The Best Resolution (DPI) for Scanning Film

Optimal Settings for Web/Social, Print, and Archiving Film Scans

7 min read by Dmitri.
Published on . Updated on .

35mm film is estimated to have about 20 megapixels worth of visual data¹ which requires scanning it at around 4,000DPI. However, your goals for the image and the tools you have available will determine the best scanning resolution for your project.

A 400% crop from a CineStill 50D scan at 75DPI (left) vs. 5,000DPI (right).

This guide will lay your options out in detail so that you can make the best possible decision for your film scans. I will go over three scanning scenarios, each with distinct requirements: the Web, print, and archiving.

DPI isn’t the only value you’ll need to consider when scanning nor is it as straightforward as some may think. Here, you will find a full explanation of what it really means, as well as other important attributes like DMax and bit-depth.

Note: To get acquainted with the terms used in this article, have a look at the glossary below.

If you’re looking for quick answers: read the first paragraph of either Web, print, or archiving sections.

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The best scan resolution for the Web.

35mm film will work best on the web when scanned at 2,700DPI and saved as a JPEG file with compression set to 80. Medium format will produce a similar file when scanned at just 1,200DPI. 4x5 only needs 650DPI, and 8x10 will do fine at 320DPI.