Don’t be negative and let your scanning slide!

Click to check out this scanner!

Perhaps like me, you have a whole bunch of photos, slides and negatives from years gone by sitting around. You know that you should do something to preserve them, but all the options seem either too time-consuming, too expensive and too technically challenging. That was certainly the way I felt! A few years ago, I had purchased a high-quality HP scanner with a slide attachment and had started to convert some of my collection. The problem was exactly as mentioned above with time-consuming topping the list. After converting about 100 of several thousand pictures, I simply ran out of steam and the photo collection went back into the hole from whence it had come.

Over the last few months, I had been seeing advertisements for stand-alone devices that claimed to be able to scan negatives and slides instantly with 5 megapixel resolution. After doing considerable research including reading user reviews, I opted for one almost identical to the one pictured here.

Roy Wallace

Me in Germany: Taken in 1974, Scanned in 2010

Dorothy on St. Vincent circa 1970

Dorothy on St. Vincent, 1970 - Check out those COOL Shades

Right out of the box, I powered it up, inserted a 2gb SD card and started scanning. A couple of hours later, I had already converted almost 200 slides and negatives. I tried both slides and negatives, colour and black and white.

The real beauty was not having any settings to worry about. the only tricky part is making sure that the pictures and properly aligned in the viewfinder before pressing the button. There is a little play in the transport mechanism to allow for this. In some cases, no matter what you do, you will end up with some black or white  borders or which will have to be removed after scanning.  

On the left, you can see an example of a 35 year-old negative that was scanned and untouched exactly as it came from the scanner except for being size-reduced for the web.

Here’s some of the more important tips of what I learned:

  1. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear! A lousy original shot or a faded, scratched or otherwise degraded original will not produce a pristine scan.
  2. The longer you wait to convert your pictures, negatives and slides, the more degraded they will become. I found that many of my slides and negatives after 35 years were close to the limit. Interestingly, the black and white negatives seem to be better preserved than the colour ones.
  3. It can sometimes be tricky to line up a strip of negatives to match the divisions in the tray provided and you must make sure that they face the right way otherwise, everything will be mirror-imaged.
  4. If you have non-standard sized negatives or slides (as I do), you will have to rig up your own sleeve to pass them through the scanner. I took a clear plastic report cover and cut it to size and it worked like a charm.
  5. You will still have to do some post-scan processing to remove unwanted borders make colour corrections and remove scratches and blemishes. However, the result is generally superior to that which I achieved with my HP scanner and there are absolutely no settings to make other than to remember to press either the slide or negative button.

There is a wide variety of sizes, formats and price ranges for scanners. The Wolverine F2D200 35mm Film to Digital Image Converter with 2.4-Inch LCD and TV-Out suited our purposes admirably. If you want to check out other possibilities, just use the arrows in the box below.


For the post-processing, I would recommend Windows Live Photo Gallery (Free download from Microsoft) for the simple stuff. For more involved and detailed touch-ups and corrections, Adobe PhotoShop Elements is a powerful tool that has all of the most important tools and functions of the full-blown product without the inflated price tag.


Finally, take a look at a slideshow of scanned pictures that were lost to us until I bought the scanner. It was very fortunate that we kept the negatives. Years ago, it was not possible to get reproductions from prints. This is probably the main reason that we kept them. Looking at these snapshots reminds me that black & white photogrpay can be every bit as interesting as colour…

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