Converting Film Negatives to Digital with

NegativesIf you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got a shoebox (or maybe even a slightly more elaborate storage system) full of old negatives from your film days. I’ve been casually thinking about scanning some of my old negatives and especially the negatives from my wedding to preserve them. Negatives can be stored for decades but I don’t store mine in anything near ideal conditions. In theory, digital images can be stored forever (assuming you’ve got a good backup process in place… you do backup your files, don’t you?)

The trouble with scanning negatives is that it’s cumbersome and, if you care about the quality, the equipment can be quite expensive. Your average consumer-grade desktop scanner with negative scanning unit will do in a pinch but it won’t match anything near the quality or speed of a dedicated negative scanning machine. And you’ve still got to deal with dust and scratches on the negatives which must be cleaned and inspected and… well, you get the idea. It’s a pain.

So I was pleased to hear about a service called ( which aims to takes all of the hassle and pain out negative scanning.

Here’s how it works:

  • You place an order at and prepay for shipping.
  • Then you print out a UPS shipping label directly from their website.
  • Carefully package your negatives, slap the label on, and send it to them.
  • ScanDigital scans the negatives and ships them back to you along with a DVD with all of your high resolution scans. They also setup an online web gallery for you so you can view them and order prints online.

ScanDigital will scan prints at 300 or 600 dpi, negatives (35mm, APS, and other formats) at 2000 or 4000 dpi, and slides at 2000 or 4000 dpi. They charge per image and add a premium for 4000 dpi scans. For example, 35mm negatives cost $0.58 per frame at 2000 dpi and $0.78 per frame at 4000 dpi.

I used the service anonymously and sent them a collection of extremely old and mistreated 35mm negatives, a well-preserved 6cm medium format negative, and a color slide.

My package arrived at ScanDigital on 9/13, it was scanned on 9/21, and I received my package back on 9/28. That’s a 15 day turnaround time which isn’t bad but I was a little concerned about the delay between when my negatives were received and when they were scanned. I asked a representative of ScanDigital about it and they said that they always try for a 1 week turnaround time but that my negatives were submitted at the same time as another huge order. They say 2 weeks is not typical and that they’ve just added additional staff for even faster service. ScanDigital claims to have the fastest turnaround in their industry.

As for the results? I’m pleased with them. The 35mm negatives were almost unsalvageable but they still managed to pull the image out of the negatives and provide a much better scan than I was able to get with my desktop negative scanner.

My medium format negative ($2.45 for the scan) and color slide ($0.68) both came out beautifully. The color was spot on and I’m sure I’ll be able to make very nice prints from the files (the medium format negative made a 15 megapixel image scanned at 2000 dpi).

One quibble I had with the medium format scan was that the negative may not have been totally flat during the scanning process. There are some very faint moire patterns on the scan. The moire patterns did not show up in any of the other scans so I’m sure it was just a one-off fluke.

But all of the scans are virtually dust and scratch free courtesy of an automated dust and scratch removal system they use to post process the scans. And it didn’t require any effort on my part except to find a box to send my negatives in.

Overall, if you’ve got negatives to scan, I’d definitely recommend looking into They provided exactly what they promised at a reasonable price.

If you are interested in giving them a try, has offered readers of a 10% discount. Just enter code Photodoto77 during checkout.

By John Watson

John Watson is the original founder of Photodoto. If you're interested in what John has been up to, you can browse his personal blog.


  1. Excellent write up. Well done. I appreciate your honesty in reviewing this company and the fact that you’ve tested it anonymously is great. Great post! Thank you for bringing them to my attention!

    Long time reader — first time commenter,

  2. My biggest concern is damage or loss in shipping. I also think that their answer about a larger order coming in at the same time delaying your much smaller order is bogus. I may be a bit biased as I work in the industry, but I’d much rather pay a small premium and use a local shop who I can deliver my film to personally and build a relationship with. Once a negative is gone, it’s gone for good, I don’t care how much you insure it for.

  3. Thanks for the anonymous review! Pretty cool that you were able to do this without them having any idea of who you were or how much of an impact this could have had on their reputation. I’m glad it worked out b/c now I’m definitely going to use them.

    As for the “simultaneous large order” issue, I think it’s pretty cool of them to be honest and to respect you enough to tell the truth and then to improve on what they learned. I don’t think they should be slammed for that.

    Granted, doing biz with friends is great, but there are not enough talented/trustworthy photo scanners around every corner. Would you try out some new guy just b/c he’s around the corner, when ScanDigital has already been reviewed pretty well? If the negatives are that important, sorry I’m going to go with the folks I know have done it right.

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