Develop Your Own Film Part Three-Scanning Negatives-Episode 14

Welcome to Part 3 of the series on developing your own film! If you haven't seen/listened to Part 1 (equipment and chemicals) or Part 2 (the film developing process) go ahead and review those if you want. This part (part 3) is about scanning negatives into the computer so you can share the images or send them to be printed.

Which Scanner To Buy

Once you've developed your film you will probably want to digitize it so you can share it with the world. In order to get your film negative into the computer you will need to scan in the negative.  The question is, "Which Scanner Should I Get"? Well, there are a lot of scanners out there but I would suggest that you narrow in on a few key ones depending on your needs and budget. A site I recommend, and the one I used to help me narrow the field is:

Film Scanner Info

This is a very good site that comprehensively test scanners. Instead of just listing the (often inflated) specs, they dig into the scanners from the perspective of a photographer. They test the scanners using a specific resolution test chart that helps reveal the true effective resolution. As you read through the site you'll discover something-the resolution numbers you see on most scanners are often a severe stretch of the truth.

Scanner Resolution-The Truth

That new scanner you've been eyeing claims a resolution of 9600 dpi. Is that true, or a huge exaggeration? Well, it closer to the exaggeration side of things. The film scanner info site has some good information on resolution as it relates to scanners, especially how dpi is measured and what it means. This is a must read if you will be scanning film.

Scanner Resolution

Most scanners that claim a super-high resolution often can only produce a small percentage of that number in actual use. Here are a few scanners that get decent reviews along with their true resolution, based on the tests that the film scanner info site did.

Scanner Rankings

The site has a page that ranks film scanners from top to bottom. It's a great resource, except that it's in German. But you can translate the page in your browser well enough to get the idea. You will see that there is a wide range of quality from the top rated (and super-expensive) Hasselblad X5 and X1 to the Epson and Canon scanners at the bottom. Here are 3 scanners I would suggest you consider.

Epson V700-2300 dpi-This is one of the scanners that keeps coming up as a great choice in a flatbed scanner. It runs somewhere between $500-$700 (see links below)

Canon CanoScan 9000F-1700 dpi-This is the scanner I currently have. It's a decent flatbed scanner but by far not the best. Still, it was relatively inexpensive and it does the job fairly well, especially when you consider that it can be had for less than $200.

Reflecta MF5000-(Pacific Image PrimeFilm 120 in the USA) 3050 dpi Their review of this scanner is very good. It is a true film scanner, not a flatbed that can scan film. The scanner is fairly expensive (about $1200) but I'm considering it for myself as an upgrade for my CanoScan.

Scanner Links on Amazon

If you are looking for a scanner, check out these links to Amazon. If you buy one from these links you will be supporting the site without paying any additional money. Any support is greatly appreciated!

Pacific Image PrimeFilm 120 Multi-Format CCD Film Scanner

Epson Perfection V700 Photo Scanner-

Canon CanoScan 9000F MKII

The Scanning Process

Once you have your scanner it's time to scan some negatives! Scanning is a mix of art and science and there are a lot of different ways to scan film. Everyone seems to have a process/workflow that works for them. For me, I have settled in on a scanning process that seems to work well for me, for both B&W and Color negatives. One piece of key software I highly recommend is:


VueScan is a hardware-level scanner control software that works with just about every scanner. It offers the ability to dial-in scanner settings very precisely. The video below as well as the post I link to below the video gives you an idea of how I configure VueScan and process my scans in Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop Elements 12.

Here is a video I recorded back in December on the scanning process I use:

Scanning negatives is a time-consuming process but you can streamline it a bit by making sure you aren't "wasting pixels" by scanning at too high a resolution. Refer to the scanning resolution for your particular scanner and make sure you get the most out of the scanner without creating unnecessarily large files. You will probably also want to check out a post I did that went along with the video. I details the step-by-step process and gives links to some of the tools I use:

The Art of Scanning Film

One thing you will want to make sure to eliminate as much as possible while scanning is dust. If you're not careful, you can spend way too much time cloning out the dust spots on your scans. So, to help reduce that I recommend that you get an anti-static brush. I got one a few months ago and it really has made a difference. Here's a link to some options on Amazon:

Anti-Static Brushes

Once you have scanned in your negatives you can use your imaging editing software to adjust & edit the images and then share them with the world or send them to a photo lab for printing.

Hopefully you have found this episode/post helpful and motivating. Developing and scanning your own film is very rewarding. I have found the whole process to be fun and relaxing. It has also made me a better photographer. I'd love to hear about your experiences so leave a comment or send me an email.

Until next week.....

Happy Shooting!