Duncan Wilcock

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Thursday, July 07, 2022

Rapidly Digitize 35mm Slides: My Workflow

I've recently taken on digitizing 35mm slides taken by my prolific-photographer of a father - Ross Wilcock.   It's a quite a job, I estimate about 25,000 photographs. I'll share a photo of the storage drawers later in the post.

I've worked out a process that is proving much faster than I initially imagined, and I'm now optimistic it's a job I could complete in the next 12 months.   It might be 100 hours of work, or perhaps a lot less, as I've been getting faster.

This post is to document the tools and a few tips I've learned so far.    The short version is to buy A & B below & off you go!

A.  Capture Device: Wolverine Titan 8-in-1 High Resolution Film to Digital Converter 

Quick Review and Disclaimer:

This Wolverine product is, I would say:  so-so.  

  1. The resolution is high at close to 6000 pixels on the longest side (quoted as 20 megapixels...)
  2. The workflow is relatively quick (although my slides don't slide through the feeder properly, so I'm putting them into it one by one.)  In all, it's still quite a fast workflow.  
  3. Seeing them on the screen immediately allows some adjustment and framing.  It also means that the device is stand alone, so I can work without a laptop.  Combined these two things are nice for my mom and my 4 year old son, so we can also set up and do it in different places, and they get to see the slides as we scan them.   It's also useful for a quick close up, if I can't see details from the light table. (see next major heading)

Cons: Criticisms are mostly about photo quality.  
  1. The digital photos have "digital noise" in them.   This is a technical way of saying that the scan quality could be better.  Lots of pixels, but unfortunately close-up the images aren't as good as I think they could be.   Alternative #1 below might do better, but would add time & expense - so much that I wouldn't actually get the job done.   I'm setting aside the best of the photos, and at a future time I may find a way to do them at even higher quality, but  - we'll see.  I'm choosing to decide this process is good enough.   They are very much better than not being scanned at all.
  2. The above mentioned slide feeding not working for me is disappointing.  It might work better with thinner slides, perhaps if they were mounted in paper, rather than the plastic mounts my father used.

  1. A fancier rig I've seen, but I've decided I don't currently have the patience or time for is linked here.
  2. I had London Drugs scan some for me a few years ago, and the quality was also not good. Much lower resolution, and I don't recall being impressed by how they turned out. It was also relatively expensive, and the lack of control in the process I found frustrating.

B. Inexpensive Light Table

Here is a link to buy this on amazon.ca

I've only had it a few days, but so far it's been cheap & cheerful.  I bought the A4 size and it was $30, delivered the next day.   Amazon is amazing (and also crazy.)

Some of the Results

My father, my mother and brothers, beside the Bow River in BC, Canada - in summer 1976.   New Canadians at the time!

Us with our "yellow submarine" - a VW camper my parents were thrilled to be able to drive off the lot in Vernon, BC (8 month waitlist in England at the time!).  All five of us lived in it, our first few months living in Canada.

Overall Slide Capture Commentary

I promised a photo of the job ahead, and here it is:  32 drawers, I think about 800 photos in each, for a total of 25,000 photos.   One thing that is speeding it up, is that so far about 90% of the photos I'm finding are not worth scanning.   They're still fun to look at, and see what drew his attention at the time (he passed in 2008, so I can't ask him).  It's a fun way to connect with him and what was in his mind at these ages.   My 4 year old is enjoying the process, and including my mother is really nice for her too.

The job:  About 25,000 slides.  I'm hoping to complete this in 100 hours or less.  Ask me in about it in 2023......!!  (Note: this photo taken with iPhone - not with the slide converter, much less digital noise.)