If you have old 35mm negatives lying around, they may contain memories not found in your photo albums. Plus, film negatives are the original versions of your photos and offer the highest quality with sharper images and finer details than print photos.
That’s why Capture digitization experts recommend scanning negatives instead of photo prints to create high-quality digital images whenever possible. In fact, we suggest doing so as soon as possible because 35mm negatives can degrade, fade, discolor, warp, or become damaged which can compromise your most precious memories.
To help you make the best decision for your film negatives, we put together a comprehensive overview of the best negative scanning options in 2024 including flatbed scanners, dedicated film scanners, film scanning services, digital cameras, and using your phone. Keep reading to learn everything there is about each option like advantages, downsides, product options, and more.
Quick List of How to Choose the Best 35mm Negative Scanning Option in 2024
- Flatbed Scanners with Film Scanning Capabilities
- Dedicated Film Scanners
- Film Scanning Services
- Digital Cameras
- Photo and Negative Scanning Smartphone Apps
1. Flatbed Scanners with Film Scanning Capabilities
Flatbed scanners, also called reflective scanners, shine bright white light onto the object and then assess the color of the light one line at a time to create a digital JPEG or another format. While this can cause some loss of resolution, high-quality scanners work very well for certain photos and documents.
However, a flatbed scanner works best for scanning 35mm prints or larger film negatives, like large format, APS film frames, or medium format film prints. Still, it can be a good multi-use option that can also work to preserve your 35mm negatives. While the quality may not be as good as other options, there are still some wonderful advantages too!
Advantages of Flatbed Scanners:
- Flatbed scanners are relatively cheap. Even high-quality options designed specifically for photo scanning can often be found for an affordable price.
- They can be used for any photo format including black and white negatives, color prints, or even movie films like Super 8. Pretty much anything that fits into the photo-scanning area can become a digitally scanned image with a flatbed scanner.
- Many options offer additional features like scratch and dust removal, color correction, and more
Here are a couple of highly recommended flatbed scanners that work well for 35mm negative scanning:
- Epson V600 Color Scanner: 9600 DPI scanner works for slides, negatives, and medium film format and even offers Digital ICE for scratch and dust removal. It also has a one-touch color correction and enhancement feature.
- Canon CanoScan 9000F MKII: This option is significantly more expensive than alternatives, but does create professional quality digital images with high-resolution, easy operation, auto document fix feature and fast results.
2. Dedicated Film Scanners
Dedicated film scanners, unlike flatbed scanners, are designed specifically for scanning film types including 35mm negatives. Because of this, they often have built-in features designed to amplify results, like infrared channels to detect dust, dark room mimicking features to reduce saturation, a 35mm negative holder for scanning, and other features to ensure quality scans.
Not all DIY film scanners are good for old negatives though, and some will create higher-quality results than others. In addition, these machines are often very time-consuming and may also take some time to get used to. Still, for many, the numerous benefits make film scanners worthwhile as a DIY option.
Advantages of Film Scanners:
- Many options create high-quality results specifically for 35mm negatives.
- Some devices have a built-in viewing screen and the capability to transfer negatives to high-resolution SD cards or USB drives without the use of a computer. This may be preferable for some users who don’t want to use a computer, but it does make them more complicated for many users.
- Film scanners can also be used for other film types, but you will have to double check the specific model.
Some of the best available dedicated film scanners for 35mm scanning are:
Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE: This exceptional option offers defect and dust removal without retouching images and creates high-quality 69 megapixel digital files. It also has a multi-exposure function for improved image quality and comes with LaserSoft Imaging SilverFast SE Plus 8 for an easier and higher-quality scanning process.
- Kodak Scanza Digital Film & Slide Scanner: With a built-in LCD screen that can make adjustments while you scan this film scanner is easy to use. In addition, the film holder can accommodate 35mm film negatives as well as 126, 110, Super 8, and 8mm negatives and can even do 35mm and other slide scanning. Finally, high-resolution scans up to 22 MP are easy to share and save as JPEG files.
3. Film Scanning Services
A 35mm negative scanning service will not only do all the work for you but will also create professional-quality digital images of your negative supply. That means you save time while getting digital files, DVDs, or USB copies that are easy to enjoy and share while preserving your memories for future generations.
There are many services available, so you must do your research to discover the best option that will not only create good quality with a fast turnaround time, but will also take good care of your film photography.
Advantages of Film Scanning Services:
- Done-for-you professional quality for your precious memories.
- The most reputable services will take care of your memories during 35mm negative scanning, which means less handling or risk of damaging the photos.
- A highly rated 35mm film negative scanning service will also offer a satisfaction guarantee, color correction, scratch reduction, and more.
- Many services offer several media choices for your memories like Cloud upload, digital download, DVD, USB, or others
Here is some info about our service and one of our popular competitors to give you an idea of the best options for your 35mm negatives:
Capture 35mm Negative Scanning Service: Capture offers the fastest turnaround time in the industry of less than 30 days including shipping as well as integration with Google Photos and enhanced colors as needed. We also offer a state-of-the-art security and tracking system that tracks your film negatives every step of the way to ensure your memories are always protected. As if that isn’t enough, we offer a satisfaction guarantee, or we’ll reprocess your entire order for free. Finally, our services start at only $28.99 for the first 50 negatives and only $0.50 per negative after that!
- LegacyBox Film Negative Digital Scanning Service: One of the reasons LegacyBox is so popular is the convenience they offer by providing a box to include all your memories and send them in. Their scanning process takes around 10 to 12 weeks, but they also offer an expedited option for an additional fee and their two-item box that will convert 50 35mm negatives costs $59.99.
4. Digital Cameras
You can also use your digital film camera to “scan” your negatives simply by snapping a picture. This is an extremely easy option to preserve your memories and possibly the cheapest option if you already have a DSLR or mirrorless camera available. However, it can still be hard to get the photos just right and may be time-consuming with the entire scanning and editing process.
Plus, for the best results, you will need a good camera and lens which can end up being quite expensive. You will probably still need to buy some additional accessories to create quality scans. You will need a backlight for the negatives to get a clear picture, a macro lens to get better results, ideally one with a magnification ratio of 1:1, and a tripod or copy stand, and a shutter cable. Finally, you will need some sort of processing, editing, and scanning software to not only invert the negative image, but also to ensure high enough quality. Something like Photoshop or Negative Lab Pro should be sufficient.
Even with all that, this option offers a couple distinct benefits.
Advantages of Digital Cameras:
- Might end up being the most affordable option.
- Gives you lots of flexibility to do what you want with the images.
- Easy and convenient, especially if you already have a good camera.
If you think this option is good for you, here are a couple of cameras that we recommend:
- Nikon COOLPIX B500: This camera is affordable, but still offers good results with a 16 megapixel sensor, 40x optical lens, 80x dynamic zoom, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities. Plus, while you can’t change the lens you can add a macro lens like the 10x close-up high definition option on Amazon for $69.95.
- Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera: At $399, this Canon camera is fantastic with macro lens compatibility, image stabilization, built-in Wi-Fi, and an optical viewfinder with 95% viewing coverage. While you will still need to buy some accessories, this is a good camera not only for 35mm negative scanning, but for capturing new memories too!
5. Photo and Negative Scanning Smartphone Apps
If you are looking for an easy, convenient, and cheap DIY option, then photo scanning apps are a good choice. They take advantage of your smartphone camera to digitize photos, including 35mm negatives. The problem is that the quality is typically low and depends on the quality of your smartphone camera, so it may show more glares, dust, scratches, and more.
While we don’t recommend this option for your most precious memories because the quality is likely to be poor compared to a professional 35mm negative scanning service or dedicated film scanner, it can be a good way to preserve film negatives before they degrade.
Advantages of Smartphone Apps:
- Can easily do it at home without any prior experience as long as you have a way to light up the negatives.
- Some apps offer some touch-up features that can make the digital images look a little better. The best apps even offer special features like colorization, animation, and more.
Here are a couple of the best apps to use for negative scanning:
- Photomyne FilmBox: This is a popular and trusted option when it comes to photo scanning apps and uses a backlight source on your computer, so you don’t need anything else to get started. It’s easy to use and can be used with Photomyne’s other apps to sharpen, colorize, and enhance digital images. While you can try it out free, it costs $39.99 for a two-year plan.
- PhotoScan by Google Photos: While not technically designed for negatives, this option offers an easy-to-use interface that makes digitizing photos as simple as possible. Plus, it can work for negatives, but you may have to combine it with Photoshop or another editor. Still, the quality is good with auto-cropping, glare reduction, smart rotation, and more.
If you have 35mm negatives that contain your most precious memories, then scanning them into digital images is a great way to ensure those memories last forever to be enjoyed by and shared with future generations.
There are many 35mm negative scanning options including flatbed scanners, film scanners, professional services, digital camera pictures, and smartphone apps. Each offers its own advantages and disadvantages and we recommend you weigh your options before deciding, but don’t wait too long because your negatives will degrade over time.
While we’re probably biased, we believe Capture offers the best combination of high-quality results, affordable pricing, and superior protection for your memories. Not only that, but we also offer a fast turnaround time and a satisfaction guarantee. To learn more about our negative scanning, click here.