What's a good scanner for scanning slides and film?

I’ve recently gotten back into film photography. Some time ago I shot some photos on Fuji Velvia 50 slide film which I had to send away to be processed. Not only did it cost around 20 dollars (after a week long wait,) the scans were really not the best quality. I can look at the actual slides and then compare them to the scanned JPGs and see little details and colors that the scans didn’t capture. I’m thinking of using a different service to do this. (Cord Camera was what I used.)

I found a link to North Coast photo services’ site, which advertises mail-order film processing. Here’s what they charge:

E6 35mm $8.25 Mounted or Un-mounted, included 2 line imprint.

Scans @ the time of processing
3339x5035 Pixels
Enhanced scan $11.95 / roll 35mm & 120, double for 220.

2048x3072 Pixels
Budget scan $5.49 / roll 35mm & 120, double for 220

This would, again, bring the total cost to around 20 dollars for ONE single roll of film to be processed. There has to be a cheaper way to do this.

The question is, what kind of scanners that one could purchase would be best suited to the task?

I just bought the Epson V700 which is supposed to be excellent for slides and film. I’ve only used it for prints though.

The only problem is that it’s a bit pricey at around $500.

There’s a Nikon Coolscan III for sale locally for only $40. It has a SCSI connecter…do I have to get a USB adaptor for that?

If you are only scanning 35mm, the Coolscan series is a great way to go. Don’t know about a Coolscan III though, that is a really ancient piece of equipment.

At $40 it might be worth a shot.

It is highly unlikely your computer has a SCSI port, so you will need an adapter card or USB device. You would want to figure out what SCSI standard the Coolscan uses before acquiring this adapter.

I have and use this one and I’m VERY happy with it. It will do up to 12 negatives (2 strips of 6) or multiple pictures at once and will automatically create one file per picture.

I used a Coolscan III until about a year ago. I used a Belkin SCSI to Firewire adapter and Vuescan software to connect the scanner to my Powerbook because the Nikon software does not support Firewire. This setup worked will and I finally wore out the scanner after scanning several thousand slides. The Belkin adapter is no longer made and will be nearly impossible to find.

I’d recommend going with a Coolscan IV (Firewire) or V (USB 2). Neither is in production. So, you’ll have to find one used. They do appear on eBay every so often.

The cursed Coolscan III has been sold off already, dang-blast it. I will have to look for the ones you mentioned on eBay.

Something like this might work. Wolverine Digital Image Scanner

The price seems a little too good to be true, and I’m also always a little leery of ferocious animal brand names.

I have a Coolscan V (LS-50) and am very happy with the quality. If you need professional level scans, this is good for that. The whole reason I bought it was to digitize and archive my film work, and wanted something at 4000 dpi (although 2700 dpi will do, to tell you the truth.) It takes a little practice to get the best out of the scanner, and it helps to use a third-party scanning utility like VueScan (which I use) or SilverFast for maximum performance.

I have an old Epson scanner that has the has the attachments for slides and film, but it is very slow. I wouldn’t suggest it for more than a couple of rolls of film. I bought a cheap film scanner, a Veho VFS-004 last year. The hardware actually works pretty well, although the software leaves a great deal to be desired. It is a least an order of magnitude faster than the flatbed scanner.

If you have access to a good digital camera and a light table, I found I could actually make pretty good copies mounting the camera on a tripod and shooting with the macro setting. Converting a scanned negative to a positive image is a little trickier than it might appear, but Thumbs Plus has a function for it and there is a trial version of the software.


When I converted some pictures that were taken in the early 80s, I was surprised how faded the prints were compared to the negatives. Apparently, there was some change in photo printing technology in the late 80s that makes the prints much more color fast.

I still occasionally use my Coolscan V, when I need an image that I have only as a slide. If you can find a used one in working order, you will not be disappointed.

Are dedicated film scanners like the Coolscan significantly better than a good flatbed scanner? If so, why? What causes the difference in quality. I’ve looked at images from slides and negatives scanned by both, and I’m not really sure I can tell the difference. (I haven’t, however, looked at side-by-side comparisons.) Do the flatbed scanners really suffer any loss of color or contrast that couldn’t be corrected in Photoshop?

Giving this a little bump, hoping that somebody with a little more direct experience could comment. The last time I compared flatbeds and neg scanners was about 5 years ago and, at that time, to me the difference between the best flatbed and a dedicated film scanner was night and day. Perhaps things have gotten better.

I’m SUPER confused though. I bought my scanner in 2008 for $561.84, according to my receipts. It’s a Nikon Coolscan V ED, LS-50. Why in the world is it showing up for like $1500-$2000 on Amazon.com?

Wow. Even the eBay completed auctions for used LS-50s average in at around $800 or so. I had no idea. Guess it’s good I bought it when I bought it.

I’ve been looking around on eBay. There are a whole plethora of seemingly-ancient film scanners appearing at rather low (sub-$500) prices. Some are Nikons, some are Olympus or Canon and I have seen a few by Kodak. They are all SCSI-only and many of them are lacking the film/slide holders. Typically they are between 8 and 10 years old and I suspect that even if I did buy one, it would be a bitch to get it to work with Windows XP.

A couple of things about the difference between scanners.

Many film scanners (such as the Coolscan) have an IR channel, and give you the transmission in the near IR. This seems silly, but it turns out that colour negative dyes are transparent in the IR, and thus the IR channel sees nothing except scratches and dust. Having that information is brilliant if you want to perform automatic scratch and dust removal. B&W film is silver metal particles when developed, and so this doesn’t work.

Another thing about dedicated scanners; without a glass sheet in the way the absolute information capture will always be greater. You might argue that a contrast stretch in post processing will restore the balance - which it will, but it won’t restore the difference in signal to noise between the scanners. Where this can start to be a real issue is in getting the last bit of information out of the film. This can be very important if you are scanning old, faded, negatives. The restoration software that is used with the dedicated scanners can perform little sort of miracles if it is given every last bit of information resident on the film. A flatbed scanner is starting from a significant disadvantage here. The equivalent of HDR processing in digital becomes a closer reality, and even without such desires, getting the last nuance of shadow or highlight detail out of a shot may be the difference between a good and a great picture.

That said, flatbed scanners can do a very credible job, especially if presented with a good quality photograph as a starting point. Epson actually had a gel mounting kit for their flatbed, which goes a very long way towards bridging the gap, but is a huge hassle to use.

Personally, I would love to find an affordable Coolscan 8000 to scan my boxes of 645 trannies. OTOH, my father has an Epson flatbed, and it does a very good job of them.

I have a Polaroid SprintScan CS-2700 with a SCSI connection somewhere that I got working on Windows XP. It was a 2700 dpi scanner, and it worked well enough. I can’t remember what I needed to do to get it up and running, but I don’t remember it being that much a pain in the ass. It did take a little hunting to find the driver, so if you do decide to go this route, check to see the availability of drivers first. But it looks like there’s a bunch of old Polaroid scanners available for $50 or so.

My main complaint with that generation of scanners is the speed and the lack of automatic scratch/dust correction for color negs & slides (Digital ICE technology and the like.)Also, be aware that the optics in scanners get dirty. The older and more used your scanner is, the more likely it is that it’s due for a cleaning. This is an example of what a scan from a filthy scanner may look like. I’ve had that problem with an old LS-2000, but it is fixable. You just have to get in there and clean the scanner optics. So if you do end up buying a used scanner and see those halos and general fuzziness around high-contrast edges, it should be just a matter of a good cleaning to get it up to working order.

SCSI can be adapted to USB, right?

I’ve never tried it. You could look here for some suggestions. It appears the answer is “yes,” but I’ve never done it myself.