The 3 Best Slide Scanners 2018

best slide scanners

We’ve previously written an article on our favorite scanners, but this post is specifically for scanning slides. Whether you’re a photographer that prefers to shoot on analogue 35mm cameras, or you have old negatives that you want to digitalize, a scanner of this type is a can’t-live-without piece of kit for backing up, printing and sharing your images.

The price range of the scanners available on the market varies hugely, so we’ve broken down our favorites into three categories: high-end, mid-range and inexpensive. Before you start thinking about which model to go for, here are a few things to consider:

  • What will you scan – many entry level options will only support 35mm film strips, so if you shoot on anything but that you’ll need to check that your chosen scanner will support your preferred medium.

  • What will you use it for – Are you a hobbyist simply looking to back up your shots, or are you a professional looking to create large-scale prints? Buy a model that you’re confident will do the job for you, which leads us to…

  • Resolution – work out how much detail you need from your images. If you’re sharing them online or backing them up you can get away with 300-1200 dots-per-inch (dpi), but if you’re printing larger pieces you’re going to want a scanner that can offer you at least 3200dpi.

  • Bit depth – this will affect the color accuracy of your scans, so if exact reproductions are what you’re after, you’ll need a scanner with decent bit-depth. As a rule, non-professional use requires around 24-bit and professional use will need around 30-bit. For greyscale, go for 30-bit color and 12-bit grey.

The 3 Best Slide Scanners on the Market

3. Plustek’s OpticFilm 135

Our favorite high-end professional film scanner is Plustek’s OpticFilm 135. Aimed at professional photographers, serious hobbyists, and film enthusiasts, this scanner is worth every penny of its price tag.

  • Able to scan both 35mm and medium-format film
  • SilverFast Ai Studio8 hardware removes dust and scratches
  • Professional-grade 5,300dpi resolution

A solid 3,600 dpi resolution makes it possible to print up to 12” x 17”, and a 48-bit color and 16-bit greyscale depth will give you incredible reproductions of your films.

Plustek’s new Quickscan Plus software gives you the option for automated image processing, and the five creative picture effects give you Instagram-style filters to instantly enhance your photography. And, once you’re happy with your images, you can instantly share them to social media sites including Facebook and Flickr.

Ease of use is a real selling point of this scanner, and even if you’re not technically minded you’ll still find the three-button operation a breeze. The design of this scanner is compact and streamline, and is optimized to avoid light sensitivity. The newly improved film holders will ensure that your slides are flat and stable to minimize shadows and softness.

Plustek’s scanner is limited to 35mm film, so if you work with a variety of slides you might want to go for something else. But, otherwise, this is a great product that will serve you and your slides well.

Alternative option - http://www.scanace.com/scan_pd_1.php?id=36

If you have a lot of slides to get through, Pacific Image’s PowerSlide 5000 is a complete powerhouse. You can scan multiple slides at a time at 5,000 dpi resolution and 48-bit color and 16-bit greyscale depth, for fast and high-quality images.

The 50-slide tray means that you’re not going to have to load each film by hand, so you can get on with retouching one batch while the next one scans. The pre-scan mode is another great automation, and will remove dust and other imperfections from your images without any need for manual manipulation.

This is a pricy scanner and it can be tricky to get the hang of, so it’s probably not the number one choice for hobbyists. But, if you have a large batch to scan, it’s worth every penny.  

2. Pacific Image’s Prime Film

If you’re looking to spend less but still see some serious quality in your scans, Epson’s Perfection V600 photo scanner may well be just the best mid range device you’re looking for.

  • Impressive quality scanning for a low price
  • Flatbed design also scans photos and documents
  • Feature image retouching software

6,400 x 9,600 dpi and 48-bit color depth gives you plenty of detail in your scans, and you can print enlargements at up to 17” x 22” without losing any image quality. If you’re only using your images for the web though, you can drop the quality to save on scanning time.

Epson have got you covered on a wide array of film and negatives, and with the inbuilt transparency unit you can scan anything up to 6 x 22 cm. The ability to handle documents is a nice addition too, and no matter what you’re scanning you can create a ‘contact-sheet’ style searchable PDF once you’re done.

The Digital ICE hardware onboard this scanner is an incredibly useful feature for removing imperfections from your images. Scans will take slightly longer to complete, but it’s worth it to see your photos free of fingerprints, dust and scratches.

As this model is a flatbed scanner, it’s going to take up more room than most slide scanners. It’s also a hefty 4KG, so the V600 is only really an option if you are happy to have it out all the time. But, as it can scan documents too, you’re likely to find more day-to-day uses for it anyway.

If you’d prefer something more compact, the mid range alternativeKodak’s SCANZA scanner, has a much smaller footprint that suits occasional use.

It’s quick and simple to load film into the unit, and it can handle 35mm and Super 8, as well as 110 and 126 film. The addition of an SD card means that you can store entire batches of images without the need for a computer, and the 3.5” TFT LCD display allows you to review images without the need for a monitor.

It’s quick and simple to load film into the unit, and it can handle 35mm and Super 8, as well as 110 and 126 film. The addition of an SD card means that you can store entire batches of images without the need for a computer, and the 3.5” TFT LCD display allows you to review images without the need for a monitor.

The quality of the scans are aimed at consumers over professionals, but if you’re looking for an easy way to back up various types of film, SCANZA is a great option.

1. Magnasonic’s all-in-one 22MP film scanner

If it’s simple scanning you want, our favorite cheap option is Magnasonic’s all-in-one 22MP film scanner. For less than $100 the scan quality is impressive, as is the range of film it’s capable of handling.

  • High quality for a low price
  • Compatible with a wide range of film
  • No need for a computer

Magnasonic topped our budget-friendly category as it performs much higher than you’d expect at this price point. The maximum 4,000 dpi provides plenty of quality for home use and printing, and the JPEG file format is easy to handle once your scans are complete.

Speaking of which, there’s enough space for up to 100 images with 128MB internal memory and you can add a further 32GB with an external memory card. This means that you can scan without a computer and simply leave your images stored in the unit until you’re ready to do something with them.

This is a great option for anyone wanting to scan a variety of film, as it can handle 35mm and Super 8 stills, as well as 110, 126 and 135 films. You’re going to lose a bit of that ‘filmic’ quality and images can be a little heavy on the contrast, but for an easy to use budget all-rounder Magnasonic is unbeatable.

The Film2USB Converter by ClearClick is another simple and easy to use option if you only need to scan 35mm film. As with Magnasonic’s offering, you don’t need a PC or laptop to scan to: this model saves your images to a USB drive (included in the price) so you can do whatever you need with them from there. This scanner is simple to operate and there’s a cable included to connect to your TV which allows you to view your newly scanned images on the big screen.

It’s worth saying that you won’t get professional-quality scans from this device, but at its price point that’s to be expected.

Conclusion

Scanning is the perfect bridge between retaining analogue quality in your images while still having the convenience and peace of mind that digital photography provides. And, with so much choice available, you’re sure to find a scanner that will suit your needs: whatever your budget or requirements. The general rule is to only spend what you need to, so if you only need basic scanning functionality, make sure that you’re only pay for that.

What’s your favorite slide scanner? Let us know in the comments.

About the author

John Thatch

John Thatcher is a computer science educated artist. He uses technology to solve artist problems. His friends don't like it when he speaks of himself in the third person. But John does it anyway, because he's a rebel.

Leave a comment: