Scancafe was my first experience with a professional photo, slide and negative scanning service. Many people over the age of 30 have or once had a film camera. Many of those same people have hundreds or thousands of negatives, slides or photos that they would love to have in digital format. To help fill this need a number of online photo scanning services have cropped up in the last several years.
During this time ScanCafe.com has developed into a market leader delivering high quality, low cost scanning of 35mm slides and negatives, photos, medium format color negatives and 110/126/127 color slides and negatives. Recently I gained some firsthand experience with ScanCafe’s services when I sent 150 35mm color negatives to them for scanning.
A Little Photo Scanning Background Information.
My photography efforts go back well before the arrival of digital cameras. Having thousands of 35mm negatives, I’ve gone through a few attempts to gain digital access to my images over the last several years. I purchased an excellent quality Microtek flatbed scanner for my DIY computer scanning efforts and I also used a couple of local services to scan a small number of negatives. The time, effort and cost involved in scanning them myself or the cost of paying to have my negatives scanned by a local service have been a continuing impediment to my digital dreams. Tech Tip: unless you have lots of time and patience consider outsourcing the project.
Even with my own less than positive hands-on scanning experiences I was still very wary about sending my precious negatives off into the ether just to get them into digital format. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I placed my order online with Scan Cafe. The results: forty five days later I received a DVD with my scans and my precious negatives back and I really couldn’t be happier with the results. Scan quality is excellent, I received all my negatives back in perfect condition, and the whole process with including tax, shipping and an extra charge for the TIFF format came to $75 for 150 negatives. It would have been about $30 less if I used the standard JPG format.
Benefits of the ScanCafe Solution
ScanCafe’s web site has quite a bit of useful information on photo, negative and slide scanning and photo restoration along with detailed descriptions of their different services and the processes they use. I am not a photography expert so I can’t offer an expert’s analysis of the scan quality but here are some of the benefits that I found with the services they offer:
- Excellent quality – I am very pleased with the scan quality of all of the 150 35mm color negatives.
- Great prices – With tax and shipping the cost was $.50/image. TIFF format added $.19/scan so in JPG format the cost would have been $.31/image.
- Wide range of scanning services including photos, negatives, slides and different formats
- High resolution for standard service – 3000 dpi for slides & negatives, 600 dpi for prints.
- Pro Level services available – 4000 dpi for slides & negatives, 1200 dpi for prints, TIFF Raw format.
- Image restoration and repair services available if needed
Two other important benefits at ScanCafe:
Pay only for what you keep – after the scanning is complete you can review your images online and decide which ones you want. This is a great option since it allows you to skip the potentially laborious process of deciding which negatives or slides to send or not send in for scanning. At the time of order you pay for 50% of estimated charges and can reject up to 50% of the scans at the time of review and not have to pay for the rejected scans.
Order status updates – ScanCafe provides email updates when your package arrives at their facility, when it arrives at the scanning facility, when the scanning processing begins, and at various other points along the way. You also have online access to your order status at any point in the process.
Potential Downsides with ScanCafe Services
Life is full of trade-offs and nothing is perfect. From my personal experience I encountered two downsides with ScanCafe, one is more general and one is based on my specific needs. The larger issue for most people will be the time it takes to complete the process and receive the finished scans. The service can take 45 days or more from the time you send your material to ScanCafe until the time you receive your final results. Your material is repackaged and sent offshore (to India according to the person at ScanCafe that I spoke with). This explains both the extended time required and the low cost. Unfortunately ScanCafe does not offer any type of “rush” charge to lower the turnaround time.
Another downside was more based on my specific needs. My father had taken a huge number of black and white medium format family photos with his Voigtlander camera decades ago. My efforts in getting these medium format negatives into digital form have been a bit challenging. I was looking for a service that would scan medium format black and white negatives. ScanCafe only offers scanning for color medium format negatives. Hopefully they will add a service for medium format black and white negatives in the future.
Update: In September 2009 ScanCafe began offering scanning services for medium format black and white negatives. Yay. I will be doing a review post once my first batch of medium format scans have returned. Stay tuned.
A Big “Thumbs Up”
All things considered, I would heartily recommend the ScanCafe service. They provide excellent quality at a great price. Although the time it takes for the entire process is a bit long, in hindsight it really isn’t. Many times your negatives, slides or photos may have been sitting in a closet or attic or on a bookcase for years. If that is the case then waiting another 45 days to have your images in digital format probably isn’t very significant.
If you are considering scanning large amounts of slides, negatives or prints on your own, do yourself a favor and point your browser at: ScanCafe.com. Don’t waste the time and money trying to do it yourself. In the end, if you are at all like me, you most likely will never get around to it. To see some calculations on the time involved for DIY photo or negative scanning projects see the do-it-yourself section at ScanCafe. If you would like more information on scanning visit Wayne Fulton’s ScanTips site for a wealth of scanning information. For an addtional resource with a wealth of info on digital photography be sure to see our post on “Digital Photography Review – an excellent photography resource.”