The following are our current recommended lens / camera combinations across the range of manufacturers and body styles, ordered by our internal preference / customer reports.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and serves primarily to present readily available options that are known to perform. There are countless models from the past few years that are still incredibly capable imagers if you are comfortable looking for used / 3rd party. KEH and B&H sell used options that are fully tested and graded. Don’t let inconsequential features like Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, 20FPS, 4K video etc. dictate your choice.
Your choice may depend on availability, personal brand preference, total price and wether you value certain features for use outside of scanning. For the vast majority of use-cases an entry level DSLR performs comparably to it’s professional counterpart, so don’t overthink this unless you have cause to do so.
Consider purchasing a compatible AC power supply for uninterrupted scanning ( as opposed to cycling and charging batteries).
Before purchasing via the (Amazon Affiliate ) links below, please first try to support your local independent camera retail store.
Resolution : 24MP seems to be the sweet spot for scanning 35mm images with higher resolutions subject to diminishing returns. Scan resolution in PPI / pixels per inch can be calculated by dividing your image width by your subject width. A 24MP image is 6000x4000px and a 35mm frame is 1.3″ wide. 6000/1.3 = 4615PPI. Assuming you overscan by 5%, you are looking at about 4400PPI after cropping.
Sensor Size : Full Frame vs Crop Sensor : In our testing, 35mm scans produced with a full frame sensor are qualitatively indistinguishable to those captured with a crop sensor. For medium format (120) scans, a full frame sensor can be worth the upgrade.
Sensor size WILL dictate the appropriate focal length of macro lens. A full frame sensor has 1.5x larger surface area and requires 1.5x the focal length to achieve the same framing as a crop sensor placed at the same distance. So where a 90mm lens is called on a full frame body, a crop sensor equivalent would be 60mm.
Mirrorless vs DSLR : Mirrorless is all the rage, primarily because it means a smaller package and fewer moving parts. It is a common misconception that mirrorless bodies have NO moving parts. They typically still have a mechanical shutter. One relevant advantage to mirrorless is that LiveView ( seeing what the camera sees on the LCD ) can be used full time without consequence to capture rate.
Yes, you can find adapters from one lens mount type to another. Yes, you can turn a prime portrait lens into a macro lens using extensions tubes. Yes you can achieve macro focus with add-on lenses. Yes you can aggressively crop instead of filling the frame with the image. While there are quite a few ways to achieve the necessary framing, the added variables / unknown consequences put these outside of the scope of our ability to consult. YMMV
( 105mm will result in cropping of 120 on the Strip )
( Not wide enough for 127 / 120 on the Strip)
Budget Option : 172E Tamron 90 (JP Model)
Canon R | 30.3MP / 5000PPI@35mm | C1 Shutter Release
62mm Filter thread
(90mm Sony cannot fill frame with 35mm slides on the SlideSnap Pro, will require some cropping )
( Will need to crop down some for 35mm ) ( 49mm Filter thread)
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