Is there any way to convert film negatives to digital images without a special scanner?

I do quite a bit of black and white photography, but have fairly limited access to a darkroom and limited funds for photo paper. I know certain scanners can scan slides and negatives, but I don't have one. I also know that many photo-processing services will give you a CD when you bring them film to develop, but A) will they convert negatives that have already been developed and B) who does the best job?

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tewharau8 years ago
 In the olden days, you could buy slide copier lenses for your SLR  It was a simple 1:1 macro lens with a slide holder at the end and some ground glass to diffuse the light.  You put it in front of a light source and you "copied" your slide (using slide film) or made a negative (using print film).  I played with one years ago, "copying" a negative with print film to make a positive (or in essense, a black and white slide).

If you got one of these that fit on your digital SLR, you could "copy" your negatives and convert it via software.  Of course if you are moving from 35mm images to cropped digital image, you would only need to go 1.5:1 (Canon) or 1.6:1 (Nikon) or 2:1 (4/3rds).  Get out your macro lens and see whether you can focus on a 35mm frame when it covers the screen.  You may already have the solution! 
Mother Natures Son (author)  tewharau7 years ago
Good idea. I'll check that out.
leerose8 years ago
Unfortunately you do need a special scanner to convert negatives to digital images. But the good news is if you take your negatives to a place that will put your images on a CD, they will convert negs that have already been developed. (Although my only reason for saying that is I don't think there is any earthly reason why they wouldn't. It would make about as much sense as refusing to make prints off of negatives already developed.) As for who does the best job... dunno. XD I don't take film photo's any more, and when I did, I brought my film to this guy I knew in Dover NH. That was years ago though, so I can't remember his name... sorry. Hope this helps!
There are a number of places that scan negatives at varying quality.

If you are in Australia, DVD Infinity provide a quality scan of negatives and slides. See

In the USA try  Larsen Digital

In Europe try Exposure 22
ataylor26 years ago

The best way to do a neat job is by using a slide scanner. There are also other ways like have light coming from the back to the negative and you can click an image from lates digital camera.
jeff-o7 years ago
What's your budget for a scanner?  Many consumer-grade scanners have (or maybe had?) a lighted lid that could be used to scan slides and negatives.  I have one, an Epson Perfection 2400.  Perhaps you could find one used for a good price.

A quick check on eBay for the Perfection 2400 pulls up four for sale, at $200, $40, $25 and $10.  Seems like a good solution to me!

I also just noticed when you posted this question - have you since found a solution?
Mother Natures Son (author)  jeff-o7 years ago Annoyingly, though, I just bought a scanner...wish I'd seen this and I could have gone with the one you suggested. Still, at $10 it might be worth it, especially if I share it with friends who have similar requirements.
A light lid, or Transmissive Media Adaptor can either be evenly lit like and LCD screen, or in the case of my Microtek Scanmaker XL9800, the TMA contains a Fluoro-tube that synchro tracks with the scanning head. Yes, a graphic-shop grade scanner is expensive... There are alternative adaptors that are prixmatic. You place the Trans Media in the adaptor, and it captures light emitted by the scanner and reflects it back through the tranparency..

Then again, if you have an old Laptop with an LCD screen that still works, set the screen to total white, and trying using that as your "Light Lid".
For sure.  It also scans slides and transparencies.  Pick one up if you can get it for a good price!