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Best scanners for digitizing your old photos

March 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
If you've got boxes of old photos lying around, there are now easy-to-use photo scanners to help you get organized. They'll digitize your old photos in seconds.

Diane Bradsell has been taking pictures since grade school. She has thousands in albums, but she also has boxes and boxes of loose photos. She'd love to get them in her computer, but she says scanning is not an option.

"It would probably take me 200 hours," Bradsell said.

Portable photo scanners promise to make the job quick and easy. Consumer Reports' Bernie Deitrick tested four costing $80 to $100.

You just pass a photo through the scanner and either it gets saved onto a memory card or you can connect the scanner to your computer and save the image there.

All of the scanners Consumer Reports tested come with a plastic sheath, which helps protect older, fragile photos.

The best part is you can use these scanners anywhere, and they're fast. At the lowest resolution, testers scanned 100 photos in 15 minutes.

But don't expect picture-perfect results. One photo, for example, had a white line that ran right through the image. And some of the scanners couldn't handle photos with darker backgrounds.

In the end, the $80 Kodak P460 had the least problem with over-cropping. It can scan up to a 4-by-6 photo and can also scan negatives and color slides. But to get a really good picture, Consumer Reports says you're better off with a regular scanner for the same price.

"You can scan at higher resolution and typically the quality is better," said Consumer Reports' Bernie Deitrick.

In fact, the Epson Perfection V300 Photo, a $80 color scanner Consumer Reports used for comparison in testing, did a nice job on all the photos.

Another option: instead of buying a separate scanner, you can get an all-in-one printer, which can also do a great job with photos. Consumer Reports says the Canon Pixma MG6120 is a good choice for photos and wireless printing. It goes for $140.