The best film scanners

The best film scanners in 2018

It would be nice to tell you “Hey, this specific film scanner is the very best one you can buy in 2018. No doubt about it.” However, this isn’t possible. People have different needs. In order to determine the best film scanner for you, we’ve got to figure it out first.

Let’s take a journey through this buying process, all the way from “What’s the cheapest thing I can get?” to figuring out the best product that suits your needs.

What’s the cheapest thing I can get?

In an ideal world, the very best film scanner would also be the cheapest. But alas, our world isn’t ideal. If you want something that produces decent-looking images, you need to spend a little more.

21c Film and Slide Digital Converter
The official image of the 21c is grainy and poorly cropped. You were warned.

If you must have the cheapest thing possible, the least expensive one I’ve been able to find is the 21c Film and Slide Digital Film Converter. Expect low-quality images (if you can get it work at all).

What does a few more dollars get me?

After considering the cheapest thing on the market, it’s reasonable to wonder what a little more money gets you. Sometimes just spending a little bit more gets you a product that operates decently enough to satisfy.

That isn’t the case this time. After researching the available film scanners that were just a little more expensive, I was unable to find anything that wasn’t plagued with overall bad reviews.

In order to do better than the cheapest thing out there, you need to jump up to the $50 USD price range. The best option here is the VuPoint Solutions Digital Film and Slide Converter.

VuPoint Solutions Digital Film and Slide Converter

The VuPoint is a device that you push slides and negatives into and press a Scan button. The scan is saved to a separately available SD Card. You then need to transfer the image files from the SD Card to a computer, or elsewhere. The resolution of the scanned image is not very high, and the edges of the slide or negative are cropped out.

If you want to capture the full image at high resolution, you need to spend a little more money. What’s nice about the FC-C520-VP is that it’s easy to use. If you aren’t a stickler for image quality, this may be the best, low-cost option.

Is there something like this that gets good reviews?

So far we’ve looked at two similar film scanners. You may be wondering if there is a version of this kind of scanner that gets consistently high reviews. There is…

If you have a bunch of 35mm negatives or slides that you want to convert somewhat quickly to digital, and image quality isn’t your number one concern, check out the Wolverine F2D Mighty.

The Wolverine FD2 Mighty film scanner What’s nice about this one is that it’s compatible with a large number of film types. It scans images either to internal memory, or onto separately available SD Cards.

The workflow isn’t lightning fast. You need to insert the film or slides into trays, slide it into the F2D, select the film type button, press a scan button, and then press the OK button to make the scan happen.

If you’re going to be transferring thousands and thousands of images, you may want to opt for a higher-end machine than this. But, if you’re just capturing old family snapshots, the Wolverine F2D Mighty gets many good reviews from buyers.

TIP: If you’re going to be transferring a lot of slides with the FD2, you should strongly consider buying extra multiple-slide trays. This way you can set up a few trays at a time before you scan, in order to speed up your workflow.

What’s the best low-price, high-resolution scanner?

If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive entry-level film scanner, yet image quality is more important to you than speed or convenience, I recommend the Canon CanoScan 9000F MKII.

Canon CanoScan 9000F MKII One major difference between the CanoScan 9000F MKII and all of the scanners that have been covered so far is that the Canon is completely reliant on a computer to operate.

A flatbed scanner operates more like a “traditional” photo scanner. It connects to a computer, you run software to capture the image, you open a lid on the top of the unit and place the stuff you want to scan inside of it.

This method of film scanning isn’t simple and quick. Not only are you slowed down by the computer-tethered workflow, but the scanner itself can take a few minutes to complete a single scan.

But, what you get for your time and effort are much higher quality scans, with resolutions up to 9600-dpi with a 48-bit color depth. Software for scanning, correcting, and organizing the images is included.

If you decide to get one, be sure to read my “How to start using the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II” post. Learning how to use this machine and load its software is awkward, but that post will save you the headaches and get you up and running quickly. :)

Since you’re interested in capturing higher-resolution images, be sure to clean your negatives and slides with microfiber cloths and blowers before you scan. It’s simple math: clean originals = clean scans.

It’s important to point out that the price of the CanoScan 9000F MKII is firmly in the range of entry-level products. To put this in perspective, the next step up from here is the Epson Perfection V800, which is considerably more expensive.

What if you want high-rez and a fast workflow?

There are film scanners available that strike a balance between the entry-level machines in the first section of this post, and the higher-resolution capabilities of the flatbed scanners.

Borrowing the dimensions of a loaf of bread, the Plustek OpticFilm 8100 offers a similar type of operation as the first scanners in this post, with a significantly higher 7200-dpi resolution and 48-bit color depth.

Plustek OpticFilm 8100 film scanner

When you scan at full resolution with the OpticFilm 8100, the process takes a couple of minutes. But, if you’re not doing demanding scans, you can run the machine at lower resolutions and the scans will only take 30 seconds or so.

Screw it: what’s the highest-quality scanner I can get?

For some photographers and archivists, scanning is an extremely important matter, and only the highest-quality equipment will do. These types of users should look no further than the Hasselblad Flextight X1 and the even higher-resolution Flextight X5.

The Hasselblad Flextight X1 film scanner
The Hasselblad Flextight X1 film scanner even looks cool.

These two scanners from Hasselblad are in another stratosphere of price and performance, compared to everything else in this article. They use a completely different scanning technology, which involves loading the film into flexible trays that are wrapped around a drum when scanned, to ensure prefect flatness.

The main different between the two units (besides the eye-popping prices) is resolution. The X1 has a resolution of 6300-dpi, while the X5 goes up to 8000.

So wait… What’s the best film scanner in 2018?

In my opinion, the best film scanner that average people can buy right now is the Canon CanoScan 9000F MKII. Scanning is a bit slow with this unit, and you are stuck using the included My Image Garden software, but you can achieve excellent looking scans with this thing.

If you’re going to go through the trouble of archiving an image from analog to digital, you may as well put in a little effort to make the image look its best. The reasonable price of the 9000F provides you with something that yields high resolution results. That’s the winner in my book.


If you found this helpful, you can help me out by using the links below before you shop for stuff at Amazon or B&H Photo. I appreciate it!

— Purchase Links —

21c Film and Slide Digital Converter - Amazon USA
VuPoint Solutions Digital Film and Slide Converter - Amazon USA,,
Wolverine F2D Mighty - Amazon USA, B&H Photo
Canon CanoScan 9000F MKII - Amazon USA,,,
Plustek OpticFilm 8100 - Amazon USA,,,
Hasselblad Flextight X1 - B&H Photo
Microfiber Film Cleaning Cloth - Amazon USA,,,
Film Blower - Amazon USA,,,

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Writer, musician, photo taker and video maker. When not writing somewhat longish articles for this blog, I write incredibly short things on Twitter: @SamMallery

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