Do you have boxes of old slide carousels sitting untouched and forgotten somewhere in your house? Lifetimes of family memories that are too precious to throw away but too much of a hassle to ever view? You probably don’t even have a projector to view them on anyway, even if you do have the time to set one up and pile around the projection screen, or wall, to click through the endless slides.
It’s time to take the old-fashioned film negatives and transfer them to digital. Once you digitize the memories of past holidays, vacations and special events you can efficiently manage files, or transfer to DVD, making it easier to find and share your favorite moments. Basically, there are three ways you can get those old photos onto your computer: you can use a slide duplicator on your DSLR, scan them manually, or hire a professional slide imaging service.
A slide duplicator is a cylinder that attaches to your Digital SLR’s lensmount, using a T2 mount, that holds slides in place so you can photograph them. They usually sell for about $85 and are easy to use since they have image adjustments. The slide duplicator has a lensmount at one end of the cylinder and a sliding gate that holds two slides at the other. The duplicator, or duper, uses an internal lens that has a fixed aperture and focusing distance to magnify the slide’s image onto the camera’s imaging plane. Most dupers also allow you to zoom in or out and move the slide gate so you can crop the image.
To start, you should dust each slide with canned air and set the camera up so it either faces a light source or uses a flash that can be taken off the camera and pointed back into the duplicator. The easiest way is to work on a bright day and use the sun as your light source. Once you’re set up, use the camera meters and shoot. Change your settings manually and use the auto white-balance feature to get the best exposure; continue to use those settings as guides.
While a slide duplicator is relatively inexpensive and fast, you may lose sharpness of the image. The images will be sharp enough when viewing on a computer monitor or TV, but not when you print them. So, if you just want to be able to look at the pictures digitally, a slide duplicator will probably suffice, but if you want to make prints, you might consider using a film scanner.
Considerably more expensive than a slide duplicator, at least $250 for a decent unit but can be up to $1500, a film scanner will make a big difference if you have a large quantity of slides to scan. They also offer a resolution of at least 3,000 dpi, giving you sharper images that can be printed at larger sizes, like 11×14.
Most film scanners are plug-and-play and very easy to use. Better units come with dust-removing and noise-reducing modes, which will minimize editing time, but you should still have a good image editor like Photoshop or Elements to clean up imperfections. Typically, a film scanner will save you many hours if you have thousands of slides to scan, but can be pricey. If you have only a small amount of slides you would like to digitize, it’s probably best to find a slide imaging service.
Slide Imaging Services
Hiring a professional photo imaging service is probably the easiest way to get your slides transferred to DVD. Pricing varies for each service, so you’ll want to compare companies based on your needs, but also make sure the service you choose cleans and enhances the image of every single slide. Try to avoid batch scanners, as they won’t provide nearly as clear images as individual scanners. While you have less control over image quality, hiring a scanning service means you don’t have to do anything but wait for your digitized images. You can even mail your slides to a slide imaging professional, who will send you back DVDs that are separated into subject folders, as long as you batch and label the slides beforehand. This will make it much easier to locate certain images in the future.
By digitizing analog film formats, you can preserve your family’s most precious moments. So choose your method wisely, and happy scanning!