Help Choosing a Scanner

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by ron_snow, Nov 27, 2010.

  1. Hi everyone,
    Lately, I've decided to undertake a family project of digitizing hundreds (and possibly thousands) of family photos. I've been looking for the proper scanner to help with the job, and it seems to be quite a difficult task since it's pretty hard to tell which scanner does the job and which is more of a 'scammer' than a scanner.
    I came across these forums, and decided to ask for your kind help.
    Here are some extra details regarding my situation:
    • I have more photos than I have negatives. In some cases I have both, but I'm not sure which is better to scan. I don't have slides at all.
    • Since it's a large amount of photos, I think it's best if the scanner's operation was fast or had some kind of feeder to it. I wouldn't want to sacrifice quality though, so that's a bit lower on the list of preferences.
    • I wouldn't want to spend my life's saving on the scanner. I'm not sure exactly what my price range is (especially considering the prices here are quite different than where you live), but that's a general thought.
    • I'd rather go on this project alone than send the photos to a company that does the work (for various reasons), so while I know it's a heavy job, I'd still rather do it on my own.
    • I don't need to scan anything else with the scanner. I have an integrated printer/fax/scanner/copy machine and that's quite adequate for whatever jobs I need to get done with it.
    While I work with computers and I don't have a problem building a machine on my own, when it comes to scanners I'm pretty much clueless, and that's why I ask for your help. I'm not even sure whether to go for a flatbed scanner or a dedicated scanner. I don't know which brands come to play here. I've seen quite a few dedicated scanners but they all seem to be of an unknown brand (at least to me) and I worry about the actual quality and durability of the scanner.
    Thank you all in advance,
  2. Common sentiment seems to be that you might be enthusiastic about the job now, but by the time you're half way through you'll be sorry you ever decided to take it on! I'd send them to a bulk scan service like scancafe (not used them myself) and just sit back and wait for them to arrive...
  3. Take a look at the Epson V600 or V700. These will do prints or negatives. I haven't used these exact models but I researched for a friend recently and this is what I came up with. I know people who use the better Epson scanners with transparency adapters and they say they are very good.
    If they are 4 x 6 inch prints or smaller, the negative should be better, but try both for yourself.
    I'll agree with Chris' first sentence and say you should be selective and limit it to a few hundreds.
  4. You want a flatbed scanner with hardware ICE. That is probably the single most important feature to look for. If a scanner has that, it will generally have everything else that is needed. The Epson V600 is a very nice scanner at a very good price point if you want a specific model and brand recommendation.
  5. Oh wow, those were quick replies. Thanks to all those who replied.
    In regards of sending it to a centralized service, I would really like to avoid it since it would probably mean shipping it halfway across the world. I don't know of any local service that does that, and even if I did, there wouldn't be a reliable source for me to check whether the service is good or not.
    I'm well aware that this is a _very_ time consuming project, and I agree with your point about limiting the scanned pictures. I have no misconception that it's going to take a weekend, a week or a month. This is a long-term project. I may even get my parents to do it every once in a while.
    Now, forgive my ignorance, but what exactly is hardware ICE?
    Also, I've read somewhere else in these forums (I don't recall the exact post) that people don't recommend using a flatbed scanner for this job, but rather a dedicated picture scanner. Any opinions about that?
  6. Hardware ICE cleans ups noise in the scanned images and it is far better than trying to do it in software. (Back when hardware was expensive there used to be software ICE.) It is the minimum feature needed for a good photo scanner. It does not clean up all noise but it will make getting clean images a whole lot easier.
    I think what you call a "dedicated picture scanner" is a dedicated film scanner. It is better than a flatbed scanner for film but cannot do prints. They also start at $1000US for a decent one and go up from there. You wrote that you mainly have "photos" which I interpret to mean "prints" so you will need a flatbed in any case. Unless you do want to spend your life's savings, a high quality flatbed scanner for both your prints and your film should meet your needs.
  7. Ron, there are two kind of scanners you can get at reasonable cost. One is a dedicated scanner and a flatbed scanner.
    The dedicated scanner is made exclusively for scanning negatives and positives. Most only do 35mm film. The Nikon Cool Scan 9000 will go up to medium format and panoramas. At this point I do really know what is out there in the dedicated scanner department. I use an old and excellent Konica-Minolta model.
    The flatbed scanner is essentially a document scanner. It is not as good as a dedicated scanner for film. The best are very good for prints. (Once digitalized, you can fix prints in Photoshop.) The ones mentioned in this thread are very good.
    ICE I have found to be excellent to have in my dedicated scanner and lousy in my flatbeds. ICE is used to get rid of dust and scratches. It should do not lower resolution. In my flatbeds at home and at work ICE doesn't really do much for dust and scratches and lowers the resolution. So I don't use it in them.
    I understand your wish to do this job yourself. Commercial bulk scanning jobs, like bulk printing jobs, usually are mediocre. The best way to do a job like that is to take your time. Give yourself a year. Block your time. If you feel yourself going numb take a break.
    I am a 100 percent digital darkroom person, but I also shoot a lot of film. Dedicated scanners take their time if you are making big scans--like 5400 mgs. In that case I find other things to do, like work with previous scans. Eventually you'll work out a routine that you are comfortable with.
    Scanning prints is fairly fast work--as is scanning film--on a flatbed.
  8. It's difficult decision. People want a scanner that is both fast, makes quality scans but don't want to pay for it. Unless you can get one of the good scanners used for less, I'm not sure the scanner that meets all those qualities exists, but there are choices.
    A dedicated film scanner will give you better quality than consumer flat bed scanners. If your negatives are only 35mm, than a Nikon CS 4000 or Nikon V or the CS 5000 are all excellent with the 4000 thousand being the model before the V and 5000. A new CS 5000 is around a thousand USD, a V a little less. Neither will scan prints. However a flatbed while scanning prints, doesn't do nearly as good a job with film as a dedicated film scanner.

    If you have Medium Format Negatives, then your choice could be a Nikon 9000, a very nice scanner at over 2000 USD or so,or a used Nikon LS 8000, the generation before that which also does a very good job. Maybe you could lucky and find a used one of those. Both the med. format scanners also do a very good job on 35mm. Also, the 35mm Nikon scanners sell a pricey attachment that lets you scan a roll of film at a time. This would save you a lot of time.
    Another choice if you have only 35mm negatives/slides is to get one of the 35mm scanners I mentioned and then also get an inexpensive Epson flatbeds for the photos. I'm sure people will give good opinions on which ones are the best bang for the buck.

    All the scanning will take a lot of time. It might be better to use a scanning service as an alternative. You say you don't know any in your area, but have you checked? Its not that difficult to find customer feedback, maybe worth the time to check it out. But it sounds like this is a family project that you want to keep "in house".

    I'm sorry that I don't know much about other brands. I remember we had a Microtek flatbed scanner that was ok for both prints and film. I know the Nikons are good. I've used both a 5000 and have a 9000.
    Good luck!
  9. I'm using an Epson V600. You can see some of my scans for both medium format and 35mm in my Gallery and other web site. I started to do what you want to do and it's enormous work that you need a lot of patience and time for. Don't forget that you also have to post process after the scan so that takes time as well. Cropping, adjusting color, tones and balance, sharpening, re-sizing, etc. Medium Format of course works better because you're starting with more negative real estate. Dark slides don't do very well because the flat bed scanning process seems to block up shadows easily, more so with 35mm than Medium Format. As mentioned by others, the negative carrier stinks. You really need flat negs with it. I haven't tried that carrier someone mentioned above so I don't know how well it works. Maybe I'll try it. The V600 is also good for scanning your prints as well as film and it does a nice job.
    You also have to consider what do you intend to do with scanned files. I've made prints of some of the better ones. Many I've put on the web. I've also burned DVDs to give to relatives and made "slide" shows to display on my HDTV which is alot of fun. I posted a slide show on YouTube of a 35mmm scan job I did if you interested in seeing what this looks like. I used Adobe Premiere 8 to create the video of the slide show. It automatically down loads it to YouTube while you're sleeping. I added music to complement the pictures. I use Photoshop Elements 8 for processing the pictures before hand. Here's the YouTube link Select the Scuba show for scanned 35mm. The other Coney Island slide show came from digital pictures.
    Frankly you have to be a little nuts to want to suffer through this. But the end result is gratifying when you see your photos on the web, in print, on your monitor and on really large and bright and sometimes stunning HDTV. Good luck in whatever you decide. Alan.
  10. Any scanner will scan the prints, and there isn't much to it. Put the print on the bed, press the button, and you've got a scan.
    Negatives are harder. They require care in putting them into the holder and are more susceptible to dust when you're doing it, as is the scanner bed susceptible to dust and inadvertent fingerprints, they take a long time to scan unless it's at low resolution, and they almost always need some post processing work in an image editor. A film-only scanner is a little more convenient, but only a little.
    I've never done a project of scanning hundreds or thousands of old negatives and slides... even though I've had scanners to do it with for more than a decade. It's bad enough to have to scan just one roll of film after shooting some. It is extremely time-consuming. You have no idea.
    As to quality, well, of course, if what you're after is a result that will please other photographers on, a high-end film scanner is better. If you just want to archive family pictures for posterity and for viewring on a large computer monitor, or perhaps making small prints, a flatbed is more than good enough.
    I scan mine on a Canoscan 8400F that is about 4-5 years old. I'm not sure that the newer ones are any better... but if it was me and I was buying a new one, I would stick to what I know works... either Epson or Canon.
    Look, you might try this and then decide it's just too time-consuming and unrealistic, but these scanners are not that expensive, and they are a useful thing to have even if you don't pursue the project.
  11. Ron, you may be asking the wrong group for scanner advice. Specialists, including photographers, tend to look for tools that will provide the highest quality possible for the most they can afford. If your needs are limited to web and digital presentation, and/or smaller prints, anything beyond the Epson V flatbeds would probably be overkill.
    Earlier this year I picked up a refurbished Epson V500 for $150 that is mor than satisfactory for my needs. I'm scanning old family prints and my 35mm slides and negatives for web and some print use. Actually, I haven't used it for film yet, but the film scans I got from my ancient Epson Perfection 2450 were more than adequate, so I'm expecting even better from the V500. My target demo is my family, and they seem to be quite satisfied with the web display and the small prints (6", 7" and even an occasional 10") that I provide.
    I scan my prints to the original target size at 600 dpi, and my film to the original target size at 2400 dpi. The initial learning curve, for me, was quite steep, but not very high and, again, my needs are not all that demanding. Before you start scanning hundreds of images, only to determine you can get better results with minor tweaks, it would be better to play with a few images initially until you find the settings and method that work best for you.
    Archive and organize you originals logically so, if you decide you want or need higher resolution scan from a few of your images, you can find them easily and come back here to inquire about professional scanning services.
    Search these forums for any posts by Les Sarile, (he knows scanning) and the other names that frequently pop up in his threads. Good luck, whatever route you choose.
  12. For film, a dedicated scanner is the best option for DIY, flatbeds are a distant second IMO. I have only a few files from the several years I tried to use a flatbed, so I do not endorse them. The best overall is sending the film out. You will have an enormous task just organizing the photos, identifying all the people and places, and figuring out how best to share them. Spending time scanning them sounds like a good idea, but it takes a lot of skill and time. If you really want them digitized you are going to need some division of labor to finish the project. For example, I'm sure you,or your family, did not develop the film yourself, probably because of time, skill, equipment you or your family did not have. Think of scanning as the same kind thing, pay someone who has the skill and equipment to save you time.
    For prints, IMO you have to realize that your potential digital images of them are a little more limited than film. Still, very much worth it. Dust, scratches, folds, mold, fading and such damage make it really hard to scan prints. IMO you are much better off using a good point and shoot or DSLR to take photos of them, reflections and getting the camera square are the biggest issues. I like the results better and the time savings is great.
    Good luck with the project.
  13. Okay guys, I'm quite overwhelmed with the effort and time you took to reply my question.
    Since I'm doing this project for my mom and family, I asked my mom exactly what she wants to digitize, and apparently it's mostly printed pictures. According to what you said, going with a flatbed, and somewhere along Epson's V500 or V600 is the way.
    As some of you mentioned, the end goal is what's important. While it's true that some of the pictures have dust and other temporal effects, the main reason for scanning is to have a safe copy of the pictures. I recently purchased an online backup service, so it all works out great.
    Some of you revisited the idea of sending it to a professional place. I did that last year when I wanted to digitize the family videos. Unfortunately, finding online feedback for places here is not that easy. Had I lived in the USA or another largely populated country, I imagine this kind of information would be more readily available. Since that's not the case, it's very likely I'd have to skip this option.
    I'd also like to thank you for trying to explain how much effort this is going to take, and while I can't grasp it quite yet, I'm fairly certain it's going to be a long and agonizing process with a little misery on top. I'm kidding, of course, but I'm sure it's quite tedious. I hope I can do it a few pictures at a time, and eventually get the result. What does worry me a bit is the photo retouching. That's something I'm really not that familiar with, and I imagine that my color blindness won't help much with that as well. If you have any tips regarding that as well, I'd appreciate it, though I imagine it's an art of its own.
    I'd like to thank you all again for taking the time and effort to reply my question. I never imagined that this community exists let alone be so helpful.
  14. You say the main purpose is to archive a safe copy. If that's the case, why worry about post processing now? Just scan the pictures, dust, faded spots and all, and burn DVDs. Make two copies. Keep one copy in your house. And a second copy leave in a family' member's house in case your house burns down. You only have to deal with the scanning then.
    If you need to go back later if the original photo is lost or damaged, you could post process then .
  15. I think that is what I would do too Alan. I think I would try to do some kind of thumbnail sheets though just so I would know what each DVD would contain. With a V500/600 I likely would not make the scans too big. Just make the scan big enough to do 5x7 inch prints. I'm not really all that sure that scanning is making safe back up. Online services can go out of business and DVDs won't be around forever before something else replaces them hardrives can fail so the original prints could end up lasting the longest.
  16. I'm color blind too, and fairly severely, affecting almost all groups of colour... but it has never prevented me from scanning colour negatives, slides or prints. Prints the scanner get right every time if the print itself is correct. For negs and slides, to be honest, I've rarely encountered a problem The scanner pretty much gets what's on the film. If it doesn't, I just use the white dropper or whatever took there is in the software I use. As I said before, scanned prints need virtually no post-processing at all. Correcting colour comes into play more when the original picture wasn't correct.
    As for it being time consuming, yes, it is. But on the other hand, you don't have to stand over the scanner while it's doing it - and that's what takes the most time (for film that is, prints are pretty fast). Post-processing can be as simple as just adjusting brightness and contrast a little. You're not doing a pro project, so you really don't need to get too fancy, and you can let the scanning software itself do all the work it can do.
  17. "I'm not really all that sure that scanning is making safe back up. Online services can go out of business and DVDs won't be around forever before something else replaces them hardrives can fail so the original prints could end up lasting the longest."
    The original prints have probably already faded considerably but you do not realize it. I have been scanning and restoring old family photos for a few years now, doing a few a at time. The color ones have faded considerably and it is amazing how good they look with some simple restoration work. The simple act of scanning them will restore details that have fade beyond the ability of the human eye to see but which can be seen by the scanner. Many scanner software can apply simple restoration automatically that can make an enormous difference. If saving the photos is the goal, what you should do is make prints from the scans on a printer that has a long archival life. 100 years is quite common with the right inks and paper for many printers.
  18. Ron consider this, if you have hundreds of images then the cost of outsourcing the scans will buy you a good quality scanner. Be prepared as it is a major job and you will need to back everything up as well in case there is a computer failure and you have to redo ........OMG
  19. Hi everyone:
    I stumbled upon this site because I, like Ron Snow, am looking to buy a scanner to archive old photos. I have been reading reviews and forum responses for days, trying to make the best decision. Ron, everything you have stated is also what I am looking for, so, this is a very timely discussion for me. The responses I am reading are the best I have come across on this topic, anywhere.
    Thank you for the time all of you have put in to respond. I am learning a lot.
    Pax, Eurista

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