See why budget scanners are a big deal for family historians.
A tip for scanner shoppers: Think cheap. Whether you're getting your first flatbed or looking to replace your old one, entry-level scanners should be at the top of your list. They don't have the commercial scanning prowess of top-of-the-line gizmos, of course, but they're definitely up to handling your family history tasks. You can get a surprisingly powerful scanner for less than $100: Introductory models now boast 600 to 1,200 dpi optical resolution—more than adequate for producing photo-quality images—and at least 42-bit color (the higher the bit-depth, or bits per pixel, the richer the colors). They come with all the software you need to create, edit and share digital copies of your family photos and documents.
We tested budget models from three top scanner manufacturers, holding them up to both genealogy and graphic-design standards. The verdict: Whatever your skill level or scanning tasks, you can find a cheap flatbed that fits the bill.
HP Scanjet 2200c
Hewlett-Packard is known for beginner-friendly computer products, and the Scanjet 2200c doesn't disappoint. It's great for novices who want a basic scanner they can master without much effort.
As long as you're a PC-using novice, that is. This $79 USB scanner works solely with Windows (98 or higher). You also need a 90MHz processor, 32MB RAM and 130MB hard disk space.
The Scanjet 2200c doesn't come with a user's guide or detailed instructions—your only guidance is an illustrated poster, but you may not even need that. Everything about the Scanjet 2200c is pretty intuitive, from setup to software.
To scan, just plop your pix on the 8.5x11.7-inch vertical scanning area. (You can remove the lid for bigger or bulkier items.) The scanner has two buttons on the front: Hit Color Copy if you just want to print the photo. Press Scan to launch the HP Precision Scan LTX software and capture the image.
Then edit and share your images with Adobe ActiveShare—the best part of the Scanjet 2200c's software bundle. This nifty program combines powerful and versatile image-editing capabilities found in Adobe's other consumer software (PhotoDeluxe, Photoshop Elements—see next page) with loads of Web-sharing options: You can e-mail pix, upload images to a Web site and download shots from a digital camera. Beginners will love ActiveShare's excellent help features, such as screens explaining each function and how to use it. The scanner also comes with optical character recognition (OCR) software for turning images of printed pages into text files.
Scans of old photographs came out a tad redder than the originals, but that's easily corrected with photo-editing software. Overall, this 42-bit, 600 dpi machine produces good-quality images.