Scanning Prints

Well, if scanning prints is something you want to do, or need to do, there’s a bright side to it all.  You only have one choice for equipment, and that is a flatbed document scanner.

Flatbed scanners come in a wide range of prices from a variety of manufacturers.  Many come with some sort of photo editing software.  Some are tailored towards folks like you, and have one-button shortcuts for scanning prints.  Others offer software that will help restore old faded prints in one step.

You can get good results for around $100 or so.  Prices go up from there to a top of the line Epson that will set you back around $750.  Consider your objective before you set out to buy your scanner.  A scanner can always do, less that its’ ultimate capability – but it can never do more.

If all you want to do is scan the family snapshots for viewing on your phone or computer, or to post on Facebook, you don’t need to spend a fortune.

If you’re looking to be able to reproduce a print that’s in focus and well exposed, you don’t need to spend a fortune, either.

Sounds pretty good so far, doesn’t it?

If your originals aren’t in focus, no scanner is going to be able to fix that.

If your original prints are underexposed (dark, muddy), a scanner might be able to help – but don’t get your hopes up.  The same goes for prints that are overexposed (washed out).  In either case, your best bet is to work from the original slide or negative if you have it.  And, at that point, the $99 scanner is probably not your best choice.

If you’re wanting to take that 4×6 inch print, scan it, and create a great 20×30 inch print to cover that empty space on your wall – it’s not going to happen.  The only way that’s going to happen in an acceptable manner is if you’ve got the original slide or negative to work from, and a scanner capable of providing output of at least 4800 dpi.  Sorry if you were hoping to hear something different.

If you’re working from prints that are old, faded, torn, or wrinkled, they can probably be saved.  “Saved” might be a great result, and it might not be.  All it takes is decent software, a good mouse and mouse pad, and time.  And patience.  And time.  Did I mention patience and time?  I spent about 11 hours restoring and repairing a print of my Grandfather on his wedding day.  I found it behind two other prints of my Grandparent’ wedding in a frame, and time wasn’t at all kind to it.  I used Ulead PhotoImpact software to repair it (the software is now found in Corel’s PaintShop Pro X5 software).  If you don’t believe me about having a good mouse – wait until you work on restoring your first print!

For the record, my current flatbed scanner is a HP OfficeJet 4630 all-in-one.

hp 4630

So, if scanning prints is your primary objective – start at your Local Camera Shop and go from there.  Check the reviews on B&H, Adorama and Samy’s.  And, enjoy!

We’ll wrap the scanning conversation up in one final post soon.

Third-Party Camera Lenses: Yes or No?

Some folks swear that the only way to get good pictures is to only purchase lenses from the maker of your camera body.  The Frog begs to differ.  There are some great third-party camera lenses out there!

Some third-party camera lenses are as good as the lenses from the camera manufacturer’s, some are better, and quite honestly, some are just plain bad.  Keep in mind that the lens can be the weak point in your system, so do your research and get the best lens you can!

First, whether your camera body is made by Nikon, Canon, Sigma, Pentax, Sony, Panasonic, Leica, or whomever, they’ve all got good lenses.  Similarly, so do lens makers like Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, and others.  Do your research!

Here’s a suggested approach to buying any lens:  First, identify what you want.  Then, check out the manufacturer’s websites (links above), check out Ken Rockwell’s site and Digital Photography Review.  Check out buyer reviews on retailer sites such as B&H and Adorama.

Look at the results, and study the QFLs.  Look at price.  You might find it helpful to keep notes or make a table to track your findings.

In the case of All-in-One lenses, recognize that none of them are perfect, no matter who makes them!  They’re great as long as you know their quirks, flaws and limitations (“QFLs”) – and your work within them.  You might find that the third-party lens that costs half as much as the manufacturer’s lens has some QFLs that are different than the QFLs that the manufacturer’s lens has.  And, for half the price, you can live with that!  (In one instance, The Frog did that and ended up with two third-party camera lenses for the price of one manufacturer’s lens.) That said, if the price is too good to be true, it probably is…

Keep an eye out for specials, rebates, and package deals, especially before major holidays.  You can save $$ if the timing works for you.

And… you probably know what’s coming… don’t forget to check things out at your local camera store!

You know that the Frog is shooting with Nikon DSLR bodies.  So, whose lenses does he use?  Nikon,  and third-party camera lenses from Sigma, and Tamron.


It’s the lens, silly!

As you may be pondering what to do if you’re looking to buy your first DSLR, or if you’re thinking about upgrading your current DSLR, here’s something to remember:


Think about it…

Your image must pass through your lens to get to the image sensor in the camera in order to create your image file that you use to print your picture.

If the lens isn’t up to the task… well…

So, as you’re contemplating what to do, focus (pun was not planned, but it works, so we’ll keep it) your attention on the lens, and if you’re wondering where your money should go, it’s the Frog’s humble opinion that the answer is the lens.  Get the best lens you can afford.  Don’t forget to consider refurbished and used lenses to stretch your dollars.

If you do your research on DSLR bodies, you’ll find that some of the “amateur” or “prosumer” bodies have the same image sensors as the “pro” bodies, or maybe they have the “old” sensor that was the “new” sensor six months or a year ago.  The most significant difference in many cases is that the amateur or prosumer bodies don’t have all of the controls, options, bells and whistles that the pro bodies do – and they’re a lot cheaper.  As was discussed in the Buying a DSLR post, think about what you photograph and what you absolutely need in a body first, then think about what you want.

And now, we’re suggesting that you think about the lens just as much, if not more.  Check out the post on Camera Equipment for Basic Travel Photography, and also the post on All-in-One versus Prime Lenses for more food for thought.

Don’t forget to visit your local camera store as part of the process!  We need small businesses to survive and thrive.



Buying a DSLR camera

Recently, The Frog was asked by someone about buying their first DSLR camera.  Their kids are growing up, and they sensed a need/purpose to get a better camera to capture family moments and memories.  That got The Frog’s brain cells going, and after thinking about it, The Frog offered his advice, starting with the basics as DSLRs were new to them.  As it’s a worthy topic, it’s been expanded upon and organized a bit better for your information and consideration.

A DSLR camera is a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera.  Basically, it looks like a 35mm film camera that many of us grew up with, and has interchangeable lenses.  There are also many worthy “hybrid” digital cameras on the market – they look like a DSLR, but you can’t change lenses.  There are so many of those on the market that we’re not even going to touch on that subject!

Buying a DSLR camera

So… you want a DSLR.  The next question is “which brand?”  Major DSLR manufacturers include: Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma and Sony.  Most have a range of products over a fairly wide price range.  In general, as price goes up, so do available features and capabilities.  Where do you start?

First – think about what you want the DSLR to do, and what you want to do with it.  Do you want to simply click the shutter button and be done with it?  Do you want to be able to set the shutter speed or aperture and let the camera do the rest?  Do you want to have full manual control?  Do you want to be able to do low-light photography without a flash?  All of these answers will factor into your decision.

If you want to read some impartial reviews before you go to your local camera store or after looking and/or before you purchase, check out Ken Rockwell’s site or Digital Photography Review for information and ideas.  Reviews can also be found on the manufacturer’s websites and retailer websites.

If you or someone in your immediate family has a Nikon or Pentax 35mm film camera, you might want to focus your efforts (pun not intended, but it works!) on a Nikon or Pentax DSLR – many/most of their “old” lenses will work on their new DSLR cameras.  They probably won’t auto-focus or couple with the exposure meter – but they will work!  For those of you (like me) that have Canon 35mm film cameras, well…, you can still shoot film with them.

Do you want new?  Used?  Refurbished?  The Frog’s digital equipment is a mix of new and factory-refurbished “stuff”.  New is new, and needs no explanation.  There are great used products out there as well, as many people upgrade their cameras like they upgrade their phones when something new comes out.  Factory-refurbished items are available from the manufacturer’s websites and some retailers, and are cheaper than new, but often with a shorter warranty.  You can add to your “stuff” more economically and faster if you’re willing to consider used or refurbished equipment.

Then, after your thought and research process, I’d recommend a visit to your local camera store and not a big box retailer.  Local camera stores give you the opportunity to get hands on with the cameras and get your questions answered – and your questions are probably better answered by someone in a camera store than someone who may be selling a refrigerator one moment and then a camera in the next.  There’s a perception that local camera stores are overpriced which isn’t necessarily true – manufacturers have a great deal of control over pricing these days, so your local camera store is going to either have the same price as the big box retailer or be extremely competitive.  We all need local businesses to survive and thrive – so pay your local camera store a visit!  The Frog’s local camera store in the Los Angeles area is Samy’s Camera.  (The Frog also admits to purchasing on the internet, and he’s been buying from B&H Photo – Video for over 20 years.)

Once you’re at your local camera store, get the equipment in your hands and see how it handles and feels.  Ask if the store rents equipment – that gives you a chance to see how it performs as well.  Your final decision will be based on feel, handling, and results if you can rent to try as much as it will be on price.

Upcoming posts will talk about lenses and what’s in the Frog’s camera bags.  Those posts may give you more to think about as you consider a DSLR purchase.