Computer Scanners

By Phillip P. Daniel

So all of my beloved Newbie fans, I know that you think that I am going to have a real field day on this one. I can just see the gears in your head turning, thinking that I am really going to go all crazy and loopy with this category. But I assure you, I am going to take the high road on this one, letting you know just the facts about scanners, without the toilet humor and puns that you have grown to expect from me. So without further ado,here is the ultimate guide to buying scanners, the things that can take your pictures from last years Sci-Fi Con and put them on the internet for all to see.

Different Types of Scanners:

Like there are many different races on Star Trek, there are many different types of scanners, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and purpose.

Flatbed Scanners: Flatbed scanners are what you usually think of when you picture a scanner. They operate much like a photocopier, and consist of box like structure with a glass plate over a photosensitive array. You can place books, papers, or even glossy headshots or photos of William Shatner on the glass which will then be transferred to your computer.

Sheetfed Scanners: These operate much like a flatbed scanner except that it is the paper that moves as opposed to the array. Documents are fed into the scanner, which then scans them onto the computer. These are great for people that wish to scan multiple documents and can even be equipped with an automatic document feeder which negates the need to feed the scanner by hand.

Handheld Scanners: Handheld scanners are portable, small scanners that are used to manually sweep across documents in order to scan them. They oftentimes require several passes, and unless you have steady, non delirium tremor ridden hands, the images will most likely come out sub par. These are only really recommend for people who wish to take their scanner with them.

Slide, Transparency and Film Scanners: These are used mainly by professionals and are optimized so that light can pass through the slides or film. The images will then show up on your computer for archival or publishing purposes.


Buying a scanner can be like trying to read Klingon for the first time. Hopefully this will help you understand what the abbreviations mean.

Bit Depth: This is one of the most important thing to look for when purchasing a scanner. The higher the bit depth, the more colors the scanner can distinguish between. With more colors and shades, the clearer images will look. The minimum bit depth for decent quality is 24, and tends to increase in increments of 2 or 4.

Resolution: When looking at scanners you may notice that there are two different types of resolution, optical and interpolated. Optical is the most important, and is measured in DPI or PPI (dots or pixels per square inch). The more dots or pixels, the better the resolution and ultimately the image quality. Resolution is measured both horizontally and vertically (600x300) and when choosing a resolution, always compare the lower number as that is the resolution that your pictures will scan at. Just remember that the higher the resolution, the better your images and documents will look. If you have bad eye site or just want to post your photos to the web, then a lower resolution (300 DPI) will probably be fine, but if you are serious about your picture quality, then splurge for a higher resolution (600-1200 DPI).

Optical Density: if you are looking for high quality image scans, you will definitely have to consider optical density (OD). Optical density measures the range from light to dark that the scanner can capture and is measured on a scale from 0 to 4. The higher the OD, the more dynamic the range from light to black will be, ultimately creating more defined and higher quality photographs.

So there you have it, everything you need to know when buying a scanner for the first time. There are other factors to keep in mind like speed (you won’t know how important this is until you get stuck with the world’s slowest scanner) and price (some high quality scanners can cost an arm and a leg), but you can rest assured that you will get the best reviews and lowest prices only at Newbie. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post in our Newbie forums, the best place for people new to technology to become experts.

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