Scanner Reviews

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This page is a place holder where people can add reviews of their favourite scanner.

Specialized Book Scanners

Plustek OpticBook

The Plustek OpticBook is an affordable flatbed scanner designed for consumer book scanning. About double the price of a consumer-grade flatbed scanner, but well worth the extra cost if you're serious about book scanning without destroying the original.

Book Liberator (Beta)

The Book Liberator (Beta) is a custom book cradle and camera mounting solution designed to use consumer digital cameras to get clear flattened page images of book pages without crushing the book itself.

Flatbed Scanners

A flatbed scanner is a scanner with a glass plate on which you have to place a sheet of paper face down. For book scanning, some flatbed scanners are adequate, though a special-purpose book scanner like the Plustek OpticBook will avoid damaging the book and produce greatly superior images much faster.

Most current consumer-grade flatbed scanners come with USB 2.0 interface to your computer, sometimes for power as well as information flow. Some important features to watch for in choosing a scanner for books are

Page scanning speed
This determines the total time you will need to scan a book.
Depth of field
Some cheaper scanners have a very narrow viewing depth. Even if the paper is just a few millimeters from the glass, the slightly darkened page image will appear black in the file.
Size of scanning area
Almost all scanners are now only big enough to scan an A4 sheet. More expensive scanners can scan legal size papers, or even A3.

Epson Perfection 1660 Photo

HP Scanjet 4C

A very old model I used with much satisfaction. It scanning area is somewhat larger than a sheet of legal paper (8.5" x 14").

Sheet-feed Scanners

Slide Scanners

A slide scanner is a scanner used to digitize photographic negatives, slides, or film-strips. Some flatbed scanners have special adaptors to enable the scanning of transparent materials, though the quality of the resulting images is not comparable to that obtained by specialized film scanning hardware. Slide scanners are not useful for scanning books.

Planetary Scanners

A planetary scanner is a scanner that scans objects from an overhanging arm situated above. This has two benefits

  • No need to flatten a book completely on a glass plate, which will damage the book.
  • Much faster, because there's no need to shift the book upside between each page.

Planetary scanners, sometimes also called orbital scanners, typically use one or more digital cameras as the optical component.

Digital Cameras

With a high-resolution digital camera with good optics, and a steady hand, it's sometimes possible to create "scans" at sufficient resolution for OCR.

For an average book (pages about the size of a trade paperback or less) with average print size, a commonly available 3.3 megapixel camera can supply sufficient resolution for good OCR results.

(Below is my trial of a digital camera as a poor mans's planetary camera. Not bad results on my first try. I hope others can contribute experiences & tips Malcolm Farmer 14:36, 25 May 2006 (PDT) )

Common-sense camera settings:

  • Macro if the camera has it
  • Highest picture quality setting.
  • Use optical zoom, not digital zoom.
  • greyscale image setting

I tried this for the project The Skilful cook. Images were downloaded from a Canon Powershot S20, and used unchanged by ABBYY FineReader 5.0. Finereader automatically rotated images to the correct orientation. Handily, FR also produced converted 1-bit TIFF files in its project directory. These were format converted by Imagemagick, cleaned up and deskewed by unpaper, and edge garbage (fingers, tabletop wood grain & excessive white margins) trimmed off by ImageMagick again to produce the image files uploaded to DP. This took a fair bit of trial and error. Next time I'll have a better idea of what I'm doing.

Typical post-GUIprep OCR results:

HINTS TO YOUNG HOUSEKEEPERS.

She looketh well to the ways of her household.

Proverbs of Solomon.

<sc>take</sc> care that you know definitely what sum you can afford
to sr.end on your household expenses, and make it a point
of conscience never to exceed it. Market with ready money,
if possible; but, if it is more convenient to pay by the month,
or quarter, never make that an excuse for letting your bills
mount up to double what you can afford to pay. With
accounts, carefully kept, it is quite possible to regulate the
expenditure to the income.

Never order tilings at random, but inquire the price of
everything before purchasing. Take every pains to know
how to judge of the quality of meat, groceries, &c., so that
you may not be imposed on. Never be ashamed to say you
caniut afford to have this or that. To be poor may be a
misfortune, bat it is not a fault; and, indeed, to be rich is
often a far greater misfortune. The discipline of poverty,
and the self-denial it involves, will often strengthen a
character which the luxury of riches would enervate.

Cultivate sufficient independence of character to enable
you to form your household, and regulate your expenses
according to your own means, and not according to the income
of your neighbours. What does it matter if some may
sneer at your thread-bare carpets and frugal fare? The
approval of your own conscience ia of far more importance
than the friendship of the vulgar-minded. Above all tilings
keep your accounts most strictly. Without this you are

And the uploaded page image looked like this

  • Essentials:
    • Use a tripod or some kind of copy stand to hold the camera. It's easier to move the book around under the fixed camera than to hover with a hand-held camera. A stand can hold the camera steady enough that shake didn't present any problem even when releasing the shutter by hand (and most point-and-shoot consumer camera don't have provision for a cable release). Even this relatively flimsy stand was effective.
    • If possible, use a mains adapter for the camera. Or bring a bag of batteries.
    • Use the highest capacity memory card you have, or capture directly on your computer if the camera/software permits. Otherwise there will be frequent pauses to dump the images from the camera to the computer.
  • Comments
    • The camera, stand, book and computer took some minutes for setup. Once this was done, including page turning, repositioning the book, and camera processing time, 5-6 pages a minute were possible for short bursts. This was followed by the inevitable pause of a couple of minutes in dumping the images to PC when the memory card filled up.
    • Images will need more processing than ordinary scans. That's what computers are for.
    • The camera I used was a 3.3 megapixel camera. Higher resolution and lower price cameras are now available. Or higher price. Your choice.
    • A folding stand, a camera and a computer on a table near a large window with good natural light (diffuse light from overcast sky, rather than direct sunlight: this was in the UK!) are much gentler on elderly books than the traditional flatbed scanner, and potentially several times faster in the scanning stage. Whether it's gentle enough to persuade our local library to let me sample the local history reference books remains to be tested.

PC controlled digital cameras

There are currently few new consumer model digital cameras that can be controlled from your pc, but some of the older ones can still be had.

When controlling the camera from your pc, you can easily scan 8-9 pages per minute, and you do not have to stop to unload the camera; the software transfers the images to the pc straight away.

I myself use a Canon Powershot A620 for this purpose, which comes with software for both PC and Mac.

Cradle

  • Simple design for a book cradle, requires a knife, thick cardboard, and stage or duct tape. The cardboard version will quickly disintegrate, so don't hesitate to use wood instead.

Do It Yourself Camera Based book scanners

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