Scanners and what you need to know - TDR
There are essentially two types of scanners available; photo and flatbed. Photo scanners are, as the name would imply, designed to digitise prints and are often much smaller devices than their flatbed counterparts. These scanners also often come with additional software to manage and edit your photograph collection. Flatbed scanners are designed to be general purpose, and can normally handle at least A4 documents if not larger.
If you’re looking to digitalise a large quantity of old photographs, the ease of use and added convenience of a specialised photo scanner may be more suitable. If you are likely to want to scan a mixture of text documents and images, then a flatbed is the way to go.
You can pick up a reasonable scanner for under $150, and whilst image quality won’t be groundbreaking, it will be perfectly adequate for the casual home user. The options available on these budget end models are limited, though most offer the basics and will tailor the scanner settings depending on document type. Moving up towards the $600 mark will get you a model capable of producing professional quality images, though these scanners are often overkill for the casual home user.
If you can stretch to around the $250 mark, you can pick up a good quality scanner boasting a high resolution and better colour depth than the budget models. You can also count on better build quality and lower scan speeds, though these will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Having come to a decision on budget, the next thing to look at is the specification. Lower end models may offer resolutions around 300 x 600 dpi, though these scanners are more suited to scanning text-only documents. If you want a general purpose scanner, look for at least 600 x 600 dpi, if not better. You should also keep an eye on colour depth. Again, budget models will offer around the 24-bit mark, though for a little extra cash you can get a 32-bit scanner which will improve image accuracy significantly.
You may also wish to look at the scan area depending on what you will be using the device for. The majority of flatbed scanners are large enough for most purposes, though if you have any special requirements you may wish to look at something a little larger. If you are interested in scanning in transparencies or slides, you will also need an extra adapter. Mid-range scanners may come with one of these, though the lower end models probably won’t – It may be wise to check that one is available for the model you are looking at.
Other considerations to take into account include interface and bundled software. The majority of scanners feature at least a USB port if not an additional parallel connection. High-end models may even have a SCSI interface, though you would have to be looking at professional level scanners to come across this.
A rule of thumb when looking at a scanner is the more your budget allows, the higher the image quality you can expect. However, you should do your homework and look out for reviews where you can compare the image quality between various models. Some scanners are better for some purposes than others, so to get the most for your money, read as many reviews as possible.