Wondering what to know before you shop for a photoscanner?

Here are some basics:

We know: 1-Minute Lesson on Photo Scanners

What's a photo scanner?

Photo scanners allow you to change regular photographs or film into digital photos that can then be sized, enhanced and sent over the internet using a computer.

How do photo scanners work?

There are several different technologies and styles of scanners, but the most common scanner is called a flatbed. Flatbed scanners basically convert photons (units of light) into electrons (electrical charges).

In a flatbed scanner, you place the photo image on a flat glass bed (like a copier), close the lid and let the machine do its magic. Some flatbed scanners use what's called a CDD array to scan, and some use CSI technology.

In general, CCD scanners are more expensive, heavier and thicker than scanners with CIS technology. But CCD scanners provide better quality images with better resolution.

What should I know when shopping for a photo scanner?

Here are issues to consider:

  • Speed of the connection between the photo scanner and your computer. Also, make sure the connection between the computer and scanner is compatible.
  • Shape of the scanner. Most lay flat, but some can stand upright.
  • Speed and resolution of the scanner. The higher the resolution of the scanner (the more dots per inch or dpi), the slower the scanner will work and the more space it will take to store the digital image. If you're scanning images for viewing on screen only, 75 dpi is usually enough. You will probably need 150-300 dpi for most photos. The more you want to enlarge an image, the more dpi you will need. The most common flatbed scanners have a resolution of 300x300 dpi.
  • Negative and slide capability. If you want to scan negatives or slides, get a scanner that has this capability. It's probably preferable to buying an attachment.
  • Editing software. In general, it's pretty good, mimicking Photoshop software, but ask questions if you want special functions to come with the software.

What's the price range for a photo scanner and who makes them?

Photo scanners range in price from under $60 to thousands of dollars. Flatbed scanners are made by companies like Epson, Canon, Nikon and Fujitsu, Minolta and Microtek.

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