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What to look for while buying a Digital Scanner

Contact Image Sensor (CIS) Digital ScannerNew Digital Scanners on the market are sleek, compact and often cost less than older, bulkier models. But will they satisfy your needs?

How they work

All scanners convert paper photos, negatives, slides, books, magazines and documents into digital files that can be transferred onto your computer. Most models feature a flatbed screen on which you place items for scanning. A sensor under the screen travels from one end to the other, capturing the document digitally. You can save the resulting file to your computer for editing, e-mailing or storing.

What's hot

Some new scanners are less that 5 centimeters thick because they scan using a small Contact Image Sensor (CIS). This compact device requires less energy, so the scanner can be powered just by plugging it into your computer via a USB cable. Larger scanners that are 8 centimeters thick or more employ an older technology called a Charge Coupled Device (CCD). This mechanism uses mirrors and lenses, and means the scanner has to be plugged into a wall socket.

Key features

Consider scanners with at least a 21 x 28 centimeters flatbed screen and a resolution of 1200 dots per inch (dpi). If you want to scan slides and negatives, be sure the model can handle them or accepts film and slide adapters. They cost more. Scanners with these features can be found for under $100.

Pros and cons

Many CIS scanners are thin and are powered by your computer. So they tend to be lighter and won't require a spot on your over crowded power strip. But CIS technology is relatively new and can't yet capture the subtle color details as accurately as CCD models.

Bottom line

If you want a scanner to store magazine articles, recipes and lower resolution photos on your computer, a CIS model is sufficient. But if you want to edit or restore family snap-shots, a CCD scanner produces more vibrant results.
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