This is what has been keeping me (very) busy at home the last couple months and a major reason my blogs have been neglected.
Recently I’ve learned a lot more about scanners and scanner software than I really wanted to know. But having come this far, it seems worth sharing a bit of it because I’ll bet a lot of you have the same shelf full of photo albums and closet full of shoe boxes with slides, negatives and loose prints.
Part 1. We need (and acquire) a new scanner
A couple months ago I had a sudden need to dig through some photo albums and scan some pictures for a video slide show. Somehow doing that was finally the push I needed to tackle a huge project that I’ve put off for years-get our family photograph collection scanned, organized and protected. After a couple months of intense effort I’ve gotten only a good start on it, but it’s finally moving.
An unexpected, early obstacle developed when I discovered my MicroTek flatbed scanner was a problem. I bought it in 2002 for about $300 and it was a good one, though not top-of-the line. Not heavily used in the last few years, but it always seemed to perform fine. Starting into the project, the first photos I scanned were a bunch of 50-60 year-old black and white prints and, at first, all went well. But I started noticing some problems which turned out to be mainly due to the condition of the scan glass. The inside had a thin film and there were several small, badly fogged spots. I also noticed that color scans didn’t seem right. I could adjust them, but they were consistently ‘off. ’ Research convinced me that with considerable effort and some money I might be able to fix both issues, but also convinced me that a new scanner would be a better answer because:
- Like all consumer electronics, prices have fallen and capability has risen.
- Cleaning the scanner was going to be difficult and calibrating it would require new, 3rd party software and calibration targets which would cost more than a new scanner.
- The latest scanners use white-LED lighting which warms up faster, has better color accuracy and is more time and temperature stable compared to the fluorescent tube in other scanners (including mine).
- Current generation software is at least as powerful, but tends to be easier to use.
- Current generation hardware has (finally) the resolution to do decent scans of film and slides.
Researching the market I narrowed it to three scanner models: two Epson and a Canon. One, the Epson 700/750, was $500-700 and the other two were $225 MSRP, street price $175-190. The expensive one lacked the LED lighting and looked to have no ‘must have’ features, so it was dropped. The more I read about the other two, the less I could find to choose between them–I was pretty sure I’d be happy with either one. Picked the Canon 9000F, ordered it from B&H Photo for $175, with free shipping (!) and got it three days later.
I’ve had it for about 30 days and I’m pretty impressed so far. I’ve mainly scanned reflective material, so I can’t say much yet on the performance with negatives and slides which are much more challenging. I also own a Nikon film scanner to compare it with eventually and I really hope the Canon does a credible job, because I find the Nikon slow and the software less-than-intuitive.
At this point, I’ve just gotten a good start on this massive project with about 500 scans done and added to the image library. So far, so good.
For some good background information you might also want to check Wayne Fulton’s Scantips.