Got a bunch of old negatives lying around? Pick up one of the best slide to digital image converters and you’ll be able to turn them into digital files, so you can preserve them forever. These handy gadgets are capable of handling a range of media formats, in all sizes, and they’re fairly compact too.
Most of the best slide to digital image converters come with small screens, so you can check that your image has scanned correctly and even make small tweaks to the image if necessary. However, if you need to do a lot of tweaking to a particular picture, then you’ll probably need to use some of the best photo editing software to really carefully restore it.
These scanning gadgets are reasonably priced, starting at around $50. However, if you would rather spend a little more money on your digitizing project - and a little less time - then you could try out one of the best photo scanning services. These companies do all the hard work for you, taking your old snaps and turning them into digital file formats. They’re especially useful if you have a wide range of formats you want to convert (such as video tape, printed photos and negatives) as they have access to machinery that can do this for you.
1. Wolverine Titan 8-in-1: Best slide to digital image converter overall
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
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. 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.
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 five 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.
The vast majority of models let you save images to an SD card to view on a compatible device, but many also have a TV-out jack so you can display images on your TV. 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. The majority of these screens 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.
Color & exposure adjustment
Most slide to digital image converters let you adjust color and exposure for each image right on the 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.
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 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 won’t 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.
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
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. 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.
Slide to digital image converter alternatives
Photo scanning service
We have an in-depth guide to the best photo scanning services available in the US, which can help you pick a company that can assist you with your project. The benefit of using one of these services, over buying your own gadget, is that they can save you a lot of time. They can also digitize a really wide range of formats, so you can send in old VHS tapes, 8mm film and other types of media to digitize. Most of the above machines can only handle negatives, slides and/ or photos.
In addition to these benefits, a lot of these companies provide add-on services for tweaking, restoring and editing images. So if you have some badly water damaged media, they can still rescue these pics. You simply have to send off your original media, specify exactly how you’d like for them to be returned and wait for someone else to do all the hard work for you.
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.
A relatively new type of device, these little gadgets are usually powered by batteries and work with your phone. The compact scanners feature miniature LED-powered backlights, which illuminate your negatives or 35 mm slides. These illuminated images can then be captured by the camera on your smartphone, which is slotted in place on top of the device.
There’s typically a separate app that you’ll need to download onto your smartphone to make this work, which usually comes with its own lightweight editing software. It’s not as powerful as something like Adobe Photoshop CC, but it allows you to do things like edit the exposure and saturation of the image, and send it easily too.
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
Once you’ve scanned all your images, you may want to tweak them a little, to bring out some bold colors or to crop them properly. You can do this by using some of the best photo editing software. These tools give you a lot of control over the image, allowing you to adjust brightness and contrast among other things.
It can be frustrating, when you have a lot of images, if you can’t find the ones you’re looking for. If you’ve scanned a large amount of files, we also recommend that you grab yourself some of the best photo organizing software. This can help you arrange your snaps so that you never lose them again. There’s a lot of crossover between the best photo editing and organizing software, so you only need to buy yourself one program to tweak and order your pics.