scanning slides : LUSENET : Ask William Photo : One Thread

Could you please tell me what is the best way to scan slides with a desktop scanner in order to see them as clearly as possible? A special scanner for slides is an expensive option and maybe there's some other way that does the trick. Thank you very much for your attention. Yours, Agustin

-- Agustin Vargas (, May 08, 2000


There's a reason slide scanners cost more (particularly good film scanners): they're worth it. Scanning transparent films is very different from scanning something reflective. Combine that with a film scanner pulling out a LOT of shadow detail (and don't forget very very high resolution; I can usually see the grains or dye clouds in a film scan) and you've got a fancy piece of equipment.

Now then; to improvise a film scanner out of a flatbed scanner: figure out a way to turn off the main lamp that illuminates the original for a reflective scan. Backlight the transparency. the Agfa Arcus and StudioScans make this very easy (they have provisions for scanning tranparencies). I've heard people taking their (expensive!) lightboxes, flipping them over, and sandwiching slides between the light box and the scanner. By expensive, I mean Porta-Trace or Visual Plus or Cabin. That's extremely even light source with extreme color fidelity.

Now the next problem with slides is that you can't place the film in direct contact with the glass, which is where the focus is set on the scanner. The mount holds the film about a millimeter away, which is enough to degrade sharpness of the acquired image.

Don't forget dust. With a flatbed scanner and lightbox configuration, you have at least 6 surfaces to keep clean. Most cheap scanners can't be opened to clean them, and you're out of luck if you scratch the top glass. So, after you've invested that $200 in a nice light box and $100 in another cheap scanner, you're almost to the price of buying a film scanner, which is what you wanted in the first place.

Now this is not a high-end Nikon Coolscan. This is more along the lines of a Photosmart. A Photosmart does not have all the cool features that the Nikon has; won't remove the scratches and dust from the film in hardware, won't pull up quite the shadow detail, won't focus as well. But you do get some very impressive resolution, and a better quality than a flatbed scanner.

-- William (, May 09, 2000.

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