Advertisement

Archive for Sunday, January 8, 2012

Behind the Lens: Preserve old slides by digitization

Scanning collections of old film negatives and slide transparencies can save images for future generations as well as convert them to a digital format, making it easy to duplicate, email or print.

Scanning collections of old film negatives and slide transparencies can save images for future generations as well as convert them to a digital format, making it easy to duplicate, email or print.

January 8, 2012

Advertisement

Scanning collections of old film negatives and slide transparencies can save images for future generations as well as convert them to a digital format, making it easy to duplicate, email or print.

Scanning collections of old film negatives and slide transparencies can save images for future generations as well as convert them to a digital format, making it easy to duplicate, email or print.

My family pulled out the slide projector and old family photographs during the holidays. Some people would consider this torture, but I think it’s fun.

The problem is I wasn’t there. I had already left for home. Maybe there are photos they don’t want me to see or they don’t want a professional photographer critiquing their work. I asked my mom, “Why didn’t you do that when I was there? I asked. “I didn’t even know we had family slides.”

I always believed my parents didn’t take photographs. I don’t recall a single camera in the house. Friends and relatives took the images I know.

“Oh, we’ve got several trays of slides,” responded my mom. I was stunned.

“Mom, I need to take those slides and scan them,” I said. “We need to save those.”

“It looks like they are fading, too,” she added. Oh, jeez. How did I not know about these slides?

I hope that, within the next couple of months, I’ll get my hands on the photos and can start digitizing them. I can probably correct some of the fading issues, and once scanned I can save them to discs and hard drives and maybe later create a book for the whole family.

The point of this story is to encourage everyone to seek out old family photos, especially the original negatives and slide transparencies, and bring them into the digital age.

The best way to get a negative or slide transparency into a digital format is to scan the original piece of film.

If you don’t have the inclination to purchase and learn how to use a film scanner the best course of action is to have a professional lab do the scans for you.

A quick Google search located one such company, ScanCafe, that can provide 7-megapixel scans for 29 cents each. That quality of scan would provide good prints to at least 8 inches by 10 inches. That’s about as cheap as you’re going to get for this tedious task.

Some places charge more but will scan in higher resolutions for larger prints. Once your images have been scanned and are moved to a hard drive or disc, you can easily start duplicating, emailing, printing or creating the modern-day version of a slide show.

If you prefer the do-it-yourself approach, consider purchasing a film scanner. Prices run from $60 to $20,000 depending on what quality and features you require. (I think the expensive ones come with 4-wheel drive.)

In a quick look at film scanners available at BHPhotoVideo.com, most models that cost less than $100 will scan your 35 mm slide or negative with a resolutions good for prints up to 5 inches by 7 inches or 8 inches by 10 inches, at most.

Models approaching the $200-$400 range start to provide faster operation, higher resolution scans and possible batch scanning.

Regardless of what machine you have, it’s not a fun task. Scanning film one frame at a time is tedious and not a creative endeavor. But it will bring old photos back to life and result in digital files that can be shared with the whole family. You might want to check with your mother and see if you missed any family slide shows this year.

Next week I’ll go over options for digitizing prints and hard-copy documents.

— Chief Photographer Mike Yoder can be reached at 832-7141

Comments

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 11 months ago

Slides that were taken on Kodachrome, Agfachrome, Ektachrome and 3M ScotchChrome transparency film will last for at the very least 80 to 100 years if stored under proper conditions.

A 35 mm Kodachrome slide, if taken in focus and not damaged, should provide approximately a 20 megapixel image. Of course, some of that will be lost in the transfer process.

I have some slides taken of my younger brother and myself that were taken with Kodachrome transparency film in the summer of 1959, and their color and resolution puts home digital cameras to shame. I have many more that I took with 3M ScotchChrome in 1970, and they are just as crisp and clear.

But Eastman negatives, along with all other color film negatives, have lost so much of their color and resolution within only ten years that your only option is to scan prints that were made from them years ago.

I would advise everyone to trust any lab with only part of their collection of family photographs at any one time. Mixups and accidents do occasionally occur, and in case that happens, you certainly do not want to lose every single one of your treasured family photographs.

Kodachrome has unequaled dye stability, but the worst projector fading stability of any slide film. So don't project any Kodachrome slide any longer than necessary!

Fujichrome and Ektachrome are better than Agfachrome and 3M ScotchChrome in resolution, and are not as color stable or long lasting as Kodachrome transparencies.

Most of these films are no longer being reproduced and so will never again influence purchase decisions, but when slides that can never be replaced are handled, these are things to keep in mind.

But, most people's slide collections in the United States are composed entirely of Kodachrome transparencies anyway, since that was the biggest selling slide film here for many decades. It is very unfortunate that Kodachrome is no longer being produced.

Some of the information above was derived, but not clipped, from: http://www.wilhelm-research.com/pdf/HW_Book_06_of_20_HiRes_v1a.pdf

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 11 months ago

Never forget that original color slides are one-of-a-kind color photographs and should be treated as such. As with daguerreotypes of the 1800's, there is no negative to go back to should an original slide fade, suffer physical damage, or become lost.

Keep the projection time of original slides or nonreplaceable duplicates to a minimum. For general applications (with Kodak Ektagraphic, Ektapro, and Carousel projectors), the TOTAL accumulated projection time with Fujichrome should not exceed 5 1/2 hours: with Fujichrome Velvia do not exceed 4 hours: with Ektachrome do not exceed 1 1/2 hours: with Kodachrome do not exceed 1 hour. For particularly important slides - or when image quality is critical - much shorter total projection times should be adhered to. The accumulated projection time, not the length of a particular projection, is what is important.

Clipped from: http://www.wilhelm-research.com/pdf/HW_Book_06_of_20_HiRes_v1a.pdf

Kathy Getto 2 years, 11 months ago

This is very informative. Thanks for all the info. I have many slides taken by my dad and would love to get them digitized.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.