Recently I have been shooting and developing some 35mm film. A few days ago I thought of scanning the film but it looked like my canon TR7550 does not support scanning film. The white part of the scanner does not come out, there is no film holder, I saw that the max DPI is very low.

I would have scanned them at the place I have developed but since I am shooting a lot of film this year, that would have gotten quite pricey.

Doing some research online, I have seen that there are two options on how to scan film at home.

  1. Scanning film with camera.
  2. Scanning film with scanner.

Which one these two options would be recommended when the quality of the film scanned does not have to be perfect?

I own an Olympus M10 Mark II and a tripod that cannot shoot overhead shots.


2 Answers 2


There are many methods to digitize film. Which is best or most economical depends on your specific needs. There's usually a trade-off between image quality and time. Equipment capable of higher bit depths and resolution often take longer to scan. However, if your requirements are modest, you can adjust settings to scan more quickly.

Batch scanning saves your time, so even if the scan speed is slower, it would be more convenient, unless you're working against a deadline. Since you would be absent for the scanning process itself, you could scan at higher resolution to avoid having to rescan in the future.

  • Flatbed scanner with transparency adapter. Many people seem to have good results with Epson Perfection V### scanners. They usually include the backlight and film holders needed to scan a variety of film formats. This is probably the most economic way to scan medium format film. Image quality is good, but not the best. Scanning tends to be time consuming.

  • Dedicated film scanner. The highest rated film scanners, made by Nikon and Minolta, appear to no longer be in production. Mid and low-end models from other manufacturers are still available. Image quality may be better or worse than flatbed scanners, depending on the particular unit. Scanning tends to be time consuming.

  • Film digitizer. These use digital camera sensors to capture the image at once. They're much faster than true scanners, but have reduced image quality from the small sensor size and color array. Some models capture directly to SD card. Image quality is usually good enough for small prints or sharing on social media.

  • Slide-copy attachment. There are several types.  The quality of captures depends on how careful you are with setup, lighting, and post processing. Capture is quick, but images usually require post processing before they are ready for use. Inverting and color correcting negatives can be especially time consuming.

    • Some attach to the filter threads of a lens. This type of slide duplicator is easiest to use on crop-sensor bodies. Image quality depends mainly on the quality of the lens. Color quality depends on the light source (use a flash).

      The duplicator is basically a slide attachment and a tube with a diopter filter inside. The macro filter may introduce some barrel distortion, which can be corrected in software. Any loss in image sharpness won't be significant as long as you are able to visualize and focus on the film grain.

      Use a zoom lens to find the appropriate focal length, then switch to a sharper prime, if you have one available. You can also remove the dioptre and use a macro lens.

      Use the minimum ISO available on your camera, and stop down to the sharpest aperture of your lens (usually F5.6 to F8). You don't have to worry too much about long exposure times since the attachment is motionless relative to the sensor. If your camera or lens has image stabilization, turn it off.

      slide copier

    • Some attach directly to the camera. All necessary optics are built into the duplicator. Some allow zooming from 1x to 2.5x. You can zoom in on sub-miniature formats, but you won't be able to zoom out to capture entire 35mm frames on crop-sensor bodies. You can capture and stitch multiple sections of each frame.

    • Some are intended for use with bellows. Lens selection and bellows operation may require some trial and error. As the bellows is used to move the lens away from the sensor, sharpness is decreased and a "glow" may appear.

      bellows attachment

      You can use the thin lens formula to figure out approximate distances and focal lengths you'll need for a given reproduction ratio (magnification, m = v/u).

      1/u + 1/v = 1/f

      u = subject distance
      v = image distance
      f = focal length

      For 1:n, u = (n+1)f, v = (n+1)f/n. So for a 50mm lens with a reproduction ratio of 1:1.5, u = 83mm and v = 125mm.

  • Copy stand. Copy stands are for duplicating prints and documents, not film. While you can use a copy stand with macro lens and light box, using a slide copier is far easier and cheaper.

  • Slide copying device. These are all-in-one units that combine copy stand, light box, flash, bellows, etc. An example of this type of device is the Bowens Illumitran. Use is similar to a slide-copy attachment. The device tends to cost more. Results are more consistent, less subject to minor setup changes.

  • Have someone else scan your film for you. Most labs offer this service along with development.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ TLDR; For high volume scanning with modest image quality requirements, I would use a film digitizer with batch scanning attachment. For low volume scanning with high image quality requirements, I would use a slide copier. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented May 21, 2022 at 20:27

Modern digital cameras can do a great job of digitizing prints and slides, and with a little trouble, even negatives.

Your Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II has a sixteen megapixel sensor, which is plenty for digitizing all but highly specialized photolithography film.

That said, scanners can be faster, if you have a lot to do, and have the right scanner.

I used a Nixon LS-4000 slide/film scanner with a bulk slide loader and a motorized negative transport to automatically digitize tens of thousands of frames. You'd load up to 40 slides, or an un-cut roll of negatives, and go away for an hour or so, and they would all be nicely digitized when you got back. That combo set me back thousands of dollars, but they have gone out of favour, and you can find them used at a more reasonable price.

Scanners of less capability will generally need much more babysitting. You should carefully clean each slide, insert it, begin the scan, then insert the next, on, and on, and on… In my opinion, this is no less tedious than digitizing by camera, if you have a macro lens and a slide holder for it.

So if you don't have tons of media to digitize, and if you don't want to spend money on bulk scanning solutions, your camera will do just fine.

I would make a couple investments, though.

  • If you plan to do slides or negatives, get a decent macro lens. It needs to do at least 1/2 life-size, or 0.5 reproduction ratio, to fill a frame on your E-M10. This is a multi-purpose investment, and you can have great fun with macro photography when you aren't digitizing!
  • It's worth getting a slide/filmstrip attachment for your macro lens. Third-party ones that screw onto the front of your macro lens are fairly reasonable on eBay.
  • If you're doing more than just onsey-twosey print digitizing, a copy stand will greatly speed your work. You can make one out of an old enlarger fairly easily, and people are giving those away these days.
  • an easel is highly recommended. Old darkroom easels were used for holding photographic paper under an enlarger, and will be invaluable for holding your prints nice and flat.

If you don't have many prints to do, you can get by with your tripod, but the stand and easel will make it much faster for doing many prints.

For slides and negatives, you may be able to get by without a macro lens by using either extension tubes, or a close-up filter. The close-up filter attaches to the subject end of your lens. The extension tubes go between your lens and the camera. Either of these will work better with a prime (non-zoom) lens.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.