Slide Scanning Service

I have hundreds of 35mm slides from the 80s and 90s that I want to have scanned and am looking for a reputable service.

In the past, I’ve used ScanCafe and was happy with them.

Does anyone have a comment on ScanCafe or any other service? (Yes, I found this thread from 2019 but it’s mostly about buying a scanner and I’m looking for a service.)

Thank you.

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Only ever heard good things about ScanCafe, including your good self, it seems. Noting they have a 45% discount on offer…

I’ve always been a little nervous about shipping irreplaceable slides. It’s not uncommon for professional-level camera stores to offer in-house slide scanning services, so it might be worth inquiring locally.

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I have used the iOS app SlideScan with decent results. Slides don’t leave your side…

Just curious as I have a few hundred (or less) of transparencies (35mm, negatives and some medium format). But the last thing I want is my work digitized up on some server that those files could be copied, sold or stolen (used without permission). And I have some images that no one else has taken. I checked ScanCafe but didn’t see anything about purging your scans/files when completed. But SlideScan looks to be AI based, and well, you know that could get scraped easily.

ScanCafe does not disclose the output file format, so I assume it is a lossy format like JPEG. Not ideal if you want to further edit the files.

Yes, the standard scan is delivered as a .jpeg file, but there are Pro Scanning Options:

  1. TIFF format
  2. Pro Resolution (film: 4000 dpi / print: 1200 dpi)
  3. Pro Library (TIFF raw scan, no processing & JPEG processed image)

Their Privacy Policy prohibits (intentional) sharing with third parties but I couldn’t find any policy on deleting scans after they are delivered to the customer:

    To prevent misuse of your photographic images and to protect your privacy, we have put in place appropriate physical, electronic, and managerial procedures to safeguard and secure your personal property. Access to your photographs is strictly controlled both physically and electronically. Your photographs and scanned images are never shared with third parties. Access is granted only to employees of ScanCafe! who are responsible for processing your images and delivering the ScanCafe! services that you request.

Apparently you’d have to contact them to find out about their deletion policy, if any.


You could also consider Dijifi, located in NYC (Greenpoint). They would be my first choice, because I could get them there myself rather than entrusting them to a delivery service or USPS. I had thought about having a bunch of my brother’s slides scanned there, but I ended up needing a time-consuming project for two months last spring, so I scanned them myself. I don’t recommend doing that unless you are already a film-scanning ace. I’m still somewhere on the learning curve, despite having done this off and on during the last 20 years. Depending on how much you want Dijifi to do, the cost is up to $2 per slide. Well worth it, if your time is valuable to you.


ScanCafe has a drop-off office in Chicago listed on their Contact Us page.

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If you live where you can drop them off, that’s a big plus. It might also be good to ask how a service handles file names. I eventually settled on identifying scans with frame number and film type, with a folder structure that indicated location. Unfortunately that specificity didn’t occur to me back in 2002 when I got my first film scanner. And on slides I mounted myself, I have to pry open the mount to see a frame number.

Agreed, It depends on how important the media. A family snapshot is one thing, but, if you value your images, it’s best to use a local house. Every medium-to-large city has one.
We recently had 3,000 slides digitized for $.55 each. The cost was worth it for a couple of reasons. First, they each came with a TIFF (up to 9000 dpi) and a jpg, plus custom metadata. Second, because they are extremely valuable, it would have cost as much to insure them for shipping anyway. (The same professional studio in San Francisco has digitized hundreds of 3/4-inch tapes for us.)


And for the record, scanning film at 4000dpi is about the maximum you can get from film.

My flatbed scanner (Epson Perfection 4870) supports scanning at up to 4800x9600 dpi. I found that scanning 35mm slides at any resolution above 3600x3600 dpi is pointless, because the grain of the film is larger than 3600dpi.

I suspect that some fine-grained films may benefit from higher resolutions, but probably not by much.


Out of interest, how do these places handle metadata:

  • What do they give you exactly, is it embedded in EXIF, and taken from where (scanning data and/or written)?

  • And what about things written on the back of prints, or even crap that may be on the front (I think at least a couple of my older family prints have some writing on the front, either identifying someone or commenting on something!).

If you have a digital 35mm, there are slide copying adapters available. I have one for a lower end Nikon and it works well. Plus you can preview and adjust settings to suit the slide. Not good for bulk copying for sure!

Surely something similar to Nyquist’s sampling theorem apples here: sample it at twice the resolution to accurately capture the grain.

(35mm film is reckoned to be about 6K, derived from its grain and depending upon what film stock, ISO, etc, on the long side.)

Yes, but you’re losing sight of the purpose.

I highly doubt that most people are interested in capturing the precise shape and location of the grains in the film. Once the resolution is so high that you are no longer adding sharpness to the subject of the image, there seems little point to go beyond that unless you’re actually doing research into film emulsions.

Just like when you’re scanning pictures from a newspaper or magazine - very few people want to see the halftoning patterns used to print the image. As a matter of fact, a lot of people (myself included) prefer to apply a “descreening” algorithm in order to eliminate them.

Out of curiosity, is there a particular descreening tool that you like?

I just use what’s built-in to my scanner software, SilverFast.

I can select the screen size or I can have it automatically pick a screen size based on a test-scan of a small region of the image.

Surely there’s not much point insuring irreplaceable things which have no intrinsic value.