Does somebody know the way I can make scans or take pictures of microfilms ?

I have been once to a place where the old archives are on microfilms.
The problem being they don’t have anymore a microfilm printer and not even sure they can still find a microfilm reader.(they didn’t find it last time).

I have to go back and will have only a scanner and a digital camera.

Do you know any trick to capture the documents with the best quality ?


Would it be possible to take a digital photograph, and convert the photo to a negative using your image software?

I don’t know Guy, I even have no microfilm here at home to make trials.
The only thing I know for sure is : I don’t want to make 300 miles (each way), to have in front of me all the archives from 1890 to 1940 and not to know what to do !!

I made some researchs on the web and it looks to be very difficult to make a digital photograph (or a scan ) of a microfilm if you don’t have a microfilm scanner !!


I think the only option would be a scanner and laptop.

If this place doesn’t have a microfilm reader, why are they holding onto the microfilm?

Have you checked with an office equipment company in the town where the microfilm is to see if you can rent a reader for a day or two? Perhaps you might even contract to convert the microfilm to some other format for a fee and in the process make the copies you need.

While it doesn’t do you any good, unless this place will let you remove the microfilm from the premises, we still have one operable reader at my office, which handles microfilm as well as microfiche. I believe I’m the only one there who has ever used it. We (the reader and me) are dinosaurs.

Hi Guy !

  1. Till 20 years ago, the documents you din’t use anymore were on microfilms, the recent ones being on paper.
    Nowadays both of them are digitally stocked.

Therefore almost no industrial factory is using microfilms anymore.
Furthermore its is expansive, time consumning and useless for a company to convert old microfilms to digital form.

Do you think it is important for a company to keep the 1890, 1930 and even 1970 manufacturing drawings ?

Therefore no more maintenance of the microfilms readers (it is costly) and after a few years they throw it.

  1. About renting a microfilm scanner or reader, we are not in the States, Guy.
    In France it is very scarce !

If you find somebody able to san the

JP–Taking pictures from a microfilm reader usually results in a VERY poor image. If the reader is the old type that projects an image on to a white panel inside a hood, The picture you take with a camera will normally be to distorted due to the angle. If the reader is a newer type that uses a frosted glass display screen, you might have some better luck, but the image will be fuzzy.

If the place will allow you to borrow the microfilm (doubtful) you could have the entire reel copied. Once you have a copy, then you can get prints made at most libraries or printing companies.

Some years ago I bought a Microfilm reader and a seperate Microfiche reader at a going-out-of-business auction of a company. I only paid $10 for each machine.
But, the microfilm reader weighed about 200 lbs. and was left behind after I made a couple of moves to new houses. I still have the Microfiche reader as it is small (about 12 x 12 x18 inches) and weighs about 10 lbs.

Perhaps you could find these at a used office equipment store. Then, at least, if you could get copies of the entire reel, you could look at it at home.

There’s always E-Bay!

Hi J-P

as Guy said, try ebay.de (the german one, that’s not too far away from you)
search criteria: mikrofilm, a few readers pop up.

good luck

Thanks to all

Maybe you could try a slide projector, and project a larger image onto a wall, it maybe easier to find an old type single slide projector than a micro reader.
Just an idea!
Regards Peter.


Borrow a laptop and a flatbed scanner that can scan transparencies. Even a second hand Epson 4870 Photo will do. Just make sure that the transparency backlight in the lid is functional.

If I was going to make a trip like that, I would make a meal of it and make sure the images were permanently captured without distortion and with the minimum of fuss.

In addition to the scanner itself, there is special software that comes with the scanner called Digital Ice. It automatically locates hairs, fibres and scratches on the transparency and takes care of them. If you use that function, you are looking at long scanning times though.

In tests I have done here with small X-ray films, I can get good resolution images from scans of those films on my scanner. That’s just by putting them directly on the glass and scanning at 600-1200 dpi.

The scanning dpi is very important. Do NOT select ‘scan fo web’ even if your final intent is to publish those online. You must scan at a high resolution with a small amount of sharpening. Do the rest in Photoshop.

I will post an image of a scanned mammography test film. Mammography films have very high definition because the radiologists are looking for tiny calcific densities that may indicate a malignancy. If your scanner can scan one of those mammography test films, it will certainly do a good job on micro-film.

By the way, I have used microfilm readers and printers. That was when I worked in the anti-fraud department of a major credit card supplier in South Africa. If your microfilms are anything like the ones I was dealing with, the Epson 4870 will easily be able to scan those.

Here is the mammo film resolution area, scanned on my Epson 4870. The actual size of that image portion is less than 2cm.

Thank you very much !!

jp - what about one of those scanners made for copying film slides & negatives. I don’t know if anyone still makes them but they were fairly cheap and had just a small scanning area to fit a 35mm slide. Just a thought.

pdprice I don’t think that will work because the microfilm can’t be aligned to the slide/negative holder.
If the films are like the ones I used, then they won’t fit in the holders at all: too big. The ones I handled were postcard size and had several pages or ‘prints’ on each film.

Odd Job–I think what you describe is a Microfiche, not Microfilm. Microfilm is a long reel of 35mm film.

Ah then I am in error, I apologise to all.
If that is the case then pdrice’s suggestion is the best one, although you can scan 35mm films on an Epson 4870 (it has the holders to do so) but only if the film is in strips, not a complete reel.