Buying the Right Scanner

Today there are so many new gadgets that it can be confusing to decide which to buy and what they all have to offer. I’ll show some of the latest scanners and the pros and cons of each and tell of some things you really should stay away from.

One of the biggest and most frustrating things is when you decide on what you want for your computer and then get it home, it does not do what that guy at the store promised. So ignore him, don’t listen to the salesman at the store. It has been awhile since I have heard a sales pitch that did not start with the promise of what the product could do, but started with the cons of a product.

This may not be how to sell a product, but wouldn’t it be nice to hear a salesman who could at least tell you some bad points about a product. I like to shop for my computer related gear at a smaller store that is locally owned. The salesmen are nice and will tell me honestly about their computers and gadgets.

They will tell me if there are any cons to the product and will ask what I am using it for and if they think I should steer clear of a certain brand or model. I was looking for a laptop, still am for the 4-H club my kids are in, and they tell me if they laptop I’m looking at will work, but more importantly they tell me if the one I am looking at is too high end for the program and the use I want it for.

So that is my first bit of advice, if you can, go to a locally owned store, not a big chain or retail dealer. The Best Buy’s and such are not interested in keeping any particular customer happy, the want that commission. The smaller stores are better able to see what you need and can afford and will be more willing to tell you the truth to keep your business.

I have bought several things from Walmart and Target but I check them out first. I make sure it is what I want and research my purchase before hand. That is my second bit of advice before I get to the scanners. Research the options you have and what you want your scanner to do.

I have a very good scanner, it does anything from color photographs and very good quality legal documents such as vehicle titles that the woman at the DMV could not tell it was a copy at first. That is half due to the scanner and the quality, the other half is a good printer.

A scanner is used to copy things that you put into it and transfer it to your computer. These can be anything from regular papers to slides and 35 mm film negatives. There are many types of scanners available and you should compare and shop around after you decide what you want your scanner to do.

I would steer very clear of the all in one things that print scan and copy or even fax. This is something that I not only have not tried I would not suggest it even to save the space in a cramped home office or whatever. The technology is there but it is just too much stuff in too small a space when you try to cram three or four things in one.

I have heard all the things several people I know have said and the biggest thing I have not heard is praise. They work but they do not work well, and that is the point. The companies that put them out should concentrate on making the individual products and not junk them all together. The drivers and getting each feature to work when you want is a key issue.

Some of the best scanners to come out are some of the simplest, that is what you want to look for, not how many fancy things it comes with or what they come with as far as accessories. Except for one model in particular, the additional items they come with are not necessary.

As long as your scanner hooks up to your computer and spits out the information to your computer, it works. It doesn’t matter if it has the optional tray or the handy surface cleaning kit. You want your scanner to make clear and good pictures and documents.

First there are several types of scanners and this is where the decisions start, you have basically five scanner types.

The flatbed scanner

The flatbed scanner is like the one I have in the picture, it sit flat on a surface and has a large glass surface, the picture or whatever you want to scan sits on the glass and you close the cover to scan. It has a software package that tells your computer things about the scan and what you want to do with it.

The pen scanner

The pen scanner is a relatively new device that is for the mobile computer person. It is a device much like a pen that scans one line of type at a time. You can use this for contracts or whatever while your out of the home or office. It hooks to a laptop or computer and downloads the scanned information, each model holds a different amount of text. There a few models for things as big as a business card. The major advantage of these devices is you can scan stuff out on the road and later when you have time, download them to your computer.

There are a few downsides to some of these. One of the big ones for many models is that you cannot see the things you scanned until you download them to your laptop. There are many models that have a small screen though, if your are thinking of one of these and it is just something you have to have, I would go with a model that has the screen on the device.

The WizCom QuickLink Pen Text Scanner is about the best pen scanner out right now. It has a decent sized screen and easy to use menus, but this is a very new product line. The pen scanners are still being worked on and have yet to come into their own as a computer peripheral that is up to the regular standards of most people. This is something that I would stay away from for a little while yet.

The business card scanner is something that is just like a sheet fed scanner but smaller and stores the information instead of passing it along to the computer. This is perfect for the business owner but is relatively new also.

The sheet fed scanner

The sheet fed scanner is kind of like a flat bed scanner but you feed your sheet or photo in instead of having it sit and the scanning device scans the page by moving inside the scanner the length of the page. This feeds the document across the scanning eye and spits out the page into a tray. They have more working parts but the technology for this has been around as long as the print.

Sheet fed scanners can be smaller than flatbeds but have other problems such as jamming and dirt accumulation. This would require some cleaning of the feed mechanism from time to time if you scan a lot of documents, just like a printer.

There is one model of sheet fed scanner that is a very new addition to the scanner market, it is a receipt scanner called NeatReceipts. The scanner accepts up to 8.5 inch wide documents and the software that accompanies the device inputs it into a variety of programs such as Quicken, Excel or even Adobe Acrobat. The price is around $250 but for the tax conscious business man it is a great tool.

The film scanner

The film scanner has been out for a few years now and is making great strides in the home hobbyists area of film and picture scanning. There are two basic types of film scanner, the single slide scanner and the 35 mm scanner. With these devices and accompanying software you can scan and process your slides and 35 mm film just like a photo lab.

You can take your film straight from the photo lab, you know the place you used to go with film and scan them into your computer and then process them on your computer. Some take the negative and process them into color pictures but others do not do so well at this. This is an area that money is the key factor into the quality of the processing of your negatives.

The better film scanners will have a pricier tag on them. The slide scanners only have to do so much with the scan so it is an easier job . They only have to copy the slide and need not develop it per say. They usually have a tray for the slide to go into and you close the device to scan it.

There are some decent quality scanners for film but if you are going to be doing this as a hobbyist and not try to make a business out of it you may have to pay for the hobby. They range in price from a couple of hundred to in the thousands. For a good quality film scanner with many options such as taking both film and slides, you can expect to pay $500 and up such as for this model from Nikon, Nikon Coolscan V LS-50 ED.

The multifunction device

The multi function device will have more than one feature such that could include scanner, fax, copier and printer. There are a few good ones on the market but you have to shop around and compare, one of the biggest things you will se here is a cost somewhere that you did not consider, such as more expensive ink than a stand alone printer.

The Epson Stylus CX6600 is one of the best multifunction devices but it is downhill from there quickly. There are many devices form all the major companies but I would stay away from these all together. With the multi function comes multi problems.

The inks on many of them are more expensive, they have more displays and buttons than you can shake a stick at and the price is often more than the average homeowner wants to spend at once for this type of thing.

I prefer to be able to pick the best of the separate devices but you can get information on some of the best of these at CNET.com.

For the best scanner you have to be specific with what you want it to do. If you are interested in something that is versatile for the home user with an interest in digital photography and the usual projects that kids bring home from school a good flatbed scanner would suffice.

If you are really into photography and want to get into the new wave of scanning your film you can get either a dedicated film scanner or a multi purpose scanner that has a flat bed or feed scanner and film scanner. There are a couple of good models from Epson, Nikon and Canon.

For the real photo enthusiast you should get a dedicated film scanner and another for the prints or papers you want to scan. A dedicated film scanner that is really good will cost you but the quality for the good ones is as good as a photo shops. That is what some of the ones out there are being used for.

A professional photographer nowadays uses a variety of methods to develop and process film. Not only the old time chemicals and photo lab but today they use the film scanners and computer with excellent results. A very good scanner for film can run you over a thousand. A professional model is around ten to fifteen thousand dollars.

There is a new scanner from Hewlett Packard that is going to be my next scanner by the end of the year. It is a unique and novel approach to scanning and offers a great ability that is perfect for my family. The scanner comes as one unit with a separate base.

The unit has a glass front and back with the scanning mechanism in the middle. You can see completely through the scanner to what you have underneath the glass. Positioning the paper or other object such as a picture or larger item would be quite easy as you can see exactly how the scanner will scan the paper. If you want to scan normal sized paper objects you can set the scanner unti in the frame and it has a holder for the regular 8.5 x 11 size paper.

This would be very useful for my family when they are trying to scan things for their 4-H projects. It would allow us to scan things like pictures or parts of maps easily.

So whether you are using your scanner just to copy a quick page or two or trying to be the professional home photographer, a good scanner is a matter of choice when it comes to the type and what it can do. With a little research into the different types available you can get all the features you want and save a few bucks by shopping around.

Try CNET.com for a very good site that reviews and tests computer peripherals and even has users review and comment on the products.

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