If you’re looking at ways to have your microfilm scanned, you’re pretty much comparing two options: scanning the microfilm yourself or working with a scanning company. It can be frightening to send your film outside of your office, but the upside of working with a professional is that they’re built for this type of work and they (should) have all the right processes in place to make your project a success. Below are some items to help you figure out how to choose the right microfilm scanning partner. It’s not an exhaustive list, but the points below should give you a good starting point.

Features And Benefits Of Microfilm Scanning Services

There’s a lot to love about microfilm and microfilm scanning: it’s a super niche way to store scanned images and information and we can talk about it all day! You’re here because you’ve decided it’s time to move away from film and digitize your collection, and you’re probably focused on why this is a good idea for you. Let’s start there.

Microfilm Scanning

What are the benefits of microfilm scanning services?

Getting tired of having to work with physical rolls of microfilm? We get it, it’s tedious and can take a long time to find your roll (probably in a cabinet in another room), load it onto your reader/printer, and scroll around looking for the document you need. And if your microfilm is open to the public, all that handling can wear out your film over time – someone that’s not familiar with microfilm can even ruin it if they load it incorrectly or do something else detrimental. If someone is using your film and isn’t familiar with how to scan documents, that could be trouble.

Similar to handling reels of microfilm, working with reader printers or a scanner isn’t always a joy. The old models are bulky and take up space, and they’re past their prime: some aren’t able to be repaired because parts aren’t even made for them anymore. The learning curve can be difficult for infrequent users, such as library patrons or people visiting a county office to look at public records.

Once you receive your scanned documents, you can vastly improve your access by using a records management tool. You’ll be able to find records based on index information and can even search your entire collection by keyword in under a second!

Instead of spending 10 minutes or more on each hard copy document retrieval (find the roll of film, load it on the machine, scroll around and find the information, unload from the machine, put the film back), imagine finding the record you need in less than two minutes!

A military saying goes “two is one, one is none.” If you only have one copy of a document, you may as well have none because when something goes wrong, you’re out of luck. When you scan your film you’ll be able to create multiple digital copies in case of disaster, and if you keep your hard copy records that’s like icing on the backup cake.

When you scan your microfilm you can finally get the hard copy records out of your office. You don’t necessarily have to dispose of them, but at the least, you’ll be able to free up some space and put them in storage somewhere else.

Why should you invest in a microfilm scanning service?

At first glance, a microfilm scanning project can seem like just another costly expense. You already have the records, so it’s not exactly critical to make them digital. But once you dive deeper and realize what you can gain, and what you can stop doing, the idea becomes much more interesting. 

Take a look again at the benefits of scanning. Not a bad list, right? Let’s take the “reduce record retrieval times” item and explore it a bit: if you access your film records six times a week and it takes 20 minutes each retrieval, that’s two hours a week. Over a year you’re looking at 104 hours (two and a half weeks spent retrieving microfilm data). If you scan and convert your film and reduce retrievals by half to just 10 minutes each, you’re already saving an entire week of time to focus on your actual job. And 10 minutes per retrieval using our Digital ReeL application is very conservative (think more like two minutes per retrieval).

If you’re able to shave off a minimum of 50% of the time you now spend dealing with microfilm, is that worth it? 

What microfilm scanning services do we offer?

Every scanning project is unique in its own way, so we won’t get into the weeds of it in this article. If you’re looking at microfilm scanning from a general point of view, there are a couple of routes to take: a “traditional” scanning project or a Digital ReeL project. Yes, Digital ReeL is our own product so of course we’re keen on it, but we also do plenty of traditional scanning projects, too. We like any film scanning!

A traditional scanning project is one in which you’ll end up with PDF or TIF files that are indexed according to specific document criteria that you want to organize your records by. 

A Digital ReeL scanning project is one in which you’ll access your scanned film from a web-based portal by viewing a virtual replica of your records on screen. Indexing is usually done at the microfilm roll or microfiche title level to keep project costs down. 

If you’re interested in seeing a detailed comparison, take a look at our page that compares traditional microfilm conversion to our Digital ReeL application.

How To Choose A Microfilm Scanning Partner

How do you start a microfilm scanning project with your new partner?

How your scanning project starts (and goes) is completely dependent on which company you decide to work with. We can’t speak to the specifics of other companies because everyone does things in their own way, but if you work with us the general steps to get started are:

  • Create a scope of work document with one of our reps
  • Have some of your film scanned for a sample
  • Finalize a scope and contract
  • Milestone 1 Proof of Concept and approval
  • Do the project


We have an
article that details our project process and includes an infographic to summarize the steps for you.

What should you look for in a microfilm scanning partner?

Expertise, curiosity, and a bit of stubbornness.

Expertise – if the people you’re working with don’t know microfilm, then you’re probably not going to end up with a successful project. Scanning paper isn’t the same as scanning microfilm, so verify that they have a solid understanding of microfilm. 

Curiosity – Every project is different, and if you’re given a cookie-cutter scope of work then you’re just a commodity. Your rep should be asking more questions than giving you answers. If they’re not curious about what you actually want and need, you could end up with a project that isn’t useful to you. 

Stubbornness – Yes, you want some pushback. You may have a grand plan for your microfilm, but even the best-laid plans can go awry. If your rep just nods their head and gives you everything you want, they’re not helping you. 

For more ideas about what to expect, check out our post ”What You Should Expect During Your Digital Conversion Project.”

Why will it be more cost-effective to outsource to a document scanning service company?

In most cases, yes. Scanning companies, specifically microfilm scanning companies like us, are built for these projects. We have the security procedures to handle and transmit data, the film scanners to digitize your records, the scanning technology infrastructure to process your images and data, and the personnel to craft your project workflow and actually scan your film. 

You could build up a process from scratch by purchasing film scanners, creating internal business processes, and having a couple of folks scan your film on a part-time basis, but if you have large volumes of material then you might never finish! 

For a detailed post about hiring an outsider, head over to our post ”Why Should I Hire A Scanning ‘Expert?’”

Microfilm Scanning Service Cost

How much does microfilm digitization typically cost?

Ballpark ranges you’re looking at:


Microfilm scanning:

$20 – 40/roll for 100′ rolls, and up to double that for 215′ rolls. 


Microfiche scanning:

$0.75 – 1.25/sheet for 16mm and 35mm jacket fiche (5- and 2-channel jackets, respectively).

$3 – 5/sheet for COM fiche (the fiche with about 250-300 images on each sheet).


Aperture card scanning:

$0.25 – 0.75/card. 

The number of microfilm rolls, microfiche sheets, and aperture cards plays a big part in the pricing, but if you have a sizeable collection you’ll probably be in this range. Further details like indexing and optical character recognition (OCR) will also have to be discussed, since those can affect the cost. 

More information about factors that contribute to project costs are found on our page ”How Much Does Microfilm Digitization Cost?”

Dollars and coins on a table

How do you know a microfilm scanning service is worth the cost?

You’ll have to do some number crunching to figure this out. How much microfilm do you have? How often do you access your film? How long does it take you? What are the costs of maintaining your reader/printer machines? What are you paying to store your microfilm (even if it’s just taking up office space, that’s still square footage you’re paying for to have film sitting there)?

If you can figure out the annual cost of all this and then compare it to a scanning project, you’ll have a good idea if it’s worth it. For example, if you’re “spending” $2,500/year by using physical microfilm but a scanning project would cost $100,000 then it probably isn’t worth the price tag (a 40-year return on investment isn’t very appealing!). But if you’re paying $10,000 internally to find documents from film and a scanning project costs $30,000, that’s a pretty quick ROI of only three years, which is much more interesting and gives you a good business case to scan! 

What is the best microfilm or microfiche scanning service for the budget?

It depends. What are you trying to do and how do you want to access the images once they’re digitized? We need to know what you want to do with your electronic records after they’re scanned before we can give a solid recommendation.

BUT, if we absolutely had to give you an answer right now then we’d say Digital ReeL! Simple and cost-effective, you get a virtual replica of your microfilm with text-search and image enhancement capabilities. If you’re looking for a clean, simple solution, we’d recommend Digital ReeL.

Best Microfilm Scanning Services

What’s the best way to scan microfilm that contains sensitive information?

Very carefully.

Data breaches are all the rage these days, so you want to be sure the records you send out are handled properly and protected! To securely scan and process sensitive/classified documents, multiple security protocols should be in place. Now’s not the time to skimp on secure document scanning when you hand over your microfilm to a vendor. 

We have physical security procedures, digital processing policies, and personnel security requirements in place to ensure your data is handled the right way. For more information about our security posture, take a look at our security page

What are the most affordable microfilm scanning services?

“Affordable” is relative, but we believe that our Digital ReeL microfilm conversion option is pretty darn good when it comes to cost-effective scanning solutions. With a simple building-block approach, we usually recommend a simple indexing structure so that you don’t spend a lot up front naming things and getting too fancy. Just keep the organization simple at the roll level, which is exactly how you find your film now, and see if that works for you. If you want to get more detailed later, a second part of the project is always available. 

Next Steps

We’ve got to assume that if you’re reading this article then you’re trying to find a company to work with to get your microfilm scanned. If that’s the case, we’d love to chat with you and go over what you need and find out if we’re the right fit!

Give us a call at 800.359.3456 (800.FLY.FILM – we even have film in our phone number!) or send an email to info@bmiimaging.com and we’ll get you set up with one of our reps.

Further Reading

Below are some other articles and pages we’ve put together to give you some more information about our services.

“The BMI Project Review Process” illustrates our 14-step approach to take your digital conversion project from idea to reality. If you want to know how we do what we 

“The BMI Microfilm Scanning Process” describes our 10-step method of scanning your microfilm. You should know what happens to your microfilm when you work with a scanning company!

“Traditional Microfilm Conversion vs. Digital ReeL” is a comparison of what we call a “traditional” method of scanning film (creating PDFs, TIFs, etc.) and our Digital ReeL solution. There isn’t a right or wrong way, so if you’re not sure what options you have available to you and are curious about the pros and cons, this is a good place to start.