The best film scanners in 2023: give your cherished negatives and slides new life

film scanner on a wooden surface
(Image credit: Future)

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 (opens in new tab), a film scanner or flatbed scanner will fast become the easiest way for sharing your shots online. 

In this guide, we look at two main types of scanners: dedicated film scanners, and general flatbed scanners. 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 file.

The best scanners for documents, on the other hand, are more general-purpose and a good choice if you know you're going to be scanning other things as well as film. Be aware that if you're using a regular flatbed scanner, 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 (opens in new tab) to buy.

The best film scanners in 2023

Why you can trust Digital Camera World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

So what's the best film scanner? Right now, we think it's the OpticFilm 8100 from film scanning expert Plustek: it extracts phenomenal levels of detail from your film, is backed up by excellent included scanning software, and it's 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).

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
(opens in new tab)

1. Plustek OpticFilm 8100

The best dedicated film scanner

Specifications

Maximum scanning resolution: 7200 dpi
Requires computer: Yes
Supported film types/sizes: 35mm color and mono negatives; 35mm slide positives
Dimensions: 120 x 272 x 119mm

Reasons to buy

+
Unrivalled scanning quality
+
Superb software
+
Reasonably priced

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow at max resolution
-
Not the best at shadow detail
-
No auto dust/scratch removal

This is the baby of the OpticFilm range, yet it still boasts a respectable 7,200dpi maximum scanning resolution. It’s also 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.

Recommended

(Image credit: Gareth Bevan / Future)
(opens in new tab)
Identical to the winning 8100, but with added dust and scratch removal

Specifications

Maximum scanning resolution: 7200 dpi
Requires computer: Yes
Supported film types/sizes: 35mm color and mono negatives; 35mm slide positives
Dimensions: 120 x 272 x 119mm

Reasons to buy

+
Class-leading scanning quality
+
Easy to use
+
Automatically removes dust & scratches

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricier than OpticFilm 8100
-
Slow at max scanning res

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 around 40% 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 (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: James Abbott/Digital Camera World)
The best budget film scanner for use with a camera

Specifications

Maximum scanning resolution: N/a
Requires computer: No
Supported film types/sizes: 35mm color and mono negatives; 35mm slide positives; 120 medium format; 5x4 sheet film
Dimensions: Not specified

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value
+
Very easy to use

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow for batch scanning
-
Needs lightbox and camera

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 (opens in new tab) and a camera with a good macro lens (opens in new tab) 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 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 for helping you get the most out of the product, such as holders designed specifically for certain sizes of slide. You'll get 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 (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Plustek)
(opens in new tab)

4. Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai

All the features of the 8100 and 8200i SE, plus even more advanced options

Specifications

Maximum scanning resolution: 7200 dpi
Requires computer: Yes
Supported film types/sizes: 35mm color and mono negatives; 35mm slide positives
Dimensions: 120 x 272 x 119mm

Reasons to buy

+
Automatically removes dust & scratches
+
Great scanning quality
+
Packed with custom scanning options

Reasons to avoid

-
Extra features = hefty price premium

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 (at #2), 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.

(Image credit: Epson)
(opens in new tab)

5. Epson Perfection V600 Photo

Best flatbed scanner with excellent film scanning quality

Specifications

Maximum scanning resolution: 12800 dpi
Requires computer: Yes
Supported film types/sizes: 35mm color and mono negatives; 35mm slide positives; 120/220 medium format
Dimensions: 280‎ x 485 x 118mm

Reasons to buy

+
Good film scan quality
+
Automatic multi-frame scanning
+
Support for medium format film

Reasons to avoid

-
Plustek 8100 resolves more detail

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 you'll likely find 3,200 dpi more than enough for your 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. Scanning with Digital ICE automatic dust and scratch removal enabled only adds around 20 seconds per frame. 

Results are superior to the Plustek OpticFilm 135 dedicated film scanner, with noticeably more detail, plus better default color and contrast. However, the V600 can’t match the top-ranking Opticfilm 8100’s ability to extract every speck of detail.

(opens in new tab)

6. Epson Perfection V850 Pro

An impressive piece of kit, but the cheaper V600 Photo makes more sense

Specifications

Maximum scanning resolution: 12800 dpi
Requires computer: Yes
Supported film types/sizes: 35mm colour and mono negatives; 35mm slide positives; 120/220 medium format; 5 x 4 inch; up to 8 x 10 inch
Dimensions: 308‎ x 503 x 152 mm

Reasons to buy

+
Detailed film scans
+
Packed with features
+
Two sets of quality film holders

Reasons to avoid

-
Eye-watering price tag

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 especially 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.

(Image credit: Pacific Image)
(opens in new tab)

7. Pacific Image PowerFilm Scanner

An efficient way to scan lots of 35mm negatives

Specifications

Maximum scanning resolution: 24 megapixels
Requires computer: Yes
Supported film types/sizes: 35mm color and mono negatives
Dimensions: 232 x 157 x 128 mm

Reasons to buy

+
Great quality of scans
+
Very fast and efficient

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive
-
35mm negatives only

If you have a lot of 35mm film to batch scan, the Pacific Image PowerFilm Scanner is the way to get the job done. It's a beast of a scanner that does basically one job but does it exceptionally well and efficiently. Simply load your unmounted strips and it'll scan up to ten of them with a single command. You also have a choice between high-resolution 24MP scans or quicker 6MP scans if you don't need every image in pristine quality. These quicker scans can take as little as 24 seconds each, so this is an ideal way to digitize an archive as efficiently as possible. 

All this talk of efficiency does belie the fact that the Pacific Image PowerFilm Scanner is also very good at what it does, producing images of excellent detail and quality. Pacific Image's proprietary infrared cleaning technology, MagicTouch, also works to remove dust and blemishes for a clean final image that's ready for printing. A fantastic tool for working through an archive.

(Image credit: Reflecta)
(opens in new tab)

8. Reflecta cine film scanner

Best film scanner for Super 8 and 8mm cine film

Specifications

Maximum scanning resolution: 3.53 megapixels (1080p video)
Requires computer: No
Supported film types/sizes: Super 8 & Normal 8 cine film
Dimensions: 21.3 x 14.3 x 23.2 cm

Reasons to buy

+
Exposure and framing control

Reasons to avoid

-
SD card not supplied
-
Not 4K
-
Doesn't record sound

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 Reflecta, Magnasonic, or Eyesen brand names (depending on where you shop), 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.

Canon Canoscan 9000F Mark II

(Image credit: Sebastian Oakley / Digital Camera World)
Best film multi-purpose film scannera

Specifications

Maximum scanning resolution:
Requires computer:
Supported film types/sizes:
Dimensions:

Reasons to buy

+
9,600 DPI films scans
+
All-in-one design/function
+
Scans 120 and 35mm film

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow to scan at high DPI
-
Large overall footprint
-
Basic software

If you want a scanner that can handle the day-to-day running of your photography business while also being able to scan 35mm film all the way up to 120 medium format (with either positives or negatives), the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II is the best option. It's extremely capable of scanning a whole roll of 35mm in minutes and if you progress into medium format film, you are not left looking at other options.

 The vast appeal of the Canon Canonscan 9000F Mark II is that this flatbed scanner, which is also good for documents, has a built-in light for scanning your 35mm or 120 medium format film. With a simple click to remove the whiteboard cover for documents, the added light source is exposed to help you get quality scans out of your color or black-and-white negatives.

See our full Canon Canonscan 9000F Mark II review (opens in new tab)

How to choose the best film scanner

1. Pixel perfect 

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. Film does not have the same resolving power as today's sensors.

2. Film or flatbed?

Dedicated film scanners can offer impressive image quality, but a decent flatbed scanner offers extra versatility and scanning convenience.

3. Software features

If you want the best possible results, good scanning software is a must. It’ll let you fine-tune every element of the scanning process.

4. Ease of use

Standalone film scanners that save directly to a memory card are great for convenience but don’t expect the image quality to be anything special.

5. Hold on tight

Cheaper scanners can often be let down by tacky film holders that are tricky to use and can compromise the quality of the final image.

You might also like the best darkroom equipment: enlargers, processing tanks and print trays (opens in new tab), as well as the best photo printing online (opens in new tab).

Ben Andrews

Ben is the Imaging Labs manager, responsible for all the testing on Digital Camera World and across the entire photography portfolio at Future. Whether he's in the lab testing the sharpness of new lenses, the resolution of the latest image sensors, the zoom range of monster bridge cameras or even the latest camera phones, Ben is our go-to guy for technical insight. He's also the team's man-at-arms when it comes to camera bags, filters, memory cards, and all manner of camera accessories – his lab is a bit like the Batcave of photography! With years of experience trialling and testing kit, he's a human encyclopedia of benchmarks when it comes to recommending the best buys. 

With contributions from