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January 04, 2005

DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY FOLLOWUP: Reader Ted Armstrong emails:

As digital camera central, you have not addressed those of us with hundreds of slides that would like to convert them to digital. Any services you can recommend?

No, and as one of those people myself (make it thousands, not hundreds) I'd like to know. There are slide and negative scanners that can do that, but I haven't used one and don't know anyone who owns one. I'm sure that there are services (here's one that I found via google, but I don't have any experience with them) but I can't attest to the results. If anyone knows, let me know.

Meanwhile, reader (and frequent source of photo links) Jim Herd emails that the Nikon Coolpix 8800 has gotten an in-depth review at DPreview.com (the real digital-photography central). Much as I love my Nikon D70 SLR, there's a lot to be said for these all-in-one cameras. They've got limitations, but for the size and price they're ferociously capable, really.

Finally, my earlier post on printers led some people to ask about smaller and cheaper printers for cranking out snapshots. I gave my brother -- who has a new baby and needs it -- this little HP for Christmas. Unfortunately, he just moved into a new house and I don't think he's even unpacked it yet, so there's no report from him yet. But it got a good writeup in Consumer Reports and it looks good: reads cards directly, has a small built-in LCD screen, doesn't take up too much room.

UPDATE: Reader Mark Bridger emails with this link to some scanner reviews and reports:

I use an older Canon FS2720U and am in the process of scanning a couple hundred old slides I found when cleaning out my Dad's house after he died. Most of them are 50+ years old. There are two problems scanning slides: Dust, and dust. Can't get rid of all of it. The better scanners have hardware and software (Digital ICE or FARE) that greatly reduce it. Polaroid has a free plug-in for Photoshop that does a great job as well.

The consensus seems to be don't use flatbeds for 35mm slides or negatives, but the do work pretty well for medium format or large format transparencies.

Scanning the slides is slow, and fairly tedious, but I'm having a great time seeing my older sister and brother as babies, my grandparents young and healthy, and my parents so young. I ultimately intend to create a book at mypublisher.com and send copies to my siblings and my aunts.

That's cool.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Wow, this generated a lot of email. Whenever I think that I'm being self-indulgent by blogging on digital photography, the massive amount of email that posts like this generate serves as a reminder that plenty of people care about it.

Professional photographer Rick Lee emails:

I was reading your post on the chore of slide scanning. I was also thinking about this the other day when Lileks was talking about the huge chore of scanning a bunch of material out of books.

The best scanner you'll ever own is in your camera bag. How do you like the idea of completing a scan in 1/30th of a second?

To "scan" flat material such as photos... Just get a copy stand.. Such as:
Link

To "scan" slides, get some sort of slide-duping device....Link

This works really well. I've even shot negatives before... In Photoshop I just reverse the image and hit "Auto-balance" and voile... A pretty darn good image. The other day I shot a page out of a book and ran the JPG through character-recognition software and it worked perfectly.... Turned the jpg into a Word doc.

That's pretty cool. Photographer-reader Jim Hogue emails:

Iíve been scanning slides since Christmas into my Christmas present the Pacific Image 1800 AFL slide and negative scanner. It was, literally, a surprise gift from my not-so-tech oriented wife whoíd got it on sale at Fryís Electronic.

It uses Adobe Photoshop elements 2.0 with a Pacific Image import software utility.

Iím impressed with the scanner and the job Adobe PS Elements does in enhancing 45+ years-old slides. The auto color correction and auto level corrections are very good. Iím certainly no expert but the pictures look better to me now after that green age tint is removed.

I have my fatherís family slides he began taking in 1957 and my own family slides I started taking in 1979 and so far the results have been very gratifying. have a total of almost 6,000 slides.

The downside it the scanner is it manpower intensive. Only one slide at a time and it can be a bit tedious. With practice, Iím now scanning and enhancing 40-45 slides in a little over one hour, to be fair, I find myself reminiscing over slides of my sons or my parents, so that time might be a little on the high side. Personally, Iíve set a goal of 40 - 80 slides a day to avoid burnout.

Also, the saved images are 12.5 Megs apiece and that might bump up against memory on lower end computers.

Yeah, that's a bit labor-intensive if you've got a lot of slides. Reader Harvey Schneider writes:

Please see the attached links. One is for Microtek scanners, the other is an adapter that hooks to a Microtek flatbed scanner to scan slides. Mine works great. Full disclosure, I worked for Microtek in the late 90ís, which is how I obtained the scanner and the adapter. They scanners sold well, the 35 MM adapters not so well. Good product, limited market. I have visited Microtekís factory in hsinchu science park, in Taiwan on several occasions. It is a world class facility. They do OEM for H-P and other major brands.

Link 1
Link 2

Reader James Martin sends this link to an info-rich page on scanning and sends this link to a discusison of bulk scanning of slides. Jonathan Gewirtz of ChicagoBoyz, who's a superb photographer emails:

I've successfully scanned thousands of slides and negatives using an obsolete HP S20 film scanner (1998-ish technology). My scans are more than adequate for Web use and printing to 8x10. Newer scanners are more capable and typically include dust-correction software that works with most color films (though not with B&W negatives, and perhaps not always with Kodachromes).

The good news is that there is some art to scanning, and one can learn how to produce good scans using even less-than-best equipment. The bad news is that scanning is a time-consuming nuisance that is difficult to automate (though I think Nikon offers a film-roll feeder). I don't know enough to recommend a modern scanner, but they must all be better than mine so I doubt that you can go far wrong. Minolta and Nikon are frequently recommended in online photography discussions.

Some of my best photo experiences were associated with scanning long-forgotten slides of family events. Kodachromes are durable, but IMO it's prudent to scan other types of slides ASAP, before major deterioration sets in. You can always touch up the dust marks later.

I guess I'd better get to it. Meanwhile, reader Scott Gonyea sends this:

I am a former retail sales associate for Epson. I'll divide my e-mail into two sections: printing and scanning.

I'll accept that you want to do photo printing, despite the outstanding costs associated with it. You're basically looking at either Epson or Canon to do your consumer printing. Two types of ink exist in the consumer printing world: dye and pigment, or solid. Dye ink is a liquid that strikes a coating on the paper and gets absorbed below it. The alcohol inside the ink dries the liquid and bonds it with the coating to form light and gas resistance.

The problem with dye ink is that it is water based, so if you leave your print in a humid climate then it will eventually lose its vibrance. Dye inks are easy and cheap, which makes them popular in a competitive, consumer market. But they're not long lasting or resilient. Epson R2/300 and the Canon i9900 are both dye based.

Pigmented inks, such as the Epson R800, PictureMate, and 2200 are much more resistant to physical disturbances. The reason is because you have tiny particles (think: microscopic laser toner) that form a bond within the fibers of paper. They don't bond to everything, but when they do they are not coming off unless you break down the paper itself.

Now, were you to make a decision this very moment between the i9900 and the Epson 2200, I would suggest the 2200. The pigmented inks a large advantage.
The paper optimized black inks have a significant improvement on output quality, as does the gray scale cartridge. But what makes the 2200 so great is that it has 3 paper paths: you can do panoramas (13x44) and also do a straight feed of foam board through the back. The 2200 has more bang for your buck.

The other advantage that Epson has is that professional papers are manufactured with Epson printers in mind first. Not only does Epson make great quality paper, but Ilford specifically designs their paper around the Epson print engine.

As for scanners, they depend on your price range. If you have the money, I suggest the Canon CanoScan 9950, because you can scan 32 film negatives at a time. It also has lots of built-in hardware features such as restoration, Digital ICE (bend and scratch repair), and a Matrix CCD. If $400 is out of your price range, the Epson 2580 is also a very good buy at $150, namely for its auto-feed film scanner. Word is that it has difficulty with black and white 35mm, but I can't personally confirm this.

The scanner is a great investment, and the CanoScan is nothing but wonderful. Photo printers are a bad investment; if you want to share photos then get an Epson PictureMate. It's guaranteed $.29 per photo and is pigment based. You can mail vacation photos to your nephew and know they'll hold up. For your larger printing, go to a place like Costco. They have exceptional printing facilities at dirt cheap rates. The quality is professional and nowhere near the cost of doing it yourself. You just lose a little flexibility. But for that, have it done over the internet.

And that's probably enough on this subject for now!