Negative Scanning: Part 1

Christopher Rath



When my grandparents died, they left an attic full of old unlabelled prints and negatives; unfortunately, when they died they took with them knowledge of those featured in the photos. A photo containing unknown people is of little value, and so the boxes pictures were sent to the dumpster.

Growing up, Jean and I both took photos with so-called Instamatic cameras: both 110 and 126 film formats. After we met, we upgraded to an SLR and 135 film. While we eventually upgraded to a digital camera, we have a lot of negatives for which we no longer have prints.

For many of our older negatives, if we do not document those featured in the pictures they too will be so much landfill once we die; or, simply become too old to remember. This fact has spurred me to undertake the project of scanning and documenting our negatives. The documentation process could be done by having the negatives printed on paper; but, this doesn't allow the images to be shared with anyone, and prints cost as much as scans to we're better off to digitise instead of print.

Testing The Waters

The firm I used to digitise my father's 8mm movies, DigiteckMedia, also scans 135 negatives and slides. I exchanged email with the proprietor, to try and settle on exactly how to have the scanning done: he offers 2,000 dpi and 4,000 dpi scanning, with output supplied as either TIFF or JPEG files. I ultimately decided to send DigiteckMedia a small batch of negatives and try out each of the available options.

File Type


Avg. File Size

$ / Frame


2,000 dpi

28.8 meg  

$ 0.50


4,000 dpi

115.3 meg  

$ 0.80


2,000 dpi

6.2 meg  

$ 0.40


4,000 dpi

29.0 meg  

$ 0.70

Note, the extra cost for the TIFFs is due to the difference in image size; processing time is extended when producing TIFF files.

Test Results

As you can see in the images, below, there is no appreciable difference between the JPEG and TIFF images; however, there is a dramatic difference between the 2,000 and 4,000 dpi scans (the tags in the JPEG files indicate that DigiteckMedia is using a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED).

The images shown here are cropped sections of two negative scans, and a slide scan. Click on the photos to see full resolution images. In the 4,000 dpi images the film's grain is clearly visible; however, the grain is not visible in the 2,000 dpi images. In the 2,000 dpi images you will see that individual pixels are larger than the individual grains.

Image 1

When you open the image, look at the writing on the sign next to the car and the diagonal windscreen.

Negative-1 2,000 dpi JPEG Negative-1 2,000 dpi TIFF Negative-1 4,000 dpi JPEG Negative-1 4,000 dpi TIFF

Image 2

This plane was a very small in the picture.  Open the image and see how the plane is a collection of pixels in the 2,000 dpi images.

Negative-2 2,000 dpi JPEG Negative-2 2,000 dpi TIFF Negative-2 4,000 dpi JPEG Negative-2 4,000 dpi TIFF


For the remaining 135 film scans, I will request 4,000 dpi images delivered as JPEGs.  The quality of the scans from Digiteck Media is excellent and I will utilise their services for the remaining 135 scans.


See the following sites for further information:

ęCopyright 2011 Christopher & Jean Rath
Telephone: 613-824-4584
Address: 1371 Major Rd., Ottawa, ON, Canada K1E 1H3
Last updated: 2015/02/14 @ 21:33:56 ( )