If you love using real film cameras for your photography but hate the wait to develop pictures, a film scanner is the most logical answer. These devices allow you to scan your film directly into your computer without the need to make prints. In the process, you have full control of your photographs, including aspect ratio and cropping. Additionally, many scanners have built-in software that allows the user to improve color and remove imperfections from the photograph. Of course, there are dozens of scanners on the market, which is why we created this guide. Use it to help you find the best film scanners to meet your needs.
How We Chose Our Ratings
We turned to the experts, as well as consumers like you, to help us decide which film scanners are the best. This included perusing authority websites to see which they considered the best, reading online reviews and determining overall ratings for each scanner. We then compiled a list of our favorites based on features, affordability and overall performance. Learn which ones we think fit the bill.
Top 6 Film Scanners
- My Image Garden Software handles photo and document scanning and organizes your files in a simple and friendly way so...
- FARE (Film Automatic Retouching and Enhancement) Level 3: This built-in retouching technology delivers automatic...
- Zero warm-up time and offers lower power consumption with super-efficient white LEDs
Priced at just $169 on Amazon, the Canon CanoScan 900F MKII is an affordable all-in-one solution for those who want to scan film, negatives, photos and more. The flatbed-style machine provides 9600dpi resolution and is equipped with Image Garden software that allows the user to organize and document scans, as well as with Film Automatic Retouching and Enhancement Level 3. FARE Level 3 is a built-in technology that automatically corrects film by removing dust and scratches and restoring color. Other highlights include being ready to use as soon as you turn it on, low power consumption and an auto scan mode. With an overall rating of 4.3 stars, this is an Amazon's Choice product. Users say the photos are high-quality, but that the software doesn't always work as well as they'd like in terms of retouching.
- Pro quality color & detail - get unparalleled scans w/ 6400 dpi resolution & adv
- Remarkable tonal range - 4.0 Dmax for smooth gradations & fine shadow detail
- Exclusive Dual Lens System - selects from 2 lenses for optimum results
Offering professional-quality scans, the Epson Perfection V850 features 6,400dpi optical resolution and two lenses, making it a truly state-of-the-art machine. The scanner automatically removes any surface defects on your film and processes up to 12 slides at a time. If you're environmentally conscious, this energy-efficient scanner is right up your alley. The professional quality and color detail come from the tonal range of 4.0 Dmax, which makes for smooth gradations and fine details. Users on Amazon love it for large-batch scans and enjoy the included touch-up software, but many also say to expect to spend a while reading the manual and installing the software and drivers. An Amazon's Choice product, the Epson Perfection V850 has 4.3 stars and is $999.
If you are a professional photographer who often scans large batches of film at once, the Plustek OpticFilm 120 may be ideal for you. This machine handles up to a medium format and works for both color and grayscale film and images. In addition to photographers, this is an excellent choice for anyone who scans film in a library or museum. The machine weighs 13 pounds, so expect it to take up some space. That said, it provides an optical resolution of 5300dpi and an interpolated resolution of 10600dpi. Reviewers on Amazon say the interface isn't always user-friendly, but that setup is fast overall, and the picture quality is higher than average. The scanner, which has 3.8 stars, runs for nearly $2,000, which is why it is more popular among professionals than hobbyists.
- ALL-IN-ONE FILM & SLIDE SCANNER - Converts Old 35mm Slides, Negatives & Other Films Into Sharp, Vibrant Digital JPEG...
- SPEED LOADING ADAPTERS - Versatile Device Includes Multiple Attachments for Quickly Loading & Scanning 35mm, 110 & 126...
- FILM SCANNER with ADVANCED SOFTWARE - Interpolation Technology Improves Image Quality Up to 22MP & Features Built-In...
Weighing in at just more than a pound, the Ivation 22MP is small and sleek without forgoing functionality. The compact machine handles 35mm film, Super 8 film, 110 and 126 negatives or slides and more. Simply load the appropriate feeder tray and let the all-in-one scanner get to work. It will scan adjacent frames consecutively and provides a resolution of 22 megapixels. The Ivation 22MP provides interpolation technology that improves image quality by correcting resolution, brightness, coloration and more. There is no need to connect the scanner to a computer, as it autosaves all files to an internal memory or SD card. You can view your results on a 2.4-inch color LCD screen before saving. While some users say it can be hard to center the film on the frame, most people say the scanner does an excellent job. Overall, it has a rating of 3.6 stars on Amazon. The Ivation 22MP costs about $90.
- Convert 135 slides and 135/110/126 negatives into digital images
- Stand-alone portable design with no computer or software required
- Small/lightweight with built-in 2.4" TFT LCD screen, one touch scanning and Tacton rubber touch finish
Another light scanner that doesn't require a computer, the Veho Smartfix works for 35mm and 110mm negatives and film. Simply scan them, view them on the LCD screen and save them to the included SD card. From there, you can upload them to your computer when you're near it. The standalone unit means no software to add to your PC, and the built-in rechargeable battery means you can scan whenever it’s convenient for you. The Veho Smartfix offers one-touch scanning, instant previews and built-in image enhancements like color balance and auto-exposure. At $150, the product is very affordable, but reviewers also state the images can be hard to focus and that the quality is often lower than other scanners. Still, if you are looking for something simple and affordable and don't require professional-quality images, the Veho Smartfix is a good choice with 3.6 stars.
Photographers who shoot with 35mm film swear by the Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai. The scanner, which also works with slides, features 7,200dpi hardware resolution and a software that allows the user to remove dust and scratches from the film to create clearer pictures. One reason users love this model is that it's so easy to use. Simply place the film into the side of the scanner, choose between the QuickScan and IntelliScan features and follow the instructions. QuickScan is automatic and faster whereas IntelliScan gives you full control by allowing you to manipulate the images yourself. The entire machine is quite small and takes up very little room in your office or photography studio, but the small stature also means it is usually best for small or occasional jobs. Archiving large batches of images at once, especially if using full resolution, can be quite time-consuming since each scan will take about two minutes. Still, this is perfect for the hobbyist photographer. This Energy Star-certified product costs about $500. Users on Amazon give it an average of 3.3 stars. For many, the product was easy to use, but setup took a long time due to having to install the proper drivers and software.
- Flatbed-style machine
- State-of-the-art machine
- Good for professional photographers
- Small and sleek
- Light scanners and does not require a computer
- 7,200 dpi resolution
When choosing a film scanner, you must consider several factors. Of course, you want it to scan film, but do you need one that will scan other types of media, such as pre-printed photographs? If so, you'll need something that works for both, unless you want to spend more money to purchase two different machines. The design is also important. If you have very little space or don't want the scanner to be hooked up to your laptop all the time, an all-in-one scanner with a small LCD screen is your best bet. If you want to manually touch up photographs, you'll need something with software that you can install on your computer. Consider, too, what the software does. Some do everything automatically (sometimes referred to as one-touch), but others allow you much more control.
Do you have one large project to scan, such as old film from pre-digital days, or are you hoping to use your scanner more often as part of a photography hobby or profession? The amount of time you intend to spend using the machine is important for determining the speed you need. Some models can scan many slides at one, but others can only do one at a time. Of course, you'll want to look at the resolution and bit depth as well. The higher the resolution, the better quality your images will have. Bit depth refers to how good the color look. An average user will do fine with a 24-bit machine, but a professional will likely need 30-bit color and 12-bit gray to get the best quality.
Of course, budget is also a deciding factor. The best film scanners are available in a range of price points. If you only need a machine to scan old film, or if you are a hobbyist and don't expect to sell your photographs, you can find plenty of scanners that are less than $100. However, if you intend to make a profession out of your photography, or if you work with a film club that is responsible for historic content, you may want to go with something more expensive. Remember, though, if you do purchase something smaller, you can always upgrade later if you decide that you need to.
Above all else, go with your gut feeling. This guide is meant to get you started, but you should thoroughly read reviews and specifications of each product yourself to determine which one will best meet your needs in terms of picture quality, dimensions and price.