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Negative Scanner Worth the Investment?

Laine Stuart , Sep 15, 2005; 01:45 p.m.

I am not a photographer but a mom with a lot of photos and negatives (color from years 1970-2000). I would hate to lose these and I thought I should make the investment to scan them. I was thinking of something like the Epson 2480 Ltd. Edition but then lots of friends a family asked if I could scan their negatives and photos too.

Then I thought I would get a Nikon Coolscan V ED but after reading many of the posts on this site, I am concerned about scanning times and storage. If I use ICE, does scanning time go up as much as 5 minutes each? Or is that including photoshop editing? Also, isn't a DVD OK for storage? This way I could make many copies to give to friends and family.

Can someone make this simple for me? How can I do this "the right way" without going broke or going overboard?

Thank you so much!


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Jose Isidro Lopez , Sep 15, 2005; 02:08 p.m.


In my case, I own a canon 9900F, is an excelent scanner for amateur work. But the work it requires to scan my negatives depends on what I want to do with them. Normally I scan at full resolution (8x10 at least) and with "FARE" (ICE) it takes around 4 minutes each. At the end, depending on the negative condition, it may not be ready for printing, it requires cleaning dust (90% of times), and when I need quality print, it requires PS work. Then I save it in TIFF uncompressed in CD. I don?t scan all my negatives, only those that I really like. The time it takes depends also on your ability to work in PS (I think).

I hope this helps a little.

Bob Atkins , Sep 15, 2005; 02:10 p.m.

High quality, high resolution scanning is a slow process. To properly scan a whole roll of 35mm film (36 exposures) and edit the results in photoshop can take most of a day (well, several hours at least).

My Canoscan FS4000US can take up to 7 minutes to scan a frame at the highest resolution, bit depth and with dust removal turned on. I'm sure there are much faster scanners, but scan times are still generally going to be measured in minutes, not seconds if you want the highest quality scans.

If you're prepared to scan at lower resolution, things will be much faster.

Ted Marcus , Sep 15, 2005; 02:17 p.m.

High-quality scanning is inherently slow no matter what scanner you've got. There's lots of data to acquire and transfer, and that takes time. I'm not even considering the time it takes to post-process the scan, which can exceed the scan time.

The best way around this problem is to be selective about which negatives you scan. I'd guess that only about 10% of the negatives I shoot are worth turning into high-resolution digital files. The rest properly belong in the dustbin. That ratio keeps the process manageable, and also makes me look like a much better photographer than I really am!

Byron Lawrence , Sep 15, 2005; 02:29 p.m.

if you are wanting to scan the images to digitize your collection and throw away the original film, I would advise against that plan of action. if you are scanning just to have desk top images (to set as a background or something, then you don't need real high resolution and the epson 2480 would work great (I think it has a film feeder, right?).

but as previous posters have stated any high quality (possibly overboard) scan will take time and, in most cases, money, in some form or another (whether having them scanned by a lab or buying a scanner capable of high quality).

chances are you will be satisfied with the epson 2480. and you can use these images to print small to medium sized prints, and if you use photoshop you can even get into playing with some of the tools available to you.

one thing though is that ICE will remove extra dust and scratches from color film and this may be worth it to you (otherwise you might end up with dust and scratches.. but if you scan at low resolution this might not be such a big problem.

this will be a big time consumming task no matter what you do so try to learn about it first so that you don't end up in the deep end.

John Kelly , Sep 15, 2005; 04:00 p.m.

Nikon V will take 3-5 minutes per slide at maximum (4000 real ppi) resolution for 13X19", including handling and Ice. It's slower with negative film, which requires motorized fiddling to properly position each frame. Nikon's (genuine) Ice is so effective that you'll rarely want to do any dusting of color films.

B&W negative film or damaged (filthy or scratched) color film scan just as quickly but do require post scanning work... you don't have to do that, leave that task for your grandkids :-)

Les Sarile , Sep 15, 2005; 04:06 p.m.

These are the times using a Nikon Coolscan 5000 - mine and Nikons:
Preview nothing on - my time = 25sec vs Nikon time of 17sec
1X nothing on - my time = 32sec vs Nikon time of 20sec
1X, ICE - my time = 49sec vs Nikon time of 46sec
1X, GEM2 - my time = 2:39 vs Nikon time of 1:52
16X, ICE - my time = 6:56 vs Nikon time of none listed
16X, ICE, GEM2 - my time = 9:00 vs Nikon time of none listed
Fortunately, I have never seen a need for multisampling. On properly exposed film, all you need is ICE (for none b&w), crop and orientation, and you will be good to go. If the film is underexposed or requires minor color tweaks, there will be no noticeable changes in these times. Another time saver is the fact that you simply insert the strip of 35mm film into the scanner. No need to fumble with film holders and it holds the film flatter.
More importantly is the accuracy and quality of the scan, because if they're not, then the scan times will be the least of your worry. I have a collection of mostly unretouched full res film scans in the link in my profile if you're interested in seeing the results from this scanner.
Yeah, I'm working through my decades of film collection, including 110 film, but am being distracted by shooting newer film ;-)

James Baker , Sep 15, 2005; 05:39 p.m.

Laine, If you just want to save your negs to make 4X6 snapshots in the future why don't you just take the whole lot to Wolf Camera or someone like them and let them scan the negs onto CD's for you as a one time deal. fast and easy. You can then copy the CD's for your family members.

Albert Lui , Sep 15, 2005; 09:05 p.m.

Many good points have been discussed so far. The super scanner Les uses is probably the best way to go, if its within your budget.

If you just need something for web use, scanning the 4x6 print on a flat top scanner will probably be good enough. Also, unadjusted color accuracy may be better than unadjusted output from some film scanners.

John Kelly , Sep 15, 2005; 11:42 p.m.

Les's 5000 is distinctly faster than the Nikon V, but is essentially the same otherwise. I don't think they have any rivals, except arguably for one of the Canons or the Epson 4990, neither of which would be as sharp but would be easier with multiple formats.

Basic good scanning practice requires no fiddling to get correct color...scanning crappy little 4X6-type prints won't give you any advantage except for possibly easier physical handling... may require less learning. Little prints are made either by robots or by unskilled minilab printers...the least amount of learning will beat them.

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