Choosing a ScannerThere comes a point in every photographer's life when he or she must move into the 21st century and buy a scanner. It may very well come just soon after a first run-in with the hair-pulling limitations of point & shoot digital cameras.
If you thought choosing a digital camera was hard, though, just wait until you begin looking at scanners. Above all, a scanner must be able to capture the resolution your work requires. So the first step is to analyze your work - how you like to photograph and what you want out of a scanner.
Making a commitment to your preferred input and output immobilizes many potential scanner buyers. It need not be so scary, though; simply give your best answers to the following questions to simplify making this decision.
Is any of your input inflexible art? If you cannot bend it, you will likely need a flatbed scanner. This holds true for old negatives, mounted prints or prints permanently stuck in frames. The main exception is 35mm slides in plastic or cardboard mounts; these are best scanned in a film scanner.
If the end result you want out of your images is nothing more than a colorful screen image for the Web, a PowerPoint presentation, or an email to grandma, you will need very little in the way of resolution. A flatbed with 300 ppi may be sufficient. In fact, unless you have a ton of slides or negatives - or prefer to continue working with film - a digital camera may suit you better for these purposes.
If, however, you think you might eventually print your images, you will most likely want much more resolution and a much bigger image file. Neither digital cameras nor flatbeds are likely to give you a big enough file.
This is why you must be thinking about output as you are thinking about input. How you will be printing your image will determine how high of a resolution you need.
The First Decision: Flatbed or Film>
People who want to print are usually better off with 35mm film scanners, which are a bit on the pricey side. They are, however, nothing in cost compared to the medium format film scanners, which themselves pale in comparison to the six-digit drum scanners. Pity the large format photographer who wants to get her beautiful 8" x 10" images off chrome and into the computer.
Since this can easily cost $30-$75 per scan, though, photographers with a ton of material may want to save up and buy their own high-end dual-purpose scanner such as the Agfa DuoScan.
Large format film scanners are another option but these are also expensive. Some - such as the Polaroid Sprintscan 4x5 scanner - are as low as $6K; others - such as the Imocon Flextight scanner - start at $15K and go up from there.
Making this first decision regarding a scanner - whether you get a flatbed, a film scanner, or no scanner at all - depends on a few things:
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