Choosing a Scanner

You'll generally find three types of scanners on the shelves at most office supply and computer stores

• Flatbed (price range: $50 to $600). Flatbed scanners hide a large plate of glass beneath a large lid. Lift the lid, place your photo or other item on the glass, and close the lid. When you tell Windows to scan, the scanner converts your photo or other item into an image file. Flatbed scanners are the most popular model for consumers because they work so well at the most common tasks: scanning in photos, articles, receipts, and handwritten documents. Once you scan something, you can save it, reprint it, or send it to friends or coworkers. As you go up the price range, you get better resolution, greater dynamic range (sensitivity to gradations between black and white), and decent film-scanning capabilities, so you can scan your collection of negatives and slides into digital files.

• All-in-one (price range: $150 to $300). These scanners come as part of an all-in-one printer, which places a scanner atop a printer, and then throws in the smarts of a copier and fax machine. All-in-one models pack four gadgets into something that costs much less than the sum of its parts. These devices are heavy, making them awkward to carry or move from one room to another. And the individual components are never as versatile as the dedicated models. But if you're shopping for both a scanner and printer, they're certainly convenient, and you can't beat the cost savings.

• Film scanner (price range: $200 to $2,000). While many flatbed scanners offer film scanning (as described above), doing so with them is labor-intensive. If you have a large collection of 35mm or smaller slides and/or negatives, you might want to invest in a dedicated film scanner. All but the cheapest of these will provide better quality film scans than the flatbeds offer, and some feature automated handling of filmstrips and slides. The upper end of the price range gives you both top scan quality and the ability to handle medium-format (120mm) film.

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