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Can you scan film with a regular scanner?


In short - No. Film scanners and your regular home scanner/printers have one big difference that sets them apart.


Film scanners have two glass panels rather than just the one. This is important for scanning in negatives as it allows light to travel through the entire negative or film slide, illuminating the image and therefore capturing the data as a digital file. It is essentially a cheats way of printing your negatives as the same light travelling through process is required in both. Your scanner that you would have at home to print from and scan documents has only one light source and this is at the bottom. This is because you are usually scanning opaque or solid items which means that to get the whole information, you don't need light to travel through the object, in fact, if this were to happen, there would be too much light and it would not scan properly.







Here you can see the top panels and how they are different, image 1 on the left has the solid top and image 2, the film scanner has the glass panel. It is important to remember that scanning of negatives goes further than just purchasing a film scanner.


There are aspects to the process of scanning your negatives that takes time to learn and understand for example, colour correcting your images before they scan, dust correction and framing. These are things that would have been considered in the printing process in the darkroom and they should not be forgotten in the digital format either. There are parts of the digital film scanning process that have been made easier. There are holders for your film to stop it moving around, software that can guide you in the right direction and tools such as dust removal. These are however not as reliable as doing them yourself and can cause issues in your scans such as black marks where it has tried to remove something.


So overall, there are cheaper film scanners out there, that are all singing all dancing with the capability to scan documents too however, having the kit does not instantly give you perfect images each time, if you want to scan your own images, check the scanners are within your budget, don't skimp out on a lower cost one with a lower scanning dpi as this will take away the detail from your files and make them smaller, and learn how to scan without the aids given by the software for perfect images each time.