Slide to Digital Image Converter Review
How Can a Slide to Digital Image Converter Help You?
The top performers in our review are the Wolverine F2D Mighty, the Gold Award winner; the ION Film 2 SD Plus, the Silver Award winner; and the Jumbl 22MP All-In-One Film & Slide Scanner, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a slide to digital image converter to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
In today's world of easy smartphone and digital camera photography, we’re used to having all our photographs in the palms of our hands. Old slides and film negatives have become, however valuable, relics. They gather dust in attics or basements, memories sealed away and mostly forgotten. That's where slide to digital converters – slide scanners for short – come in.
Slide and negative scanners are portable devices that usually operate without being connected to a computer. You use them by placing your old media – slides, film negatives and even prints – into a plastic tray that comes with the scanner, then inserting that tray into the device. Inside, light illuminates the image, a camera snaps a photo of it and software automatically adjusts the exposure and color balance. Some converters have a small amount of internal storage capacity, but all have external SD card slots that can take expansion cards up to 32GB in size, which is more than enough to save every slide and negative in your garage or attic, and easily port them over to your computer for printing or sharing.
Slide Converters: What We Tested, What We Found
The best slide to digital converters should be compatible with a wide variety of slide and negative sizes, have a high-resolution output and offer easy portability. As we evaluated the most prominent slide and film to digital converters on the market, we asked these three questions: What types of slides and negatives does the converter accept? How crisp are the pictures it converts? Is the converter usable anywhere, without being tethered to a computer?
Be sure to consider compatibility, features, design elements and support options before buying a converter.
Compatibility: Looking Beyond 35mm
Every slide and negative scanner can convert 35mm film to a digital format. What sets them apart is what other media they can convert. Some have small, flatbed scanners you can use to convert photos, while others accept other film sizes such as 110, 126, 127 and even Super 8.
In our evaluations, we favored converters that are more likely to fit whatever needs you have, including converters that work with a wide variety of formats when converting slides to digital. We also prefer those that accept large, 5 x 7-inch photographs. You should check your slide collection and see what format your slides and negatives were taken in before picking a converter.
Additionally, the best converters provide you with a plastic frame for your raw film, similar to those for slides, helping it lay flat and not curl up. High-quality plastic frames should also allow you to gently insert and maneuver your film and slides so you won’t have to worry about bending or damaging them, or getting fingerprint smudges on them. We found that none of the plastic frames were labeled with the corresponding size of film or slide they’re meant for, though we figured out after a few minutes of experimentation that the correct size will securely hold your media, whereas otherwise the frame won’t click shut if it’s too large.
Features: Higher Resolution Is Better
Output resolution is a measurement, in megapixels (MP), of how clear and sharp your photos will be once they are converted to digital format. The more pixels that are in a photo, the more details the photo will contain and the bigger you can blow up the image. We favored converters with a resolution output of at least 14 MP in our comparison, though the best ones have outputs of at least 20 MP.
Greater resolution also gives image editing programs more data to work with, in turn making it easy to digitally remove dust and scratches. Many of the devices we tested come with a physical cleaning brush, which you can use to gently remove dust found on old film or slides. If the converters themselves feature built-in automated dust and scratch removal, so much the better.
Many images have basic image editing options built into them, such as exposure and color balance. This feature lets you brighten a dark image or adjust the coloring. In most cases, this is all the editing your images may need, though some products come with a companion CD of image editing software that you can use on your PC or Mac. We found that none of the editing abilities on these devices were extensive by any means. All you can really do is slightly brighten or darken a photo, or lightly tweak the red-blue-green composition.
All but one of the converters we reviewed are capable of standalone operation and aren’t dependent on connecting to a computer in order to run. Some units also have rechargeable batteries. These plug-and-play options make it easy to move the device around without being completely dependent on a plug or USB cord, which conveniently allows you to move to a different room or workspace as you need.
If you want to play back all of your newly converted images, these machines give you multiple options to do so. You can save your images to an SD card and view them on your computer or other device, or you can use the TV-out jack found on most devices to view images on a compatible TV. If you don’t need to see a large or high-definition version, any unit with an on-board screen will let you peruse all the images that you’ve saved thus far.
Design: Storage, Sensors and Accessories
Slide converters generally fall under one of two builds: a small unit about the size of a grapefruit, meant solely for slides and negatives, or a larger unit roughly three to four times as big, which is capable of handling slides and negatives as well as multiple sizes of physical printed photos. No unit weighs over 5 pounds, and in our testing we found all of them to be easy to maneuver and move to different locations.
Most of the units we tested also have built-in color screens that give you a preview of your images while you’re converting them. Most measure around 2.5 inches. While these small screens gave us an idea of how our photos would look once converted, it felt like the screens should still be larger, especially for the units with built-in editing functionality. Screens that were angled upward slightly were easier to view on a table than those that faced forward.
In addition to showing you an image preview, some screens let you to navigate a menu to select a format, adjust color and exposure, or view all of the images you’ve converted thus far. Most of the devices we tested have similar menus with the same few choices, but a few, like the Sharper Image Slide & Negative Converter, have a menu that is a cinch to navigate no matter what task you are performing.
Some devices come with basic accessories, like cables and a user manual, and the best converters include an SD card for easy storage. These are ideal since most converters don't work until you insert an SD card.
We also found that converters with cables and ports located in the rear of the device are easiest to use since they keep the wires out of your way. As for SD cards, we favor devices with SD card ports located on the front or sides for accessibility.
Help & Support: Answers and Information
For the most part, these devices are designed to be user-friendly, having simple interfaces and handy user manuals that come in the box. The manufacturer should also provide you with multiple resources that can answer your questions, troubleshoot an issue or show you how to use a certain aspect of the device. The best companies generally host a combination of resources on their websites, like a knowledgebase, a FAQs section, video tutorials, user manuals and a community user forum.
Companies should also provide you with at least one way to reach out to their technical customer support representatives, such as by phone or email.
Our hands-on testing is designed to simulate typical, real-world experiences with the prodfct. For our testing of slide to digital image converters, we purchased the devices just as a consumer would. The manufacturers have no input on our testing methodology, and our rankings are not shared with them prior to publication.
Slide to Digital Image Converters: Our Verdict and Recommendations
For most people looking to convert their slides and negatives to digital, the Wolverine F2D Mighty should prove more than capable. It’s extremely easy to use, has a high-resolution output and is compatible with a wide variety of negatives and slide formats, including Super 8. The ION Film 2 SD Plus feels well-made and comes with all the bells and whistles for premium users. Jumbl’s 22MP All-In-One Film & Slide Scanner works with all slide and negative formats and has the highest resolution output of any product on our lineup.
If you’re on a tight budget – or if you simply can’t justify spending a ton on a device you’ll only use for a short while, the Veho 3MP Slide & Negative Scanner is an inexpensive option, and it's one of just a few converters under $100. While the device did not rank high in our comparison and it lacks some of the flash of the best photo converters, it does a decent job converting 35mm film and 35mm and 110 film negatives. However, its maximum output resolution is a mere 3 MP, and it requires you to use a computer as it does not have standalone functionality.
Your cherished collections of memories needn’t be forgotten in storage, and finding the right converter can make all the difference. We recommend figuring out what sizes your old slides and negatives are before purchasing a converter, and once you find one, you’ll have your entire library of family history safely digitized and shared online in no time. Figure out what sizes your old slides and negatives are, read our articles on slide to digital converters if you're struggling to make up your mind, and you'll have your entire library of family history safely online in no time.