For this story, we tested four pass-through photo scanners designed to convert photos into JPEG-format files. They can all store the files directly onto memory cards, which you can then use in devices such as computers and electronic picture frames. The tested models are the GiiNii NuLife GN-5LS ($95), Kodak P460 ($100), Kodak P570 ($97), and Pandigital PANSCN05 ($79). We also compared their use and results to that of a conventional flatbed scanner, the Epson Perfection V300 Photo Color Scanner ($79).
Each of the photo scanners came with a plastic sheath to protect pictures as they are fed through, though each scanner also worked without its sheath. The GiiNii came with a sheath for picture 4x6 inches or smaller, but it can handle pictures up to 8.5x11 inches and also features a 2.4-inch LCD screen. The Kodak P460 and Pandigital scanner can each scan photos up to 4x6, and the Kodak P570 can handle sizes up to 5x7.
All the tested models scan photos at a resolution of 300 dpi (dots per inch, a measure of resolution), but both Kodak models can scan at 600 dpi as well; the higher resolution is most noticeable when you're printing enlargements from digital files. The Kodak P460 and the PanDigital can also scan strips of negatives and color slides that are removed from their holders, at 1,200 dpi. The Epson flatbed scanner we used for comparison can scan at up to 4,800 dpi, which is useful when you're cropping images or printing large images from smaller pictures.
Is a photo scanner a worthwhile investment, or should you use a home printer, flatbed scanner, or scanning service instead? We found that the speed and portability of photo scanners are offset by frequently iffy results.