Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A Quick and Dirty Way To Convert 35 mm Slides To Digital Format

Okay so you have just stumbled across several hundred 35mm slides your Great Uncle took in the 1960's - so how to handle them. What follows is a simple method to convert them to digital format using your digital camera and a 35mm Slide Viewer. Converting them will allow you to organize them in some pattern and determine if you want to sent them to a professional service to have converted to a digital format. The professional service will charge between 30 cents to 50 cents a slide. Since most 35mm slides were of a family vacation and 35mm slide lent themselves well to scenery shots you may not want to send and spend money on all the slides of trees, mountains and the ocean to the professional service.

Your slides will degrade over time. Some types of film can become darker and take on a blue tint while other types will become faded and take on a red or pinkish tint. This quick and dirty method does not allow for color correction. Photos will fade out and have a "washed out" appearance as they get older, especially photos that are exposed to UV light. By digitizing 35mm slides you will preserve your images as the are. If you wait years from now before you digitize your slides they will have aged more and the image quality will be worse.


Here are some slides I purchased at an auction. These were a bit of a pain as I had to remove them from their metal holders - not a hard job as they slip out with just a little force - but it was time consuming. I should have been using lint free gloves to hold them but I didn't figure this was worth the effort for these slides.

Above the slide viewer I will be using. This one happen to be a Pana-Vue 2 Lighted 2X2 Slide Viewer. The cost is about $20. Some slide viewers are angled so you can look down in to the viewer. For this exercise one that sit flat on a table or book will work best.

They may have dust on them after sitting in a box for 50 years. Here I am using an artist brush to dust them off. I highly recommend some form of air bellows to clear dust off of your cleaning target. I use to have a Giottos Rocket Air Blower which is made from a silica gel, it is very powerful and refills quickly. It costs about $10. Now you can't 'completely' clean a slide while it's in the mount. You'll end up with dirt around the edges of the mount. Again see the title of this project "quick and dirty."

For slides with serious gunk (such as fingerprints) I recommend cleaning with a 100% alcohol. Rubbing alcohol has a lubricant in it so look for denatured alcohol or what I use is Grain alcohol - cut it with some distilled water and it should get most of what ever is on it off.

Also at this point pencil in a number on the slide so you know the sequence you took the photo in.


This is the setup - about as simple as you can get. Just put the digital camera up against the viewer lens. The camera should automatically go to a macro setting, press the slide button, test the focus and shoot. If it was not clear shoot it again.

Below are some results - not perfect but now you can select which ones you want to send to a professional to have copied or you can crop them and use photoshop for cleaning up. You can also dump them out on a CD or email them to other interested parties. Like I said quick and dirty. You should be able to do about a slide a minute once you get set up. As usual click on the photo to enlarge it.






1 comment:

Carol said...

Very interesting.