Retrospective Digitisation

Microfilm vs. Direct Digitisation

Our decision to adopt and perform direct digitisation directly from the originals in preference to microfilming is based on the following points:



Direct digitisation

Colour information


Full colour (16.7 Mio. colours, which is more than human colour capacity).


300 - 400 dpi, depending on quality of microfilming equipment

800 - 2700 dpi, depending on size of original


Insufficient for many originals. For example, only about 50% of the Indian manuscripts in the German National Library in Berlin can be microfilmed, because the low contrast would render the film illegible.

Extremely high. Almost microscopic in quality. Detail down to every fibre can be analyzed. All originals can be used.


Taken from camera distance.

Taken from minimal distance.

Distortion and deviation

Film capture deviations

None (Flat-flat optical capture).

Intrusion on integrity of original

Flash light exposure often necessary and mostly applied. Considerable damage to originals through chemical reactions started by processes from 13000 lux upwards.

Therefore, microfilm camera capture prohibited in case of valuable originals.

Negligible. No flash necessary. Cold-light technology. Light exposure is low-intensity. Exposure area is minimal (slit).

Capture of gold, metallic or orther reflective materials.

Not possible, or very minimal.

Possible without known limitations. We have even digitised full-size gold-covered book bindings from Turkey, with integrated leather stamping. Very good quality, and even facsimile print reproduction is possible. (We have samples.)


Microfilm is a problematic, non-lasting material. Many microfilms in all major libraries and national archives are already damaged. In Berlin, some significant manuscripts that were microfilmed are no longer readable. We are negotiating for post-digitisation of many endangered microfilms.

Microfilm is an analog material. Consequently, defects such as black or white spots are not easily recognised as such. They are sometimes assumed to be part of the image. The defects slowly grow until the material is rendered worthless.

Under digital control. Modern media, such as normed Mitsui premium material, is certified to up to 200 years.

Digital copies are by definition perfect copies, the first such human technology. Within the certified lifetime of digital media (for example, every 150 years), they can be migrated to normed media of the respective future, thus ensuring virtually unlimited tradition potential.

Reproduction quality

Quality decreases with every copy.


Forward compatibility


ISO-standard compliance. This ensures readability of data files and data media for as long as mankind uses ISO standards. ISO standards are the basis for all economic activities including food production and are therefore a lasting central element of human culture worldwide.

Cost of equipment


Very low.

Manpower and required qualifications


Technical qualification requirements very low. Main requirement: Diligent handling of originals.

Reproduction cost

Ca. US$ 10 to 15 per film.

Ca. US$ 1 to 2.50 per ISO CD-ROM.

Contains information equivalent to several microfilms.

The low reproduction costs enable us to publish and distribute these materials efficiently and world-wide. We consider this increased level of physical distribution at higher quantities a significant contribution to preservation.

Shipping cost




Microfilm digitisation equipment is very costly (between DM 30000 and 110000), yet only produces a maximum of 256 gray scales (not enough for damaged microfilms).



Only minimally possible at high cost and low compatibility (scarce distribution of reader-printer devices).

Digital publishing as archive media,

academic editions, multimedia editions for the wider public, Internet publishing;

Print publishing using the same data;

Combined publishing (books with CD-ROMs);

Content integration with secondary literature, critical editions, translations, transcriptions, library meta-data, etc.