If 35mm film can be scanned up to 4K, does that mean I could have old film rolls from my cheap 1990s photo camera scanned to 4K?


I’m pretty sure the camera used 35mm film, and after I got film rolls developed they were returned to me. I’d just have to find them… And then I assume I could pay for them to be scanned?

The camera was really cheap, just one of those all-plastic with a small lens, not protruding from the body of the camera, basically disposable camera-grade except your could reload film. But since it used film, the film was the “sensor” of the camera so to speak, so the quality should still be good, right?

Is this at all possible?

In: 4

You can get it scanned in any resolution you can dream of, it is only the number for how fine the scanning is, it does not tell anything about how great the images will look. The end result depends alone on how many details and general quality of the original 35 mm image.


35mm movie film and camera film are basically the same stuff.

But the actual film you use in your camera *may* be faster (higher ISO) to cope with less light (no studio bright as the sun lights for you). Faster film is more grainy, and 4K may be reaching diminishing returns.

Simplest is just try and scan a few strips and see.

If you do have good slow film, or good black and white file, you may be surprised at the detail that is there, but that you can’t see till you scan it and blow it up.

the lens probably didn’t get you a 4k image. the high quality image that the film records would be the blurry image produced the cheap lens. image quality is limited by the weakest link which in this case is the plastic lens.

in other words… it won’t be any clearer than the photos would have been when printed back in the 90s. 😅

Depends on camera and film.

A cheap lens, small lens or high ISO film (much over ISO 100) will all result in degraded image vs what you’d expect from a modern digital camera, similarly whether the scene is sufficiently in focus may also make scanning to 4K pointless.

When they use film to shoot movies they’re using high quality lenses, a huge lens compared to your point-and-click camera and high quality film because the whole experience is intended to be projected onto a big screen.

The lens quality affects image quality, focus, distortions, etc.

A small lens impacts resolution, but it also affects the speed of film. If you have a huge lens you are gathering a ton of light so can get a better picture from a short exposure of a lower ISO film.

ISO – with film this was a trade off between light sensitivity vs quality. ISO 400 could be more easily used indoors with a regular camera, because it needed shorter exposure, but was grainier than ISO 100 because of how it achieved that sensitivity.

Absolutely, and you’re probably better off getting those old photo negatives scanned at much higher than 4K, as 35mm still cameras have a larger surface area than 35mm movie cameras -they use the same film, but still cameras are horizontally oriented and “movie” cameras are vertically oriented (this is also why IMAX film is so high-res – it’s 70mm film horizontally oriented).

Since the surface area is much larger than a 35mm movie’s surface area, if the negatives are in decent condition and they weren’t an absurdly grainy stock, you might have much **more** than 4K to work with!

But it’s all very dependent on the film stock used. It might be very finely-grained with a lot of fine detail, making a high-res scan worth it, or it might be very coarsely-grained, so a high-res scan won’t be *useless*, but somewhere along the line you’re just preserving the large amount of grain at higher fidelity without getting any more *detail* out of it than you would at lower resolutions.

Depends on the lens, film and how good your technique was. 4K is only 8MP and will provide enough information for an approximately 8×10/8×12 print without resizing. 35mm film certainly has enough information in it for that.

I was scanning 35mm film at 24MP in 2002. I never saw any benefit from anything higher than that, but I was shooting high ISO negative films with lots of large grain.

A low ISO film well handled has more than enough data to make >24MP worth it.

You can scan it at 8k if you want to. But the actual amount of detail in a 35mm frame doesn’t change. At some point you’re capturing more pixels but no more detail.

Well film is usually high quality scanned at up 3048 DPI, or 12.4 megapixels. 5k resolution is around 14 megapixels. So YES most film can be scanned at 4k.

It does depend however on the film stock and lens. Some stocks have lower resolution, some have higher grain, and some lenses are very bad and can’t hold up to higher resolution.

Short answer is Yes but I wouldn’t look at “quality” in the context of a movie’s resolution: 720p, 1080p, 4k…

That’s not really how film works. The ISO rating on film is all about the sensitivity of the light-absorbing crystals on the film, also called film grain. The higher the film’s ISO, the larger the crystal grains will be and the more light they can absorb. That said, the larger the grain, the less fine detail you can capture. This can be interpreted as “noise” (but it really isn’t).

So, when it comes to scanning film, you are scanning those grains. The higher resolution of the scan, the more defined those grains will be (which is good). A 4k scan of a high ISO film wont look like it’s 720p. It will look like it’s 4k but “noisy”.

I mean, you could scan them into 4k resolution; but the image you get will be limited by the way it was captured.

If it as a low quality camera, chances are it didn’t capture a high quality image. Plus if you haven’t stored it well since the 90s, there is a very good chance the original film will have degraded.

So it’s very much a case of you only get out what you put in. If the original image on the film wasn’t great, all you’ll get is an upscale 4k resolution image of something that wasn’t great to begin with.

There is a reason the saying is “you can’t polish a turd”. If you start with garbage, no matter how you work it you’ll end up with garbage

You can scan/digitise your old 35mm film to a higher resolution than you’re likely to need, but if you’ve used a crappy camera (which in this context basically means a camera with a crappy lens) or the original image is crappy for some other reason, what you’ll end up with is a very accurate copy of the crappy image that’s currently on the film.