What Do You Get When You Spend $60 on a Film Scanner?

Photography can be an expensive business, and for those shooting film, while they might occasionally save some money on camera bodies, the process of digitizing images can present some financial hurdles. Just how good can a film scanner be when it only costs $60? This short video from Negative Feedback finds out.

The DIGITNOW! 135 film scanner will set you back a meager $59.99 on Amazon, and the reviews give it a respectable 3.5 stars out of a possible 5. Whether it is actually scanning the image is hard to say, as it seems to be a five-megapixel camera in a box that shines a light through camera film.

One thing that can be said is that the process of digitizing an individual image is quite fast, though the Amazon description of “High Resolution” might be a little misleading. Given the visibility of individual pixels when you zoom in, it’s possible that the unit is upscaling its photographs to fit its description of producing 5- and 10-megapixel files.

If you’re asking yourself if this is a serious tool, remember: it costs $59.99. That should be enough information to go on. That said, if you have a ton of family photos that you want to see on a screen, there are probably worse options out there.

Have you found a cheaper option? Let us know in the comments below.

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Rappaport Arts's picture

Ok, you people really should stop calling these things "scanners" (it uses a tiny, crappy, digital camera to copy the film frame by taking a photograph of it). AND, you people should really stop calling digitization of film/print by shooting it with a digital camera "scanning". Words have meanings.

If you have a real scanner would you call the scanning process "photographing" or your scanner a "camera"? Of course not. It would be absurd. So, why is it OK to call shooting a film/print with a camera "scanning"?

Maybe, I am just too old. Oh well, it's a beautiful day today, I am going to go to the park to "scan" some flower pictures with my digital camera.

Petr Svitil's picture

I can only assume the word "scannning" has become by implication synonomous to "digitizing". Its probably a generational thing

Spy Black's picture

Being as film scanners are almost as obsolete as film itself, I'm surprised people haven't taken this concept to a higher plane and actually made a box like this that took really good quality images of the negs and chromes and had the proper data processing software to extract a high quality "scan" of the images on the film. Mass-produced properly, it could make for a new generation of inexpensive but high quality film copiers.

Rappaport Arts's picture

To produce a machine as you described ("a box like this that took really good quality images of the negs and chromes and had the proper data processing software") would cost so much that it would have to be sold at a price point close to a mid-range true scanner. But at this price point, you would be better off buying a true scanner anyway. A $60 widget is not going to give you good quality at all.

I have done comparison between results from (a) dedicate film scanner - Nikon CoolScan 5000, (b) film scanning module in a flatbed scanner - Epson V850 Pro, (c) camera capture with proper lighting setup using Nikon D750 and (d) a $90 fake scanner box (the kind this article is written about) from Amazon.

The result from (d) is a joke. Unusable. (a) is the best. (b) & (c) tie. (b) & (c) each has its own pros and cons. (b) has better dynamic range and color accuracy. (c) is sharper.

Spy Black's picture

Yeah, but nobody's making quality film scanners anymore. For instance, all modern film scanners have no focusing mechanisms or Newtonian glass carriers. If you repurposed mirrorless tech into a well made unit that can make high quality copies of negs and chromes and has a well design software interface, it doesn't matter if it costs the same or more than any modern scanner, you have a precision film copy camera. Technically you can do this with a high res body, appropriate macro optic and a film holder, but a well made unit could be designed to do it faster and even be able to batch copy.

Michael L's picture

And then there's scanner backs for large format cameras

Rappaport Arts's picture

Are you referring to "digital backs". Yes, they exist but they are not scanners either. Essentially it is using a digital sensor on a large format camera like you would a sheet film. HOWEVER, there are true scanner backs for LF cameras. You use them to make high quality scans of over-sized flat arts like paintings and such. https://www.betterlight.com/products4X5.html

Wendell Cheek's picture

About a year ago, I bought the Kodak Mobile Film Scanner, for $39.99, from Amazon. This also is not a scanner, and doesn't even have a camera.... it uses your cell phone. However, the photos turn out well enough to look good on social media, and I know of at least one person who is digitizing family slides from the last 50 years, giving copies to extended family, who have been grateful to have photos that they had no access to before now. For forty bucks, it is a good buy, and the cell phone software does a great job. The app from Kodak even has color neg and b&w neg reversal, and basic enhancement functions. I would never call it professional, but it is quick and easy, and results are usually quite good.

Rappaport Arts's picture

It is just as easy to call it "digital camera copy" or "digital camera capture". I still don't understand why so many people insist on using the wrong terminology. Like I said before, you wouldn't call "taking a photo", "scanning a photo", right? So, why would it be OK to call photographing a print/film "scanning"?

The only reason I can think of for the reason why the wrong terminology is so prevalent is that widget manufacturers started to call these boxes "scanners" in order to sell them to innocent, non-techie home users who don't want to or can't afford to pay a professional lab to properly scan boxes of old films. It's all marketing.