You might already have an idea what the best slide to digital image converters could do for you. From turning negatives into digital images to converting your slides into a more accessible form – these can bring older format imagery into the digital age.
Of course the first great point about using a slide to digital image converter is that your physical media is no longer so fragile, since you now have a digital back-up. This can even mean tidying up and enhancing the physical version which may have degraded over time or suffered damage. In fact, using the best photo editing software you could find the image looks even better than when it was first taken.
That said, some converters will come with a screen that allows you to make adjustments to the images right there as you scan them in, saving you time and effort on editing.
This list will collate all the best physical slide to image converters, but you may find that buying the device is more expense and effort than you wanted. In that case you may be better served by using one of the best photo scanning services instead. Want to get it done yourself? Great, read on to find the best partner to help bring your physical images into the digital world.
1. Wolverine Titan 8-in-1: Best slide to digital image converters top pick
This machine scored full marks in our testing process, thanks to its ability to handle multiple formats and its easy-to-use interface. It also packs a generously large 4.3-inch screen, which made it easy to check the scan quality of images and do some basic tweaking. On top of this, the Titan has one of the highest quality sensors we found (20MP) which equates to better quality digital images. Despite all of these features, this is still a compact and lightweight machine, available at a reasonable price.
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
Don’t let the price tag on this machine fool you. It’s a capable little gadget, which was more than capable of handling our old negatives and slides. The only real issue we had with this machine was that it packs a very small display, but you can easily plug it into your TV screen, PC or MacBook for a better viewing experience.
This gadget also ships with a lot of helpful additional tools. It comes 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. Plustek ePhoto Z300: Best for digitizing photos
If you're here looking for photo scanners, and not just slide converters, then the Plustek Z300 is for you. It's a compact, simple photo scanner, which will happily scan and digitize an old 6x4 photo in about 2-3 seconds. It connects directly to a PC or Mac, and will send the digital file to your hard drive instantly. From there you can use the scanner's built-in editor to crop and resize images, or opt to do closer image work with specialized photo editing software.
What we love about this device is the speed at which it scans, and how easily it'll chew through large batches of images. It'll even protect your pictures too, with smooth rollers that feed the photo through the machine itself.
The downside here is that it'll only do photos. And while it's fast, you can get similar results with most modern printers, which cost less than the $200 this regularly retails for. We recommend this if you've got a lot of old photos and want to get them digitized quickly. If you're working with photos, film, and 35mm slides... you'll need to combine this with another device on this list.
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 the best slide to digital image converters
We spent more than 60 hours testing and researching the best slide to digital image converters, gathering information about older media formats and noting the most popular sizes for converting slides. 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 slide to digital image converters
As far as we could find there isn't a do-it-all converter that covers all types of media. So it's worth making sure you know all the types you have that need converting before you decide which gadget to go for. Some can convert film, 35mm slides and physical prints but no more. While others could do all slide and film formats but no Super 8 or physical prints. Another option is to get the converter that specializes as you need and send any others off to be converter by a service.
Don't expect any of these devices to be fast, as they're all about precision and quality first. Most will convert three slides at a time or a strip of film and you can expect them to take around a minute for either. Once again, a professional scanning service could be a viable alternative if you have lots and lots to convert.
Getting the best possible digital version of your slide or negative is the key here and one specification that can affect that is the megapixels of the camera used. As you may know from your phone, the higher the count, the better the resolution. That doesn't mean the quality is going to be enhance, to be clear, it just means more detail which is ideal if you want to blow up the image larger.
Slide to digital photo converters aren't massive with your basic slides and negative converter taking up the size of a football at largest. Some do come with small screens to help with preventing or even editing images as you scan. But even these only have screens of about 2.5-inches so don't expect to see a lot of detail – we recommend editing on a computer after the scan for best results when using damaged images. Since most of these devices come with SD cards it makes scanning independently of another device possible, storage simple and moving them to other devices easy.
Color & exposure adjustment
While editing on a small screen may seem a waste of time, it can prove fruitful. Some devices let you make basic adjustments like color and exposure changes there before you scan. As such you can end up with an image closer to what you want, or ideal, without needing to make multiple or to worry about editing on another device.
Some devices even let you have granular control over how much red, green and blue - as well as brightness - you want as opposed to preset amounts.
Standalone vs. computer-dependent converters
Of the two types of device available the standalone one has the screen and allows edits on the device. These are compact and make for fast work. The other type connects to a computer to run. These send the image to the machine for editing and are much larger in size, more like a flatbed scanner.
Help and 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.
We’ve primarily reviewed scanners which are suitable for the average user. These range in cost from about $150 - $350, with the higher end machines being capable of scanning a wider variety of formats. It’s also possible to get machines that will set you back $1000s. These are primarily used by professionals, who need to bulk scan negatives and slides. The smaller machines are perfectly adequate for most individuals. It may take you a little while to scan through images, negative by negative, but you’ll also have a great degree of control over the process.
Cleaning your media before scanning it
A clean negative or slide is a clear negative or slide. The clearer you can get the original source material the better the scanned result can look. Thankfully most of the converters in this guide come packaged with a soft brush for you to clean your media. But if there's real grime on there you may need to carefully work it away with a cloth. Another effective cleaning method includes compressed air that could be worth buying also.
Slide to digital image converter alternatives
Photo scanning service
You may find that one of the best photo scanning services in the US are better suited to your needs. If buying all the kit to clean, scan and edit then organize your photos seems like a bit much – in terms of cost and time – then having a service take care of it for you may be better. These also cover a wider range of media including things like VHS and 8mm tape.
These services are also specialists when it comes to resorting imagery. That can mean physically cleaning up the media but it could also mean professional level image editing after the scan to enhance it to its best potential. Unless you're a pro or a serious hobbyist, chances are you're going to get a better end result from using one of these services.
Pricing is up front with freedom to vary image sizes, media type, damaged or fine images, output options and so on. You will need to pay for shipping as you send these to them and have them sent back afterwards - so you get to keep the original media materials as well as getting the digital version, so be sure you factor that in.
Another method is to scan using a bit of hardware connected to your phone. The scanner is essentially an LED light to illuminate 35mm slides or negatives, which are held in place for your smartphone camera to do the work of capturing the image.
These usually come with an app which allows for the image to be imported and edited. Just expect that to be the basics, so nothing like Adobe Photoshop CC, for example.
Kodak offers one of these scanning gadgets, and there’s a new device called PictoScanner available too. We can’t attest to the quality of the scans produced by these miniature machines, having not tried them directly ourselves, but these gadgets are usually more affordable then the comprehensive options outlined above.
Photo editing and organizing software
Scanning your images into the digital world is just the first step in seeking picture perfection. Get yourself one of the best photo editing software options and you can turn those images into enhanced versions for all sorts of uses. From photobooks to blown up prints, it's all more possible thanks to editing.
It's also worth looking at the best photo organizing software if you plan to do a whole bunch at once. While some photo editors may offer features that do this, if yours doesn't then a dedicated platform can end up saving you time and effort in the long run.