PLEASE NOTE:  Our Irvine office will be closed on Saturday June 10 for routine maintenance.  We apologize for any inconvenience.   Our San Diego and West LA offices will be open as usual.

PLEASE NOTE:  Our Irvine office will be closed on Saturday June 10 for routine maintenance.  We apologize for any inconvenience.   Our San Diego and West LA offices will be open as usual.

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Flatbed Scanners vs. Document Scanners: Quality Showdown

If you’re looking for a company that provides photo scanning services, you may have come accross a few companies that promise super cheap photo scanning prices compared to other places. If the work is done in the US, then the cost is probably that low because they’re using document scanners to scan your photos.

Document scanners were originally intended to help businesses save time, money and file cabinet space by quickly scanning and cateloging large amounts of documents. Many entrepreneuers saw the potential with this service and new scanning companies started to pop up around the country looking for new ways to attract business. As more and more people started to realize the benefit of scanning and digitizing their photo collections, someone had the bright idea to use them for photo scanning and the era of cheap “shoebox” photo scanning had begun. Companies are now realizing that they can scan many more times the amount of images in the same amount of time by using a document scanner instead of flatbed scanners. Since it feeds the images through the scanner, there is no need for someone to manually switch the images out after each scan pass.

However, the price of speed comes at the cost of quality. Take a look at some of the samples below to see the noticeable differences between flatbed photo scanning and document scanning. The images on the left side were scanned using a dedicated Canoscan 9000F flatbed scanner, while the images on the right side were fed through a Kodak S1220 document scanner.

As you can see, there is a noticeable difference in quality in the two scans. From what we’ve seen, document scanners have three main issues that do not occur with flatbed scanners:

Color Streaking

The most noticeable disparity between flatbed scanning and document scanning is the red, green and blue (RGB) streaking that happens with all document scanning due to the fact that the image is mechanically pulled through the scanner, rather than being stationary. What happens is, the glass in which the document is moved across will pick up tiny dust particles left on the photograph. This happens on flatbed scanners as well, but since the photos are stationary while the image sensor moves, there is no streaking. However, with document scanners there will be a big red vertical line going up and down your grandmother’s body. This is not what we consider archiving.

Faded Colors

The second problem lies in the darker colored areas of photos. When viewing these images On a higher-end monitor, and of course when printing, you will see a crisscross pattern of white all throughout the dark areas. When the image is being pulled through the sensor at a rapid rate, the sensor only has a fraction of the time second to scan 24 square inches of a photo, resulting in lost color and image data.

Prone to Damaging Photos

The third problem is that since a document scanner is a machine with moving parts that must be fed images, there is a chance that one of your images could get caught in the scanner during the feeding process, and mangle or destroy your image before it could be scanned into the computer.

Document scanners definitely have their place in this world, as they are excellent for scanning large amounts of files and papers, but when it comes to photos, we suggest using a flatbed scanner if you are concerned about quality. When looking around for places that scan photos locally, make sure you ask them what type of scanners they use!

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