Scan every photo in sight

I got an Epson Perfection 2480 Photo scanner LE with a feeder tray, after asking a few folks online what they thought of it and not hearing any horror stories.

The plan is to scan all 2,000 or so of my family photos and taking them out west. That might sound like a terribly daunting task but in the time it’s taken for me to get this far in this blog entry, it’s already scanned 6 images and dropped them into place.

I’m not using sharpening or other features built into the Epson software. Some of the images scanned like this will need to be tweaked for brightness and contrast and such to bring out their best, but it’s best to get the images in the purest state posible and then muck with them. The software that came with it is pretty well designed; beginners can get pretty darn good images with simple, integrated tweaks like a descreening filter and unsharp mask at the flip of a single switch. And then nerds like me can turn all that stuff off so they can make it hard on themselves.

The scan quality I’m using for prints only looks a hair worse than 2,400 dpi uncompressed .tiff when the image is magnified roughly 10 times on my screen… IE a 4 inch print blown up to 40 inches. My images take up 4 MB instead of 65 though. I’m not adverse to 65MB images except that my image programs choke trying to display and edit them.

I’m not totally happy with using the built in auto-exposure because I think it messes with the histogram, lossing some data. Then again, it might be changing CCD sensitivity, which means I’m getting better data. But it seems to do a very good job and I’d otherwise have to spend a lot of time with each image getting it right (and frankly, I’m not so good at that kind of futzing)

I’m very happy with this scanner. :-)

Prints: Home Mode. The feeder can accept 10-15 images. Images take 1 minute apiece. I’m using 24 bit color, 1200 dpi, auto exposure with no other adjustments, save with compression 15 .jpg. Images are approx 4 MB. Some photos can’t go through the feeder because of its size or gunk on the picture.

Large Prints: If a print takes more than 1/3 of a page, I consider lowering the resolution to 720 dpi or 600 dpi because .jpg images more than 10 MB are quite cumbersome for photo programs.

Negatives: Home Mode, 24 bit color, 4800 dpi, auto exposure and no other adjustments. Save with compression 15 .jpg. Images are approx 3 MB. Mounting slides would go faster if I get my hands on several film holders.

Slides:(my folks have lots!) same settings as negatives.

6-13-05 575 photos done. Negatives go slower than prints… 3 minutes per image and it must be loaded every 3 images. But the final images are usually a bit smaller even though I’m capturing more data. If you’ve got the negative, use it!

6-14-05 660 photos done. I didn’t have much time today… and slides are an even bigger pain. You load 2 images at a time. A Swiffer duster does a very good job on dust specks.

6-15-05 900 photos done in 3 gigabytes. I’ll stich together the mosaics of large images later. Large images are an even bigger pain than slides. I’ve scanned every important picture in a frame in the house. I can’t take those with me!

6-16-05 Uh oh. After all this, I’m almost done with box #1 of 3. I’m going to ship them out to SF and finish this project later. But I’m very happy with the scanner

Sample images:

Here is a 4″ x 4″ photo. It came out to be 3 MB, 4,800 x 4,800 pixels.
entire image

And here is a zoom in of my face. At this level, you can start to see digitizing artifacts. I would need a loupe to see this much detail on the original photo
zoom in


  1. Jim says:

    Lee – I’m glad to hear you bought the scanner! I am moving to a new job and have not been paying much attention to the comments on my site – sorry I did not get back to you in time. I am enjoying mine very much and have put at least 300 pictures through it so fare without incident. The captures look nice and I am really thrilled to have some of these pictures digital after years of trying to do it by hand. Keep up the good work! Good luck with the Job interview thing. Jim

  2. Lee says:

    I’m very happy with the scanner. Thanks for getting back to me, even if it was a little later. I’ve got 190 scanned today. I NEVER would have been able to do this with an older, lower resolution, slower, less automated scanner. I recall buying a scanner a couple years ago for $100 and the promise of digitizing all my old photos just never materialized. This one also cost $100 ($150 at Staples with a $50 rebate… and I’ve seen them online for $90!) but it’s a whole different animal.

    It’s great when something “just works”.

  3. WTL says:

    Lee, I’m guessing that you’d recommend the scanner to others, then?

    I have a few zillion boxes of photos and negatives to scan in as well, and have been trying to figure out where/how to do it.

  4. Lee says:

    It’d be better if this scanner had a negatives feeder as well as a prints feeder but I’ve never seen such a thing on the market.

    If you spend a lot of time in front of your computer (and the scanner) it’s not a big deal to reload the negative film holder every couple minutes. (3 minutes per negative)

    The most important thing is the image quality: Yes, the image quality is good enough that I can feel I can discard the originals.

    Second is the ease of feeding. The print feeder r0xs. The negatives are a bit of a pain.

    Third is the price. $100 at Staples for “professional quality” scanning quality is astounding. I’ve already scanned almost 1,000 images. That would cost about $2,000 at a professional digitizing studio.

    Until an automatic negative feeder attachment comes along, I absolutely recommend this unit….
    … [tap tap tap] … [google google google] …

    Hey! The Epson Perfection 2580 has a negative loader!!!!

    Hmmm. You can only load 1 filmstrip at a time. Each strip holds 2-6 images (most of mine hold 4, I have to scan 3, then flip the holder around for the last one). Their negative feeder will save me some time but it’s not optimal. I’d love to have one that could hold 5 strips. That’d be 1 hour worth of scanning without a refill instead of the current 9 minute scan, flip, 3 minute scan, 1 minute to change film, repeat.

    If I can find it, I’d consider spending $50 on the negative feeder for myself.

  5. Lee, thanks for this nice description of your negative scanning project. I myself have about 8000 negatives to scan from life before digital and have been looking for an affordable and realistic solution for years.

    I’m surprised there’s no real consumer product available yet that allows you to put a real batch of negatives in a tray and have them scanned while you do something else. Millions of people must be in the same situation. True scanning services exist but at minimum 35 cents per pic and I would not feel comfy mailing all my irreplaceable negatives somewhere else.

    Ok sorry why am I writing here ? Please let me know if you hear about any solution that is even better then the Epson 2580. Must be only a question of time before it comes to market.

    I am even considering building my own feeder using my Lego Robotics set so that I can scan batches of say 200 negatives. It would be feasible (I’m a programmer) but would take about a week of full-time work to get it all set-up and fine-tuned.

    Anyway continued good luck on your project

  6. Mike says:

    I have some negatives that are a little bit too big to go thru the autoloader …. Is ther a way for me to use my 2580 and scan them? I tried just hand placing it and it didn’t work … probably because I don’t know the exact spot

  7. Lee says:

    You put negatives through the autoloader??

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