How to Scan Microfiche and Microfilm

Microfilm scanner up close

Once a ubiquitous solution for preserving important documents, microfilm was, at one time, the go-to storage medium for libraries, legal firms, healthcare institutions, and government agencies.

However, the scarcity of microfiche readers and scanners today can make accessing and using this data challenging. 

As a result, most people who still have microfiche documents are looking for ways to digitize them. Of course, there are many benefits to digitizing microfiche and microfilm, including the fact that digital files don’t deteriorate, are cheaper to store, and are text searchable, making them much easier to find when you need them.

Fortunately, there are a few relatively straightforward methods for converting your microfilm records into digital files.

Whether you need to create digital backups of your microfilm images or replace your entire archive, this article will offer several options for scanning microfilm. We will also explain why, in certain situations, choosing professional scanning services might be the optimal choice for preserving your records.

Quick Refresher: What is Microfiche?

Microfiche is a microphotography format that is widely used for document storage. It involves shrinking printed materials onto small, flat film cards (usually 105mm by 148mm), each capable of holding multiple pages of information. 

These miniaturized documents, viewable through a microfiche reader which magnifies the images, were once a staple in libraries, legal firms, healthcare institutions, and government agencies.

The durability of microfiche, with a lifespan of up to 500 years in ideal conditions, made it a popular choice for the long-term preservation of records. For this reason, many of the records stored on microfilm still hold importance to this day. 

This is the main reason so many people are interested in microfiche scanning.  Digitizing microfilm not only ensures preservation of important records,  but also enhances accessibility and integration into modern digital systems. 

How Can I Scan Microfiche?

There are a few ways for you to digitize your microfiche, depending on your specific needs and budget. 

Use a Microfilm Scanner

When it comes to digitizing microfiche, the most obvious choice is to either purchase or rent a microfiche scanner. 

These specialized scanners are designed to produce very high-quality images from the extremely small originals found on microfilm. Equipped with a zoom range from 7x to 54x or greater, they ensure the production of clear and detailed digital copies regardless of the microfiche’s size or type.

Most microfiche scanners also come with specialized software that includes features like image enhancement, cropping, and exporting in various digital formats, giving you everything you need to produce high quality microfilm reproductions in one convenient package.

While the advantages of using a specialized microfilm scanner are clear, there are a few disadvantages to deal with as well.

First of all, these scanners can be quite expensive, with prices ranging from $4,000 to $8,000 per machine. For those with a substantial microfiche collection or frequent microfilm scanning needs, this investment might be justified. However, for occasional use or smaller collections, the costs might not be worth it. 

If you’re willing to buy one used, you can get a microfilm scanner for much less. Many of the older units are durable and if well-maintained, are a great option for those on a tighter budget.

Another issue is that scanning and processing microfilm is time intensive. Although these scanners make scanning microfilm much easier, properly tagging the digitized files, extracting important content, and establishing a well-organized filing system afterwards is much more complex than it may seem. 

For this reason, when dealing with larger collections, it may be a good idea to explore other alternatives.

Use Consumer Grade Scanning Equipment

For those looking for a more budget-friendly option for scanning their microfiche, consumer-grade scanning equipment can be a viable alternative. There are several scanners available for a few hundred dollars that, while primarily designed for scanning film negatives, can potentially be used for microfiche due to their high-resolution capabilities.

Scanners like the Epson Perfection V600 and the Canon CanoScan 9000F are perfect examples. These devices are designed for film scanning and boast impressive resolutions of 6400 x 9600dpi and 9600 x 9600 dpi, respectively. Priced at under $500, they are excellent choices for hobbyists or individuals who need to create high-resolution images of their digital film.

However, it’s important to note that these devices are not specifically made for microfiche scanning. This means that while they can be effective for personal projects or for backing up microfiche images, their performance in professional settings might vary.

While consumer-grade equipment might suffice for those who simply wish to view their microfiche at a larger size, the quality might not meet professional standards. Not only that, but scanning microfiche on equipment not specifically designed for this purpose can be quite laborious. This approach is likely impractical for those with extensive collections of microfiche to scan, as it would require a significant time investment and may not yield consistently high-quality results.

Film Shops and Online Services

For people who don’t want to invest in pricey equipment or simply don’t have the time to tackle the microfilm scanning process themselves, boutique shops and online scanning services with microfilm scanning capabilities can be a great alternative. 

These services typically provide competitive pricing and excellent results. They have the proper scanning equipment and the expertise to enhance the quality of the digitized images. This can be particularly beneficial for those with large amounts of microfiche but not enough to justify the cost of purchasing their own scanning equipment. The pricing for these services can vary, so it’s advisable to shop around to find the best deal.

However, one of the primary concerns with this method is the security of your sensitive information. Sending off your microfiche to someone you don’t know, especially if it contains important or confidential data, can be worrisome. Therefore, it’s important to consider whether or not the scanning service you choose is trustworthy and adheres to data protection standards.

That’s exactly why we’ve introduced our ultra-secure mail-in microfiche scanning service. Our service is designed for individuals who have microfilm they want to digitize, but may not have access to microfiche scanning in their area.

Simply mail us your microfiche and we do the rest, transforming your film into high resolution images you can store and share easily. Our processes are always secure, in fact, they’re HIPAA compliant, so no matter what level of security you need (even if not at all), you always get the best with SecureScan. Contact us for more information or to get started with your microfiche scanning project.

Outsourcing to Professional Services

If you need high quality digitization or have an extensive microfiche archive, outsourcing to a professional microfiche scanning service is often the most efficient and reliable solution. 

At SecureScan, we utilize state-of-the-art microfiche scanning equipment and software, ensuring that your microfilm is captured with exceptional clarity and accuracy. 

With over 21 years of experience in digitizing microfilm, our team has developed a deep understanding and proficiency in handling various types of microfiche. This extensive experience ensures that we deliver the best results for our clients, every time.

SecureScan has a proven track record of working with a wide range of organizations, including businesses, government agencies, engineering firms, and universities. Our service goes beyond mere digitization; we offer additional benefits that make us stand out in the industry. Our scanning technicians are HIPAA trained and certified, ensuring that all data handling is secure and compliant with the most stringent privacy standards. We also provide meticulous indexing and organization of digitized files, making the management and retrieval of your digital archives effortless and efficient.

Understanding the needs of businesses with large archives, our team is equipped to handle substantial volumes quickly and effectively. For those with sizable collections, we offer the convenience of coming to your location to retrieve your microfilm. Your valuable documents will then be securely transported to our scanning facility for processing. This level of service ensures that your documents are handled with the utmost care from start to finish, providing you with peace of mind and a hassle-free experience.

Let us help you transition your microfiche archives into the digital age with ease and professionalism. For more information, contact us or get a free scanning quote from one of our scanning technicians.

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