Best scanner for digitizing old prints and newspaper articles?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by ogkyrgle, Sep 12, 2017.

  1. I am hoping to digitize a bunch of old family photos and newspaper articles, and I am trying to find out what kind of scanner would be able to do a high-quality job of this. What would be the price range? Some of the photos and newspapers are fairly large -- too big for most consumer scanners I've seen. I have access to a Brother MFC-8710DW, an Epson Artisan 810, and a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 with a SF-210 slide film attachment. If you have any advice about this, please respond! Thanks!
  2. Just about any color scanner will do a good job on photographs and text, including newspaper articles. I use an Epson V39, which cost about $100, and is powered by USB. Scanning negatives will cost more because you need a light source in the cover. I think Epson has the best software, and their mechanical quality is good too. You can put a sheet of black paper over the back of newsprint and other text to minimize print-through. You can usually eliminate print-through in Lightroom or Photoshop, but that's extra processing.

    Most consumer scanners are letter sized (8.5x11"), a few legal sized (8.5x14"). Ledger sized is twice as large, and often very costly. I suggest that you use a camera to copy large items rather than a huge, expensive scanner more suitable to a graphic arts agency. A camera also gives you complete control over lighting. Strongly textured items, like silk surfaced or wrinkled paper, don't copy well on a flatbed scanner.

    A Nikon Coolscan 4000 or 5000 is the best choice for slides and negatives. Unfortunately they haven't been made for a long time and the native software only works in Windows XP or earlier. Repairs may be difficult to obtain. Used Nikon scanners are in high demand, as reflected by their prices in the internet. Slides are easy to "scan" using a digital camera, macro lens, and a slide copying attachment. Film scanners are slow, taking 1-2 hours per 36 exposure roll, and flatbed film scanners are slower yet with mediocre results.

    A 24 MP camera has the same resolution as a Nikon scanner, and is 10x as fast. Negatives are harder to handle, but Nikon just introduced the ES-2 film holder which works well with both mounted slides and film strips. B&w negative are easy to convert, but color negatives require a fair amount of processing.
  3. Several years back I did a mass of old family pictures, dating to 1900, and used my Fuji S4500 digi camera on all the photos & papers of interest. Set up a copy stand type of working environment near a bright, but indirect natural light source. Working these materials in a digital camera will save a ton of scanning. Bill
  4. I was away from home a couple of years ago. I needed to copy some documents, photos, etc. In lieu of a scanner I planned to use my digital camera. I bought a cheap tripod and set up. If you've used a tripod as a copy stand, you must know it is hard to fit things between the legs. It is hard to get close enough with a 50 mm lens. A 105 is about right, but then you have problems with the legs casting shadows, point the camera straight down and parallel, and using the viewfinder at that angle. Centering documents is strictly trial and error. My tripod, at home, would have been solid, but the head on a cheap tripod will not hold its setting any angle far from upright.

    To make a long story short, pay $80 for a scanner, $200 for one which will scan film, and don't waste your time beating your head against a wall. A copy stand is great, and you have much better control over light, but they are bulky and the good ones are expensive. It's still hard to use the viewfinder.

    p.s., I bought a scanner that afternoon. It's thin and light, USB powered, and is now sitting on my desk, strictly for documents.
  5. As indicated, any modern flatbed scanner can do photographic prints and news paper clippings well enough.

    For film scanning, a dedicated film scanner is best, but for internet posting and family records, one of the flatbeds that also does film scanning is probably good enough.

    An important tool is Adobe Acrobat Pro, which will scan and recognize text in articles (free trial version)
  6. For character recognition, I use "OmniPage" for the PC, and "FineReader" for the Mac. Adobe Acrobat is okay, but does not capture text in a consistent fashion. Acrobat places text in frames to simulate formatting, in a manner of speaking, but it's often hard to connect the dots without a lot of work. In short, if you want to capture text, learn to type without looking at the keys, or buy a product (cited) which does it very well.

    Acrobat Pro is not inexpensive. I have it as part of my Creative Cloud subscription. Omnipage and FineReader cost about $200. They are fast, accurate, and highly configurable. I save more than $200 worth of time per month with these products. I can view the results in PDF or Microsoft Word with equal facility. PDF is still the best way to transmit an highly formatted documents (e.g., a newsletter).
  7. The Epson V600 is excellent for scanning documents and photo prints. It also does a passable job on medium format negatives and comes with the lite version o AABBY Finereader for OCR.
  8. Some enlargers have the ability to remove the head, and use the rest as a copy stand.

    (But lamp holders are not included.)

    Some old enlargers are available for low prices, or free.
  9. Thanks for all the replies! I have a question about the Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED. What other attachments are available for it besides the Nikon SF-120 slide scanner? The reason I ask is I have some slides which look cut-off when scanned because the film is too large. Is there an attachment for larger slides? (That is, the slides themselves aren't larger, but the film inside it has different dimensions.)
  10. What makes Acrobat Pro so useful is that it presents both an image of the page as it originally looks, plus scanning in enough of the text so that it it searchable.

    Much nicer to give people such a pdf than raw text. used to allow posting of pdf files, but that went away, unfortunately- I suppose a question of size...

    My initial experience with Omnipage Pro on both Windows and Mac many years ago was quite positive, but in the long run I found both the software and the support lacking. For pure and simple OCR it may be is more accurate than Acrobat, I don't know any more, but I usually don't give software and companies that fail me a second chance.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
  11. If you have slides in 2x2 inch mounts that are a "little bigger" than 35mm film, they're probably 828 "Bantam" size. The exposures are 28x40 millimeters. The only Nikon scanners that could scan the whole frame would be the 8000 or 9000, but there would be some improvising for a film holder. Or you can scan them on a "transparency capable" flatbed scanner. Or you can accept the 24x36 millimeter crop with the Coolscan 5000.

    For really large flat paper scans, consider going to Staples. A friend just had a map (around 30 by 40 inches) scanned for two dollars.

    I have an HP 4600 I use for scanning large originals by "tiling", but it's a disastrous software orphan, I have to keep a Windows XP laptop running to use it. (The network is totally disabled on that laptop.) It doesn't scan particularly large originals, but the see-through nature makes it easy to align. I use Photoshop CS6 to stitch the images.

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