Film Scanner
July 29, 2011

Well hello again to all. I have an inkling that today may also be a picture-less day, but I won't fret about this for too long. Instead, I will discuss my thoughts on film scanning.

I took interest in film scanners a few years back when Costco first stocked it in the warehouses. Like all new electronic hardware, the first of any design retails at a high price (consider zip drives, flash drives, memory cards, digital cameras). As time goes by, the hardware features increase and the price decreases making it more affordable (while not considering inflation, price indexes, etc). For those of you, like me, who have plenty of 35mm film stored away, an archival process such as scanning film to digital files may be of interest. There are a number of reasons to convert the film: film degradation, water/humidity damage, and convenience of electronic files. Additionally, here in California there is always a risk of wildfires (noting the October 2003 Cedar Fire).

Now there are a few methods in which one can archive film. The first is to buy a film scanner and work through the monotony of loading film and pressing scan. This gives full control of the process but also leaves an expensive piece of equipment that may go unused shortly after. A solution to this would be to send the film to a local camera store and have them convert the film. The only requirement is to have faith in someone else's indexing system.

For those who would rather not spend money, here is a less sophisticated method. The first step is to provide backlighting with a flash light, studio lamp or monitor. Next a foam or cardboard holder for the negative is required. Lastly, an image of the negative can be photographed with a DSLR and macro lens. This is a decently useful method, possibly even faster than the film scanner one, but yields limited resolution and quality and lacks dust removal technology.

Sometimes prints are missing the negative, a situation the previous methods do not account for. For this, a flatbed scanner is required. A similar course of thinking can be applied to this as well. A flatbed scanner could be purchased or one could be used at a local camera store. The low-budget solution would be to put a clear piece of glass or plastic over the print to flatten it. A constant uniform light source would be required to give appropriate lighting for the DSLR.

There are a few things to consider. If the purchasing route is preferred, then maybe a decision has to be made between a film scanner and flatbed scanner. The two utilize different technologies and are really for different purposes. The flatbed scanner can however scan prints as well as film negatives which makes it the more versatile option. Regardless of which method is chosen, there is still the question of amount of time available to complete the project.

There is yet more thinking to be done in the meantime. Once again, I really do need to return to the outdoors to photograph wildlife and nature!