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Converting 35mm Slides to Digital

Posted: Mon Oct 28, 2013 8:38 am
by DaveB
Coincidentally, I just happened to find HST forums at the same time I was unearthing boxes of old 35mm slides from my days in the Sierra (1980's and 1990's). I found a few posts about using your own equipment to scan 35mm slides and convert to digital. What I'm looking for is reviews of any of the services where you send your slides in for conversion. Anybody used any of those and have comments?

P.S. I'm enjoying reading these posts and seeing photos - my god does it bring back some great memories!

Dave B.

Re: Converting 35mm Slides to Digital

Posted: Mon Oct 28, 2013 10:17 am
by maverick
Hi Dave,

Welcome to HST! Have not use their services but a few of my fellow photographer
friend have been happy with thses two companies. Here is a review of both: ... rvices.htm" onclick=";return false;

Re: Converting 35mm Slides to Digital

Posted: Fri Nov 01, 2013 2:48 pm
by stokejob
I've used North Coast Photo (" onclick=";return false;) for a few years. They do a great job at developing and scanning both slides and negatives. More expensive per slide than the ones Maverick mentioned, but NCPS does not have a large minimum order size. Everything is scanned in Carlsbad, CA.

Re: Converting 35mm Slides to Digital

Posted: Sat Nov 02, 2013 8:11 am
by fishmonger
I do my own scanning (time consuming and expensive up front, but cheap in the long run if you have a lot of slides and negs like I do). I do this not only to save money, but mostly because it gives me full control over the process. I don't think any of these services will provide you with a the best file you can get from their scanners. That would be a 48 bit TIFF of each image, so you can do your own color correction and pre-JPEG image adjustments to control contrast and other detail. You can even correct for chromatic aberrations of old lenses. TIFF files are large, and most of the actual hands-on work comes after the scan anyway.

Obviously, this all has to do with how much work you want to put into it and how important the images are to you. Mine are pretty valuable and the expense of a used Nikon scanner and stack feeder wasn't a big deal when I bought them (they cost a lot more now, as they are not being manufactured any longer).

The time to learn how to best use Vuescan scanning software and Camera Raw to get the most out of these files is a substantial investment, too, and I assume since you are looking for a service, you're not interested in doing so. If that is the case, then certainly go ahead and send you slides to one of these services. They do know a lot about color correction and other tweaks they can apply to the automated scanning process, so you'll get decent images back, just not images that could be as good as a scan can be made. They don't have the time for it, or you would not be able to afford the service. It's a compromise when you hire somebody doing it in a competitive marketplace. Lowest bidder kind of stuff. There may be some real artists out there who do quality work, but I'd be surprised if they charged less than $15 per image. A no compromise scan takes about 45 minutes for the scanner alone, per image...

To illustrate what I am talking about two links to the same slide, once scanned straight to JPEG and the other scanned and processed with modern software tools on a similar desktop scanner, just using the full image data the scanner returns to tweak it before saving.

Polaroid Sprintscan to JPEG and saved from Photoshop 6.0 ... 56de_b.jpg" onclick=";return false;

Nikon Coolscan 4000ED to TIFF, then loaded in Photoshop CS6 via Camera Raw before saving ... ffcd_o.jpg" onclick=";return false;

You'll probably get something in between these two when you send images out for bulk scanning, because they usually run stuff through a Coolscan 5000ED, which is a little better in shadow detail than my 4000ED, but without processing each image before saving to JPEG, a lot of that detail will be lost before you get the files. Look at the difference in the dark areas between those two scans - that is where the biggest difference is between a good and a bad slide scan.

Perhaps you don't want to open that can of worms, because I am at a point where I will probably want to go back and scan thousands of Sierra images from the 80s and 90s one more time, because the last time around I did what these labs are doing...

Re: Converting 35mm Slides to Digital

Posted: Sat Nov 02, 2013 9:53 am
by DaveB
Thanks for the good info, everybody. I can't see making the investment in $ and time to acquire and learn equipment such as the Nikon Coolscan, so will look into one of the services. Besides ScanCafe, I've found that Costco does them for 39 cents each. A local independent photo lab does them for 89 cents each. Northcoast sounds high quality but expensive. I'll probably send some to each, depending on the condition and value of each photo. I love the convenience of digital, but in some ways miss those beautiful colors and saturation of Kodachrome 25 and 64!

Re: Converting 35mm Slides to Digital

Posted: Sat Nov 02, 2013 10:57 am
by fishmonger
DaveB wrote: I love the convenience of digital, but in some ways miss those beautiful colors and saturation of Kodachrome 25 and 64!
Well, as of 2013, the colors and saturation of those films are far surpassed by higher end digital cameras. When I got my last camera, I finally knew that film, at least in the 35mm format, has finally moved into the history books.

There was a period of about 10 years digital really sucked and I almost stopped taking pictures completely (slides too expensive, digital always looking like TV cameras), but now digital cameras can produce images that record so much more than film ever could, it boils down to knowing how to use them. That's probably where film will always be the winner, because everyone pretty much got the color balance right, and dynamic range was the same for everyone. Not the case in digital, and that's why most digital images still suck today

Re: Converting 35mm Slides to Digital

Posted: Mon Jan 11, 2016 4:38 pm
by oldranger
I made the mistake of checking out my old slides. I believe I have some Sierra slides my dad took on our trips beginning in the 50s. Certainly my own from the 60's, 70's, 80's etc up to 2007 when I started shooting digital.

Does anyone have any updated info on the various scanning services and any other info concerning the process of using them?



Re: Converting 35mm Slides to Digital

Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2016 11:58 am
by fishmonger
Nothing new in that industry. The tools (stack-feeder slide scanners) are getting rare, costly and nobody is making new hardware, so this will only get more expensive for service providers, or yourself, should you go out and try to buy a scanner and stack feeder.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned here is the option to get a slide duplicator. If you have a recent high resolution DSLR, you can do quite well with a cheap slide duplicator attachment, a flash with diffuser and perhaps an extension tube. A setup like a Nikon D800 with 60mm macro lens and slide dupe adapter can create raw files that will rival what the best scanners can pull out of a slide. The only thing this setup won't do is automatic dust and scratch repair done by some scanner/software combos via some infrared tricks. Everything else, such as color correction for faded slides, is actually best done from a raw file in photoshop, where you'll have full control. If you just want a quick and dirty conversion to digital, all that is obviously far too much work, but you could just skip that part and do a batch job that does a one-size-fits-all correction for rolls of film that need adjustments.

The slide copy adapter is cheap - for Nikon and a 52mm filter ring, which is typical for a 60mm macro lens, the adapter is 60 bucks and can be found for less on ebay. Lens and camera are more, but then that's something many of us already have or could usefor other things when done duping slides.

video below shows the entire process from setting up the copy to Lightroom edits

note, even though this looks like a tedious process at first glance, the capture process is much faster than a single slide feed slide scanner. You stick the slide in, shoot, go to the next. My Nikon scanner takes several minutes for a proper scan. If I had to go back and feed the next slide, I'd lose interest in this process very quickly. With the capture taking the time of the exposure of the camera, you can go through hundreds in a few hours.

Re: Converting 35mm Slides to Digital

Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:33 pm
by rlown
here's a review as I'm pretty sure you don't have fishmonger's setup.. http://slide-to-digital-image-converter ...

slides.. what were you thinking :) how about those 8-track tapes? :D

I have some old 8mm films as well, but those will go away and just be a memory.

Re: Converting 35mm Slides to Digital

Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2016 7:48 pm
by oldranger
Ok so I have a 12 megapixal D-5000, with the adapter and the 40mm micro Nikon lens can I get decent digital copies of my slides? or even without the 40 mm and my kit 18-55 zoom and extension tubes? Kind of like doing it myself because I can just do a few at a time with a cost much less than the services (even if I have to buy the lens.