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Digitizing slides, photos or negatives - which method?
Reading time: 8 minutes - December 12, 2022 - by Markus Igel

Digitizing slides, photos or negatives - which method?

The dark season stirs up nostalgia for the past in many people and the old slides and Super 8 films are dug out and then viewed. However, for various reasons, the analog treasures of the past are not durable for eternity or are even a fire hazard.

Why you should digitize slides

If you want to preserve your old treasures for eternity, you should make sure that they are digitized. Slides, negatives or Super8 films are susceptible to damage, which can always look different. For example, through UV radiation, dust, moisture or temperature.

With your own scanner

Scanners such as the Reflecta 3 in 1 are able to scan images, negatives or photos, whereby the user only has to swap the images after the scan. The images can be saved on the device, an SD card or the PC itself.

The scanner can scan 3 different formats for photos:

  • 9x13cm
  • 10x15cm
  • 13x18cm

The Reflecta 3 in 1 is also able to scan negative images with color correction (inverted). The scan is only suitable for backing up to a limited extent, it can be very color-cast, where a digitization service can be used. On the other hand, the slide scan is quite suitable in terms of detail and color reproduction. A more professional scan from a digitization service offers more detail and better colour reproduction.

Overall, the scanner delivers solid quality, but depending on your own requirements, you may not find what you were looking for here.

Reflecta 3in1 Scanner

  • 3in1 Scanner
  • 1800 dpi resolution
  • computer independent
  • saves to SD, SDHC, MMC, MS and MS Pro memory cards
  • scans slides, negatives and photos

Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages

  • Inexpensive
  • Fast scanning process
  • Fast setup
  • No PC required

Disadvantages

  • Limited formats
  • Limited setting options
  • Image quality average & Requires a lot of post-processing
  • Despite fast scans, a lot of time is needed

Photographing photos & negatives

Another option for digitizing old photos & slides is to photograph them. This method is quite inexpensive, but not really automated. It therefore takes a lot of time, but of course you are in much more active contact with the camera and the pictures and the nostalgia blossoms again.

A macro lens with a reproduction scale of 1:1, or a macro lens that is screwed onto the lens, is required for photographing the slides or negatives. The risk of errors is quite high during this process, to name a few factors:

  • Poor light
  • Dirty sensor
  • Megapixels of the camera
  • Exposure performance of the lens

Kaiser Slide Duplicator Digital

  • Photographing slides
  • Is screwed into the filter thread of the lens
  • Connection thread 52 mm
  • 1:1 copies with lens focal length 80-120 mm

Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages

  • Favorable

Disadvantages

  • Without good light, with a high Ci, increased risk of color deviations
  • Limited lens options
  • Focal length must be adjusted to the crop factor
  • Great expenditure of time

Taking photos via app

We now all have a smartphone with a pretty good camera. So you could simply use this device to digitize old photos. But is the quality really good? The Google Photo Scanner app, for example, offers this function. First of all, this app is available for Android and iOS. The handling of the app is quite simple, once you have started it and allowed access to the camera and the file system, you can virtually start scanning.

It is important to note that the points are all approached with the camera, as soon as they have all been scanned, the image is scanned. You can now decide whether to save the scan on the image; you can use Google Photos or save it on the device. When using the app, please also note the tips provided by Google here. Google takes a single image at each point and later puts it together correctly using an algorithm. These functions are not new, as they have long been used in Adobe Lightroom and other programs.

The advantage of this technology is that the image resolution is significantly higher than with a single shot. This file then has X times the number of megapixels of the images that were used. A small amount of image processing then takes place in order to display the image better afterwards. The quality of the images is quite acceptable, but if you plan to reprint them in a larger size, the resolution is lacking. As with classic photography, the system takes a lot of time and is more worthwhile for a few moments that you always want to have with you.

Use a digitization service

There's no shame in using a digitization service, because you really save a lot of time and have a professional at hand to help you with all aspects of digitization. Many providers of digitization services offer a wide range of digitization options, including Super8 films or special formats of photos and negatives. Many service providers charge in the low cent range and also offer you several options for sending your slides to the service provider. You will usually get your photos and films back within a few days or weeks.

Optionally, the data is mainly delivered on various data carriers such as USB sticks, hard disks or DVDs.

Advantages & disadvantages

Advantages

  • Time saving
  • Reliable quality
  • Color & error correction
  • High resolution
  • Selectable quality
  • Prices often transparent

Disadvantages

  • Expensive

Digitize now

Conclusion

If you want to save time, money and effort and get good, reliable quality, then it's best to use a digitization service. Of course, the costs are higher here, but as the old saying goes: quality has its price. If you want to do a little more work, a slide scanner from Reflecta is also a good choice. Be clear about your requirements and your budget in advance, and always remember: your time is precious. If you have old Super 8 films, you should not digitize them at home, as the equipment is expensive and a digitization service has more experience.

Final digression on storage

We can't leave it at that and naturally want to take up storage once again and give you the best tips here so that your pictures survive a few years longer without suffering any damage.

Negatives will always age, but we can influence this process to take place more slowly. When storing negatives, use the driest places possible and add a silica gel bag to remove any moisture. The ideal humidity for negatives is 15%, this is not guaranteed in most attics and basements, which can result in the longevity being reduced by up to half. (At a humidity of 60%) Moisture causes mold or other pollutants that can affect the negative.

Storage in the garage is also not recommended, as the exhaust fumes there can damage the negatives, and the exhaust fumes from radiators or other acids can also damage the negatives. As a general rule, storage in a cool and dry place significantly improves the shelf life. The ideal temperature here would be a dry 7?C instead of a room temperature of 20?C. This extends the life of the negatives by a factor of 10.

Slides have a lifespan of around 20 years, during which time the old treasures begin to decay. This is manifested by fading or color casts. The cold is the slide's friend! A slide would survive best in an ideal environment of sub-zero temperatures, but here too, 7?C can significantly improve its lifespan. It is also important to keep the humidity as low as possible and to use a silica bag for storage.

Essentially, these are stored in the same way as negatives, but there is one difference: Photos can sweat during storage. Photos tend to sweat in plastic drawers. Here too, we recommend storing the photos in a cool, dry place.

Reconstruct images

Do you use Adobe Photoshop? In the CC version, some new functions were added in 2021, which thanks to artificial intelligence are able to reconstruct images in color again, among other things. Another filter then helps you to repair small scratches & cracks in your digitized images.

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