I'm looking to scan several thousand old 35mm slides for historical archiving. I've got an old Canon CanoScan flatbed scanner that has the ability to scan slides specifically but its a tad slow and i've lost the piece that holds the slides together.

I recently bought a couple of smaller dedicated slide scanners similar to this but the results are terrible as the lighting is not even, sections are left dark around the edges and the centre is over exposed. In addition, none of them seem to be getting the colour quite right so its producing off-colour images which i then need to correct by hand.

Obviously this isn't going to be a good way to get through about 1000-2000 images so i'm looking for a solution where i'd be happy to spend a few hundred dollars to get this done properly.

The key criteria:

  • Fast scanning
  • Accurate Colour Reproduction without having to post process
  • Even lighting of the image
  • Preferably no more than $500 USD cost (willing to consider other options if absolutely necessary

I've seen a few threads here discussing sending slides to companies like ScanCafe which I guess I'd consider doing if price becomes an issue.

I've also seen information on making 'scanning' setups using DSLRs and a light source, i approve of the hacked up nature of this however it seems like A) you need a macro lens and B) it takes a long time to do.

Hopefully someone can help me :)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Since the light source for all of the slides is the same, have you tried creating a template and batch processing? You should need the same correction for each one unless there is an "auto correction" going on. If that is the case, maybe there is a way to turn off the "auto correction". There is another possibility. Back in the "good-old-days", we accepted a little wider variation in color. There were only a limited number of temperatures film was available in, and only so many standard corrective filters. With digital we are now used to custom WB and adjusting K in 100 degree increments. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Feb 7, 2013 at 6:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ What kind of speed are you looking for? My experience with a Nikon CoolScan IV ED is that it gives good results but that it is slow going. Several minutes per slide means you just have to take your time. Advantage this scanner has over a setup with a DSLR is that the scanner removes a lot of imperfections (dust, scratches) automatically. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rene
    Feb 7, 2013 at 7:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ possible duplicate of What's the best way to scan in hundreds of pictures? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Feb 7, 2013 at 12:09

4 Answers 4


Fast scanning + Accurate Colour Reproduction without having to post process + Even lighting of the image + $500 USD = :-) ...you must be dreaming, :-) depending of course on what you mean by 'speed' (the main problem) and 'accuracy'.

The real option here is Imacon. You have some cheaper solutions in Ken Rockwell's How to Scan Your 3,000 Slide Archive . Also, be sure to read, check, understand and the comparisons and reviews here: Film scanner test reports.

OTOH, scanning slides is a lot of work and you must be careful to do it properly. Perhaps considering to give the slides to a trusty scanning service would be the way to go.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for using a "trusty scanning service". ScanCafe has given me great results. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 7, 2013 at 13:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ That link to filmscanner.info is double useful as it's also a german scanning service :-) \$\endgroup\$
    – Martin
    Jul 4, 2013 at 12:48
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The Imacon link is 404. \$\endgroup\$
    – Borealis
    Sep 16, 2019 at 3:05

I have 10,000 slides. So after doing the math on the effort to scan these I bought a Nikon Super Coolscan 4000 ED for about $1500.

The Nikon has an extension allowing for about 40-50 slides to do automatic scanning and corrections. This last option is key because you do not want to do a manual correction once you've scanned all 10,000. Everything needs to be done automatically during the scan, hence the Nikon 4000 solution.

I also set it to correct dust and scratches. Besides the red/blue/green sensors it has an infrared light scanner that sees through the slide to register these surface faults and fills in (small) scratches with a content-aware approach. Brilliant solution that saves many hours.

Scanning at max format (4000 dpi) it scans all slides at 6000 x 4000 pixels. After some minor automatic cropping (which can be defined because each slide is positioned identical in the scanner) I now have 10,000 digitized slides at 22 megapixels each.

Including the corrections, which take far more processing time for the Nikon (and the connected PC) than the actual optical scan at this massive image size, it took about one hour for one load of 40 (hamafix-framed) slides. I only spent a few minutes per hour to replace the slides and about once every 1,000 slides to fix one that got stuck.

On average I did about 1,000 slides a week with about one hour actual effort. After three months I checked all digitized slides to make sure the scanned quality was done.

I then sold the Nikon for $1000...

Cost per scan (including all corrections) $0.05.

Don't underestimate the time to fix poor quality scans, incorrect cropping or dust and scratches, so go for the most efficient solution, even it means you will need to (temporarily) spend a fair amount of money. Cheers


Having the same problem, I was thinking of buying a macro lens for my DSLR, making a simple device to hold the slide against a properly illuminated background and shooting with the remote control of the camera. This device should be a "drop-pick" type, where the slide does not need any enclosure, locking or adjustment. Once the tests are done, I hope I can "scan" my slides at an average rate of one in two seconds, directly to JPEG, with no need for post-processing. Although this solution may not yield the same quality as a flat-bed scanner, it may satisfy all your requirements for archiving.


I had the same request and I bought a Reflecta DigitDia 6000 (5000 dpi, due to the optics effective only 3900 dpi). You can find DigitDia 5000 (3600 dpi, effective 3200 dpi that is still more than enough) for less than 600 dollars used.

Speed is good and quality too. You usually get the calibration slide and colors are fine (unless the film has deteriorated, something normal).

The software provided is not very good for noise and some color balance, but you find used scanners usually with SilverFast, much better. With that one it takes 5 hours every 100 slides (if you have the special magazine). Very acceptable.

I did 4k with DigitDia 6000 and they are fine, but now I would buy the old version 5000, cheaper and more than enough.

The Nikon 5000 (I think that is the model) does a way better job (effective and super sharp at 5000 dpi) but costs 10 times more (including the adapter for multiple slides).


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