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Everything You Need To Know About Microfiche and Microfilm Scanning

Over the past decade or so, the world's focus has been on making everything smaller, more compact and easier to store, from phones and tablets to TVs and music players. A lot of these items also do multiple jobs and the same goes for document storage.

These days when we store documents we typically do this digitally and store them either on our computer hard drive or on an external device which offers more room. These devices are usually only the size of your hand. Long before this however, documents were being stored on microfiche / microfilm which were also about the size of your hand. They were ahead of their time in some senses.

A brief history of microfiche / microfilm

Microfiche and microfilm were even more ahead of their time than most people realise, especially document storage on microfiche has been around since the mid-19th century and the birth of photography itself. However, it came to more prominence in the 1920s and 1930s when the Library of Congress micro-graphed around 3 million pages from books in the British Library. Though microfiche and microfilm are still used spuriously, they are now all but obsolete due to digital conversion and a lack of support for the machines that view them.

Differences between microfiche and microfilm

Both microfiche and microfilm contain negative films but microfiche contain them in a sleeve of either 16mm, 35mm or a combination of both. Microfilm are contained in a film reel which can store considerably more images.

Choosing the right type of Microfiche / Microfilm

The above examples are fairly typical of the different varieties of microfiche and microfilm that are out there but, if you're interested in having them digitised, it's important to know which type you have. Converting a COM fiche can cost significantly different compared to converting a 16mm microfilm or an aperture card.

Types of Microfiche and Microfilm

Though there are only a few varieties of microfiche and microfilm it can be fairly easy to get them mixed up. Below is a brief explanation of each of the microfiche varieties so you can see which type(s), you have:

16mm-microfiche-300x22516mm Microfiche
One of the more common microfiche is the 16mm microfiche. They can hold over 60 images, all captured on small negative film. Details of what is on the microfiche can be found on its jacket, usually with a reference number.

What is contained on 16mm microfiche? 16mm microfiche can hold general documents between the paper sizes of A5 and A3. These can be financial files, manuals or anything of that paper size.

35mm-microfiche-300x22535mm Microfiche
35mm microfiche has more specific uses than 16mm microfiche. Holding a maximum of 6 images per sleeve, they contain larger format images usually things like architect drawings etc.

What is contained on 35mm microfiche? As mentioned 35mm microfiche is known to primarily hold architects drawings but has also been known to hold broadsheet newspapers and anything above A3 in size.

Combi-Fiche-300x225Combi Microfiche
Combi microfiche are much rarer and hold a mixture (as the 'combi' suggests) of 16mm and 35mm microfiche. They can usually hold three 35mm microfiche and two-three rows of 16mm but are the same size as both microfiche types.

What is contained on combi microfiche? A mixture of both large format things like drawings and plans plus A4 documentation to go with them.

Com-Fiche-300x225COM Microfiche
COM microfiche are even rarer that 16mm, 35mm and combi microfiche. They can hold considerably more images with each sleeve containing around 270 images.

What is contained on COM microfiche? COMs are typically used in a corporate environment to store and archive mainframe or computer generated reports and data.

microfilm-16mm-300x18316mm Microfilm
The most common microfilm to be found is the 16mm microfilm. This format holds more than 2,400 images of around A4 in size and more than 10,000 A5 sized images. This makes them perfect for archiving and storing a considerable amount of paper documents.

What is contained on 16mm microfilm? Typically A4 documents but also smaller documents.

microfilm-35mm-300x18335mm Microfilm
To store and view large amounts of large format images, 35mm microfilm was the preferred form. They can hold more than 600 large format drawings or plans and upwards of 800 broadsheet newspaper pages.

What is contained on 35mm microfilm? Usually large format drawings but anything above A3 in size typically.

aperture-card-175x300Aperture Cards
We're not trying to fool you here, we know aperture cards are not technically part of either the microfiche or microfilm family but they are very similar because they store a large image in a small enclosure. In this case, they contain one large format 35mm image in a card or sometimes plastic enclosure.

What is contained on an aperture card? They are almost exclusively large format drawings and plans.

What to expect from having your fiche / film scanned

Microfiche and microfilm were originally brought about from a need to get an exact copy of the original document which can be viewed at any time and yet stored in a smaller, more compact and convenient fashion. However, their purpose is now redundant due to the introduction of scanning and digitisation.

When the microfiche or microfilm are scanned they will be duplicated digitally before being converted into your chosen format, whether that be PDF, JPEG or TIFF. Before this full conversion takes place there are a number of other options which can be applied to the digital image.


Documents can be indexed by a range of data including reference number and name which can be found on the microfiche sleeve or on the film reel. This makes it quick and easy to search and find the document you need.


OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is the process of making your document fully text-searchable. This is especially useful if you want to search for things within the documents themselves rather than just relying on the indexing. The quality of the OCR will always rely on the quality of the original film.

Download our guideMicrofiche-Microfilm-Scanning

For more information on microfilm and microfiche scanning, we have a downloadable guide for you to read through and share with your colleagues so help you get savvy on scanning films.

Here at Pearl Scan, we offer a fully bespoke microfiche and microfilm scanning service so if you would like some more information on the full range of services we offer, get in touch today.

Request a Quote  |   Contact Us   |    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Document Scanning by Pearl Scan

The Scan-do Peopletm

For more information feel free to give us a call: 
Nationwide: 0845 22 55 923      London: 0207 183 1885
Manchester: 0161 832 7991         Birmingham: 0121 285 1900

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Why Should My Microfiche Be Digitised?

So, you once had documents which had to be stored safely but take up as little room as possible. At the time, the obvious solution was to store them on microfiche and microfilm, right? But times have changed and technology has advanced to the point where microforms like those are almost redundant. Here we're going to take a look at why scanning your microforms to digital format is now the superior solution for cost effective and space saving benefits.


Keeping documents on microfiche and microfilm can incur a range of costs for various reasons.

Colour microfiche

It is extremely expensive to create colour microfiche. Those that decide not to copy colour documents into colour microfiche will have to compromise greatly, especially those that rely on colour pictures etc.


The only way to read what is on a microfiche is through a microfiche reader. Due to the reducing popularity of microfiche, it is getting increasingly difficult to come about microfiche readers, let alone purchase them.


Although microfiche and microfilm take up a great deal less space than their paper copy counterparts, it is still necessary to store them together and safely. With a large amount, the storage costs could build up.

Poor quality photos

As mentioned before, colour microfiche is very expensive. Whether you choose to use colour microfiche or not, the photos printed onto them can often be of very poor quality. If your document relies on its photos, the worst thing you could do is ruin the quality through microfiche.

Lacking in features

Microfiche readers are analogue systems and, as a result, they lack in features such as searching and with each copy, the quality degrades unlike with digital systems. You also cannot edit microfiche.

Easily lost, stolen or misfiled

Regardless of where you keep stored microfiche, there will always be a possibility of loss, theft, damage or misfiling.

Take up space

Not only does storage cost money, there is also the obvious disadvantage of the space it takes up. This space could be better used in more efficient ways.

Microfiche storage did have its advantages in the past but as you can see, they no longer provide the best possible solution in the digital age. So what does?

Microfiche ScanningMicrofiche banner

You can now future proof your microfiche by scanning them to a digital format. Microfiche scanning offers a space saving, cost effective and less time consuming solution. There's even reduced hassle if you outsource your microfiche scanning project to a scanning company such as Pearl Scan, who will take care of the whole process for you. Microfiche scanning offers more advantages too;

- Digitised microfiche only take up digital space, leaving you with more physical office space and no cost for storage.
-Once the microfiche or microfilm have been scanned and fully indexed, they will be easier to find using a simple search of title, date or even content.
- Storing digital documents will be much more secure than hardcopies and files can be encrypted for added security.
- Documents can be accessed from anywhere at any time when the digitised documents are placed into a digital document management system meaning you can work more efficiently with the information on them.

Overall, microfiche scanning is the way forward for any individual or business wanting to reap the extensive benefits. Pearl Scan offer a bespoke microfiche or microfilm scanning service which you can tailor to suit your needs. If you are interested in finding out more information about Microfiche Scanning and the services we offer here at Pearl Scan, get in touch today for a free, no obligation quote for your microfiche scanning project.

Request a Quote  |   Contact Us   |    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Document Scanning by Pearl Scan

The Scan-do Peopletm

For more information feel free to give us a call: 
Nationwide: 0845 22 55 923      London: 0207 183 1885
Manchester: 0161 832 7991         Birmingham: 0121 285 1900

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Go Digital With Your Aperture Cards

Do you have aperture cards that are difficult to access? Would you like to be able to access the drawings on them at the click of a button and even edit them?

We think it's time you go digital and get your aperture cards scanned.

It can be expensive to keep aperture cards in storage and time consuming to search through them all for the drawing you need. With CAD software amongst other technology, it is becoming increasingly easy for architects to create their new designs in digital format.

Benefits of Going Digitalaperture-card-scanning

It is easier to access digital records as they can be searched by name, date or other details and found in seconds as opposed to searching through piles of aperture cards.

Once a drawing is in digital format, it is easy to edit and make changes to whenever you need to without having to create a new aperture card.

Rather than having to share the aperture card in its only hard copy, you can send a digital copy via email, USB or through an online platform.

Digital drawings are safer than stored aperture cards. They are protected from the loss, theft and damage risks that come with hard copy storage.

Why outsource your aperture card scanning?

The two main reasons you should outsource your aperture card scanning services is due to cost and time. If you attempt to scan your aperture cards in-house, you will need to purchase an aperture card scanner and also hire someone to do the scanning for you. These costs will run up and if this person isn't particularly experienced in this field of scanning, they may take a considerable amount of time to complete the scanning and digitisation. There will also be more room for error.

By outsourcing a company to complete your scanning for you, you will also get a range of options for your scanning solutions including which medium you would like your digital copies provided in such as TIFF, PDF and JPEG. You can also choose from CD, DVD, USB, secure FTP, Halogen or our Pearl Cloud hosted portal to receive your digital copies on.

Here at Pearl Scan, we offer aperture card scanning tailored to your needs. We have the facilities to handle both small and large scale projects. We can even show you our aperture card scanning process.

If you've been convinced to go digital with your aperture cards and would like to request a quote or if you would like some more information on our Aperture Card Scanning services, get in touch today.

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