PapaJohn Productions
Newsletter #129 - Dec 16, 2006
Scanning 35mm Slides


For many years 35mm slides were my primary method of recording treasured images. Today I want those older images in digital format on a hard drive, accessible for movie and story projects. Of course I'd like them to look as good as the projected images. 
If your closet, basement or attic has boxes of them from the 1960's, 1970's, 1980's... and thinking that someday you'll be able to get decent quality copies on your computer. Is it time to do it?
I've dabbled with do-it-yourself devices... projecting on a screen and taking video and snapshots of the images using a camera or camcorder... trying a flatbed scanner... reading online info about nothing satisfactory except a high-end slide scanner.
I'd looked for slide scanner rentals but the closest I found was one in San Francisco. The distance to Kalamazoo, and the daily rental rate were prohibitive.
One friend, Chuck Bentley, has a Minolta Dimage Scan Speed F2800. Another, Norm Carver, has a Nikon Super Cool Scan 8000. I borrowed Chucks and visited Norm to do some testing for this newsletter. I'll show you parts of 3 slides scanned at the highest resolutions.
The higher resolution scanning of the Nikon was the overall winner, important if you're heading to large prints... but for story and movie source files either one is will do well.
Here are the slides and the selected areas. The cropped area from the Nikon scan is shown full size. The same area from the Minolta was enlarged to align.

Slide 1
Slide 1...

Slide 2
Slide 2...
Gingerbread Sign

Slide 3
Slide 3...
Book crop
... before getting into more details, here are some notes...

Vista Corner... the more I use it, the more I like it. This week I

This link provides a special 50% off the usual annual service price... good to Dec 31.... I'll keep it as a sticky note until then.
To compare streaming video from mydeo to the file downloading of YouTube... take a look at Chuck Bentley's holiday greeting... a subscription to mydeo makes a great holiday gift. 

I installed 30 day trial versions of Adobe's Photoshop Elements, Premiere Elements, and Photoshop Album Starter Edition. I've always thought well of Adobe products, and I'm often asked for suggestions about upgrading from Movie Maker and starter edition DVD software. There's no Microsoft upgrade path, and my experiences with Sonic DVD software isn't positive enough to recommend it.
On the first day I made a DVD project in Premiere and burned a disc, which played fine... another day I did a firewire video capture from my camcorder and enjoyed seeing the larger preview monitor and listening to it on the computer as it came in.
.... back to the main topic...

Scanning 35mm Slides
I borrowed the Minolta Dimage Scan Speed F2800 from Chuck, who hadn't set it up yet. It was a chore to install on my Windows XP system. The older SCSI hardware interface isn't supported.
It needed a special SCSI adapter card, which ruled out using it on my laptop. I had to pull an existing card to make room for the Adaptec AVA-2902E/I PCI-to-Fast SCSI Host Adapter.

After doing some online research for a driver, and finding there wasn't any for XP, I downloaded one anyway and ran the installation. T
here were a lots of error messages along the way, but somehow by ignoring the errors, the gears meshed and I was able to do the scanning. It's my good computer karma.
Each time I start the computer I get the standard message about new hardware being found... I hit cancel and the message at the lower right says it wasn't installed right and may not work. But it's been working fine. Here's what the software interface looks like.
Dimage Speed Scan
I think in pixels, not pixels per inch or dots per inch. Scanning at the highest resolution results in BMP, TIFF (or some other options but not JPG). After cropping the image from the black borders, I get
3785x2550 pixels = 9.7 megapixels 
Compared to the 1/3 of a megapixel of my camcorder, its 2 megapixel snapshot feature, our current 5 megapixel camera, and the new 7.2 megapixel one that Bernadette is getting for Christmas, the slide scan from the Minolta is still comfortably in the lead. And it's the lower resolution of the two scanners I tested.

The Nikon Super Cool Scan 8000 is setup on one of Norm's computers, so all I had to do was bring a few slides over, watch him do the scanning, listen to his frustration about the software doing things like reverting to the defaults after each scan (one default is to scan it as black and white), and bring the TIFF files back on a thumb drive.
Using the highest resolution, the files were
3610x5450 pixels - 19.7 megapixels
.... double the size of the files from the Minolta.

I did some computer-based comparisons like the ones above, and Chuck did some large size prints. The votes concluded the scans by the Nikon were better.
More pixels isn't the only criteria... there needs to be enough info on the slide that the higher resolution scan can effectively get, which partly depends on the quality of the camera that took the picture. And then there's color, and consistency of focus across the slide, and the software being able to effectively remove all the little dust marks. It wasn't an easy hands-down quick evaluation.
Before doing the scans on the Nikon, it seemed the Minolta had gotten all there was to get. We changed our minds after doing the Nikon scans.

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
Today seems like a good time to scan your slides. Although the cost of a new and good scanner like either of these is in the hundreds of dollars, I see a number of good deals online for used ones. When I return Chuck's, I might just get one.
You might think of scanning your slides as something you could do in a day or two... not so. It requires enough manual tending, something you can do in spurts but not for a long period. There are too many other things going on. 

Have a great week...