Microfiche & Microfilm scanning

Everything You Need To Know About Microfiche and Microfilm Scanning

In the last decade or so, we've been all about making what we have smaller, more compact and easier to store though, surprisingly to some, we have been doing this for a lot longer.

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 are typically the size of your hand. Long before this however documents were being stored on microfiche / microfilm which are also about the size of your hand.

A brief history of microfiche / microfilm

What's more impressive is that this has been going on since the mid-19th century, since the birth of photography itself, though it came to more prominence in the 1920s and 1930s when the Library of Congress micrographed around 3 million pages from books in the British Library. Though microfiche and microfilm are still used spuriously, they are now all but obsolete thanks to digital conversion and a lack of support for the machines that view them.

Differences between microfiche and microfilm

Though both microfiche and microfilm contain negative films, 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 guides 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 make a difference in cost 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

16mm Microfiche

The 16mm microfiche is one of the more common microfiche. They can hold upwards of around 60 images, all captured on small negative film. They typically have details of what is on the microfiche itself on the upper part of the 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 microfiche35mm Microfiche

35mm microfiche is more specific in its uses than 16mm microfiche. They only usually contain a maximum of 6 images per sleeve, all containing larger format images used by the likes of architects. What is contained on 35mm microfiche? 35mm microfiche is known to primarily hold architects drawings but also broadsheet newspapers and anything above A3 in size.  


combi microficheCombi Microfiche

Though rarer, combi microfiche, as their title suggests, hold a mixture of 16mm and 35mm microfiche. Typically they hold 3 35mm microfiche and 2-3 rows of 16mm. They are the same size as 16mm and 35mm microfiche. 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 microficheCOM Microfiche

Considerably rarer than 16mm, 35mm and combi microfiche, COM microfiche contain considerably more images. Sleeves contain around 270 images, all smaller than 16mm. 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.  




16mm microfilm

16mm Microfilm

16mm microfilm are the more common of microfilm. They hold upwards of 2,400 images of around A4 in size and upwards of 10,000 images of A5 and under documents. This makes them ideal for archiving and storing a considerable amount of paper documents. What is contained on 16mm microfilm? Typically A4 documents but also smaller documents.  


35mm microfilm35mm Microfilm

35mm microfilm are used to home large amounts of large format images and are ideal for archiving as much as viewing. They typically hold upwards of 600 large format drawings / 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 Cards

Though aperture cards are not technically part of either the microfiche nor microfilm family, they are very similar in that they store a large image in a small enclosure. 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

The point of microfiche /microfilm in the first place was 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. This is exactly what having them scanned and digitised will do only with further advantages. When the microfiche or microfilm are scanned they will be duplicated digitally before being converted into a popular digital format of your choice such as PDF, JPEG or TIFF but before this full conversion takes place there are a number of other options which can be applied to the digital image itself.


Documents can be indexed by their reference number on the microfiche sleeve, the name on the sleeve or the name / reference number on the film reel. This makes searching for and finding the documents all the more convenient.


OCR, or optical character recognition, means that you can make all documents with computer / typewriter generated text fully 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 this can come down to the quality of the original filming. More details on OCR for microfilm and microfiche.

microfiche microfilm scanning guideDownload our guide

We have a downloadable guide to microfiche and microfilm scanning for you to read through, keep and share with colleagues which may help to reduce the confusion that surrounds scanning films. In the meantime, if you're interested in getting your microfiche or microfilm scanned, explore our dedicated page for microfiche scanning, or contact us for a free quote.

Best Way To Modernise Your Aperture Cards

Modernising Your Aperture Cards

aperture card scanning

These days, many companies are turning to aperture card scanning to access files previously stored on an aperture card. It's strange to think that at one point aperture cards were the best way to store large engineering drawings to save space. They were revolutionary but times move on and the modern solution is aperture card scanning. We now look on the old aperture card as dated as floppy discs and VHS tapes.

In our fast moving technological world, the only way to hang on to your important files is to keep them as modernised as possible, and right now the only real way to do this is with aperture card scanning.

Aperture Cards vs Aperture Card Scanning to Digital

There has always been something of an argument as to how inadequate aperture cards actually are compared to digital. They have a 100 year life span and are readable by humans as opposed to just computers but they are still fast becoming obsolete.

They are no longer the best and most compact way to hold onto important documents and files. Digital aperture card storage through aperture card scanning now holds that title. The only space digital aperture card take is the amount of space a computer can hold which, for high quality images, we're only talking a few megabytes while systems these days can hold terabytes of space.

Aperture card conversion to digital also potentially has a much longer lifetime to it than aperture cards themselves. Certainly, computers have a relatively short lifespan, but the files certainly don't as they can be transferred simply between systems and, if kept backed up well, can be seen by many generations to come.

High profile organisations are now utilising aperture card scanning. The US DoD (Department of Defence) once kept everything on Aperture card, but their files are now primarily stored digitally.

Aperture Card Scanning Process

The process of scanning and indexing aperture cards can be relatively simple when performed by a professional scanning company like Pearl Scan. It also makes sense to outsource your aperture card scanning as buying a scanner yourself to complete the job can set you back tens of thousands of pounds whereas services can convert your files for as little as pennies per card.

The digitisation means you can do so much more with your aperture cards than before. For example, images can be shared via email or over a company network, uploaded online, be edited and have notes added if required. They could also be found in an instant through simple text searches on your computer.

Forward Progress Using Aperture Card Scanning

Aperture card scanning and conversion has come to replace what the aperture card once stood for; simple storage and quick access. Aperture card scanning services not only give you what aperture cards once promised, they also give you so much more for what is effectively pennies per card.

We are an aperture card scanning company so if you would like some more information on the how to scan aperture cards with Pearl Scan or if you would like to request a free, no obligation quote, get in touch today to speak to a member of our friendly and experienced team.

The future of the legal sector

Paperless solutions are not a new concept; the idea has been around for many years, but it has only been this last five years or so that the idea has been one that many have thought about as realistic. News stories about businesses pioneering the paperless movement and operating solely digitally have brought the idea to the forefront of people’s minds. And the latest story that’s got the paperless industry talking refers to legal document scanning.

Solicitors and lawyers have long been associated with paper documents. Numerous files and folders complete with statements, evidence and notes have been dragging the law industry down for many years. However due to increasing caseloads and stagnant staff levels, a city in Texas has decided to make the switch to digital practices and utilised legal document scanning in order to achieve paperless court case management.

The Texan legal industry has used their available resources and used a professional company to undertake all of their management of documents in order to digitise them and encourage them to implement digital processes going forward – and it has had incredible results in just a short period of time.

Prior to implementing the paperless movement, employees experienced a number of issues managing paper processes. Documents in the law sector are obviously passed on from person to person, meaning it wasn’t uncommon for important files to go missing, be misfiled or even be absent from courtroom proceedings. This even resulted in constituents not receiving essential notifications from the court. However since the digital transformation, the industry has turned on its head.

Now court employees receive instant and secure access to court documents when and where they need it, all documentation is connected which allows for processes to be streamlined and provide instant access to information for staff, and information is able to be sent directly to judges, attorneys and constituents should they need it – safe in the knowledge that these documents won’t go missing, and even if they get deleted by the recipient, there is always a backup available to be accessed instantly.

So successful has the process been, that all courtrooms in Garland are now completely paperless. Record requests, prosecutions, warrants and even judges’ final sign-off on court documents are all paperless, which has not only helped to improve the city’s business processes, but has created a quicker and more efficient process in order to ensure it is able to serve its constituents and stakeholders in the most effective way.

Do you think a whole paperless legal sector is possible worldwide?

Find out about our legal document scanning services .