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Archive for Monday, June 10, 2002

Easy-to-use scanners provide perfect photo finish

June 10, 2002

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"When did you do all these?"

"About 3:30 this morning," Katy said, yawning as she walked into the kitchen.

I was flipping through the baby and toddler photos of Katy, each blown up to fit on a standard piece of letter-sized paper.

Katy was graduating from high school in the afternoon. And we had lots of framed photos of her high school years on display, ready for relatives and friends coming to her high school graduation party.

As a joke, I had scanned in one baby photo the night before, showing Katy sitting in a high chair, with a big smile and baby food all over her face.

I wanted to scan more, but I had too many other chores to deal with.

So I was really pleased, and surprised, to see Katy had followed my lead. She had found a lot of old snapshots and made larger copies, using our computer, scanner and printer.

Looking at the quality of the prints made me realize just how easy home scanning has become in the past few years.

One-touch scanning

I had shown Katy how to use our scanner about a week earlier. And I was surprised she had no trouble.

"The only thing I knew was that you put it in there (under the scanner cover) and you press the button," Katy told me. "The rest I just figured out."

Fortunately, scanners have become more user-friendly. It's almost as easy as making a photocopy you lift the lid, put in the photo, hit the scan-to-print button and make a few basic decisions about print size and paper.

Sure, you can still bypass the automation and do everything yourself in a program like PhotoShop. But there's no need to feel guilty about using the automation for simple scans and prints, if that's all you want.

What to consider

If you're looking for a scanner, you might consider the following features:

USB interface. This provides faster scans and makes installation easier.

One-touch scanning. This feature provides buttons on the scanner that let you scan to your photo printer, an e-mail or a computer file.

Optical resolution. If you're mainly going to scan snapshots and other photos to print to larger sizes, the higher the resolution (at least 600 dpi), the better. If you're scanning for e-mail or to display on a computer, it isn't that critical.

You'll also see interpolated resolution listed. This is how the scanner software fills in the spaces between the dots it reads.

Color depth. This deals with the number of colors the scanner can capture, in bits per pixel (such as 24-bit or 48-bit). The higher the better.

A few models

Here are a few models under $300 that came out in the last year.

Epson Perfection 1650 Photo. Cost: $199.

This has three one-touch scanning buttons photo print, e-mail and scan to Web (scan and upload to the Epson photo-sharing Web site).

It has a color depth of 48 bits per pixel internal, with 48 bits per pixel external output, depending on the capability of the imaging software.

It has an optical resolution of 1,600 dpi by 3,200 dpi, with a maximum interpolated resolution of 12,800 dpi by 12,800 dpi.

Hardware includes a USB connector and a 35mm film strip adapter for scanning slides and negatives. It can scan documents up to 8 1/2 inches by 11.7 inches.

The software package includes ArcSoft PhotoImpression, Epson Smart Panel with NewSoft OCR, Epson TWAIN Scanning Software, Adobe PhotoShop Elements and Epson Software Film Factory Lite.

Canon CanoScan N670U. Cost: $79.

It also has one-touch buttons for photo printing and e-mail. And it can handle documents up to 8 1/2 inches by 11.7 inches.

The N670U has a color depth of 48 bits internal, 25 bits external. It has an optical resolution of 600 dpi by 1,200 dpi and a maximum interpolated resolution of 9,600 dpi by 9,600 dpi.

Bundled software includes ArcSoft PhotoStudio, ArcSoft PhotoBase, ScanSoft OmniPage OCR, Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 and ScanGear Toolbox.

HP Photo Scanner 1000. Cost: $79.

It handles mainly snapshots it has a maximum media size of 4-inch by 6-inch documents, with an optical resolution of 300 dpi by 300 dpi and a maximum color depth of 30 bits.

Bundled software includes HP Photo Imaging, HP Photo Printing, HP Share-to-Web and ACDSee.

Capturing the moment

I looked at all the photos Katy had scanned and printed after we posted them on the wall.

She was eating a piece of cake on her first birthday; rollerskating at age 3 in the living room; holding her new puppy at age 5; smiling in her cheerleader uniform at age 14; and sitting with a group of high school friends at age 17.

How did it pass by so quickly?

I was glad I had a camera around to capture some of it.

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