When you need to digitize your old photos, slides, and negatives, you can use the best slide to digital image converters to get this done. These are devices that allow you to create jpgs of your old photos and slides, so you can then store them on a computer or external hard drive to preserve them, and share them with family. Once you've digitized your slides, you can then either put all those boxes of old photos into storage, or get rid of them completely.
Getting one of the best slide to digital image converters is just the start, though. Once you've scanned your old photos and slides, you can then use any photo editing software to actually improve their quality, and clean up any imperfections or discoloring of the pictures. So you'll actually be able to make your older images look much better, and even print them out again, if you want to. You can then upload them and share them with friends and family online.
Of course, if you'd rather not buy a special piece of kit, and you'd be happy to pay a professional to convert your pictures, you can always use one of the best photo scanning services, which we recommend in our guide. If you have loads of pictures to convert - 100s - you'll save money buying a scanner and doing it yourself. If you don't have a massive number, maybe an external service is best.
1. Wolverine Titan 8-in-1: Best slide to digital converter overall
With its large display screen, an easy-to-use interface and unbeatable compatibility, the Wolverine Titan is the best slide to digital image converter. Though its 4.3-inch screen is the largest in our comparison, the Titan is still quite lightweight and portable. The large screen makes the converter easy to use, whether you need to simply scan slides or you want to make some light edits. At 20MP, the Titan has one of the highest quality sensors we found, which equates to better quality digital images.
Most of the image converters we tested are compatible with 35mm slides and film negatives, but the Wolverine Titan also supports 110 slides and film, 126 slides and film, and even Super 8 film. This versatility makes it ideal if you need to convert a variety of media formats.
However, this converter can’t digitize physical photo prints. In our tests, the scanning process was straightforward thanks to the included plastic frame holders and labeled slots at the base of the device. It is a stand-alone scanner, so it works without a connection to a computer, though you can connect the Titan to a TV for an improved viewing experience.
2. Digitnow Film Scanner: Best value converter
The Digitnow Film Scanner is a small, smartly designed slide to digital image converter. Despite looking simple and generic, it feels high quality. The scanner ships with a soft brush for cleaning dust and other debris off your film and slides, along with a user manual, TV cable, power cable and plastic frame trays to hold your media during the conversion process.
Each of the included frame trays has a notch on the bottom, so you can only slide it in so far; to cycle through photos, you have to push in a new slide or piece of film manually. Buttons for navigating the converter’s menu are located along the top of the device. It has all the standard buttons, as does the software’s menu, except for editing options.
However, that’s a common omission for this type of product. As we tested, we felt like some of the selections could be more intuitively labeled – for example, it says “film” when “film type” might have made it more intuitive. The converter works with 35mm, 110 and 126 film and slides as well as Super 8 film. Once digitized, images seemed to be of decent quality overall but certainly not the best we saw – they looked slightly overexposed and had a bluish tint.
3. Hammacher Schlemmer: Best warranty among converters
While the Hammer Schlemmer Slide and Negative converter works as a stand-alone machine, its computer connectivity, editing software and powerful lifetime warranty set it apart from the rest. The converter itself uses a 14MP sensor to digitize a variety of classic negative formats, including 35mm film and slides, 110 film and slides, and even 126 film and slides.
The only formats it isn’t compatible with are Super 8 film and physical photo prints. Though many of the top-ranked converters can also handle Super 8, it’s relatively uncommon for these devices to be compatible with it. The scanner has a 2.5-inch display, which is just slightly larger than those on most of the other converters we reviewed. The larger a converter’s screen, the easier it is to view and edit your images.
Since this Hammacher Schlemmer converter is a standalone device, you don’t have to connect it to a computer for it to work. The included rechargeable battery lasts up to three hours, so you don’t have to be tethered to an outlet. The scanner comes with plastic frame holders for your media and a USB cable to connect it to your PC or Mac.
4. Sharper Image Slide and Negative converter: Most portable option
Weighing in at just 0.6 pounds, the Sharper Image Slide & Negative Converter is a great portable image converter. With the on-screen interface available in seven languages, it’s a useful tool for any workspace. The device’s small stature does not mean it has decreased functionality, in comparison with the other image converters we tested.
However, despite its compatibility with standard 35mm film and slides, the Sharper Image digitizer lacks compatibility with any other type of film or slides. And like many other converters, it cannot process physical photo prints.
The Sharper Image converter uses a 14MP sensor to scan and digitize your photos, and even offers manual and automatic exposure adjustment in order to make sure they look great. It is moderately easy to use, with a basic interface and a few buttons that are clearly labeled. The converter comes with a cleaning brush, a user manual and well-made plastic frame trays, which hold your slides and film securely during the conversion process. The biggest downside is that the converter does not come with any internal storage or an SD card.
The converter does not work without an inserted SD card, which means you must buy one on top of the cost of the device. Even so, it’s worth considering because of its ease of use and sleek, portable form factor.
5. Kodak Scanza: Largest storage option
The Kodak Scanza is a powerful and capable slide to digital image converter. It combines great ease of use with extensive film format compatibility and storage capacity. The device has a sleek, small design that makes it easy to use and store. It has a plastic design and feels lightweight yet sturdy.
The only thing we didn’t like about its physical design was the incredibly short cord, which may restrict how much you can move it around while using it. It does, however, ship with three plug types, which is handy should you decide to travel with it or ship it to an international friend overseas.
The included plastic frame trays are easy to open up and maneuver. In our tests, they never got stuck and always moved smoothly. Once you’ve got an image lined up within the scanner, you can flip it horizontally and vertically if needed.
The buttons atop the device are clearly labeled and intuitive, and you can set the interface to run in one of eight languages as needed. In our tests, images seen before scanning appeared well lit by the Scanza, with blues, reds and greens showing up nicely and accurately. The resultant digitized photos looked extremely impressive.
How we tested Slide to Digital Image Converters
Our team of testers has years of experience working digital archiving and converting tech. We spent more than 60 hours testing and researching the best slide to digital image converters, learning about how to handle older media formats, evaluating alternative options and keeping up with the industry. We know that your classic photos and film are precious, so we want to make it as safe as possible to preserve your memories in an updated format.
In order to fully evaluate a product lineup, we first research every facet of the category. For slide to digital image converters, we gathered information about older media formats, including the most popular sizes and how to properly clean and store old slides. In addition to this general knowledge, we researched converter-specific information to narrow down our options to only the best image converters. Then, we conducted hands-on testing with the best products on the market to find out the things you can’t learn from a specs sheet. We ran various formats of media through the machines to test their user-friendliness, features, performance, efficacy and end results.
Key features to look for when buying Digital Image Converters
When choosing a converter, it’s best to start with a good idea of the kinds of media you need to digitize. Every slide to digital converter in our comparison can convert 35mm slides and negatives, so in addition to that, we specifically looked for slide scanners that could accommodate other types of media, such as 110 slides and negatives, 126 slides and negatives, Super 8 film and even physical photo prints. We found that the capabilities of these converters tend to fall into one of two categories: able to convert all slide and film formats but not Super 8 or physical prints, or able to convert 35mm slides and film, along with physical prints, but nothing else.
The best slide to digital image converters come with plastic frame holders for each media size they are compatible with. These secure each slide or piece of film and keep it flat while the converter scans and digitizes it. High-quality plastic frames should allow you to gently maneuver the film or slides without bending, damaging or smudging them.
These inexpensive slide and negative scanners work slowly, loading either one strip of film at a time or up to three slides at a time. While this isn’t horrible if you only have a small number of slides to convert, it can be unbearably time consuming if you have boxes upon boxes of classic media that needs to be digitized. Plan on it taking upwards of one minute per slide. If you have a high quantity of slides to convert, you may want to consider a professional scanner service.
The output resolution of a slide to digital image converter indicates how clear the digital images will be in megapixels (MP). A larger output resolution usually means a clearer and more detailed digitized image. This also means you can enlarge the image while still retaining quality, and higher-resolution images can be easier to edit.
Keep in mind that these converters aren’t magic and, as such, can’t make a low-quality image suddenly clearer. If you have a fuzzy old photo, you won’t end up with a high-resolution image. A small, low-resolution slide or print won’t necessarily look better digitized, nor will it hold up if you’re hoping to blow it up to an enormous size. The software within these machines can’t work that level of miracle. Given this, we mildly favored converters that claim a 22GB output resolution, but we didn’t heavily penalize those that don’t in our rankings.
What you can expect are slight improvements thanks to the image-editing options built into these devices. Many include exposure and color balance options, which let you brighten a dark image or adjust the coloring. Some scanners include a companion CD with even more image editing software compatible with both PC and Mac systems. Even with the accompanying disc, none of the converters have extensive editing abilities, especially compared to powerhouse programs like Adobe Photoshop. All you can really do is slightly brighten or darken a photo or tweak the red-blue-green composition.
Most models let you save images to an SD card to view on a compatible device, and many also have a TV-out jack so you can display images on your TV. If you don’t need to see a large, high-definition version of your images, any unit with an onboard screen will let you preview all the images that you have saved.
Slide scanners generally fall under one of two build designs: a small unit the size of a grapefruit meant solely for slides and negatives, or a larger unit roughly twice as big and capable of handling slides, negatives and multiple sizes of physical prints. No unit weighs more than 5 pounds, so they’re easy to move around. Most converters we reviewed have standalone operation and don’t need to be connected to a computer to function. Some units also have rechargeable batteries so you’re not tethered to an outlet.
Most converters require an SD card to work, so the best models include one in the package. Some devices are also accompanied by the necessary cables and a user manual. We found converters with cables and ports located in the rear of the device are easiest to use because they keep the wires out of your way. We also favored devices with SD card ports located on or near the front of the device because they’re easy to access.
Models with built-in color screens give you a preview of your images before and after converting. Most measure around 2.5 inches, so while they give you an idea of how your photos will look once converted, the preview is small. Screens that were angled upward slightly were easier to view on a table than those that faced straight forward.
In addition to displaying an image preview, some screens let you select a format, adjust color and exposure, or view all the images you’ve converted so far. Most of the devices we tested have similar menus with the same set of choices, though a few are particularly easy to navigate.
Color & Exposure Adjustment
Sometimes classic media, like film negatives and slides, can fade or become discolored over time if not properly stored. Thankfully, most slide to digital image converters let you adjust color and exposure for each image right on the device.
What kinds of editing features are availability vary by device. Some allow you to make digital edits before converting, so you can see what the final product looks like before conversion, whereas others only let you make edits after digitizing the image. We recommend a converter that lets you edit the image before conversion; that way you don’t end up with multiple copies of each picture.
We found that the best devices give you granular control over how much red, green and blue you can apply to each picture, rather than preset amounts. The same goes for adjusting the brightness for your image.
If you don’t feel like you have a knack for doing these kinds of edits, or would rather not fuss with them directly on these devices, you have other options. You can use external software like Adobe Photoshop to clean up and adjust your newly digitized images, or you can send them off to a professional photo editing service.
Standalone vs. Computer-Dependent Converters
There are two main types of digital converters - ones with standalone functionality and ones that must be connected to a computer to work. Standalone converters are the smaller of the two and have small display screens built into them, which you can use to preview and edit your images or navigate the menu to find other settings. This style of converter is easy to move around and woke take up much space when in storage.
The other option is converters that require a hard connection to a computer to run. These converters are much larger than standalone converters and are most commonly flatbed scanners. They do not have a built-in screen and their bulky design makes them somewhat difficult to move around, so we recommend leaving them out on your desk. Consider what you’d prefer before just buying one.
Help & Support
For the most part, these devices are designed to be user-friendly, with simple interfaces and handy user manuals that accompany the scanner in the box. Many manufacturers also provide you with multiple resources as a means for you to troubleshoot problems or learn how to use a specific feature. Most companies also host informational resources on their websites, from walkthroughs and video tutorials to digital user manuals, a hearty FAQs section and an active community user forum. The best companies should also provide you with at least one method of contacting their customer support representatives, should you ever need to discuss a question with them directly.
Cleaning your media before scanning it
For many people, their old slides, negatives and printed photos are stored in a closet, basement or attic, where they are susceptible to dust, mold, water damage or even fire. As a result, these slides can be coated in grime and particles that make it difficult for a slide to digital image converter to do its job. If you digitize your classic media without first cleaning it, any gunk on them will also appear in your converted image.
Few slide to digital image converters have a built-in scratch removal feature, or come with basic photo editing software, so it’s important to try and remove as much debris as possible from each of your slides or negatives beforehand. All the converters in our comparison do come with simple soft brushes for your media, which generally do a good job of removing most debris. However, you can also try using a soft cloth, compressed air or anything else along those lines.
Even after using a brush or cloth, you may still see imperfections in your newly digitized photos. If that is the case, Photoshop or another photo editing software may remove unwanted scratches or dirt or revitalize color. You can also trust your classic media to a professional conversion service, both of which we’ll talk about in the next section.
Don't want to do it yourself? These are the top professional photo scanning services
Whether you’re hesitant about buying an image converter you’ll only use for a day or two, or you simply don’t want the hassle of manually digitizing your classic media, you can send them off to a professional photo scanning service, like ScanCafe. Many of these businesses offer editing, retouching and printing services as well, so it may be more worthwhile in the long run to send off your slides and film negatives rather than dealing with them yourself.
From our research, we found that the best photo scanning services are upfront with their pricing and other pertinent information. They should provide details regarding what image sizes and formats they can work with, their price per image, whether or not they work with damaged media, what digital and physical output options they have as well as what their turnaround time is. You should also be able to easily find information about shipping liability, minimum order requirements and how to submit your film and slides.
In addition to researching the logistics of a particular photo scanning service, you should also look at customer reviews and how others rate their services. Remember to read both good and bad reviews of a business, especially for services that match what you’re needing.