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The Pros & Cons of Slide, Negative, and Photo Copying

 Following written in June 2003 - see what has changed

What should I do? I have some photos I want to convert to digital images but I don't know the best way to go about it. I have slides, negatives and prints that I don't want to lose to the digital age.  I remember what happened to super8 and regular 8mm movie film.  They are gone and I'm now stuck with movies I can't show because my projector, that they don't make anymore,  is broke and I can't even find parts for it!

Ouch! Sounds like a painful experience. Well, the same thing is about to happen to 35mm film but what's at stake this time is much larger.  What about all those 35mm slides and negatives you have?  What about all those prints?  They're fading and deteriorating as each year goes by.

Have you noticed that digital cameras have taken over the 35mm film camera market.  How about Kodak; what business are they in today?  Do you think they are planning a future for 35mm film?

This time don't get caught in the days of fading and deteriorating super8 and regular8 movie film.  Save your families photographic heritage from total loss.

Which is going to be around longer: 35mm film or digital images?

Which is going to be around longer: your photos created with 35mm film or digital photographic images?  Which is easier to share with family and friends: your photo album taken with 35mm film or digital camera images that you can save to CD's or e-mail to family and friends? Which is more flexible with what you can do with your images after capture: 35mm film or digital camera images?

Let's face it 35mm film has some major disadvantages when compared with the new digital cameras. 35mm film in all it formats (slides, negatives and prints) fades and deteriorates over time.  The process to copy a 35mm photo product is labor intensive, time consuming and expensive. How about showing off your 35mm film productions. Do you know where you photographs or projector are let alone the condition they're in?  Are your photos organized in a photo album with picture labels so the album is self explanatory without having to try to recall the event or who's in the picture? If you're like the rest of us, probably not.

Digital photography with its inherent design allows images to be copied and shared with the click of a PC mouse button. Gone are the days of trips to the photo processor to buy film, shoot the pictures, return the film for processing and wait for the results. Now its instant gratification. No more wondering if you got the picture or not. No more worrying if your going to run out of film. No more do I have the right film for the lighting conditions. It's all gone. Plus, there's one major advantage that makes the transition to digital photography truly powerful. What you can do after you take the pictures!

Now you can load your pictures to the Internet for family and friends to see, save and copy.  You can make a multi media CD-ROM with sound, text, and animation that can be copied and shared with others. You will have created a visual sound feast for the eyes and ears that can potentially live on forever; especially, for those in the future looking for their family roots.

What can I use to convert my existing photo collection to digital images?

Ok, you're convinced you need to do something to get your photographs converted to digital images. But you may be asking yourself what's the best way to go that's cost effective, easy and fun to do. Plus, you may be considering what's the best tool for copying slides, negatives or prints. What's out there for me to use to get the job done quickly and easily?

Copying Photographic Prints

You've got tons of snap-shots, most of them in the 4x5 size, that you want to bring over into the digital world. Some of the photos have negatives but most have been lost. What's out there that can be used to convert your photos to digital images and what's their advantages and disadvantages?

PC Scanner

Cost Time Advantage Disadvantage

Expensive - for a decent scanner with great software.

Very time consuming waiting for the wand to scan the picture; plus, cropping of the captured image required.

Can also be used to scan text images for optical character recognition (OCR) which it was originally designed for.

Not optimized for scanning pictures. Scanning pictures an added feature to its main function as an OCR device.
 

 

 

 

Photo Lab that converts Negatives to CD-ROM or floppy disk

Cost Time Advantage Disadvantage
Reasonable if you have a few negatives to convert. You spend no time - you just pay for the service. No effort on your part required but getting the images together. If the photo lab loses your prints they're not liable. Sorry!

Print Copy Stand
 
Cost Time Advantage Disadvantage
Can be high compared to other scanning methods; especially if it comes with a scanning camera. Can be quick with the right camera and software. Comes complete with copy stand and dedicated use camera. Bulky - takes up a lot of desk space - hot, bright flood lights - very specialized to do one thing.
 

Copying 35mm Slides

You've got hundreds of 35mm slides in nice 3 ring binders that you want to convert to digital images.  You don't want to spend and arm-and-a-leg to convert them and you don't want it to take forever to do it. What's out there that can be used to convert your slides to digital images and what's their advantages and disadvantages?

PC Scanner

Cost Time Advantage Disadvantage
Expensive - for a decent scanner and software. Very time consuming waiting for the wand to scan the picture; plus, cropping of the captured image required. Can also be used to scan text images for optical character recognition (OCR) which it was originally designed for. Not optimized for scanning pictures. Scanning pictures an added feature to its main function as an OCR device.
 

Photo Lab converts Negatives to CD-ROM or DVD disk

Cost Time Advantage Disadvantage
Reasonable if you have a few slides to convert. You spend no time - you just pay for the service. No effort on your part required but getting the images together. If the photo lab loses your slides they're not liable. Sorry!
 

Slide/Negative Scanner

Cost Time Advantage Disadvantage
High cost of acquiring the slide/negative scanner. Fairly quick copying Can also be used to scan negatives High cost of ownership plus limited use for slides and negatives only.
 

Slide Copy Stand

Cost Time Advantage Disadvantage
Can be high compared to other scanning methods; especially if it comes with a scanning camera. Can be quick with the right software. Comes complete with copy stand and dedicated use camera. Bulky - takes up a lot of desk space - hot, bright flood lights - very specialized to do one thing.
 

Copying 35mm Negatives

You've got shoeboxes full of negatives with no prints to match. There has been many a time you wanted to make prints but could not find the time or the money to spend for such a large project. Oh sure, you can hold the negatives up to the light but it's not the same as a black & white or color picture. What's out there that can be used to convert your 35mm negatives to digital images and what's their advantages and disadvantages?

PC Scanner

Cost Time Advantage Disadvantage
Expensive - for a decent scanner with great software. Very time consuming waiting for the wand to scan the picture; plus, cropping of the captured image required. Can also be used to scan text images for optical character recognition (OCR) which it was originally designed for. Not optimized for scanning pictures. Scanning pictures an added feature to its main function as an OCR device.
 

Photo Lab that converts Negatives to CD-ROM or floppy disk

Cost Time Advantage Disadvantage
Reasonable if you only have a few negatives to convert. You spend no time - you just pay for the service. No effort on your part required but getting the images together. If the photo lab loses your negatives, they're not liable. Sorry!
 

Slide/Negative Scanner

Cost Time Advantage Disadvantage
High cost of acquiring the slide/negative scanner. Fairly quick copying. Can also be used to scan slides. High cost of ownership plus limited use for slides and negatives only.
 

Negative Copy Stand

Cost Time Advantage Disadvantage
Can be high compared to other scanning methods; especially if it comes with a scanning camera. Can be quick with the right software. Comes complete with copy stand and dedicated use camera. Bulky - takes up a lot of desk space - hot, bright flood lights - very specialized to do one thing.