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ScanCafe: Scanning is complete!

Ready to review email The negatives I sent to ScanCafe have been scanned! For those of you who haven’t been following along, ScanCafe is a negative scanning service I am testing anonymously with a shoebox of wedding negatives I’ve had lying around since 1997. I sent my negatives to them on November 9th, scanning in their India facility began on November 30th, and the scans were ready for review on December 14th.

Last week I received an email from ScanCafe letting me know that my scans were ready. But when I went to the site, only about half of the negatives I sent in were scanned! That was scary. My initial reaction was that they’d lost half of my negatives. Unfortunately, I can’t give high marks for customer service since it took about 4 days before I could get an explanation. This may have something to do with communication between ScanCafe headquarters and their scanning facility in Bangalore, but I’m just speculating. Ultimately, the missing negatives were scanned. Here’s the explanation I received from ScanCafe:

First of all we apologize for the delay in responding to your issue. We just receive a confirmation from our Imaging center that all your images (189) are now uploaded to your account. The problem you faced was due to an error while uploading your images to your account which is now fixed. Please login to your account to view your scans. We apologize for the inconvenience caused and appreciate your patience.

It was a stressful four days waiting to find out if my negatives had been lost forever.

Once that was out of the way though, the rest of the process worked flawlessly. Previews of all of your negatives are available for review. Delete the ones you don’t want (you can undelete them if you change your mind) and pay the balance due. I ended up discarding 15 of the negatives. I would have liked to have seen larger previews. On some of them, it was difficult to see the small differences between similar shots so I ended up buying both scans.

In total, I spent about 1 hour of my time getting all of these scans, mostly spent at the preview stage. Before I sent my scans to ScanCafe, I sent a few to Brian Auer at Epic Edits (a film and scanning do-it-yourself expert) so that we could compare scanning quality of the equipment and time spent. We tried our best to simulate the ScanCafe level of service (scan, dust removal, white balance, limited retouch) and Brian found that he was taking about 12-17 minutes per negative. Even if doing it myself only took 10 minutes each, that would have used up over 31 hours of my time. So, it cost me $185 but I saved 30 hours of my time.

Once I get the scans back we’ll be able to look at the scans side by side and see how ScanCafe fared against Brian.

Screenshots below.

Ready to review email

Your images are online and awaiting your review

Scans are organized into albums

Scans are organized into albums

Preview your scans and delete the ones you don't want

Preview your scans and delete the ones you don't want

Total price for scanning 189 medium format negatives in TIFF format (with 20% Halloween discount coupon)

Total price for scanning 189 medium format negatives in TIFF format (with 20% Halloween discount coupon)

ScanCafe negative scanning progress (Nov 30)

Scanning progress continues. The process may be going slowly—although, I personally don’t care… these negatives have been in storage for 12 years—but ScanCafe does an excellent job of keeping you in the loop. They let me know that a technician had opened my box and was actually starting to scan my negatives.

ScanCafe progress

I got this email today:

We have assigned a technician to digitize your images and in the process we found that you have sent in negatives to us that needs to be cut into strips of 1 to 2 images in order to process them. Kindly confirm if you are fine with cutting the negative strips so that we can process your media. However, if you do not wish to cut them, we will not be able to scan them and therefore will ship them back to you as is.

I sent them medium format negatives in strips of 4 frames. I told them to cut them—carefully—as needed for the scanning process. I really appreciate that they asked first although it would have been nice if they’d also mentioned it on the ordering page. I can imagine that some people, for whatever reason, don’t want their negative strips cut.


ScanCafe negative scanning progress

ScanCafe logo Following up on my previous post about scanning some old negatives with ScanCafe. I dragged my feet and didn’t send them in until this past Monday. I was able to snag a 20% discount though so my total estimate for scanning 200 medium format negs came to $204.20 ($0.99 ea + $0.19 ea for TIFF format + shipping, etc.).

Before I sent my scans to ScanCafe, I also sent several of them to Brian Auer at Epic Edits. Brian, film scanning expert extraordinaire, scanned them using his CanoScan so that we could compare ScanCafe vs doing it yourself.

ScanCafe charges you half  up front, ships your negatives to their overseas scanning facility, lets you pick the ones you want online, then sends it all back to you. Just got an email today saying they’ve received my negatives—the process has begun. They estimate they’ll have my scans ready to view by December 27th (yes, it takes a while).

ScanCafe Order Status

I didn’t tell them I was a writer for a photography blog and I’m getting my own negatives scanned at my expense so that I can provide you with a realistic and objective view of how their service works. Stay tuned!


Negative scanning with ScanCafe

After a bunch of failed attempts with my ancient el cheapo scanner, I’ve decided to have a bunch of old medium format negatives (120/220) scanned professionally. I’ve all but decided on ScanCafe—haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Great prices… $0.99 each for medium format negatives. But even better, they’ll scan all 200 negatives, let me review them, and then I only have to pay for the ones I actually want—with the caveat that I have to buy at least half.

Interesting twist: they send the photos to a facility they’ve built in India. That’s how they can get a technician to scan and personally inspect/retouch each negative at such low prices. Downside: looks like it might be around 8 weeks before I see my scans (and get back my originals). But, these negatives have been sitting around since 97 so it’s not like I’m in a hurry.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Have you used ScanCafe or any other professional negative/print scanning service?

ScanCafe – Photo Scanning, Negative Scanning, Slide Scanning, Photo Restoration