Scanning 35mm Slides, Part 1

As I write this, I’m scanning 35mm slides from 1982.  There are a several thousand 35mm slides awaiting their turn.  It’s not a fast process – it could be faster, but let’s talk about it since I was asked about it a couple of weeks ago.

If you’ve got a few hundred slides to scan, or less, that’s not so bad – we’ll talk about that situation in Part 2.

Before launching Laughing Frog Images, I did a lot of research on 35mm slide scanners and slide scanning services.  My goal is archival scans – 5000 dpi (dots per inch) or better per scan, and having the original scan in a lossless format such as .dng or .tif.  Anything less wouldn’t give you the ability to get the image you want the way you want it.

The easy way to get all of my slides converted would have been to send them out to a scanning service, pay them over $1.00 per slide, as well as shipping both ways, tax, etc.  As you know, the Frog is a small, small enterprise – and spending $20,000+ to build the image galleries at Laughing Frog Images just wasn’t going to happen.  Granted, it would have been nice, but that wasn’t going to happen.

So, it was on to Plan B, and the search for a professional quality scanner capable of batch scanning slides.

I ended up purchasing a Pacific Image Powerslide 5000 35 mm slide scanner from B&H (information at  With this unit, I can scan one slide at a time, or trays of 50 or 100 slides.  I have to admit that I’m still working out the bugs of using the 100 slide carousel tray, but there’s a tray of 50 being scanned right beside me as I write this.

PowerSlide 5000

I am scanning Kodachrome(R) slides at 5000 dpi with automatic noise reduction and cleaning being done in the CyberView software – it takes about 11 minutes per scan and produces a tif file of more than 300MB. I’m doing a basic crop and auto-level adjustments using ACDSee Pro 6.  And I’m a very happy camper!

Scans using CyberView or Vuescan software can take as little as five (5) minutes if they are run without the noise reduction and cleaning functions – but I’ve come to terms with waiting a little longer for the slide to be scanned and spending a lot less time cleaning up the final product.  As much as you clean your slides before scanning, and as much as you think you do – it’s amazing what shows up at 5000 dpi!

There aren’t a lot of other bulk-scanning options out there right now, and there may never be.  It seems like the scanner market may now be what it’s going to be for the foreseeable future.  The Powerslide 5000 is a dedicated slide scanner – it won’t scan negatives unless they are in slide mounts, so negatives are possible, but not without some prep work.

There are also flatbed scanners out there on the market that can scan up to 20 slides at a time, as well as having the capability to scan documents, negatives and photographic prints.  Some of these units can produce very high quality scans – and some simply can’t.  These units range in price from $100 to $800.  The main makers of these scanners are Espon, Canon, and Hewlett-Packard.  Check out the reviews at places like Shutterbug magazine, B&H and Adorama for more information on these units.

There are also lower resolution units that, for lack of better words, take a picture of your slide and convert it to a jpeg image.  They’re not scanners in the traditional sense, but converters.  They’re inexpensive and fast to use, and they have their limitations.  These units can be had from $50 to $150.

What’s right for you?

Well, the first question to ask yourself is “what do I want to do with my scans?”  Your answer dictates what you need.  Remember, you can always downsize your image, but you can never upsize your scan…

If you want to make 20″x30″ prints – think dpi, lots of dpi – 4800 dpi or more.

If you’re wanting to make 8″x12″ prints – 2400 dpi can work.

Just want to show them on your tablet, laptop, phone or TV?  a converter type unit can work for you.

There are also slide scanning services that will scan your slides at varying resolutions for varying prices.  They’re an option for you if you don’t have the time or don’t want to do it yourself.

Don’t forget to visit your local camera store as part of the process!

Happy deliberating!

If you’ve got questions, post them in a comment and we’ll talk…





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