Top picks ↴
1. Best 35mm film scanner: Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE
2. Best film scanner on a budget: Plustek OpticFilm 8100
3. Best flatbed film scanner: Epson Perfection V600 Photo
4. Best for camera scanning film: Pixl-latr
5. Best film scanner for features: Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai
6. Best professional film scanner: Epson Perfection V850 Pro
7. Best for Super 8 film: KODAK REELS 8mm & Super 8
How to choose
How we test
The best film scanners can take your film into the digital realm. Whether you've got an attic full of old negatives, or you're taking new photos with one of the best film cameras, a film scanner will fast become the easiest way for sharing your shots online.
In this guide, we look at a few main types of scanners: dedicated film scanners, specialist flatbed scanners, and tools for scanning film with your digital camera. Film scanners are designed specifically for handling negatives. Cheaper scanners get through rolls of negatives very quickly, while more expensive ones usually take longer but reward you with a high-quality image.
The best scanners for documents, on the other hand, are more general-purpose, and while a good choice for scanning your printed photos, be aware that regular flatbed scanners are usually a poor choice for scanning your film negatives, or you may need to pick up an additional holder so that it can keep the film completely flat.
Once you've got your scanner working, you may find yourself with the urge to start shooting film again; check out our guide to the best film to buy.
So what is the best scanner right now? We think it's the OpticFilm 8100 SE from film scanning expert Plustek: it extracts phenomenal levels of detail from your film, is backed up by excellent included scanning software, and is sensibly priced. We love it.
If you're after something that'll scan multiple film frames automatically, though, and has the versatility to scan photo prints and documents, Epson's Perfection V600 Photo flatbed scanner is a great choice.
If you want something affordable and have a digital camera already, then check out the Pixl-latr. Available at a fraction of the cost of the other scanners, it provides a secure means of illuminating and holding your film so that you can scan it with a DSLR or mirrorless camera (and ideally a macro lens).
Top Picks: The Best Film Scanners
Best for 35mm film
Best for 35mm
The OpticFilm 8200i SE could be mistaken for its baby 8100 sibling, however here you get a max 7200dpi scanning resolution and infrared dust removal.
Best for scanning on a budget
Best for scanning on a budget
This scanner cuts out a few things from its more expensive Plustek siblings, but this makes it a much more wallet-friendly option that still gives great scan quality.
Best flatbed scanner
Best flatbed scanner
The V600 is designed to cater to film photographers. Naturally, it can scan photos and documents, but it includes holders for 35mm film, 35mm slides, and 120/220 medium format film.
Best for camera scanning
Best for camera scanning
More of a scanning-assistant device than a scanner, requiring a lightbox and a camera with a good macro lens in order to work. It holds your film flat against a translucent diffuser, allowing you to get an image of the negative for conversion.
Best for features
Best for features
The 8200i AI differentiates itself primarily by including more advanced SilverFast Ai Studio software. This packs pro-grade scanning customization features like a 16-bit histogram.
Best for professionals
Best for professionals
This is the ultimate flatbed scanner for multiple formats of film for professionals who both demand the most speed and best quality in their scanning workflow.
The best film scanners in 2023
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The best 35mm film scanner
We picked the OpticFilm 8200i SE as our top choice as it strikes the perfect balance between image quality, ease of use, and price.
Apart from its black rather than blue finish, the OpticFilm 8200i SE could be mistaken for its baby 8100 sibling. It's almost identical on this inside too, but that's no bad thing, as that means you're assured top-notch scanning quality, providing you're prepared to wait a while when using max 7200dpi scanning resolution.
There's really only one key feature that separates the 8200i SE from the 8100, and that's its dedicated infra-red scanning channel. Combined with the iSRD feature in the bundled SilverFast scanning software, any dust and scratches on your negs are automatically detected and then removed from the digital scan - clever stuff.
The downside? In some places, the 8200i SE can cost quite a bit more than the 8100, making it rather less of a bargain. But if you regularly scan multiple negs that are likely to need dust and scratch removal, then the 8200i SE could be a real time-saver and worth the premium. The price difference between the two scanners is smaller in the US, making the extra convenience of the 8200i SE very tempting.
There is also a Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai available (see below), a flagship model that adds color calibration software into the package - useful for color transparency scanning, albeit at a higher cost.
See our full Plustek Opticfilm 8200i SE review for more details
The best film scanner on a budget
This is the baby of the OpticFilm range, yet it still boasts a respectable 7,200dpi maximum scanning resolution. It sits below the OpticFilm 8200i SE (above) in price but misses out on the infrared scanner of its big brother.
The OpticFilm 8100 also has a real optical film scanner and not just a digital camera sensor in a scanner body. This does however mean the 8100 is no speed demon. Each 35mm film frame takes nearly 4 minutes to scan at max res, but 3,600 dpi is more than adequate for most film stocks and you’ll have a scanned frame in 1 minute 20 seconds.
Though the front panel has a QuickScan button that automatically scans and saves a frame to your computer desktop, it’s best to load up the bundled SilverFast software that provides comprehensive scanning options and pre-scan image enhancement.
Even without messing with the settings, and scanning at 3,600 dpi, the 8100 is in a league of its own for scan quality, extracting bags of detail from our 35mm negs and transparencies. It also lets you scan the entire film frame with no overzealous cropping. The 8100 can struggle to reveal every detail in the shadow areas of high-contrast 35mm slide positives, but this is our only nitpick.
The best flatbed film scanner
Flatbed scanners are traditionally thought of as a more versatile but less finessed alternative to a dedicated film scanner. However, the V600 is impressively designed to cater to film photographers. Naturally, it can scan photos and documents, but it includes holders for 35mm film, 35mm slides, and 120/220 medium format film.
Scanning resolution can go as high as a whopping 12,800 dpi, but we found a 3,200 dpi is more than enough for our film stocks, producing a digitized image equivalent to around 12.2MP.
You might imagine that laying out up to a dozen 35mm film frames over the flatbed would result in fast scanning, but the V600 Photo still scans each frame individually – albeit automatically – and takes around one minute per frame at 3,200 dpi. Saving you manual work, but unfortunately not time! Scanning with Digital ICE automatic dust and scratch removal enabled only adds around 20 seconds per frame.
Compared to the other scanners on this, the V600 can’t match the top-ranking Opticfilm 8100’s ability to extract every speck of detail.
Read our full Epson Perfection V600 Photo review for more details
The best accessory for camera scanning
As you can see from a glance at this list, film scanning can be an expensive process. The Pixl-latr is one of the most recent devices aiming at disrupting the market; it's more a scanning-assistant device than a scanner, requiring a lightbox and a camera with a good macro lens in order to work. Essentially it holds your film flat against a translucent diffuser, allowing you to evenly distribute light across the film plane for a smooth, even scan.
As mentioned, a lightbox is the best choice for the light source, though if you're in a tight spot pretty much anything will do, from a bedside lamp to a tablet with its screen brightness turned all the way up.
Pixl-latr offers a number of 3D-printed parts to help you get the most out of the product, such as holders designed specifically for certain sizes of slides. You'll get the best results from a macro lens, but again, if you don't have one, a decent 24-70mm will work.
It's not the fastest way to scan film, and if you have a lot of rolls to process, you might want something a bit snappier. But its asking price of about $50 makes it the most affordable choice by far, and the results you can get with it make it fantastic value for money.
Read our full Pixl-latr review for more details.
The best film scanner for features
We couldn't have a list of the best film scanners without including Plustek's flagship 8-series model, the 8200i Ai. It looks identical to the cheaper 8200i SE, and for the most part, it is indeed the same scanner, which means you get the same clever infra-red dust detection and removal tech, as well as top-notch scanning quality.
The 8200i AI differentiates itself primarily by including more advanced SilverFast Ai Studio software. This packs pro-grade scanning customization features like a 16-bit histogram for a clearer, more true-to-life preview of scan quality.
There's also an Expert Mode if you want to spend a little extra time fine-tuning scan quality settings or applying protecting layers. The Ai Studio software even includes an IT8 color calibration target to ensure colors in the digital scan preview, the scan itself, and a print of that scan all match each other
Naturally, these extra features command a significant price premium over the 8200i SE, so if you don't intend to delve into advanced scanning settings each time you want to digitize some negs or slides, the extra outlay is tough to justify.
However, if you really want to ensure those cherished memories are scanned as perfectly as possible, and you've got the time to do the necessary fine-tuning, the OpticFilm 8200i AI could be for you.
The best film scanner for professionals
Positioned at the pinnacle of Epson’s scanner range, the V850 Pro is aimed squarely at film fanatics wanting the best possible conversion to digital images. Its eye-opening price tag is a result of a dedicated scanning lens designed specially for film, and it is bundled with not one but two sets of film holders. The 35mm film strip and 35mm slide holders are an appreciable step up in quality from those included with the V600 Photo.
The scanner itself is also an absolute beast and feels like a premium product. Like the V600, the resolution tops out at 12,800 dpi, but again, it’s rare you’ll need such extreme resolving power.
At 3,200 dpi, the V850 does not perform significantly faster than the V600 but steps up to higher resolutions and this top-tier model pulls ahead, taking just 2 minutes 30 seconds to scan a 35mm frame at 12,800 dpi.
However, there’s precious little to separate the V850 from the V600 when it comes to scanning quality. Both deliver excellent results that are almost indistinguishable, making the V850’s hefty price premium tough to justify unless you'll really benefit from its extra high-res scanning speed.
Read our full Epson Perfection V850 Pro review for more details
The best film scanner for Super 8 film
Digitizing old reels of cine film used to be much more complicated, as you needed to find a working projector, as well as a video camera and a screen. But this ingenious device does it all in one – allowing you to convert your Super 8 and normal 8mm cine films into MP4 digital files.
Sold under the Kodak brand name, it converts film on 7in, 5in or 3in reels – and saves the output onto SD memory cards. There is a small 2.3in LCD so you can see the film before and during recording.
Scanning is done at two frames per second – so a 3-inch 50-foot reel will take about half an hour to digitize. Once recorded, the unit can playback the footage to your TV so everyone can see it on the big screen. Unfortunately, there is no support for audio, so if the film has a soundtrack this is not recorded.
What is the best software to scan film?
A lot of film scanners will come with some scanning software included, this might be first-party scanning software from the company that makes the scanner, or they might lean on third-party software which has the benefit of working on any supported scanner from multiple brands.
Scanner software can range in quality and functionality, with third-party software typically offering more control over your scans, but sometimes this choice can be overwhelming. First-party software is usually simpler to use and less daunting with options.
Two of the best choices for third-party scanning software are SilverFast by LaserSoft Imaging or VueScan from Hamrick. Silverfast is often bundled with more advanced scanners, it is very powerful although its dated interface isn't for everyone. Vuescan offers a cleaner interface and similar advanced features but must be bought as a separate purchase from the scanner.
What is camera scanning?
If you already have a mirrorless or DSLR digital camera and a high-quality 1:1 macro lens, then you can also "scan" your film using your camera, this is useful as you can scan any film format, and also very quickly.
However, this method takes a fair amount of careful setup, calibration, and technique, so is not for everyone, but with the right film scanning tools to flatten your film and a high CRI (color rendering index) backlight, you can get film "scans" that are indistinguishable to any of the best dedicated film scanning machines.
We have included some of the best camera scanning tools on this list like the Pixl-latr for those interested in trying out this low-cost technique.
How to choose the best film scanner
So how do you choose the best film scanner? It depends on both how many negatives you have, and what format they are in.
The most common film format is 35mm, this is the standard roll of 24 or 36 exposures that you usually find in drug stores or preloaded in disposable cameras. Other common types of film are mounted slides, which are negatives mounted within a white cardboard border, and medium format or 120 film, which is several times larger per frame than 35mm.
Flatbed scanners are the most useful for scanning multiple varieties of film types, as they have a large scanning surface, although because of that fact, are very large devices. If you only need to scan 35mm film, a dedicated scanner might be a much smaller and more convenient option, and typically offer higher resolutions and image quality from their more controlled and dedicated sensors.
If you are looking to scan large quantities of film then a flatbed scanner might be the choice for you, as they are capable of scanning multiple film frames automatically with minimal user input. Dedicated film scanners typically require a bit more manual interaction to move films through the scanning process and only scan one frame at a time.
Finally, where you will use the film determines what maximum scanning resolution you will need. Don’t be swayed by sky-high scanning resolutions. Unless you’re digitizing extremely slow film speed, 3,200 dpi will be more than enough for most applications. Film does not have the same resolving power as today's digital sensors, especially smaller formats.
How we test film scanners
We test film scanners by scanning rolls of film that we have shot through each scanner, we test each scanner at a variety of resolutions and settings and compare the results.
In the resulting scans, we look for a variety of factors including image quality, focus accuracy, sharpness, color accuracy, and color vibrance/saturation to how we would expect each film to look based on our sample of professional lab scanned images and our prior extensive experience of working with film.
We also assess the build quality and ease of use of every scanner, as well as any software provided with the scanner for functionality and usability.
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