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Best Scanner for Printed Photo Restoration?

Pat Martin , Oct 27, 2003; 02:56 p.m.

What is the best scanner for restoring old and very old photos? After reading reviews of the Canon 9900, Epson 3200 and Microtek Scanmaker 6800, I'm leaning toward the Canon. I'm not concerned about speed or film scanning capabilities--just the ability to restore photos. Having minimal prior experience with scanners and no experience with photo imaging software, I would prefer that some or most of the correction for scratches, dust, fading, folds, stains, or graininess be done automatically, leaving only some to be done manually, but I understand that this may not be possible within the limitations of most scanning software and the advanced techniques necessary for restoring old photos. I am willing to learn new software programs for this purpose, even if it takes a lot of time, so long as I can do a good job of restoring my collection of vintage photos (from early 1900's to 1950's). Any suggestions? I was planning on spending about $400 for a scanner and hoping to be able to use the included imaging software.


Steven Clark , Oct 27, 2003; 03:12 p.m.

Response to Best Scanner for Photo Restoration

Plan on spending $150 or less for what you want. Any of the $400 scanners are overkill if you aren't using them as film scanners. A $130 Epson 1670 should have more than enough resolution for work with prints and the drivers will have Epson's new color-restoration feature. Beyond that when it comes to resotration you're on your own. On the other hand at that price you probably wouldn't get a good editor so I'd either budjet $50-100 for something like Paint Shop Pro, or Photoshop Elements, or you could spend more, in the $250 range and look for something that comes with a copy of Elements as well.

Walter Strong , Oct 27, 2003; 03:23 p.m.

Response to Best Scanner for Photo Restoration

Pat's information is very good. Photo Deluxe would do the job and is easy to use. Be sure and save your original scan in tiff files and it'd be wise to save the restored images in both pdd (Adobe's proprietary file) and jpegs. Jpegs are a "lossy" kind of file and will deteriorate over time. Also consider burning every thing to a disc or discs and putting them in a safe deposit box for backup in case of fire, flood, theft or whatever.

Eric Friedemann , Oct 27, 2003; 03:59 p.m.

Response to Best Scanner for Photo Restoration

Well, if you want "the best" scanner, currently, I'm trying to talk a friend who owns a camera store into buying a 13.8x18.5", 5,000 d.p.i. Fuji C-550 Lanovia for our copy work. But with these bad boys running in the $10,000 range, it has been an uphill fight:


The best scanners mostly start at $10K and up. These are generally used by printers.

As has been mentioned, unless you are doing restoration for a museum or library, you can get surprisingly good results with inexpensive scanners. For quite a while, I did document scanning witha cheapy UMAX scanner:


These scanners generally have something like Photoshop LE bundled with them. And, as a novice, if you can't retouch an image with the tools in Pshop LE, you'll likely have to take the image to a restoration professional anyway.

Jim S , Oct 27, 2003; 08:34 p.m.

Any recent scanner if more than enough for old photos. I would get one with 16 bit output because that can help with old faded photos.

Scanning over about 300 or 400dpi just makes your files larger. See www.scantips.com for more scanning tips.

Basically your SW is going to be the key to correcting scratches, color casts, etc. Photoshop is the ideal tool (the healing brush is nice), but it's a bit costly. I don't know if Elements has it, but it will get you used to the PS tools if you find a scanner that includes it. The clone tool does a good job as well, but it really comes down to learning techniques to fix all the problems. I have seen books on retouching with PS that would be worth the money.

Jeff Zweig , Oct 28, 2003; 07:37 p.m.

Of those the only one I have used myself is the Microtek Scanmaker 6800. It has the ability to restore quite a bit of damage in photos. It saves a ton of time of manually correcting in Photoshop but the results are not perfect. Think of it as a stepping stone, it just allows you to leap into the middle-end of the stones.

The others mentioned software resortation as an option. I am going to have to disagree, as there is no alternative that I have seen that works as good as hardware/software combination. I see it as optical resolution vs interpolated resolution. Which do you want? Optical of course. Same with hardware.

Check out the 6800 and see if its right for you. I should have mentioned that its a Gold level product which gets you the priority support line options.

Pat Martin , Nov 01, 2003; 01:04 a.m.

Thanks for all the advice. I decided on a Microtek i300 for $200. (4800 x 2400 dpi) It comes with the Digitial ICE defect-correcting software, and Microtek's ScanWizard software has automatic color restoration. I think these 2 functions will help reduce the amount of time I have to spend in photo editing. If I am wrong, I'll let you all know.

Pat Martin , Dec 04, 2003; 01:40 p.m.

A number of persons have tried to contact me about the Microtek i300 since it is a relatively new model. Here's my report for anyone interested: I tried to buy this scanner twice. It works okay for scanning printed photos so long as the resolution is low. When I tried to scan in at "higher" resolutions (400 dpi or higher), it balked, either slowing to a crawl, giving me error messages or locking up. (I have 256mb of RAM) When I was successful in scanning in a photo at 400 dpi, it had a very strong "Moire" effect. Hoping it was just this one scanner, I returned it in order to try another. I had the same problems. I never really got to see the effects of the Digital ICE, which I understand are terrific. I ended up buying a Canon 9900 and have not had any problems with it.

Jeff Zweig , Dec 16, 2003; 02:32 p.m.

Pat, were you able to use the descreen function on the scanner to remove any patern that may come up? In the advanced control panel you can select the level that you need. As for the locking up I might attribute that to the amount of RAM but you mention that your Canon has not had the same problem so I don't know what that was. I know my computer has 1 gig of RAM and its sufficient for most scans but for really high res scans even it might have a problem. Good luck with your Canon.

Bill Cotter , Jan 09, 2004; 08:18 p.m.

Based on my recent experience, avoid the Microtek i300 like the plague. I have a review and sample scans online at http://www.billcotter.com/i300

Hope that helps save someone else from the frustration I went through.


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