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Best slide viewers in 2021

Best slide viewers:35mm Slide and Film Viewer
(Image credit: Kodak)

The days of dragging a projector into the front room to subject family and friends to a slideshow of our holiday snaps are long dead, and many of us may be thankful that is the case. But those of us who still have shoeboxes full of 35mm film slides and want to travel back in time to revisit cherished memories, or are re-discovering a love of shooting on film, want a more practical and portable alternative means of bringing those images to life. 

Enter the battery-operated handheld slide viewer; with viewing alternatives also including mains-powered light-boxes, handheld loupes that utilize ambient light, and if we want to digitize said slides, then of course the film scanner too. Nowadays, of course, some very basic level ‘scanning’ can be achieved with simply a lightbox and a smartphone. 

Here we’re showcasing a selection of the best and relatively inexpensive slide viewers currently on the market, which might also, on occasion, happen to double as a scanner of sorts. After all, if we’ve gone to the trouble of digging out our old slides, it stands to reason that we might want digital copies of them going forward too.

While many of the viewers showcased here offer the opportunity to use batteries for the ultimate in portability, as well as mains power, for most either the mains adapter and/or the batteries required are optional extras, so we’ve indicated where that is the case. Without further ado then, lets slide our recommendations for the best slide viewers you can currently buy under your nose…

The best slide viewers in 2021

(Image credit: Kodak)

1: Kodak 35mm slide viewer

Best budget slide viewer: Compact, battery operated, & LED powered

Illumination: Natural white daylight LED backlight
Color temperature: 6000K
Power source: 4x AA batteries, not included
Dimensions: 16.5x7.6x15.2cm
Weight: 400g
Reasons to buy
+Simple to operate low-tech solution+Inexpensive+Daylight ape-ing LED illumination+3x magnification
Reasons to avoid
-4x AA batteries required aren’t provided 

When most of us think of 35mm slide film we think of Kodachrome – so it makes sense that there exists a Kodak branded slide viewer and negative viewer combined; an angled desktop device that is both battery operated and features a daylight ape-ing backlit LED display, with a 3x magnifying glass provided so we can really pore over the details of our shots. Operation is very straightforward: whereas the slides are slid into the device top-down, a second slot at the side is provided for inserting strips of negative, complete with quick release button for when we’re ready to slide in the next strip. Unsurprisingly, the four AA batteries required to power the device, slotted into the base, are extra, as is a power cable should you want to plug it into the mains, but neither is a deal breaker at this price point. A simple, practical and affordable device from what’s probably still the most recognisable name in old school film photography.

(Image credit: Kodak)

2: Kodak Slide N Scan

Best slide viewer & scanner with big 5in screen

LCD: 5-inches
Power source: computer via USB port, power bank or mains via optional adapter
Dimensions: 13.4x13.6x9.5cm
Weight: 530g
Reasons to buy
+Three-in-one slide and negative viewer, editor and scanner+Powered via computer’s USB port, or power bank+Scanner delivers 14 megapixel or 22 MP interpolated images
Reasons to avoid
-SD card required for scanning-Mains adapter not included 

Here’s a slightly more high tech alternative to also bear the familiar yellow and black Kodak branding that, rather than a magnifier, instead features its own built-in 5-inch LCD screen. Thus equipped, the jack-of-all-trades device lets us view, edit and scan film slides and negatives, converting them into handy-to-share JPEG digital files, thanks to built-in 14 megapixel sensor. 

While not a professional grade scanner by any means, if operated as a standalone device, either 14MP or interpolated 22MP files can be saved directly to SD card, though we’ll need to provide our own card for that to happen. More usefully, a USB cable for connection to your computer and HMDI cable for hooking it up to a TV set are provided out of the box, as are adapters for differing film formats, including 35mm, 126 and even 110 film, plus a cleaning brush to avoid dust intruding. However, if we want to power the device via the mains rather than utilising our computer’s USB port or USB equipped power bank, then we’ll have to shell out extra for a mains adapter as one isn’t included out of the box.

(Image credit: Kodak)

3: Kaiser Diascop Mini 3 Slide Viewer

Best compact slide viewer

Magnification: 3x
Power source: 2x AA batteries, not included
Dimensions: 25x75x60mm
Weight: 400g
Reasons to buy
+Very compact +Easy to use+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Plastic build betrays its budget friendly price-2x AAs required for power

Kaiser is known for its broad range of photographic accessories, so it’s no surprise that it also offers options when it comes to 35mm slide viewing, including lightboxes. Like the inexpensive Kodak alternative, this compact viewer offers 3x magnification, is powered by a pair of optional yet essential AA batteries and, uniquely, features a fold out prop that allows for a more comfortable viewing angle when set down on a desktop. The viewing area here is a compact, yet sufficiently large, 2x2-inches. Like the old school slide viewer your Dad owned in the 1970s or 80s, the bulb in this device is activated by inserting a 35mm slide in the available top slot, and simply pressing down on it. There’s not much to this device and equally little it seems that can go wrong. An easy to use and affordable solution then; all we’ll have to do is stump up extra for the batteries required.

(Image credit: Kodak)

4: Rybozen Ultra-thin Portable Slide Scanner & Viewer

Budget lightbox offers low-tech scanning option

Magnification: N/A
Illumination: LED
Color temperature: 5000K
Power source: 6x AAA batteries, not included
Dimensions: 15x15.8x1.3cm
Weight: 235g
Reasons to buy
+Slender and lightweight slide and negative viewer and scanner combined if also using the phone apps+LED light source doesn’t get hot+Battery or mains powered as the user wishes
Reasons to avoid
-Requires 6x AAA batteries for power if you want to use it away from the mains-Viewing area is a small 5x4-inchesv

A lightbox is a traditional way that professionals used to review their slides and negatives - and this slimline version offer an acrylic panel and LED light source for slide and negative viewing; but it also acts as a portable scanner, in conjunction with our smartphone and SlideScan or FilmBox apps – offers practicality, portability and value for money in spades, as long as we’re not expecting professional grade results. Strips of film and slides can be placed side by side or in rows on the device to be viewed or ‘scanned’ simultaneously. Although there is an option for mains power, portability is offered by the fact that six optional AAA’s can also be inserted, though this inevitably adds to the weight. The viewing area is again a very compact 5x4-inches, but on the plus side this has allowed for the set up to stay very portable and lightweight. The lamp life of the LED is said to be a generous 10,000 hours, while a leather effect carry case is provided out of the box.

• See more options in our Best lightbox for photographers & artists guide

(Image credit: Kodak)

5: Pana-vue 2x2 Slide Viewer

Basic but practical slide viewer with 4x magnification

Magnification: 4x
Power source: 2x ‘C’ batteries, not included
Dimensions: 25x25x25mm
Weight: 340g
Reasons to buy
+Stack and view up to 36x 35mm format slides+Small and portable+Simple to operate and easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Plastic-y construction-No option for mains power provided out of the box-Small screen

An incandescent light is at the heart of this boxy viewer designed for tabletop viewing that allows users to stack and view up to 36 slides, while claiming to offer easy push-pull operation. The square format view screen resembling a standard definition TV set of old goes slightly further than others here in offering 4x magnification, but enthusiast photographers wanting more in the way of detail may prefer a lightbox and a handheld magnifying glass or loupe instead. It’s compatible with both 35mm and all 2x2-inch (5x5cm) slides, but is battery operated only, with no mains power lead provided out of the box. Like the vast majority of its rivals, the batteries required also need to be purchased as an optional extra.

(Image credit: Kodak)

6: Photolux SV-2

Best handheld slide viewer

Magnification: 4x
Power source: 2x AA batteries, not included
Dimensions: 13.5x9.5x8cm
Weight: 196g
Reasons to buy
+Conveniently palm-sized for slide viewing on the sofa+The 2x AA batteries required for power are included
Reasons to avoid
-Basic plastic construction-No scanning facility offered-2x magnification is modest for its ilk

This Photolux branded ‘SV2’ handheld LED illuminated device, also alternatively known as the Zuma Z-SV2 in the States, is another option for viewing 35mm slides that is as simple as they come. Offering a so-so 2x magnification, it’s powered by two AA batteries, we slide our 35mm slide for viewing into a vacant slot at the top, which activates the built-in daylight white LED light source and… that’s essentially it. 

Unusually, the 2x AA batteries required for the light are actually included here. Extremely lightweight at just 196g and compact too, with a viewing screen size of 5.5x4.5cm, this basic yet supremely portable viewer would be ideal for casually browsing slides when feet up on the sofa. For the price too it feels like we really can’t go that far wrong.

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Gavin Stoker

Gavin has over 30 year experience of writing about photography and television. He is currently the editor of British Photographic Industry News, and previously served as editor of Which Digital Camera and deputy editor of Total Digital Photography

He has also written for a wide range of publications including T3, BBC Focus, Empire, NME, Radio Times, MacWorld, Computer Active, What Digital Camera and Rough Guide books.

With his wealth of knowledge he is well placed to recognise great camera deals and recommend the best products in Digital Camera World’s buying guides. He also writes on a number of specialist subjects including binoculars and monoculars, spotting scopes, microscopes, trail cameras, action cameras, body cameras, filters, cameras straps and more.