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Scanning prints, negatives and slides on a limited budget

Firstly, if you simply want to scan prints and/or documents, and they are in pretty good condition then you do not need the equipment detailed here (unless you are looking to update existing equipment, in which case spending a little now may save you money later.)

I am not an expert in the area of scanning etc, I am a hobbyist with little more than limited funds. What I am documenting here is akin to a journal of my discoveries. If you're a novice, especially in the realm of scanning negatives and transparencies (slides), then read on ... and I hope it is of benefit.


Prior to this current project (this web site) I have had some experience scanning old photos and documents (Harry's Letters).

That said, I'm likely to re-scan many of those images (one day)! I used a Canon ???. It cost about $90 AUD and I would probably not be able to give it away on ebay today. It served a purpose. I have also dabbled with Photoshop but was basically overwhelmed into paralysis at all of the options and the terminology. Due to a fear of reading manuals (or at least much reluctance), I did not get very far with Photoshop.

Flatbed film scanner

Since I began this site, I have purchased a flatbed scanner that allows me to scan negatives and transparencies (slides).

My main reason for buying a flatbed scanner was price. All the pros seem to say "don't buy a flatbed scanner for negs" but I just could not find anything else affordable.

My reasons for buying this particular scanner (a Microtek ScanMaker i700 - a middle of the range flatbed scanner that had been on the market for a year or so) were as follows:

How does this compare to other scanners?

I don't know, I only have the one but as one bloke said to me when I was shopping around "Ya gets what ya pays for"... meaning this is not the best device for scanning negs etc but does better than cheaper flatbeds. I'm really happy - I did not expect professional quality from a flatbed scanner but I very happy so far. The amount I paid (a good 40% off) was still more than I could justify from a cost / benefit perspective but, hey, this is a hobby as well

Preliminary Results

My first impression is that it's great for scans of prints and slides, and the Adobe software seems to be very important in satisfying my needs and wants as well, but I am having difficulty with negatives. You can find out a lot more about this in the following pages.

The other notable points (using Scanmaker 6.13):

  • The preview scan feels pretty quick.
  • You can prescan a smaller section of the preview (giving better resolution for pre-scan corrections - if you don't want to prescan then you can still zoom in but it's very pixelated).
  • High resolution scan time is not bad (I get other bits and pieces ready on the web page I'm working on while it's doing its stuff).
  • Scanning 8 slides at a time (or 12 35mm negs) is really cool. Having got each "job" set up you then start the scan and each "job" creates a separate file
  • ICE takes an age (perhaps that's why they called it that). Not only does it do two scans - and one of them seems a lot slower than the other - it also does it's own magic.
  • ICE is really cool and works well
  • ICE is not a replacement for cleaning the original first - especially negs and transparencies
  • The helpful little windows that provide scaling, colour correction etc always open on top of the preview image on the left hand side - really annoying that the "workspace" is not stored between sessions.
  • I think I have experienced the dreaded Newton rings (once in about 200 scans), but I believe there is a way I can easily avoid these - more of this when I find out more about it.
Lightshade, Drummoyne, Aug 1979. Original 1976 print
Drummoyne, Aug 1979.
Original 1976 print
Kodak C120 ISO 100, f16, ? secs

Why bother going back to the neg?

Perhaps this needs to be asked and answered before I go into detail.

You might imagine the answer is that the prints have been damaged or fadded. To some degree this is true although my prints have always been pretty well looked after. Also, the oldest is only 30 years old.

I do not have a lot of spare time on my hands so I am not about to try to re-invent / replace a perfectly web-acceptable scan.

In the case of one of my ealiest "failures" (more accurately I should describe these as frustrations), the subject was cropped in the original print (the bottom of the tassles is missing). "Big deal" I hear you say! True, but it would be nice if it was there especially as they are there in the negative and I did intend them to be there.

Related / Other Pages

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