This article will concentrate on scanners for digitising photographs and look at two types: flatbed and film.
What type of scanner do you need?
This article will concentrate on scanners for digitising photographs and look at two types: flatbed and film. Flatbed scanners are the most popular because they are cheaper to manufacture, easier to use and much more versatile. For business use, they are the only option available for document scanning and many businesses acquire a scanner as part of a multi-function device.
Photographers with a mixture of prints, negatives and slides to digitise will find a dedicated flatbed scanner is the best choice because it covers all types of original images.
Low-cost film scanners are available but their capabilities are usually very limited. Many will only scan negatives, most are restricted to 35mm format and the cheapest models scan at relatively low resolutions. It’s usually worthwhile paying a little more for a flatbed scanner that can scan filmstrips and mounted slides.
Features to Look For
How large are your originals? The most popular size for documents is A4, while 35mm films outsold other sizes many times over. So it’s easy to understand why these sizes dominate their respective markets. Most A4 photo scanners can accommodate 120 and 220 film strips – and the high-end models are often able to scan 4×5-inch and even 8×10 inch negatives and transparencies.
If you buy a flatbed scanner with an A4 scanbed, it can also scan smaller documents and prints. You can scan larger originals – but only segment by segment. And the segments must be joined afterwards in suitable software.
Will the scanner fit on your desktop? Does the lid open widely enough to allow you to scan pages of a book (if required)? How well does the scanner interface with your computer – and does it offer ø¢â‚¬Ëœstand-alone’ scanning? Inexperienced users, and those with basic computer skills, may find scanners with ø¢â‚¬Ëœone touch’ buttons for copying, printing and faxing easier to operate. More experienced photographers will want greater control and efficient integration with their computers.
Resolution should be dictated by the size of the original images and required output dimensions. When evaluating a scanner make sure you know the difference between ø¢â‚¬Ëœoptical resolution’ and ø¢â‚¬Ëœinterpolated resolution’. The former defines the limits of the resolution the scanner supports.
Interpolated resolution is usually a larger number because it refers to the maximum number of additional pixels the scanner adds in to end up with a specific output size. Since interpolation is better left to post-capture software, this figure should be ignored.
Two numbers represent optical resolution in scanner specifications: the number of sensors in the sensor array and how finely the stepper motor can move the sensor across the scanbed. The second figure is usually higher – and largely irrelevant.
Although some manufacturers claim interpolated resolutions as high as 19,200 ppi, such numbers carry little real value, because interpolation doesn’t increase the amount of detail captured and there’s no limit to the number of interpolated pixels that can be added.
Generally speaking, the more money you invest in a scanner, the better its performance and the more enjoyable it is to use. Cheap scanners are slow; their software is usually clunky and purchasers soon become frustrated and discouraged. Top-of-the-range scanners make scanning easy with batch scanning capabilities. You can cover the scanbed with prints, slides or filmstrips and the scanner will separate them into individual digitised files. Scanning resolution is usually higher and hues and tones are accurately reproduced.
Most document scanning involves a simple copying process that converts the text and graphics into pixels. However, many scanners have built-in facilities for converting those pixels into PDF format for easy and secure sharing. Some also come with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software that converts them into editable text. A few also include Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) for handwriting recognition and Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) that distinguishes and reproduces checkboxes. Documents may also be able to be converted into HTML pages for use on websites.
Automatic document feeders are also available for business scanners, either as a built-in facility or optional accessory. If any of these features are important (or even useful), make sure you check the scanner’s specifications and features list before purchasing.
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