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Getting Your Pictures into the Computer

There are many ways of getting your pictures into a digital form that the computer can process. Each has its advantages and disadvantages where it would not be uncommon for one to use many or all of the available options.

Photo CD

The Photo CD format was developed by Kodak as a way to archive photographs. The Photo CD is created during the photo finishing process, where the pictures are scanned with special high-resolution, calibrated equipment. Up to 100 images can be stored on a single CD.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Image Scanner

Image scanners can take many forms. The first were hand held devices that were usually black and white only that you dragged across the document you were copying. The width of the scanners generally were around 5 to 6 inches, so for a wider document, the software needed to be intelligent enough to "stitch" the two halves of the image together. Then came the flatbed scanners that looked somewhat like the top part of a copier. They usually used either a SCSI interface or a proprietary manufacturer's interface card. The first color scanners would perform 3 passes of the object; using red, green, and blue lamps. Today's scanners perform the scan in one pass, and many low priced scanners are available that plug into the printer port, although the higher speed units still use SCSI or some other plug in card. There are even scanners for standard 4 x 6 photographs and negatives that can be installed in one of your computer's hard drive bays or sit on top of your computer.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Frame Grabber

Frame grabbers are devices that accept a video signal like that used on a television from sources like a VCR or camcorder and convert it to digital form. The simplest ones, like Snappy, connect to your printer port and are suitable for single frames. The more expensive devices are interface cards that require installation, but have sufficient speed to enable you to capture full motion video (but that's beyond the scope of this primer, for now at least). Also included in this category are some 'TV on a PC card' devices that allow you to watch TV on your monitor, many of these have video inputs and let you capture video images.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Digital Cameras

Which leads us to the latest development, digital cameras. You can think of them as a camcorder without video tape. They use the same resolution CCD "camera" that camcorders use. Instead of recording the CCD's output onto video tape, they digitize the signal and store it in the camera's memory. Some may look like a standard 35mm camera and take accessory lenses (like zoom and wide angle), or may take an entirely different format since they don't need to worry about handling film. They differ in the way you get the image to the computer, some can put the images on standard 3.5" floppies, others use PCMCIA or Compact Flash RAM cards (allowing hundreds of images to be stored in the camera), or you can connect a cable to your computer's serial port. Some cameras will also allow you to store a few seconds of audio with the picture so you can identify it easier later.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Summary

Each method obviously has its advantages and disadvantages. There are many ways you can rank each method

Ease of image transfer to PC

  1. Photo CD
  2. Digital Camera
  3. Image Scanner
  4. Frame Grabber

Image Quality

  1. Photo CD
  2. Image Scanner
  3. Digital Camera
  4. Frame Grabber

Extra Hardware Costs

  1. Photo CD
  2. Image Scanner *
  3. Frame Grabber *
  4. Digital Camera

* subject to caveats listed in disadvantages for each method, hardware cost is dependent upon type of device purchased and whether additional hardware to allow printer use is needed.

Speed of Image transfer (from taking picture to seeing display on PC monitor)

  1. Digital Camera
  2. Frame Grabber
  3. Image Scanner
  4. Photo CD

The next section will discuss what to do once you get the image stored in the PC.

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This page last updated 01/09/01