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Convert Slides to Digital

Updated on February 14, 2013

Four Ways to Save Slides in Digital Format: Best, Fastest, Cheapest, and Easiest

If you are planning to convert slides to a digital format, you can do the conversion in at least four different ways. The best results come from using a good slide scanner. A faster way is to use a device called a slide converter, and cheapest is to make your own device. The easiest way is not to do any of this but to send your slides out to a scanning service. This page is organized around these categories. As a librarian by background, I love organizing information, and I hope it will be useful to you.

Which way you will go depends partly on what you need. If your family has boxes of old slides that really ought to be preserved, your choice will be different from what you would do if you are a professional photographer. Here, I'll describe the best choices for different situations. I'll tell you how my photographer husband chose the best 35mm slide scanner for his needs, too.

Image credit: This is an unretouched photo of my grandmother, in my collection. It was scanned using a simple copier-printer-scanner, and you can see at least one spot I left in to show the drawbacks of the simpler scanning methods.

How to Get the Best Results

You will get the best resolution and clarity if you use the best slide scanner that you are drawn to. That way, you will have total control over each image. This is what we are doing. Yes, it is time consuming! But the results are worth it to us. (And my frugal husband did not choose the top of the line.)

Also, all of these scanners can be used as everyday document scanners. They all offer higher resolution than you can get with an all-in-one printer-copier-scanner.

Your planned uses will determine what is best for you. For example, I have quite an old machine which I use all the time for printing and copying. It also has met all my needs for scanning in old photos to use in blog posts, since internet resolution is so low. (I use 72 DPI for any photos I upload.) But now that we have a good photo scanner, I will use it for any future blog posts, because the new scanner has built-in features to remove dust flecks and scratches.

About the Photo Scanners Listed Here

Not all photo scanners also scan slides. The ones I've selected here have a built-in slide scanner.

The Epson V300 and the Canon 9000F only scan 35mm slides, which is by far the most common format. If there are also some larger slides in your collection, be sure the model you choose will do them too.

My husband chose the V300 because of its numerous positive reviews, and he has been thrilled with what it does.

For more thoughts about these scanners, see my Canon and Epson Photo Scanner Review, and for a page about the one we got, see my Using the Epson Perfection V300 Photo Scanner.

Epson and Canon Photo Scanners for Slide Scanning

Epson B11B193081 Perfection V300 Photo Scanner
Epson B11B193081 Perfection V300 Photo Scanner

We have this one and are pleased with it for our needs. Some of the ones below it will do higher resolution scans, though.

Epson Perfection V500 Photo Scanner
Epson Perfection V500 Photo Scanner

Also highly rated. Read the customer comments on this one and you could be as intrigued as I was. This one will do medium format film, which the V300 won't.

Canon CanoScan 9000F Color Image Scanner
Canon CanoScan 9000F Color Image Scanner

Comes with a flim adapter unit for slides and film. It's pretty comparable to the Epson V600.

Epson B11B178011 Perfection V700 Photo Scanner
Epson B11B178011 Perfection V700 Photo Scanner

BIG jump in price here, but you can batch scan slides. Worth considering if you have a lot of scanning to do and can use the higher end features. As with all these scanners, people are really happy with it.


The Fastest Way to Scan Slides

The Wolverine F2D

The Wolverine is a nifty little gadet for converting 35mm film and slides to digital. (Aha, that's why they came up with F2D, for film to digital.) It costs more than some of the Epson scanners I recommend above, but in one way it is faster. It takes just a few seconds to load up your slides or negatives and run them through this thing. You do plug it into house current, but it doesn't need to be hooked up to a computer to work. The images are saved in the Wolverine F2D itself or in an external flash card. (Its internal memory is quite small.)

What it does is take a picture of your image, creating a 5 mega-pixel JPG digital image. There is a little screen so you can see what is going on, and evidently you can do tiny slide shows too. You get the device--they call it a scanner but people also simply call them converters--along with a power cord, USB cable, and a cartridge for negatives and one for slides. Some lens cleaner is included.

It does not come with an external flash memory card, and I'd recommend that you get one. There are links to a couple of very inexpensive ones on the page at Amazon.

Does It Really Save You Time? Well, Yes and No...

There is no doubt that this is a very fast way to scan. If you have thousands of family slides, you can get them preserved faster this way than by any other means. As a librarian, I am a huge fan of preserving old slides and negatives for archival purposes.

Where it doesn't save you time is when you go to use these images. Where the Epson and Canon scanners that I described further up this page have built-in software to clean up the images and improve their colors, this does not.

So for quickly creating a collection, great!

But for scanning in a bunch of family photos and then choosing say 50 or 100 to create a photo book at Shutterfly or a place like that, I don't think you would save ANY time over using an Epson or Canon. Both of those brands have that software I just mentioned, but with old slides or negatives scanned in via the Wolverine F2D, you could be looking at a lot of time cleaning up each image in Photoshop or a similar program. Those programs have a steep learning curve.

Still, this thing definitely has its uses! If you think it might suit you, I suggest you read through some of the customer reviews at Amazon. Overall, people do like it for what it is.

A Short Video About the Wolverine F2D

The Cheapest... But Not Necessarily Good

There are a variety of do-it-yourself approaches to getting a digital image from a slide. I can't recommend them but here is one of a number of videos I noticed at YouTube.

Easiest: Use a Scanning Service

This is the easiest way to go, and the quality could be very good... do check on what DPI is used by any company that you are exploring. Also count up how many things you want scanned in, and figure out your costs in advance.

I would be nervous about sending irreplaceable old slides through the mail, so if you use a scanning service, take your package of slides to the post office and get their advice on the most secure method of sending them... or use UPS or Fedex. If you live in a city, you can likely get this done locally.

I have no experience with any company of the sort, so I don't want to recommend any, but I'm sure you can find a bunch of them on Google.

This ends up being an ad for a scanning service but I found it interesting (in a techy way).

Matching Your Needs, Your Time, and Your Money with These Choices

Now it's your turn to do something. I hope this page has helped you get clear about what you want to do. I sure recommend doing something with your old slides and negatives! Some of them may mean a lot to future generations.

To sum it up, the best results will take some time to create and will come by using a good quality scanner. The fastest results for scanning in a large family collection will come with the Wolverine F2D. Here are a few of my top picks again. The customer reviews can give you a good sense of what will suit you!

Do You Have a LOT of Old Slides?

Do spend time choosing which ones are worth converting... some may be so-so photos but if they are the only ones of Aunt Tillie, scan them!

But if there are 17 photos of the same thing, you may only need to scan in one or two.

The unscanned slides can be kept if you wish. They're small enough.

Please note that if you click through to from here and if you buy something, Squidoo and I may share a commission, at no cost to you. I appreciate the income, as it enables me to spend time doing research like this.

How Would You Do Slide Scanning? Your other thoughts are welcome too. You don't have to be a member of Squidoo to post a comment.

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    • hartworks lm profile image

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      @petelovestoread: It's really a lot of fun!

    • petelovestoread profile image

      petelovestoread 5 years ago

      Thank you. I just found my old negatives from high school and would like to have them enlarged. This was very helpful.

    • hartworks lm profile image

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      @anonymous: If your negatives are larger than 35mm, that V500 is the best deal I found... but if they are the standard 35mm, there are more choices.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have so many negatives of photos from trips overseas that I need to get digitized. Thanks for such a great review of the gadgets. Bookmarked!