Home Microfilm Digitization

I know I shouldn’t be shopping for me, but, an opportunity presented itself to me this afternoon and I could not say no.

Background: Last week I emailed a co-worker of mine who has years of photography experience to ask a question. I wanted to know how I could rig a set-up like this.


so that I could capture my own digital images of the microfilm of old newspapers I’ve purchased in the past few years.  The picture you see is the setup that a gentleman named Joel Weintraub. Joel shared the details of this setup in the comments section of a blog post by Dick Eastman on the ST-Genie Microfilm Converter.  I’ve been interested in the type of converter Dick posted about for awhile now, but the cost has been greatly prohibitive for me ($1000+).  Over the past few years, I’ve been transcribing old newspaper issues and creating online indices/blogs for them for wider dissemination but b/c of the expense of digitizing them, I only have about 8 rolls total of microfilm.

When I shared this with my coworker, he offered another, cheaper suggestion — try  a gadget that converts slides & 35mm negatives to digital format.  Hmm.. I guess I am working with 35mm microfilm after all? He sent me several different types and I’d planned to do some further research until I could learn more about them.  Well, today, while at Bed, Bath & Beyond of all places, I just happened to see this device from VuPoint Solutions:

VuPoint Converter

VuPoint Converter

The converter offers two resolutions for image capture – 1800dpi and 3600dpi.  At 1800dpi, I can take more than 6400 images and store them on my 4GB SD card.  This resolution works okay from what I can tell, I’m not sure yet if I need to go up to 3600.

As you can see from the picture, it is designed to be used for slides and 35mm negatives, and that tray didn’t look like it would be too easy for microfilm to work well, but I bought it anyway just to experiment.  And, experiment I have. The microfilm is thin enough that it does slide around well in the slide tray.  So far, it seems the biggest problem I have is that the dimension of the image capture area is not quite big enough for each frame of microfilm.  So, I’m having to rotate the image and take two pictures for each frame.  I appreciate having the viewfinder, so I can at least see how it lays out on the screen, but I cannot see the detail of the newspaper issue.

For items in the paper, such as advertisements, I’m pretty much okay with the quality.  Here is an example of an ad from G.S. Waters & Sons of Newbern, Craven County, North Carolina for their buggy business.


The newspaper article text is another story.  The quality I’ve captured so far is not good enough for posting the actual image, but it is good enough for me to read, transcribe and enter into my databases.  Here is an article from the August 3, 1912 issue of the Kinston Free Press about a man named Henry T. King from Greenville that mentions his work to write a history of Pitt county.


Yes, the process will probably be tedious, for after capturing the images, I then need to collate the images into newspaper issues, but I rather like working hands on with the images.  If I were to send the roll out for digitization by a commercial entity, it would cost me anywhere from $70-$100 per roll and ultimately, that probably does save me time in the long run.  However, I’m not in this for volume, but rather to enjoy the experience and reading through these old newspapers, so we’ll see how I adjust over time.  This particular converter was $100 and the SD card was $40.

I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow and thank my coworker for providing me with this suggestion!  If you’ve used one of these, I’d love to hear your experience.

2 thoughts on “Home Microfilm Digitization

  1. As you can see, I’m catching up on posts tonight…I loved this post. I have a microfilm reader/printer in my basement & have thought many times about buying this attachment I saw awhile back that allows you to connect your digital camera and take pictures…it was something like $30. I’ll have to find that ad. BTW, I lucked up one year & bought my microfilm scanner/reader (full size mind you) for $300 off Ebay!

Leave a Reply