal solution would be a scanner that could accept a carousel and scan everything in it automatically. Does such a beast exist?

I don’t know of any slide scanners that accept carousels, but there are scanners (Nikons, for example) that have auto-loaders. There are also slide scanning services that might be the way to go if you have more money than time.

Unless you have 1) lots of time, and 2) lots of patience, once you get beyond 30 or 40, you will not want to scan these yourself. If he really wants to digitize “thousands”, I would HIGHLY recommend using a digitizing service.

  1. Self scanning is slow. Even if the scanner is reasonably fast, there’s cleaning off dust/lint, setting up the slides, then the actual scan itself. Removing the slides, and re-filing.
  2. Using a service is easy. And some give breaks on price depending on the amounts. You send off your slides. And they send you back CDs (or DVDs) (and your slides, of course).

There are a number of services out there. I have used and was pleased with the results. They clean the slides and give discounts for volume.

Bear in mind also that getting really good results means considering the settings appropriate for each slide. Especially if the slides are old and imperfect and would benefit from tweaking. I had the same idea you did and bought a Nikon scanner which could be fitted with an auto-feeder. I never bought the auto-feeder because I found that to get everything schmick, I needed to tweak the settings for each slide anyway. I may be a bit perfectionist, though.

The PowerSlide scanner can batch-scan slides from a magazine or from a carousel.

Who says outsourcing is for businesses only? This service offers it at 24 cents/slide. Never used them though.

Scan Cafe

The PowerSlide seems to only work with Braun carousels, which are different from Kodak I think.

I just got off the phone with my sister. She’s going to visit my parents in a few weeks and is going to try to get a better handle on the scope of the problem. We’re hoping we can edit the slides down to a more manageable number.

The Kodak HR-500 Scanner would probably do the job, but it’s mighty pricey.

Midway in price between the between the Powerslide and the Kodak is the Nikon Super CoolScan 5000 ED Film Scanner, a highly rated pro scanner that, at about $1,000 new, is fairly reasonable if you’ve got a whole lot of slides and a lot of time to spend. And once you’re done, you could sell the unit on eBay and probably recoup a fair percentage of your original investment.

Of course, if you have fewer than 4,000 slides, you’d be better off sending them off to a service like the one alanak found, especially since the service will save you hours and hours of computer work.

I have more than 30 years worth of negs and slides, easily tens of thousands of images, and I’ve been thinking that one of these days I’ll buy a Coolscan (or similar) and begin the long hard digital slog. I’ve imagined that I’d get into a routine of churning them out while watching TV in the evenings.

Then again, it could end up as a project for my retirement, ten or fifteen years hence.

Not an endorsement (by me), but Popular Photography Magazine did send some slides to them.

Warning: ‘Outsourcing’ is not an exaggeration. The scanning is done in Bangalore, India, and takes 4 to 6 weeks.