I've recently decided that my parents would love to have their slide collection in digital format, because being on slides means they are never looked at- most are older than I am, yet I don't think I've ever seen any of them. There's a lot. Probably over a thousand. The cheapest I found to scan them was .25$ a slide and most places charge around $1. I have an industrial scanner that scans paper SUPER fast, but that doesn't help with scanning slides. I researched the available scanners for sale and seem to have found that if you want any sort of batch capabilities, you have to pay $600-$1000 at least. I did find ONE scanner that was $250 which had a 30 slide batch tray, but I can't say that I believe it could possibly work well, but I have no idea. I happened across the idea of using a slide projector and carousel to backlight your slides and a mounted DSLR camera with a macro lens pointing into the projector lens. The one I found even made a little circuit to sync the camera shutter with the next slide button on the projector. Scans around 1 per second, much more acceptable than 1-3min per slide.

The quality seems acceptable from the examples I've seen online; in fact, the quality could be considerably less and it would be just fine. Most are not even pictures in which the quality is of that much concern- maybe a few scenery pictures, but most are of people and weren't necessarily the highest quality pictures in the first place.

That being said, I want to do the projector/camera thing because it is quick and seems to provide everything I'm looking for FAR cheaper than buying a scanner that will do it, or paying a service. Only problem is that I don't have a DSLR body NOR any lenses, macro or otherwise.

So I would have to buy a DSLR body and macro lens. This is not a bad option because after I am done scanning, then I will still have a DSLR, though I'll probably want some other lenses. However, a DSLR and lens are not exactly CHEAP; I was hoping to only spend around $200-$300 on this project. Are there any DSLRs out there (and lenses) that would suffice for the job at hand for around that price? My research seems to say that I am going to pay at least $500 to even get one at all. That's cheap, even. Which would be cool, since I'd use the camera after scanning the slides, but I just don't have that much $ right now.

Also, someone suggested that I try using the slide projector to project onto a screen (which I DO already have) and then just set up a tripod and take a picture of the screen. Would this work? Remember, I don't really care about things like proper color representation or high resolution, but I WOULD like to capture the entire slide uncropped. Also, I wouldn't need a macro lens; in fact, it would seem to me that I could just use a regular point and shoot camera so long as it was of enough quality to allow me to set the F-stop, apeture rate, etc... it would also have to have a "remote" for snapping pics, as the electronics to sync with the carousel use it. Thanks in advance. :)

Edit on August 8, 2020 : Well, I have finally found a solution; I just purchased a Nikon D5000 body for $50 and I have this Ambico Deluxe video transfer system contraption I picked up for $7 which is designed to transfer slides to VHS via a camcorder and I am pretty sure I can put it all together with a slide projector and make it work! Once I get everything and give it a shot, I'll return with details if everything goes as expected.

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    As per Henk, unless axis of the camera is collinear with the projector, then the image you take will be distorted. Your requirements fall into classical tradeoffs of: Fast, Good, Cheap - pick 2
    – Peter M
    Dec 28, 2014 at 14:02
  • With "probably over a thousand," I'd suggest it's worthwhile to just pay someone to do it. That's not many photos, really, and any investment you need to make will outweigh the cost of paying somebody with experience to do it. Dec 29, 2014 at 0:21
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    Completely off topic, but as you already have a projector, you could do a slide viewing session together with your parents. They would probably love seeing those pictures again on the screen and they could also tell you some stories behind each picture. Of course, you will then present them all those digital scans you also made. I think it's a good way to spend some quality time with your parents :) You can even take this to next level and record the process on video and then add time/location info from their commentaries to each scanned photo metadata for cataloging.
    – lightproof
    May 20, 2017 at 10:48

5 Answers 5


You can find dedicated slide scannera for sale for less than the price of a lens. Then sell it after doing the project. Which means someone else thought of that first and you can find a gently used scanner on eBay discounted. If you recover most of the cost after the project, you can afford a very good one and end up being out $200 when you resell it.

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    Don't forget to add in the time/cost of learning how to use the scanner properly, to get a good scan. Dec 29, 2014 at 0:22
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    You think thatnwould be different from a new camera and copy stand setup?
    – JDługosz
    Dec 29, 2014 at 0:24
  • Depending upon the number and variation of emulsions and amount of fading or other damage, yes. Dec 29, 2014 at 0:29
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    Consumer grade 35mm film scanners are usually unable to penetrate the maximum density (D max) of slide film so some details in deep shadows will probably be lost.
    – lightproof
    May 20, 2017 at 10:39
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    Also, this kind of slide scanner tends to use a lens. Which will sometimes be horrible quality. Oct 9, 2019 at 18:54

You can't find a solution at the price you want to pay. That should tell you that your budget is too low to do this project well.

The idea of projecting onto a screen and photographing it won't work because those screens are textured and that texture will be added to your taken photo. Sharpness will also be a problem

Your goal of 'quick' ignores the reality that most or all of these images will require post processing. This is a long and extensive project. That's one reason those services cost, they're doing some of that post work for you.

How much is your time worth? I did a project of about 600 images (slides and photos) and it was three months of evenings. If I were to do it again I'd use a service. Good value compared to all the time invested.

I picked up a good flatbed scanner ($250 range in price) that could do slides as well. It's manual swapping but the idea of batching multiple slides at once creates complications including cost of the unit and sharp focus from slide to slide.

My suggestion is to stop trying to find a way to do this quick. Double impossible is quick and cheap. Both of those cause trade offs with quality and with the number of hours you will have to invest in this project. You're seriouly underestimating the time you'll need to invest, from my experience.

  • Well, you see its not really about quality to where I really would only need to do minimal post processing. Even having texture from the screen likely wouldn't matter. It is that there are 20 some years of pictures of my parents' lives that we never look at and that I've never even SEEN. 600slides in 3 months of evenings? Not acceptable, for me at least. Neither is 23cents a slide with over 1000 slides. Def not at a dollar a slide. You can buy a carousel and camera for 1000 or so that these people custom make, but it really seems pretty easy I just have no camera. Thank you for your input- I
    – Ron Kyle
    Dec 28, 2014 at 7:06
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    If you care so little about the final result, why bother?
    – chuqui
    Dec 28, 2014 at 14:46
  • The screen texture problem could be solved by projecting onto something smoother (but obviously not glossy). For example... plain paper. As for the distortion... one might or might not be able to scheimpflug their way out of it with a tilt adapter. Oct 9, 2019 at 18:57

I'd also like to point out that you can use a flatbed scanner. Even one that is not made to handle transparancies can do a fair job with a simple mirror tent placed over the slide.

With a backlit scanner is better, as you can put a whole bunch of slides on the glass and make one scan. Use that as a proof to decise which ones to put more effort into (or even to get professionally done, if just a few).


It sounds like low cost is the priority for you at the expense of quality and speed (which is fine, you just need to recognize that's what you're after). Perhaps an adaptor for a smartphone is the best choice: Photojojo has an iPhone/Android film scanner; I've seen similar devices made with a hunk of ABS pipe, too.


Do you have any other cameras available at hand?

For example, you might be able to rig something up using an old manual focus normal lens in reverse (50mm-60mm) or short-telephoto lens (135mm), a point & shoot digital camera, and this as a slide mount: https://shop.lomography.com/en/digitaliza-35mm-scanning-mask

If you are okay with images that are no more than 1MP in resolution, you could even use a webcam instead of a point & shoot, although an integrated webcam in a laptop or monitor may be difficult to maneuver.

Here's an example of reverse-lens macro: https://petapixel.com/2015/05/01/shooting-insect-macros-on-the-cheap-with-a-reversed-lens/

Note that you don't even need a reversal ring or even a proper rail mount. Here's an example of someone who has literally used tape, a short piece of wood stock, and a glass table as a copy stand: https://www.slrlounge.com/breathtaking-snowflake-photography-done/

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