A tale of scanners, pictures and software (oh my!)

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.

Black and white image of man and woman from 1945.

Mom & Dad 1945

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.

Next:  Scanner software and finding a workflow.
Presentations without PowerPoint

For some good background information you might also want to check Wayne Fulton’s Scantips.


About Dick Knisely

Science-guy, engineer, father, grandfather, husband -- yeah, I'm all of those things. I author this blog to share things I care about and you might care about, too. I hope you do and that you'll join in to share things you care about.
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1 Response to A tale of scanners, pictures and software (oh my!)

  1. Pingback: The Slideshow Blog by Photodex » Blog Archive » Scanning Old Photos to use in a Slideshow

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