Introduction: Copy Your Old Slides the Easy Way!

Picture of Copy Your Old Slides the Easy Way!

I have many slides from years ago and have enjoyed viewing them from time to time. But I always came away wishing I had them on disc, a CD, Flash Drive, or whatever so that I could see them more often. In those days, slides were much cheaper than prints, so I took a lot of them. Checking on line for transfer services, I found that they seemed pretty expensive, and wanting to be frugal, I worked out a way to do the transfers myself. I have a scanner but don't have the slide attachment for it, and it seemed when I did use the scanner, it took a very long time. This instructable solves that problem as well, as the copying goes quite rapidly.

Step 1: Items/Supplies Needed

Picture of Items/Supplies Needed

First, a slide projector. I have one that I have had for years, so cost was nil. Next, a diffuser element, which for me is a sheet of white acrylic. It came off of a light box I use, so no cost here, either. I tried to get by with using plain white paper, but paper has fibers in it and gives a definite pattern to the projections. We need a holder for the diffuser, in this case simply a piece of two by four with a groove cut in it. I did this on the table saw, which makes it very easy to do. Two small clamps to hold a piece of wood which is the slide holder. A black piece of paper is cut to accommodate the slide being copied, and prevents light reflecting back and forth and affecting your shot. A tripod, and a camera.

Step 2: Place Diffuser in Place.

Picture of Place Diffuser in Place.

This is determined by trial and error. I mounted the plastic in the two by four, and just moved it back and forth until I found a light pattern that was satisfactory.

Step 3: Add Black Paper

Picture of Add Black Paper

Again, this is determined by trial and error. Just position the hole in the best fit position so that you get a square of light for the projection.

Step 4: An Alternate Mount for Greater Simplicity

Picture of An Alternate Mount for Greater Simplicity

I wanted to make the slide holder/mount simpler, so came up with the pictured solution. Everyone doesn't have acrylic sheets lying around, but should have some small pieces of white plastic, or vellum paper. The small piece of glass is cut from an old picture frame no longer in use. Updated Oct. 2, 2009.

Step 5: Align Camera on Tripod.

Picture of Align Camera on Tripod.

See the picture for proper alignment. The tripod is adjustable, of course, so it is an easy matter to line the camera up with the projected image. I set the camera to super macro, and from there, the focus is taken over by the camera.

Step 6: On Crossbar Slide Holder, Mark Slide Position

Picture of On Crossbar Slide Holder, Mark Slide Position

Self explanatory, I did this so as to be able to positon each slide without undue manuvering.

Step 7: Start Copying Slides!

Picture of Start Copying Slides!

I got satisfactory results using this method after having worked out the little kinks in the procedure. I probably copied about 100 slides in a short period of time. And the best part is I saved the money and the time and effort of shipping and waiting for a service.

Step 8: Gallery

Picture of Gallery

Enjoy the slides from yesteryear!


aesch (author)2015-11-02

creativeman has done a nice job here. He was fortunate in having a camera that would do a full frame on the slide. I did the same thing several years ago, and ended up buying a digital SLR that would take my old film camera bellows. Fortunately, a 5 mp camera is adequate to capture the resolution of a 24x36 slide so an inexpensive Pentax *ist did the job.

Other variations were a) I used a flash unit for light, but had to add an AC power supply to get the recycle time down, b) used an opal glass (from an old enlarger) for a diffuser, and c) built the whole thing on 1 length of 2x4 so stuff wouldn't move around. Worked well but focusing is tricky as slides vary.

One lesson learned - you can't make a good copy from a poor slide.

maruawe (author)2009-09-25

Very good idea, I'll try it , Wonder, how long it would take to do 8000 slides? did you do a rate per minute?

Creativeman (author)maruawe2009-09-25

If you figured 10seconds per slide, you would have about 22 hrs. of copying...if you could do it in 5 sec. it would be 11hrs. For that many slides, I would definitely try to automate the slide changing part...also your camera timing has a lot to do with it as well. Good luck, let us know what you do! Cman

I realize the thread here is five years old. But hey, it never hurt to ask a question. I'm trying to figure out how to automate an old view master projector for an art installation. I wan the reel to move without anyone having to press the lever/button down to move the reel to he next image. Same thing with a Sawyer Rotodisc projector. If I can find someone who knows how to create this kind of switch mechanism, I'd be super glad. Any suggestions? Thank you!

zeeebus (author)2011-12-31

This idea came to me in my sleep last night. I knew one of you bastards would have beat me to it. Outstanding work. Outstanding. God, I love this site!

SuzanneTF (author)2011-12-19

Great ! We have a lot of slides that nobody can scan, they are too big (old 120). What an ingenious setup while costing almost nothing. We have the projector, the camera, just missing the white plastic sheet. Thanks for sharing your ideas and helping us to save money. The cherry on the top? The quality we get with this setup. Thanks, thanks, thanks!

Bumbling on (author)2010-03-26

We have a box of slides taken throughout my childhood but no good way to view them. This looks teriffic Cman, brilliantly simple.
I'm spending this Easter with my Mum (only next week now) so will rummage through the attic while I'm there. She will love to have all those images on a cd.   Really looking forward to this project!!.
Thaks so much

Creativeman (author)Bumbling on2010-03-26

Thanks B'on...It's always a treat when you know you've helped someone else find a solution to a simple problem. Good luck. Cman

FLOTUBR (author)2009-10-29

I have the slide frame for my Epson 4490 but have not done anything with it because the Tiiiiiiiime involved in scanning.
BTW - Have you tried projecting the slides and photographing them off the screen??  You could use the slide trays and really speed up the copy process.
Keep Inventing,

jedikalimero (author)FLOTUBR2010-02-17

Projecting the slides onto a screen and photographing the screen gives a much worse quality that photographing the back-lighted slide.
When you project the slide, you are looking at a second generation image, a copy of the original slide and there is a loose of light because you are seeing the reflection of the light beams in the screen. Also, you can't exactly centre the camera to take an undistorted image because the exact centre viewpoint is taken by the projector itself.

When you use the method described here, you are taking a photo directly from the original slide so you obtain a second generation copy, not third and this is as best as you can get with ANY method.

Essentially, you are doing the same a slide scanner does except you are taking the whole image at once instead of line by line with the scanning head (and this is why the scanner has much higher resolution).

If you set your "scanning studio" right and use a good digital camera, you can match the quality of a home or office slide scanner.

Also, if your camera has a remote controller (be it a cabled one or, much better, an infra-red or radio one), use it since this will avoid any vibration in the image from the action of the finger on the shutter button. All semi-professional and up SLR cameras have an input for a remote controller or can be controlled from the USB port. Many consumer cameras have an infra-red controller.

Creativeman (author)FLOTUBR2009-10-30

Thanks for the input. I have not tried your idea, and am curious as to how that quality would work....will look into it. Cman

Ninzerbean (author)2009-10-29

 Yipee! Congrats!

Creativeman (author)Ninzerbean2009-10-29

Thank you! Cman

Sew Crafty (author)2009-10-12

Very good and interesting, you got my vote

Creativeman (author)Sew Crafty2009-10-13

Thanks, SC. Cman

upriverpaddler (author)2009-09-24

Really cool. Could you show us one at full resolution?

Thanks, and I don't know what you mean? Cman

The pictures that you posted are 500X374 pixels. I assume your camera shoots higher resolution than that. I am curious to see the quality at a higher resolution. Maybe 1600X1200pixels?

canida (author)upriverpaddler2009-09-30

If you click the "i" in the upper left corner of any picture on Instructables, you can see all the different size options available including the original 2288x1712. For obvious reasons, that's not the default display on an Instructable. ;)

Creativeman (author)canida2009-09-30

Different size options available to do what with? Is it just to change the resolution for downloading? Sizes on screen cannot be changed by either the author or the viewer, correct? Why are there different options? Thanks. Cman

canida (author)Creativeman2009-10-06

We use different sizes for different things - thumbnails on the homepage, before they're expanded on the project page, expanded, etc. Then there are a few more that I believe are just for up-close viewing or downloading. I've had several people ask for high-res images from my projects to include in print mags, and I can just point them here for full options.

OK, I checked the original resolution, and it is 2288x1712....I think this program changes the size to fit their program...and, I notice no difference on my photo program screen than I do for these that are on line. The quality of the slides are much higher, of course, but as I said in the steps, this procedure is good enough for my purpose. But then I don't care if I have HD, digital, or analog.Thanks for your interest upriver! Cman

Thanks for that. I never noticed the i before. The larger resolution really shows off the quality better. Must be interesting trying to get the focus right. Looks very nice. I wasn't expecting pixellation, but the detail is much better than I expected.

kariswg1 (author)2009-09-25

Thanks .....this is a great idea. I will save this, for one those bad winter days, when you don't want to go outside. I don't have many slides, but enough to set this up. Now, on to finding a way to transfer old 8mm movies to DVD.

greatscotmagic (author)kariswg12009-10-03

I think this idea would work for copying movies. You would need to replace the slide projector with a movie projector that would show your movies, a video camera instead of the still camera and the black matte opening would need to be the size/ratio of your projected film.

After getting the movie into the camera, if your camera can't get the video directly onto DVD, you would save them to your computer and then onto DVD with DVD burning software- at which point, you could edit all those shots of people with their heads cut off out of frame!<grin>

I bought a commercial video transfer unit on ebay pretty cheaply, I think I paid about $10.00 for it. It's not fancy, but works on the same principle as this. There are openings for the slide and movie projector to shoot their image into and a screen for the image, which is then copied by a digital camera (still or movie) shooting the screen.

Copying a movie seems to be easier and less time consuming than copying slides. Once you got the projector and camera set up and running, you could go do something else while the film is being copied. Slides need to be photographed 1 at a time, which would tie you down while you are doing it. It would be great if the process could be automated. I came up with the idea of shooting the slides with a video camera and then using a software program ro convert the movie into stills.

DVDvideosoft has a free program that will take each frame of a film or video and convert them into JPGs. You can set the program to convert the whole movie, or it can be set to convert frames at intervals you set, like every 10th frame. Once I get my unit set up and running, I will see if it works.

There are Instructables on how to transfer old movies to DVD and articles on the subject on wikihow and e-how.

FYI, DVDvideosoft has a lor of free audio and video programs, you can check them out:

They have great technical support as well. I speak from personal experience and I use thier programs a lot for converting video formats, quick video cutting, and audio work..

Creativeman (author)kariswg12009-09-25

Thank you for your comment. Cman

LCaliber77 (author)2009-10-01

Great idea. I would only be concerned about image quaility for larger sized prints. A scanned slde can be the equalivant of a 80+ mega pixel camera, BUT can no way be done as fast. Get diy for speed and small prints =)

LCaliber77 (author)LCaliber772009-10-01

Oops, that's supposed to be 'Great diy for speed...'

bepartial (author)2009-10-01

Thanks for this. I have been avoiding the cost of transferring my slides for a couple of years. This is exceptional. I have now transferred several hundred slides at ZERO expense. My kind of instructable. Well done.

Creativeman (author)bepartial2009-10-01

Thanks for the feedback and comment. Cman

smkoberg (author)2009-09-28

This is awesome! My roommates and I "inherited" an insane amount of slides in some free stuff that someone was giving away via Craigslist. The free stuff also came with a slide projector. I wanted to get some (if not all) slides into a digital format but didn't have a way, but now we do. Thanks for this :-)

Sew Crafty (author)2009-09-27

Very nice and informative thank you Creative Man

blam72 (author)2009-09-24

What a great idea. Thank you for sharing. This is going to help me out tremendously. My parents have about 12 trays of slides they were hoping I could somehow convert to a digital format. I think I'm going to have to give your setup a try.

Creativeman (author)blam722009-09-24

You're welcome, blam72. This makes it easy. Cman

wicolt (author)Creativeman2009-09-26

I'm in the same boat as blam72, I've been lugging around a big box of slides (and 8mm) from my dad for several years trying to find a good way to digitize. I had a scanner with slide attachment but the results were less than desirable. Thanks, C'Man for this very doable instructable! Looks like I have my winter project ahead.

Creativeman (author)wicolt2009-09-26

You're welcome, wicolt. Cman

samroderick (author)2009-09-25

Genius! Thank you for this.

Creativeman (author)samroderick2009-09-25

Well, thank you sam, and you are welcome! Cman

hostess (author)2009-09-24

This is an absolutely brilliant idea! It's super fast compared to a scanner. Thanks for the idea, Cman!

Creativeman (author)hostess2009-09-25

Thanks, hostess! Cman

whopoder (author)2009-09-24

Good idea!!! And cool pictures ; )

Creativeman (author)whopoder2009-09-25

Thank you. Cman

jdtwelve12 (author)2009-09-24

Simplicity! Bravo!

Creativeman (author)jdtwelve122009-09-25

Thank you sir! Cman

hobojangles (author)2009-09-25

This is great. I don't own any slides, but this is a nice display of ingenuity.

Creativeman (author)hobojangles2009-09-25

Thanks, hobo....Cman

bustedit (author)2009-09-25

This is great! I have boxes of slides from my father (really great pics from before my birth in '72 and tons of family vacations and stuff after) and I even have my own slides that I'm dying to get up on Facebook. My friend was going to suggest we build some sort of light box, but this is awesome. I think my father has a small plastic lightbox for viewing individual slides, and now I'm wondering if I could just photograph the screen from that?? Thank you, with crappy winter weather around the corner, I intend to use this as my snowed-in project.

DaveNJ (author)2009-09-24

C'man - Super idea and looks very easy. Thanks again, Dave

Creativeman (author)DaveNJ2009-09-24

Thanks Dave. Cman

mikeasaurus (author)2009-09-24

the results are amazing, I am really liking the retro look. brings me back to family 'slide nights', this would be a fun way to revitalize those slides and digitize them for a new slide night.

About This Instructable




Bio: Retired, doing art work now. Great. Have the time and the money to spend doing what I want to do.
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