Are All Slide Scanning Vendors the Same? A Side by Side Comparison

If you have boxes of photos or slides hiding away in closets, attics, and on shelves, now is the perfect time to find a reputable and reliable scanning service to get those thousands of wayward photos compiled and categorized into high-quality digital memories that will last a lifetime, if not more.

Images are like memories; each one holds a special place in the heart of the viewer. When those images become old and faded or incur damage from water, smoke, or time, the memories can begin to disappear in the mind’s eye. This is the pivotal time when it is imperative to find a scanning service that can restore the relics to their proper glory, enhancing memory and reviving history.

Is Now the Time for a D.I.Y. Project?

Once you’ve made the choice to renew your photos, there are many things to consider. You could do it yourself, finding the necessary software and programs on the internet. That’s the easy part. The more time-consuming part is the actual processing. You will find that, once you begin, the process of scanning, restoring, imaging, and transferring is a lengthy one, requiring hours of sitting in front of the computer and scanner.

Rather than trying to do it on your own, perhaps you could consider relying on the expertise of a professional image scanning service to restore and digitize your prizes, prints, and slides? Why spend hours sifting through years and years of images when you can find a service that can deliver a high-quality product in a fraction of the time it would take you to do the same thing.

There are so many scanning services and retailers in business today, it can be very difficult to choose the one that can consistently deliver professional quality, crisp digital files. Even when you do find a seemingly promising vendor, it’s hard to know just how reputable or reliable the vendor actually is.

The Creation of a Dream Team

In order to make things easier for you, we created a research and investigative team to sort through many photo scanning businesses and compare each one’s strengths and weaknesses. Our team consisted of two people from each side of the spectrum; Marcia, a woman in her late sixties who has a huge collection of slides, and Kerrick, a thirty-something-year-old who is interested in learning how to convert historic photographic slides into shareable digital files.

 The Heart of the Matter; A Comparison Primer

This comparison involved sending 50 standard 35mm slides of various quality and condition to each of the prolific image digitizing vendors in the market today. Our goal was transparency; we wanted to see if there were any hidden fees for the services provided, versus what was initially quoted. We also wanted to find out if there were any other factors that could be seen as potential pitfalls which could hinder efficiency, quality, and price.

In addition, the team was also interested in the actual process of sending the slides to the vendors. How easy was the interface? Was it simple, or were there many steps involved that could lead to confusion, especially if the client isn’t all that tech savvy?

Slide-scanning

Vendors Selected

For the purpose of a broad and wide-ranging study, we chose a number of vendors who operate a large-scale digital imaging business. The vendors selected were as follows;

  • Costco
  • DigMyPics
  • DpsDave
  • FotoBridge
  • iMemories
  • LarsenDigital
  • ScanToDigital
  • ScanCafe
  • VistaPix Media

We then set the parameters, including;

  • Initial offers versus actual cost of services rendered
  • Level of customer service offered
  • Standards of quality
  • Surprises

There were, of course, many other factors to consider. But initially, we wanted to maintain a broad overview approach, so that we could establish a baseline of information. In short, we wanted to keep it simple. Each member of every team should share a vision and a common goal for the images being processed. There should be a deep appreciation for the process of collecting, restoring, and preserving memories, which means treating each image with respect, at every step of the way. We wanted to see if that level of professionalism and courtesy was present in all of the vendors we researched.

After sending out our sample of 50 slides to each vendor to be processed and digitized, choosing our criteria, waiting and asking questions when necessary, and then finally receiving the finished products, we created a table summarizing our experiences.

VendorPriceQualityServiceSurprises
CostcoPicture1Picture-2-sad
No fade fix
Picture5They send them out!  It took 56 days to process order
DigMyPicsPicture-2-sadPicture3
Grainy and fuzzy
Picture6They got the return address wrong, so it took 51 days to process order
DpsDavePicture-1Picture-1Picture-1High quality at low price
FotoBridgePicture3Picture4
Splotchy
Picture4They process large batches and charge high price to process a few
iMemoriesPicture3Picture-2-sad
Low resolution, splotchy
Picture-1Not the best quality at high price
LarsenDigitalPicture4Picture-1Picture-1High quality at moderate price
ScanCafePicture4Picture-2-sad
Low resolution; blue fixes bad
Picture5They send orders to India! They also charged more per slide than promised.
ScanToDigital 

No info

 

No info

After 4 months, because address was not verified, there are no digital files to view and the slides are in a US Postal facility somewhere
VistaPix MediaPicture-1Picture3
Colors off and no fade correction
Picture-1They process large batches but didn’t charge for 50 slides

 

The Four Questions:
Now that we completed an initial overview, we wanted to get more detailed. The team created a series of four questions to help further discriminate between vendors:

1. Will my original slides be treated with respect and returned to me in good condition in a reasonable amount of time?
2. Will the quality of the digital image be high enough to make the whole undertaking worthwhile?
3. Will the cost be realistic and feasible?
4. What is the level of customer service, if I need help at any point in the process?

Our research team knows how important all of these questions are to the consumer. They understand what it means to send away your memories that exist only on paper for the time being and to look forward to the finished product. These four questions give voice to what many customers asked when they call for an initial consultation, so we wanted to acknowledge that and take some time to root out the facts.
For a more detailed approach, the team created a separate table for each of the questions, as follows.

Question 1 – Will my original slides be treated with respect and returned to me in good condition in a reasonable amount of time?

VendorDays to Receive Originals BackShipping methodSlides in Good Condition?Pay Up Front or On Receipt?Conclusion
Costco56Pick upYes

 

Pay on receiptNot the best
DigMyPics51 (incorrectly transcribed return address)FedexYesHalf up front and half on receiptMarginally acceptable
DpsDave9UPS Secure Shipping NetworkYesCan pay upfront or on receiptPackages are tracked so they are not lost
FotoBridge30USPS (padded envelope)YesPay up frontA little bit risky – USPS loses packages
iMemories22Safely packagedYesAfter processing but before they send backAcceptable
LarsenDigital23UPSYesOn receiptAcceptable
Scancafe120 days and counting! (most of Scancafe’s slides are processed in India). Images were viewable online after 60 days.Pay part up front, the rest before they send backUnacceptable
ScanToDigitalAfter 4 months, because address was not verified, there are no digital files to view and the slides are in a US Postal facility somewherePay up frontUnacceptable
VistaPix Media22USPS (paper envelope)YesPaid minimal shipping cost up frontA little bit risky – USPS loses packages

Question 2 – Will the quality of the digital images be high enough to make the whole undertaking worthwhile?

VendorColors OK?Fade Corrected?Picture Orientation Correct?Picture sharp when you zoom in?Conclusion
VendorColors OK?Fade Corrected?Picture Orientation Correct?Picture sharp when you zoom in?Conclusion
CostcoPoor colorsZero fade correctionYesYesNot the best
DigmypicsMostly goodYesYesNot always (max of 2500 DPI)Not the best
DpsDaveYesYesYesYesAcceptable
FotoBridgeNot the bestSlides faded to red turned out well; slides faded to blue did notYesNot so goodNot the best
iMemoriesMostly goodYes, but some didn’t turn out rightYesSome pixel-ization and odd colorsNot the best
LarsenDigitalYesYesYesYesAcceptable
ScanCafePoor colorsModerate fade correctionYesFuzzy and grainyNot the best
ScanToDigitalAfter 4 months, because address was not verified, there are no digital files to view and the slides are in a US Postal facility somewhere
VistaPix MediaNot so goodNot so goodYesNoNot the best

Question 3 – Will the cost be realistic and feasible?

VendorPer-Slide Cost According to WebsiteMinimum Order?Cost of Data DiskShipping CostFinal Order Cost for Approx. 50 SlidesConclusion
Costco$.32$19.99No extra costMust pick up$19.99Low price but not best quality
DigMyPics$.3925 slides ($9.48)No extra cost$20 return shipping$51.06High price for small order
DpsDave$.17 to $.35no$0.00$12 on orders less than $100$29.50Low price and best quality
FotoBridge$1.50 each for less than 250250 slides ($109.95)No extra costFree with order$88.00Low price on more than 250, but quality is not best
iMemories$.49No$9.99$9.99$36.45High price for small order
LarsenDigital$.38 to $.43$20$5.00$18 return shipping$46.71Moderate price for acceptable quality
ScanCafe$.21 (but the final charge was $.33 per slide)No$3.95$20$48.91

 

Price ended up being moderate rather than low
ScanToDigital$.27NoNo extra cost$10.28$25.13Paid up front but do not have digital files, or original slides, back after 4 months
Vista Pix500 slides for $125 (“as low as $.20 per slide)Vista Pix expects large ordersNo extra costFree with orderPaid $7 shipping, though small order was processed for free as a courtesyLow price on more than 500, but quality is not best

Question 4 – What is the level of customer service, if I need help at any point in the process?

VendorHow good is customer communication?Conclusion
VendorHow good is customer communication?Conclusion
CostcoGood, but I could not track the status of my order once it was sent out.Would not use again
DigMyPicsGood but since there was no address confirmation email, package was sent to wrong addressWould not use again
DpsDaveExcellent – emails were sent that my package arrived and to verify my address, and when I called to ask about using the data disk, the President answered the phone and helped me.Top choice because of low price, high quality and excellent customer service
FotoBridgeVery goodCommunication was good, but picture quality wasn’t
iMemoriesGoodWould not use again because of poor picture quality
LarsenDigitalVery good, order was tracked properlyWould consider using if prices were lower
ScanCafeGoodWould not use again for 3 reasons: orders sent to India, price increased at delivery and picture quality wasn’t the best
ScanToDigitalPoor. They cannot resolve where my package is.Would not use because I did not get digital files or my original slides back within 4 months
VistaPix MediaVery good, and they allowed a test sample for freeCommunication was good, but picture quality wasn’t

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