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Scan Resolution Explained: Comparing on-screen resolution, printing resolution, and archiving resolutions.

Scanning & digitizing your photos, slides, or negatives should be a one time expenditure done correctly with the options that are right for your needs. Determining the correct resolution for your needs is an important step when planning to use our scanning service to convert your traditional media into digital format. Below you'll find some recommendation that will help you assess your needs.

What is Resolution? and what does DPI stand for?
The amount of detail captured with a scanner is determined by something called scanning resolution. Resolution is measured in dots per inch or DPI. DPI means that a scanner will capture so many dots or pixels for every inch of area scanned. Click here for a more in depth explanation.

What resolutions are available?
With our film scanning service you have a choice of three resolutions: 2000, 3000, and 4000 DPI. With our photo & print scanning service we always scan your photos and albums at 600 DPI ensuring that all the detail in your old photos is captured during our scanning process.

Which resolution is right for me?
This depends on your needs and what you wish to do with your scanned images. If you're looking to view your new digital images on a computer your needs will be different than someone who wants to create 11x14 prints. If you're wanting to archive and preserve all the detail contained in your film or prints your choice of resolution might be different still. We'll discuss various needs below.


Computer & Video Related Resolution Recommendations:
Scanning for computer or video related usage includes viewing scanned images on your computer screen or television, e-mailing photos, and sharing online. Computer and video related use is not as demanding as printing or archiving, and allows for a lower scanning resolution. 2000 DPI film scans are more than sufficient for computer and video related use. 600 DPI print scans are more than sufficient as well. The chart below lists output resolutions of TVs and computer monitors.

 
525 Scanlines
1280 x 720
1920 x 1080
720 x 480
800 x 600
1024 x 768
1280 x 1024

Now lets compare the resolutions from the chart above to a film scan. The chart below lists the resulting output resolution of a standard 35mm slide or negative. If you compare a 2000 DPI film scan to the output resolutions of TVs and computer monitors you'll see that a 2000 DPI film scan is more than sufficient for viewing on your computer or television.

2700 x 1800
4.8
2.2 MB - 3.8 MB
14.2 MB
4050 x 2700
10.9
4.3 MB - 7.1 MB
32.0 MB
5400 x 3600
19.4
6.7 MB - 10.8 MB
56.9 MB

Now lets compare the resolutions of TVs and computer monitors to a print scan. The chart below lists resulting output resolutions of print scans done at 300 and 600 DPI. As you can see by comparing the two charts 600 DPI print scans are more than sufficient for viewing on screen.

 
900 x 1500
1200 x 1800
1500 x 2100
2400 x 3000
1800 x 3000
2400 x 3600
3000 x 4200
4800 x 6000

Conclusion: Computer and video related use is not as demanding as printing or archiving. We recommend you go with 2000 DPI film scans and 600 DPI print scans for computer and video related use. If your needs include printing or archiving higher resolution scans may be a better choice.


Printing Related Resolution Recommendations:
If you're wanting to create prints or enlargements from your scanned images then you may want a higher resolution scan. Film scans normally produce better reprints or enlargements than print scans. Click here to learn why. The charts below list the quality and size of print you'll be able to create from your scanned images.

Great
Great
Great
Good
Fair
Great
Great
Great
Great
Good
Fair
Great
Great
Great
Great
Great
Good
Fair
* Our recommendations are based ONLY on the overall resolution (i.e., image size) of your scan, and not on the overall quality, clarity, or exposure of the original picture.These recommendations do not consider film grain, ISO speed, or other film characteristics. Fair Quality is based on 170dpi of image resolution, Good Quality is based on 260dpi of image resolution, Great Quality is based on 300dpi of image resolution.Larger printing may be possible by resampling an image.

The charts below relate to prints scans. The first chart is for 300 DPI print scans. The second outlines 600 DPI print scans. Our photo and print scanning is always done at 600 DPI.

Fair
Great
Good
Fair
Great
Great
Good
Fair
Great
Great
Great
Fair
Great
Great
Great
Great
Fair
* Our recommendations are based ONLY on the overall resolution (i.e., image size) of your scan, and not on the overall quality, clarity, or exposure of the original picture. Fair Quality is based on 170dpi of image resolution, Good Quality is based on 260dpi of image resolution, Great Quality is based on 300dpi of image resolution.Larger printing may be possible by resampling an image.

 

Good Fair
Great Good Good Fair
Great Great Good Good
Great Great Great Good Fair
Great Great Great Great Good Fair
* Our recommendations are based ONLY on the overall resolution (i.e., image size) of your scan, and not on the overall quality, clarity, or exposure of the original picture. Results may vary when creating enlargments from print scans. Our recommendations do consider the fact that most prints do not contain 600dpi worth of detail. Our recommendations are based on each print containing 400dpi worth of detai even though they will be scanned at 600dpi. Fair Quality is based on 170dpi of image resolution, Good Quality is based on 260dpi of image resolution, Great Quality is based on 300dpi of image resolution.Larger printing may be possible by resampling an image.

Conclusion: Higher scanning resolutions give you the option to create larger prints or enlargements. The best resolution for you depends on the size of prints you plan to make from your scans. Please remember that the recommendations above assume your original film or print is of good quality, clarity, and sharpness.


Archiving Resolution Recommendations:
Archiving includes capturing all the detail contained in your film or prints. If you're unsure about your future needs or simply want to preserve as much detail as possible with your scans then archiving would be the choice for you. Modern scanning equipment can sometimes capture more detail than a piece of film or print contains so the highest resolution possible is not always the best choice. Scanning beyond the detail contained in a given image only ads more data without any extra detail. Prints typically contain no more than 600 DPI worth of detail so scanning at higher resolutions is not necessary. However slides and negatives contain much more detail per square inch and thus need to be scanned at much higher resolution than prints. The amount of detail a slide or negative contains varies with film type and film speed.

Archiving Resolutions for Film Scans: The best resolution for archiving depends on the type and speed of the film being scanned. Faster films contain less detail than slower films and can be scanned at lower resolution. The chart below will makes some recommendations based on film type and speed.

Scan Resolution
Most All Films
Most Print Films and Slide Films 200 ISO or faster
Films of 800 ISO or faster

Archiving Resolutions for Print Scans: There are some limits to print scanning that you should be aware of. If you wish to archive your photos film scans are the way to go. If you have a choice of scanning a print or the negative the print was made from we recommend scanning the negative. Most color prints from your regular photo finisher contain around 300 DPI of detail. There are exceptions to this 300 DPI rule. Depending on the quality of the print being scanned and how crisp the image is, scanning at 600 DPI typically produces the best results. 600 DPI scans produce larger files but ensure every detail in your print is recorded in digital form. We don't charge more to scan your prints at 600 DPI.

Conclusion: Archiving your traditional photo collection has many benefits. If you don't know what type of film you have but want to ensure all it's detail is recorded in digital form then 4000 DPI scans are a safe bet. 600 DPI print scans also ensure all details are captured digitally. We hope the recommendations above have been helpful to you. Feel free to contact us or call 1-800-383-2903 if you have questions.


Scanning Services: Slide & negative scans come in three varieties; Silver scanning, Gold scanning, and Pro scanning. Print and photo scans come in two flavors; Silver photo scanning, and Gold scanning. Click a link to learn more about our scanning services.
Slide & Negative Scan Comparison | Photo Scan Comparison

Digital Image Benefits: This article outlines the many benefits of digital photography.

An Introduction to Digital Photography: This article explains digital images, Resolution, and Megapixels. It provides a brief technical background to digital imaging.

Scan Resolution Help: This article explains scan resolution. It looks at scanning resolution from three perspectives and makes recommendations accordingly.

Photo Scans vs. Slide & Negative Scanning: This article compares photo scans with slide & negative scans. It also outlines the limitations of photo scanning.

JPEG vs. TIFF File Format:
This article briefly discusses these two unique file formats.

CD vs. DVD:
Wondering what a Data DVD is? This page explains Data DVDs and compares them with CD-Rom for storage and backup of digital photos.

Disk Organization:
This page explains how your disks will be organized after scanning.

You may also find our order planning guide helpful.

 

 

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