Digitize negatives using a DSLR or mirrorless camera

Capturing images of a negative film

If you have a DSLR or a mirrorless camera at home you can now use it for capturing images of negatives and let Photo Negative Scanner do the color conversion. Even though mobile cameras have improved tremendously over the last couple of years they are still miles away from the quality that you get by using a dedicated digital camera. The main reason is that digital cameras have room for larger optics that allows them to let in more light and support bigger image sensors.

So if you have a DSLR or a mirrorless camera like I do, you should try using it for digitizing negatives.

I have been digitizing negatives this last year using a Olympus M5 digital camera. I love using this camera for the task as it has a high resolution mode that allows me to take pictures at a stunning 40 Mega Pixels resolution.

Remember this when capturing images of negatives

I have gradually improved the technique. The key to crisp images is:

  • A strong and even backlight.
  • A lens that you can manually focus on the negative as autofocus has a tendency to focus on the surface below.
  • A tripod and remote trigger so you do not get any motion blur from the trigger.
  • Think about white balance. Even though the colors are inverted we would like to capture them all. Make sure that the negative is not overly blue or red.
  • Avoid reflections from other light sources. So turn off the lights and roll down the blinds.
  • Place the negative in a fixture or negative holder so that it is easy to position. This will allow you to shoot the negatives faster and save time in editing.

Most importantly. Start out by doing a trial run. Capture a few images, convert using Photo Negative Scanner, do any post correction and then sort the images. This will allow you to figure out any errors in your process fast. There is nothing worse than digitizing hundreds of negatives only to discover that the focus was wrong.

That’s a lot of details, but most will be self-explanatory as soon as you get started.

We have made this video to demonstrate the process

Before you start digitizing a set of negatives, write down info like capture date, subjects etc. and take a picture of the note. This will save you hours of work when you later need to sort and archive the images.


I have included a few samples below so you can get a sense of the image quality.

Before conversion

Baby Boy on a beach Boy on a truck
Baby Boy on a beach Boy on a truck

After conversion

The results here are the directly from the app. I have not made any touchups. The small images below have been resized though. Click on one of them to view the original image.

Click on any of the images below to view the original

Baby Boy on a beach Boy on a truck
Baby Boy on a beach Boy on a truck

By: Tobias Alrøe