Introduction: DIY Smartphone Film Scanner

Picture of DIY Smartphone Film Scanner
Scan your favorite clips in just one click! Bring back those good old memories instantly! Today's weekend project is about building a "Portable Smartphone Film Scanner" for less than $5. Compatibility is good with iPhone, iTouch, Galaxy S4, HTC or any other smartphone brands on the market.

Great way to instantly scan and share your 35mm films with your smartphone! Portable and easy to use just like the original "Lomo FilmScanner"

A Christmas Gift For Dad:
Giving a gift for my dad is pretty challenging specially when he has everything he wants. There's nothing better than a Christmas gift made by your own son :D He's a great photographer (hobbyist) who took a lot of pictures during his early days. Of course before changing to DSLRs, my dad used to have a lot of Analog SLR Cameras. Unfortunately most of their family photos got washed away in the flood during the 90's. It's a good thing they stored their films in a water resistant container. Now thousands of negatives, waiting to be scanned :D I can't wait to give this to him.

The Perfect Holiday Gift For Old School Photographers! :D

How simple is the process?
Just feed in your 35mm film strip > Flick the power switch on > Open your phone's camera > Zoom to your preferred view > Select negative photo effect in the settings > Do this repeatedly. Simple! :D

Attention: Photo quality depends on your phone's camera. For my sample photos, I used a cheap & descent 5MP Smartphone ($134), the iPhone works too. I've tested it with Samsung's Galaxy S4 and it has showed the best photo results! The more megapixels the better :D

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My Demo Video! (DIY/ Cloned Version)

Lomography's Official Smartphone Film Scanner (Original Version - Introduction on how it works)

Step 1: Gathering the Tools & Materials

Picture of Gathering the Tools & Materials

The parts only cost $5, just follow the links below (w/Free Shipping!)

Parts & Materials:

- Your smartphone (ex. iPhone)
- Rectangular Project Box
- White Ultrabright LEDs (6x)
- 100 ohm Resistor (1/4w)
- 9V Battery Clip & Battery
- A Simple Sliding Switch
- 40x70cm White Acrylic
- Bottle of Superglue

Tools & Equipment:
- Multitool (Leatherman)
- Portable Drill (w/bit)
- Soldering Iron
- Hot Glue Gun

Step 2: Camera Hole & Film Slot

Picture of Camera Hole & Film Slot

Use a whiteboard marker or a highlighter to mark your measurements then simply drill a hole, big enough for your phone's camera. I used a 10mm drill bit then beveled the edge with my Leatherman's sharp blade.

Use a metal file to give way for the film slot. Make sure to give allowance for the 35mm film, my slot has a width of 40mm.

Step 3: Preparing the Acrylic Diffuser

Picture of Preparing the Acrylic Diffuser

White LEDs give out pointed rays of light, the light needs to be diffused in order to capture a well balanced & well lit image.

1st.) Cut a piece of 40x70mm acrylic.
2nd.) Bevel the edges using a metal file, this makes the film feeding a lot easier.
3rd.) Glue 4 foam suspenders on your project box then glue your acrylic above it.

Step 4: The Receiving Mechanism

Picture of The Receiving Mechanism

Sometimes, the film jams, making it impossible to reach other side. I added a receiving mechanism, that catches the film from the other side, making sure that is passes through.

I simply used an old piece of ruler then super glued it to my project box and acrylic.

Step 5: Installing the LEDs

Picture of Installing the LEDs

Install the LEDs on both sides of your acrylic. Distribute them evenly on 3 equal places, this gives better lighting. Positive leads face up, the negatives face down.

Hot glue them in place. The glue works as a reflector as well!

Step 6: Solder Everything in Place

Picture of Solder Everything in Place

Follow the schematic above. Solder your battery, resistor, switch & LEDs together.

Step 7: Testing the LEDs

Picture of Testing the LEDs

Clip on your battery, flick the switch and your LEDs should light up.

Step 8: Adjust Your Phone's Camera Settings!

Picture of Adjust Your Phone's Camera Settings!

1st.) Open your phone's camera. I'm using Android 4.1 Jellybean.
2nd.) Go to setting, tap on the "Color Effects" then select "Negative"
3rd.) Use the zoom function instead of cropping photos.
4th.) Capture your photos, you might want to use the autofix feature :D

If you are an IOS/ Apple user, you can download the official LomoScanner App 

Step 9: You're Done! Lets Bring Back Those Memories!

Picture of You're Done! Lets Bring Back Those Memories!

We still have a lot of films here that weren't developed. It feels good to dig in the past and bring back those good old memories :D Enjoy your film scanner! My phone's camera isn't that good that's why some of my photos are faded.
Ughh, molds all over my films :||


velcro2 (author)2013-11-19

Great instructable. You suggested a plastic box 13.5 cm wide which is okay if you are dealing with strips of 35mm film. What about mounted slides? Can one slide be pushed through with another one without having to open the box to remove the previous slide?
You mentioned that your dad had his photos in a water tight container which saved them. However, you do need to vent the container now and then since the acetate film continues to "gas off" and could cause deterioration. This is what happened to the old Hollywood films when they stored them in a tight fitting can. The acetate turned to mush. Again, good instructable and easier than trying to use the old scanner. Thanks.

ASCAS (author)velcro22013-11-19

Thanks! Yup, I tested it with 35mm, and it works great! The iPhone had some slight difficulty in focusing, probably because the film was too close for the phone's macro capabilities. I would suggest 14.5- 15cm for iPhone users. Most of our films today are stored in a dry box, but some are still stored in the old container. No worries, we were able to establish digital copies of our most treasured photos.

Those cans sound familiar, oh no, we still have 2 cans of Hollywood films. John Barry, known for composing 007's theme song, gave us 2 cans. It's in storage, what would you suggest to preserve its condition?

lschwartz (author)ASCAS2014-04-28

I have a friend who (now retired) was the chief curator for film for the Library of Congress. His advice was to put all film I want to preserve into the freezer!

Dr Qui (author)2013-11-18

Fantastic Ible, you are a genius.  Your Dad will very proud of you for making him this.

What are the dimensions of the project box?

How thick is the acrylic sheet?

These are the only 2 things I need to buy to make a film scanner, I think I will use a 12v power supply from some old redundant piece of tech and use more LED's

Thanks for sharing.

ASCAS (author)Dr Qui2013-11-19

Thanks! The project box has a Height=5cm, Width="13.5cm" & Depth="7.5cm". A cigar box would be a great alternative for the plastic enclosure. The acrylic has a thickness of 4mm.

Jestin_Cubetech (author)2013-11-16

great work

ASCAS (author)Jestin_Cubetech2013-11-16


fstop570 (author)2014-04-29


Amazing job with this project. I foresee you on the leading team taked to save the world someday. I have a quick question. I've been trying to digitize old 35mm slides but my film scanner is causing the, perfect, negatives to appear blurry. Any work around for those type of images?

Dragon940C (author)fstop5702017-01-03

I know I'm very late with answer but every camera has different focal length, so try moving camera away to get clearer photos.

tekkyru. (author)2016-10-28

A great idea about smartphone, thank you!

I planned to do something like this for digital camera (from cardboard like google vr glasses) but my 8mpx IXUS is hardly better than my new smartphone (yet to be tested).

The only suggestion - powering LEDs with USB appeals me more, everyone has a USB (every smartphone owner at least) and batteries should be replaced (adds up to an ownership cost :) ).

I have some USB-fed mini lighters, but their LEDSs are closely packed, will see if I can get enough light diffusion.

makinworks (author)2015-12-24

Can you make a reel to reel A to B roll (or left to right ) so that motion picture film can be scanned this way using a time lapse photo system and a simple motor advancing push and pull system that can be adjusted manually or by certain presets like 35mm , 16mm, 8mm,
35mm 2-perf, etc

The systems I see cost $29,000

But other smaller systems run on Linux

I think it is possible

grodrirgues (author)2015-11-28

cool scanner

machineman (author)2015-09-11


AmritS (author)2015-03-22

Oh my god . So, cool

machine_for made it! (author)2015-01-25

Thank you for the inspiration! I use Negative Me and QuickFlip apps to "develop" my scans and VSCO to crop and edit. You can see more photos here.

phottomatt (author)2014-05-30

Awesome, can't wait to do this.

AusencioFlores (author)2014-05-08

I know this is done and done, but did you ever consider adding a sliding dimmer to the circuit rather than the On/Off switch for manual exposure control?

Just a thought but, I'm going to attempt this with a dimmer because the actual one retails for $60. That's nuts when you can imitate it if you've got the skills and know-how, which you obviously do!

ChippMarshal (author)2014-01-14

Fantastic! Great Idea ASCAS.

Tater Zoid (author)2013-12-02

Hi, which Rectangular Project Box did you purchase? The link shows many. Thanks in advance.

ASCAS (author)Tater Zoid2014-01-10

Sorry for the late reply. I have the "HC-981" box model. It measures "5cm x 13.5cm x 7.5cm".

Tater Zoid (author)ASCAS2014-01-10

Thank you.

RicoSPD (author)2013-11-22

Great idea. I think I have most of the parts to make my own. Thanks for sharin.

ASCAS (author)RicoSPD2014-01-10

Thanks! Nice, make sure to have fun while building it :D

brianfroelund (author)2013-12-06

An easy cheap way of making a nice diffused light source is making a dome light out of white card stock. Because it would be used behind the negative you don't need a hole for a camera and it might be a good idea to add a layer of diffusion paper between the dome and the negative. Good thing is you can keep using your leds :)

It might require a bit of tinkering but it should work!

ASCAS (author)brianfroelund2014-01-10

Cool, I think your design will works. It adds complexity to the project though.

The image shows a cross section btw. I would recommend making a halfpipe instead of an actual dome :)

moe88 (author)2013-12-02

Hey man, nice work, just have a quick question, can plexiglas glass be used as a substitute for the acrylic? Thanks

ASCAS (author)moe882014-01-10

Yup as long as it's white and translucent.

IT-Wizard (author)2013-12-13

pretty Good.
Cheap and efficient : bravo!

ASCAS (author)IT-Wizard2014-01-10


robertogallea (author)2013-12-10

Made mine out of this. It works pretty good. However with my Iphone 3gs and Samsung Galaxy Tab2 I encountered severe focusing problems.

ASCAS (author)robertogallea2014-01-10

Yup old phones have lower macro capabilities. If you want, you can get clearer photos by increasing the enclosure's height.

millerjr (author)2014-01-10

Hi Angelo,
Great work! Thanks for sharing your ideas. I do have a question, what are the the dimensions of the box that your used? There are a couple of boxes on the linked page that look close to the size you used.

ASCAS (author)millerjr2014-01-10

Thanks. Here are my box's dimensions "5cm x 13.5cm x 7.5cm".

ucspots (author)2013-12-09

This is simple brilliance! Thank you very much!

NewAgeDaVinci (author)2013-11-27

Skype me @ jsolano815 I don't use Facebook :)

NewAgeDaVinci (author)2013-11-27

Are you available yet?

ASCAS (author)NewAgeDaVinci2013-11-27

Yup :))

limonchi (author)2013-11-24

Nice instructable, I think I will try to do it.
Maybe adding a little fresnel lens like in projectors would difuse light better.
I have one in credit card size.

Thanks for sharing

ASCAS (author)limonchi2013-11-24

Exactly! A fresnel lens would be great. I wish I had one :||

TP_inc (author)2013-11-23

I wish i lived somewhere tropical don't dig Hurricanes (Typhoons) but it would be awesome.

ASCAS (author)TP_inc2013-11-23

Hurricanes are one of the scariest natural disasters. A typhoon is too, but less devastating. What I love about the tropics is that you can feel the warm weather when you go outside :))

fahadshihab (author)2013-11-21

it looks nice... i used the same idea for my spectroscope years ago (don't have these films bro :D)

steynvdw (author)2013-11-20

According to your schematic, LED's 4, 5 & 6 will not light up!

ASCAS (author)steynvdw2013-11-20

Yes it would, I updated the diagram :))

steynvdw (author)ASCAS2013-11-20

I downloaded the PDF which did not show a negative connection on LED's 4, 5 & 6. I never paged the complete online instructable. I am still going to build it because I like it!

ASCAS (author)steynvdw2013-11-20

It usually takes a month for the PDF to update automatically. I'm glad you like it!

traisjames (author)steynvdw2013-11-20

Looks like it would to me.

danzman (author)2013-11-20

This is a great idea. I would use a POT to control light intensity. Also, maybe design one to get those old moves. Needs a motor to run the reels.

ASCAS (author)danzman2013-11-20

Thanks! Yup, that pot idea of your is brilliant, though it adds complexity to the project. My next version of the scanner will be using a 10MP webcam + arduino + motor for reels.

About This Instructable




Bio: Hi I'm Angelo! I am a 18 y/o college sophomore taking my majors in BS-ECE at the DLSU. I use my course as ... More »
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