Category Archives: Microfiche scanning

A Brief History of Microfiche

The Origin of Microfiche

history of microfilm

The “Father of Microphotography” John Benjamin Dancer created microproduced novelty texts in 1839 England. Dancer’s father had owned an optical goods firm, and combined his family’s chosen trade with the brand new process of photography, John tinkered. In 1853 he sold slide microphotographs which could be viewed with a microscope. Dancer sold around 500of these microphotograph slides, many of which were art gallery paintings. Popular slides were of members of the Victorian Royal Family, Emperor Napoleon, and of a banknote. Their labels contained the initials of their maker, J.B.D. for John Benjamin Dancer.

Using these techniques French optician Rene Dagron was granted the first patent for microfilm in 1859. He started the first commercial microfilming enterprise, selling microphotographic trinkets. During the Franco-Prussian War in the 1870s, Dagron demonstrated a practical use when carrier pigeons were transported microfilmed messages across German lines to Paris. Dragon created tiny microfilmed photographs of documents, then put them inside tiny tubes attached to the carrier pigeon’s wing. The images were visible only with the use of an early form of film projector.

Also in 1870, when John Benjamin Dancer was 58 years old, he started to suffer from glaucoma. Eventually, he had three eye operations and by 1878 he gave up his business. He passed away at age 75, blind, and in obscurity.

However, during the early 1900’s microphotographs became regarded as a scammy novelty. Serious minded men saw the whole thing as a waste of time. In 1928 “the fashion for microphotographs had largely died out”.

Yet during World War II (1939-1945), fine grain film had been improved to allow photographs of documents to be reduced even further (micro-dots).


What You Don’t Know About Buying a Used Microfiche Scanner

Looking to buy a cheap used microfiche scanner?

There are a handful of high grade technologically marvelous microfiche scanner manufactures. Because they put so much time and money into research and development costs in a competitive niche industry, they are very protective of their products. For the most part, the major microfiche scanners do not sell officially used equipment.
Yet third-party microfiche scanner sellers advertise discounted scanner prices and gave good marketing campaigns.
Before you buy a used microfiche scanner, consider these facts:

Software licenses are non-transferable

buy used microfiche scanner

Legally, microfiche scanning software is licensed to the original purchaser of the unit and is not transferable to the new owner without the software publisher’s expressed permission. It is possible that the software could no longer work should you purchase used equipment (and definitely forget about updates), and there will probably be an additional cost for a new software license.

Used Microfiche Scanners Are Bought “As Is”

When you buy a microfiche scanner “as is,” that purchase is from a private seller. If you agree to the “as is” terms, you may have little to no recourse under the law if something goes wrong or if the microfiche scanner turns out to not be what the seller says it was. To add insult to injury, you probably were already on the hook for shipping costs paid for all of half of the microfiche scanner at the point.
Caveat emptor is the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality before the purchase is made.

Waiver of Rights for Technical Support

You will not be eligible for software updates, upgrades, or maintenance help. If you call the microfiche scanner manufacturer, you will not get technical help, equipment parts, or support. You will need to pay for a new service contract.


Microfiche Scanning Cost: Ugly Truths

How much does it cost to scan microfiche?

How much does it cost to scan microfiche? What is the price to convert microfiche to digital images? The cost of microfiche scanning depends on the microfiche type. 

Step 1 is to identify the type of microfiche to be digitized.

Step 2 is to determine the estimated volume of the microfiche digital conversion.

  • COM fiche has around 208 to 270 frames and is computer generated.
  • Jacketed microfiche generally contain under 70 images per card (usually they have a few rows of 16mm film strips).
  • Step-and-repeat microfiche can fall under either fiche category depending on the image layout on the fiche card. The same can be said for rewritable microfiche.
  • 35mm microfiche jackets have a minimum fee per card since there are only 1 to 6 images on them.

Published Microfiche Scanning Prices

Taking a look at four microfiche scanning companies who advertise online, we get varied pricing structures:

cost to scan microfiche

Company A’s microfiche scanning price


microfiche conversion quote

Company B’s microfiche scanning price


microfiche scanning cost

Company C’s microfiche scanning price


how much microfiche scan

Company D’s microfiche scanning price


Let’s pretend you have a collection of 1000 35mm microfiche, containing 6 images each (ergo, 6000 images), and want them to be scanned. Granted the price lists seem a bit confusing, but this is the best we could interpret them to be:

Company A: $2,000
Company B: $1,800
Company C: Doesn’t say 35mm fiche, but let’s hope it’s less than $6,000
Company D: $2,160

Our microfiche scanning company, Generation Imaging, would be way under all of those prices.

Why is there such a variance in microfiche scanning costs?

Not Knowing the Microfiche Market

It is possible that a document scanning company simply does not know what the current microfiche scanning prices are because they are not focused on the microfiche industry. Many large corporations sell software, document scanning, or equipment sales. They may not have done their microfiche fiche scanning market analysis.


Microfiche scanning is a niche market, and many companies which advertise microfiche digitization services may use a subcontractor to perform the work. There is nothing wrong with this, however since the corporation  assumes the risk of the sale, they mark-up the microfiche scanning price. Salespeople work on commissions. An independent salesperson may set up a website which advertises microfiche scanning but may actually not have microfiche scanners. They get their commission, which increases your price.

Cost of Labor to Convert Microfiche

Worker salaries vary by jurisdiction and is based upon microfiche scanner operator experience and skill. Every project needs a client representative, microfiche preparer, microfiche scanning operator, quality control auditor, supervisor, manager, shipper, and accounts payable.

Microfiche Scanner Speed Times

If a microfiche scanning company has scanners made by respected manufacturers such as NextScan, Mekel, Sunrise, and a couple of others, they have the ability to convert more microfiche per hour than a lesser known scanner. The high production microfiche scanners cost tens of thousands of dollars and require expert technical skill to operate. The lower-end microfiche machines still could run you up to $15,000 but the time it takes to scan one microfiche is time consuming. A microfiche machine like reader printer is slower, especially if you are forced to save out one frame at a time manually. There are also “mid-level” microfiche scanners which cost tends of thousands of dollars but do not have superior scanning speed or quality enhancers. CONTACT US

What is a REAL Microfiche Scanning Company?

Real Microfiche Company vs Fake Microfiche Company

There are some so-called microfiche scanning companies online which advertise microfiche conversion services but really pay someone else to do it or just collect your information and sell it. A real microfiche scanning company has a few traits which you could test and check yourself.

microfiche scan

Listed as business in Google Maps

You may have noticed that when you search for local auto mechanics, restaurants, or other places that businesses near you, Google will list the companies with their addresses and telephone numbers and show them on the map. A legitimate microfiche scanning company is held to the same standards: the business is verified by Google, meaning it is a real brick-and-mortar business.

E-Mail address with business domain names

A customer service representative getting back to you using a Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, or weird looking domain name in their email address is very suspicious. The e-mail domain name should somewhat match the company name.

Client References

A microfiche scanning company ought to have testimonials or references and be willing to share them with a potential client. Having these shows experience and capabilities.

Quick Communications

There is no reason not to get a response by phone or e-mail over a 24-hour period. If you are waiting a long time for a response- especially for a microfiche scanning quote– it is possible the person is trying to get pricing as they do not have microfiche scanners themselves and subcontract the work.


Scanning Oversized Microfiche (Wide Format Microfiche)

The Problem with Oversized Microfiche

Some 35mm and even 16mm microfiche jackets are oversized. They sometimes are called wide format microfiche or large format microfiche. Oversized microfiche have an abnormally wide length. These rare, large microfiche jackets are too big for the standard glass platens that come with microfiche scanners. In other words, they cannot be scanned using normal equipment.

The good news is that some microfiche scanners offer large format microfiche adapters as add-on equipment. At Generation Imaging we have these wide format glass platens which enable us to scan oversized microfiche. These special oversized glass platens can also scan aperture cards and weird microfiche such ultrafiche and minifiche sizes.

Scanning microfiche requires the proper equipment and quality control procedures to make sure all of the images are captured. Since microfiche is different, making sure that you capture every image is critical. The benefit of converting microfiche into an electronic format centers around the ability to extract information off the fiche and then make it instantly available via searches within a document management system. It also provides protection against the media degrading over time.

Brief History of Microfiche Degradation

vinegar syndrome

Microfiche created before the 1930s were created on nitrate film, which poses high risks since it is flammable. In the 1940s to 1980s, microfiche were usually printed on a cellulose acetate base, which is prone to tears, vinegar syndrome, and redox blemishes. Vinegar syndrome is caused by chemical decay and produces buckling and shrinking, embrittlement, and bubbling. Redox blemishes are yellow, orange or red spots caused by oxidative attacks, and due to bad storage conditions. These issues can make microfiche unreadable and valuable information is lost forever

Generation Imaging can scan all sizes and formats, including jacketed fiche, computer output microfiche (COM fiche), 105mm microfiche, step-and-repeat microfiche. CONTACT US