Film scanner suggestions for 35mm microfilm

Discussion in 'Scanners' started by skippy, Jan 4, 2007.

  1. skippy

    skippy Guest

    I see from the archives that it's been a long time since anyone has
    asked about the possibility of scanning old rolls of 35mm microfilm.
    I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions as to any good file scanners
    and if they can be used for this purpose.

    I suppose 4000dpi is a minimum, but I've never tried it. Is that going
    to work?

    Any suggested models to look at?

    Do I need to avoid flat bed film scanners?

    What about focus?

    Any suggestions would be helpful.


    Skippy in Hyder
    skippy, Jan 4, 2007
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  2. Any good film scanner will do (I use a Nikon Coolscan V ED). You can
    either scan the microfilm as an image and "read" it later or use an
    OCR-program directly. Film scanners usually have autofocus (often with
    an option for manual focus) so that will not be a problem. As for
    resolution 4000 dpi should be more than enough. Of course that depends
    on how small the characters in Your microfilm are.
    Yes, I would advise You to stay clear of flatbeds.
    Usually film scanners read either single 35 mm frames (typically framed
    slides) or film strips so You shall need to check that You can feed the
    microfilm into scanner.

    Väinö Louekari
    Väinö Louekari, Jan 4, 2007
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  3. One example: The standard 35mm film strip holder for the
    Konica-Minolta 5400 II can't be used to scan the entire area of a
    6-frame strip; it masks the areas in between frames.

    Actually I have no idea what 35mm microfilm is like; I assume it's
    like normal photographic 35mm film with the perforations and all but
    isn't divided into separate 36x24mm areas?
    Toni Nikkanen, Jan 4, 2007
  4. skippy

    jeremy Guest

    This one accepts filmstrips of up to 40 frames, relieving users of the need
    to cut and inster film in short strips. Are microfilm frames the same size
    as frames used in 35mm photography?
    jeremy, Jan 4, 2007
  5. If the "microfilm" just contains printed documents, and not photographs,
    then 4000 dpi is overkill.....300 dpi would be enough, and I would advise
    going for a flatbed scanner.......
    William Graham, Jan 5, 2007
  6. skippy

    Peter Irwin Guest

    Library microfilm is typically between 18 and 25 times reduction.
    For 20 times reduction, 4000 dpi would equal 200 dpi at original
    document size. This would hardly be overkill. 300 dpi would be
    only 15 dpi at original document size and would be grossly inadequate.

    Peter Irwin, Jan 5, 2007
  7. skippy

    skippy Guest

    Yes, they are the same size exactly as 35mm negatives, with perf holes
    down both sides. The image of a newspaper (both pages opened) which
    measures 18" x 26" takes up an area on my film of 7/8" x 1 3/4". That
    makes the compression about 16 times. So if I want to be able to read
    these well when they are blown up 16 times does that mean I should scan
    them at 16 times 300 dpi? That would be 4800 dpi.

    I've never scanned anything at that rate. How long does it take to
    scan a single 35 mm negative (or positive) image at 4800 dpi? I'm
    looking at the Epson V700. Would that work?

    skippy, Jan 5, 2007
  8. skippy

    skippy Guest

    Thanks Peter,

    How long does a 4000 dpi scan of a single 35mm slide size chunk of
    microfilm take on a flat bed like a Epson V750 or V700? I have never
    done this and have no clue.

    Is there a good resale on something like the V750 six months or a year
    later in case I want to resell it after my project is finished?

    Any other suggestions? How about clearity or focus. Does the
    microfilm just drape across the glass when you close the top so it can
    stay attached to it's long reels without being cut?


    Skippy is Pete in Hyder
    skippy, Jan 5, 2007
  9. skippy

    Mardon Guest

    I've been using a Nikon Coolscan IV for a number of years. Its maximum
    resolution is 2900. It has a published scan time of 52 sec and 15 sec for
    a preview if NO adjustments are activated (that is, ICE, ROC or GEM). If
    ICE is activated, the scan time increases to 100 seconds per image. If all
    the features are activated, the published scan time is 310 seconds. I find
    the published times to be pretty close to what I get in real use. I have
    recently ordered an Epson Perfection V750-M PRO. It is pretty much the
    same hardware as the V700. I'm planning to use it to replace my Coolscan
    IV and my old flat bed scanner. An advantage of the V700 scanner you're
    considering is that you wouldn't have to cut the rolls. I do not know if
    it will be a lot faster than the dedicated film scanners. I'm not counting
    on it but it will be a nice surprise if it is. Mine should arrive in a
    couple of weeks.

    BTW, high contrast, black and white microfilm is bitonal, meaning that when
    converted to digital, 2 bit images are all that is needed; not 8 or 16 bit
    grayscale. Film scanners are not capable (as far as I know) of scanning in
    2-bit mode (B&W). They all scan at least 8 bit grayscale. I assume that
    the V700 (like other flat bed scanners) can scan in 2-bit mode (B&W). If
    you're going to be scanning a lot of images, you should check into this as
    B&W image files are MUCH smaller and faster to load than grayscale.
    Mardon, Jan 5, 2007
  10. I am guessing that the ICE, ROC and GEM are either not available for
    scanning microfilm or at least not applicable (ROC). Therefore all the
    dust, scratches, dirt etc. will have to be removed manually in image
    editing software if so desired.

    Also, placing the film directly on the scanner glass will not yield
    the best sharpness. The Epsons have their focus fixed somewhere
    between 2.5 - 4.5mm.
    Toni Nikkanen, Jan 5, 2007
  11. skippy

    jeremy Guest

    That particular scanner has an optical resolution of 3600 ppi. More than
    adequate for photos (more resolution may pick up the film grain, but I don't
    want that). Are you certain you require 4800 ppi?
    jeremy, Jan 5, 2007
  12. skippy

    jeremy Guest

    I doubt that you'll really know whether it will work unless you take some
    microfilm samples and try them at a dealer's store, prior to buying he

    One thing I can tell you is that the scan times are going to be long--much
    longer than you might want if scanning documents consisting of many pages.

    The PrimeFilm scanner takes about a minute for the pre-scan and then another
    minute for the final scan WITHOUT ICE3, ROC and GEM. If you turn those on,
    the scan runs over 5 minutes per frame.

    That might be OK for photographs, but it would be unacceptable for someone
    wanting to convert, say 100 pages of microfilmed text. A 36 exposure roll
    of film takes me over 3.5 HOURS to scan. Unless your requirements are very
    low-volume, I doubt you'd be happy with using film scanners on microfilm.
    jeremy, Jan 5, 2007
  13. And you need a _real_ 4800 dpi: a scanner that works
    as well at 4800 as most scanners do at 300.

    TTBOMK, that sort of beast does not exist in
    the photography world.

    Have you tried googling for 'microfilm scanner'
    & 'microfilm ocr'

    Hmmmm: 312,000 hits for 'microfilm scanner'.

    Seek ye and ye shall find.
    Nicholas O. Lindan, Jan 5, 2007
  14. skippy

    Peter Irwin Guest

    One possibility would be to see if your local reference library
    would let you use their scanner to scan your microfilm.
    It wouldn't hurt to ask. Be prepared to come at a time that
    the library isn't very busy.

    Peter Irwin, Jan 5, 2007
  15. skippy

    Scott W Guest

    A lot depends on what the microfilm is of and whether a clean black on
    white copy is needed or if a gray scale image can be used. I wend I
    scan a document that I simply want to be able to read on my computer
    screen I will scan it as a gray scale at between 100 and 150 ppi, if I
    am scanning in binary mode I will mostly scan at 300 ppi.

    If the microfilm is of an 8.5 x 11 document then even 2000 ppi is more
    then enough when scanning gray scale. If the micro film is of a whole
    news paper page then you might need a bit more resolution, but even
    then consider that an 8MP digital camera picks up all the detail needed
    for a newspaper page, this would be less then an 2400 ppi scan.

    Scott W, Jan 5, 2007
  16. skippy

    skippy Guest

    Yes, I have googled for microfilm scanners. There are several systems
    that are sold with computers as complete systems. They generally run
    from $5 to $10,000. I have to keep the budget for this project to what
    I'm willing to donate myself.

    We live in the bush were the library is a small part of the town
    building. My wife is the librarian. Wish we had such equipment but we
    don't. When I check with the State Archives they tell me the microfilm
    equipment needed to digitize old rolls is very pricy. I just can't
    believe in this age of technology we don't have a manual version of
    some high end scanner capable of doing this black and white job.

    I'm still wondering. If I sent a snippet of microfilm to someone that
    had a epson V700 could it be tried first before I go out and an buy

    Another question. If the focus distance for the Epson V700 is from 2
    to 4.5 mm off the glass, how does anyone ever scan a large negative
    that would be placed directly on the glass?

    I'm just a bit confused. I do like to hear that the scan time would
    probably range between 1 and 6 minutes per frame. That is totally in
    my time budget. The project should take less than 160 hours at that
    speed, and if I got lucky maybe half that.

    Any more thoughts anyone? Anyone with a Epson V700 willing to do a

    Skippy is Pete in Hyder
    skippy, Jan 6, 2007
  17. skippy

    skippy Guest

    Time is one thing we have here in the bush of Alaska (Lord willing).
    What we do not have is anything else that can't come by mail plane. I
    have an estimated 2000 images that need scanning, but if it can be done
    at 5 minutes each that's about 170 hours. That is acceptible to us
    here. If a lower bit scan goes faster and the time is halved, even

    Wish I had a store to try it at. Everything here is mail order through
    the internet. I have a small smippet of a different microfilm roll
    that is not from our project, but similar in image size and
    magnification. Is there anyone out there with a Epson V700 willing to
    let me mail them a snippet to try? Mail is slow here too (twice a
    week, weather permitting) but in a couple weeks you'd have the snippet
    (which I don't need back) and we'd all know if it worked.

    Being I'm here a few miles north of the middle of nowhere I'm still on
    dial up, so it might take a bit of time to download the trial run
    sample image, but hey, that's okay. Any takers?

    Skippy is Pete in Hyder
    skippy, Jan 6, 2007
  18. If this is a one-time deal I would look at a service
    bureau who will do it for you for some reasonable (ha!)

    Someone with the right equipment can crank it out
    with no muss, no fuss. Sitting in front of a scanner
    for 20 days, 8 hours/day - ye gads, there really must
    be nothing to do in an Alaskan winter.
    Nicholas O. Lindan, Jan 6, 2007
  19. skippy

    Mardon Guest

    I am willing to help if you can wait a couple of weeks (it would probably
    take that long for the test strip to arrive in the mail anyway.) As I said
    in my previous post, I have an Epson V750 on order. I'm told it will
    arrive in about 2 weeks. If you're willing to cut the microfilm into
    strips, I also have an old Agfa Duoscan T1200 that might do the trick and I
    can try my Nikon Coolscan IV also. Finally, I could photograph a frame
    using a macro lens on my Canon 20D DSLR and see if that might work. It
    could be interesting to compare the results from all four methods. You can
    email me for my postal address if you're interested. I live in Canada.
    Mardon, Jan 6, 2007
  20. skippy

    Alan Browne Guest


    Next player please.
    Alan Browne, Jan 6, 2007
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