Which film and slide scanner is best?
Everyone enjoys having old photos of precious memories to look at, but over time, those prints can fade or get lost or damaged. To properly preserve them for future generations, it’s important to take the time to digitize them with a high-quality scanner. A top option is the reliable Kodak Mini Digital Film and Slide Scanner, which allows you to easily scan, edit and save images from slides, negatives and Super 8 film.
What to know before you buy a film and slide scanner
A huge variety of film and slide formats have been used throughout the decades. Most film and slide scanners usually scan the most commonly used formats such as Super 8 mm and 35 mm. Many are capable of scanning several more formats with included or purchasable adapters.
The biggest format compatibility to check for is video. Most scanners are only capable of scanning images, even if what’s being scanned is a video strip. You could scan each frame and string them together with an editing program, but this would take days and you wouldn’t digitize the sound if it had it. Scanners capable of scanning video are usually pricey.
Most film and slide scanners include onboard memory. It’s usually limited to 128 megabytes which can save roughly 30-100 images before the files need to be offloaded to an alternate storage device. Many scanners have SD card slots for additional storage and easier data transfer. You can’t use any SD card though — most scanners are only compatible with 32-gigabyte or smaller cards.
What to look for in a quality film and slide scanner
The quality and clarity, also called the resolution, of a scan is determined by its megapixel count. The cheapest film and slide scanners have maximum resolutions of 2 megapixels. This is just enough for basic archiving. Better scanners offer up to 14-megapixel resolution with high-end recreational scanners offering up to 22-megapixel resolution. Both resolutions are good enough for high-quality prints. Professional-grade archival scanners can have higher resolutions.
Some film and slide scanners have no ports other than power and data storage. Better options include TV-out and USB ports.
- TV-out: TV-out ports let you display your scanned images on your TV. Pricey scanners use HDMI-out ports while others use a video-only VGA port. Very few TVs made in the last decade or so have a VGA-in port. You’ll need a VGA-to-HDMI adapter if you don’t want to spend the money on a scanner with an HDMI-out port.
- USB: USB ports allow you to scan and save images directly to your computer. Pay close attention to the type of USB port your prospective scanner may use — it can be standard, micro or C.
How much you can expect to spend on a film and slide scanner
Basic film and slide scanners start around $50 and go up to $150. Spending $150-$200 will get you the best recreational models. Anything over $200 is likely designed for professional-grade archival purposes.
Film and slide scanner FAQ
How complicated a process is film and slide scanning?
A. It isn’t complicated at all. All scanners include detailed step-by-step instructions for scanning each of their compatible formats. The most complex aspects are inserting the correct format adapter and deciding where to save the scanned image.
How long does it take to scan?
A. It takes no more than a few seconds for the scanner to scan a single image. How long it takes you to ensure the image is primed for scanning, including ensuring the scanner is free of debris and the image is properly aligned, can take much longer. Scanning a large amount of film and slides can take most of the day.
Can I print images I scan?
A. Yes, though you’ll need a high-quality scan to ensure the printed image looks good. Aim for a minimum of 10 megapixels in your scan with 22 or more megapixels providing the best quality.
What’s the best film and slide scanner to buy?
Top film and slide scanner
What you need to know: No business knows film better than Kodak, and this scanner can convert most formats, including Super 8 mm and 35 mm.
What you’ll love: It has up to 22 megapixels. It has a bright, easy-to-read LCD and easy-to-use controls. It’s also compatible with SD cards up to 32 gigabytes. It comes with adapters for most international plug types.
What you should consider: It’s one of the pricier scanners. It crops some formats during the scan. It’s prone to collecting dust but includes a brush to help keep it clean.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top film and slide scanner for the money
What you need to know: This lower-cost scanner is perfect for small scanning jobs.
What you’ll love: It can convert most formats, including Super 8 mm and 35 mm. It has a TV-out and USB port with matching cables. It has up to 22 megapixels. It’s small and light for portability. It supports SD cards up to 32 gigabytes.
What you should consider: The LCD screen is small at 2.4 inches diagonally. It can only scan still images, not videos. Transferring scans can be complicated without the proper gear.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This is another great option worth considering.
What you’ll love: It can convert most formats, including Super 8 mm and 35 mm. It has up to 22 megapixels. It supports SD cards up to 32 gigabytes. It includes TV and USB cables, a multi-voltage power adapter for international use and a cleaning brush.
What you should consider: Any dust or debris on the scanner is magnified on the resulting image. Some consumers had durability issues with the scanner and the screen.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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