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Converting Film Negatives to Digital with ScanDigital.com

NegativesIf you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got a shoebox (or maybe even a slightly more elaborate storage system) full of old negatives from your film days. I’ve been casually thinking about scanning some of my old negatives and especially the negatives from my wedding to preserve them. Negatives can be stored for decades but I don’t store mine in anything near ideal conditions. In theory, digital images can be stored forever (assuming you’ve got a good backup process in place… you do backup your files, don’t you?)

The trouble with scanning negatives is that it’s cumbersome and, if you care about the quality, the equipment can be quite expensive. Your average consumer-grade desktop scanner with negative scanning unit will do in a pinch but it won’t match anything near the quality or speed of a dedicated negative scanning machine. And you’ve still got to deal with dust and scratches on the negatives which must be cleaned and inspected and… well, you get the idea. It’s a pain.

So I was pleased to hear about a service called ScanDigital.com (www.scandigital.com) which aims to takes all of the hassle and pain out negative scanning.

Here’s how it works:

  • You place an order at ScanDigital.com and prepay for shipping.
  • Then you print out a UPS shipping label directly from their website.
  • Carefully package your negatives, slap the label on, and send it to them.
  • ScanDigital scans the negatives and ships them back to you along with a DVD with all of your high resolution scans. They also setup an online web gallery for you so you can view them and order prints online.

ScanDigital will scan prints at 300 or 600 dpi, negatives (35mm, APS, and other formats) at 2000 or 4000 dpi, and slides at 2000 or 4000 dpi. They charge per image and add a premium for 4000 dpi scans. For example, 35mm negatives cost $0.58 per frame at 2000 dpi and $0.78 per frame at 4000 dpi.

I used the service anonymously and sent them a collection of extremely old and mistreated 35mm negatives, a well-preserved 6cm medium format negative, and a color slide.

My package arrived at ScanDigital on 9/13, it was scanned on 9/21, and I received my package back on 9/28. That’s a 15 day turnaround time which isn’t bad but I was a little concerned about the delay between when my negatives were received and when they were scanned. I asked a representative of ScanDigital about it and they said that they always try for a 1 week turnaround time but that my negatives were submitted at the same time as another huge order. They say 2 weeks is not typical and that they’ve just added additional staff for even faster service. ScanDigital claims to have the fastest turnaround in their industry.

As for the results? I’m pleased with them. The 35mm negatives were almost unsalvageable but they still managed to pull the image out of the negatives and provide a much better scan than I was able to get with my desktop negative scanner.

My medium format negative ($2.45 for the scan) and color slide ($0.68) both came out beautifully. The color was spot on and I’m sure I’ll be able to make very nice prints from the files (the medium format negative made a 15 megapixel image scanned at 2000 dpi).

One quibble I had with the medium format scan was that the negative may not have been totally flat during the scanning process. There are some very faint moire patterns on the scan. The moire patterns did not show up in any of the other scans so I’m sure it was just a one-off fluke.

But all of the scans are virtually dust and scratch free courtesy of an automated dust and scratch removal system they use to post process the scans. And it didn’t require any effort on my part except to find a box to send my negatives in.

Overall, if you’ve got negatives to scan, I’d definitely recommend looking into ScanDigital.com. They provided exactly what they promised at a reasonable price.

If you are interested in giving them a try, ScanDigital.com has offered readers of Photodoto.com a 10% discount. Just enter code Photodoto77 during checkout.

John Watson

John is the original founder of Photodoto, but after running it for 4 years he had to focus on different things. If you're interested in what John has been up to recently, you can check is personal blog or browse his photo blog.