Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner an easy way to digitize 35mm negatives

Lomography has made a business out of trying to keep some of the old film technology alive, and they've been doing it for 20 years. To bridge the gap between the film and digital ages, they've come up with the Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner (US$59).

This post probably won't make sense to those of you who have grown up with digital photography, but there used to be a day when cameras used this stuff called "film." You'd stick it into your camera, take photos, then have them "developed" so that you could see your pictures on "prints." When you'd pick up your envelope of prints, the place where you got your photos developed was always kind enough to include your "negatives," which were the processed film strips. Want another print? Drop off the negative with your friendly neighborhood processing shop, and you'd get the print later -- for a fee, of course.

The Smartphone Film Scanner is a tiny lightbox with a feed mechanism for rolling through those strips of negatives. Put your iPhone (or other smartphone) on top of the device, align your phone's camera lens with the hole on the top of the device, fire up the free Lomoscanner app and start capturing images from the negatives. Note that you can also scan positive (slide) 35mm film, but unfortunately there's no way to scan mounted slides.

You'll need to put a pair of AA batteries in the scanner before starting. I used my Apple rechargeable AAs for this, and they worked just fine. You'll also want to remove the Lomokino adapter before scanning 35mm film -- it's used for scanning Lomokino movies, which are 144-frame 35mm movies shot with a special camera available from Lomography.

Turn on the backlight, fire up the Lomoscanner app and then feed one end of the 35mm film strip into the slot marked "Insert film here." Turn the little knob to feed the negative until it's framed properly, and then tap the shutter button to take your photo. Turn the knob again, take another shot, and so on until that shoebox full of negatives has been scanned.

If you have Photo Stream set up on your iPhone, all of those scanned images will show up in iPhoto or Aperture, ready for additional touch up. There are built-in app adjustments for exposure, contrast and color temperature, so if your negatives have faded, you can begin the process of making them look brand-new within the Lomoscanner app. Me? I think those slightly-off hues can be charming; after all, 5 billion Instagram users can't be wrong. You'll notice that the images seem grainy, but that's an artifact of the original film, not the scanning process.


A lot of users have given the Lomoscanner app negative reviews due to crashing; I only experienced that when I tapped the button to go into my Photo Library. My main concern was that images that were taken vertically on the film strip were cut off when zoomed in. I quickly learned to leave those images zoomed out, and to then use iPhoto to crop out the extraneous space around the images.

The Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner is a great way to digitize those 35mm film strips and get them into your Photo Library. If Lomography ever comes out with a version for scanning the thousands of 35mm slides I have, I'll be the first to buy it.


And now, courtesy of TUAW, Photojojo and Lomography, we're giving away a Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner. Here are the rules for the giveaway:

  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 or older.

  • To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.

  • The entry must be made before August 3, 2013 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.

  • You may enter only once.

  • One winner will be selected and will receive a Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner valued at US$59.

  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.