slide film

ScanCafe: Give it a try! by Harold Brown

I have done a lot of picture scanning over the years and for the most part I am happy with what I have done. I do make a few adjustments while scanning, trying to get a better scan, but that doesn't make me an expert. Most of the pictures I have scanned were from the 1930's through the 1960's. They were are all in family albums, and most were black and white. Scanning them required taking the albums apart. However, when it comes to my 35mm pictures I have the negatives and slides available, which make for better results. Fantastic, except for the fact that this can take a lot of time and money to get a decent result. After scanning you will probably still want to process them through your favorite editing application, but that is optional of course. I prefer Lightroom and Photoshop. Then key wording, captions and posting to my website are the final steps. So the time invested adds up very quickly. Working with the RAW,  jpg or tiff pictures for publication to my site is where I want to invest my time. If I could find someone that did a decent job scanning my pictures and then I worked with them after that point, that would be perfect for me.

Based on the above a friend and I decided to send some slides to ScanCafe and see what they could do.  I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about shipping costs or wait time. That is posted on their site and has been commented on by a few people. I read all of the ScanCafe site very carefully and read a couple of reviews. I was not surprised or shocked by anything that occurred, and I didn't go bouncing off the walls with wild speculation waiting on the delivery of my photos and DVD. The slides and a few prints were processed and returned in less than 2 months. In total we sent just under 600 slides and prints. It was their $130 plus S&H box that they provided to ship everything in. We bundled the slides into groups of 50 and numbered them. When they were returned they were still  in the bundles of 50 that we had sent, and all fit onto a single DVD. Each numbered bundle was on the DVD under a directory with the same bundle number. That made it very easy to identify each bundle and what it contained. I did not see anything that was damaged and the scans were well done. The 4x6 paper prints looked about what I typically can achieve and unless I had a lot of prints with no negatives, I wouldn't have any prints scanned. A few slides had some scratches and dust that had not been removed, but most were in good enough shape that not much repair work was required in my editing apps.

Some people will probably be concerned about their photos, negatives and/or slides being sent to India, but regardless of where your photos are sent, there is always a chance of them being lost or destroyed. Even if they never leave your house there is a chance of them being lost forever. A real world example dates back to the 70's when my friend worked for a well known department store. A courier would drive to each store and pickup the film that had been dropped off for processing. One day the courier accidentally left a bag of film in a restaurant and it was mistaken for a bag of trash and was thrown into a dumpster. It was never recovered. My friend was instructed to tell the customers that their film and the courier had been killed in a fiery car crash to keep their customers from pursuing the matter further. It actually worked. So there are no guarantees with anything you do.

Seeing is believing and so here are some examples of slide conversions done for me by ScanCafe. The photographs of the bridge were taken on the July 4th weekend in 1977. The trio is a lounge band called "Something Different" and was photographed around the same time period. They were filmed in the basement of my friends house and the yellow cast is how the slides looked back then. All were stored in plastic cases that were provided by the processing lab.

Original scanned

ScanCafe Bridge after processing

ScanCafe Inside Bridge Original

ScanCafe Inside The Bridge

ScanCafe SD Original

ScanCafe Something Different Band


Most of the digital versions of my slides were color balanced properly, had low noise and minor spots and marks on them. Next time I will try out there pro services to see how they compare to the standard service. ScanCafe offers a great value when it comes to digital transfer of slide film. Next up will be some negatives as well. Give them a try and be patient. It takes a few weeks to get your photos back.