DIY Smartphone Film Scanner




About: Hi I'm Angelo! I am a college student taking my engineering majors in BS-EE/ BS-ECE at the DLSU. I use my course as an inspiration for making my current projects! I've been posting projects here ever since I...
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 7: Testing the LEDs

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

Step 8: 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!

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 :||

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104 Discussions


5 years ago on Introduction

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.

2 replies

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

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?


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

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

5 years ago on Introduction

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.

1 reply

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

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.


5 years ago on Introduction


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?

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

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


2 years ago

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.


3 years ago

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


5 years ago

Awesome, can't wait to do this.

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!

Tater Zoid

5 years ago on Step 1

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

2 replies
ASCASTater Zoid

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

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