Digital Photo - Scanning vs. Digital Camera
Photo CD

If you decide that high resolution printing is your forte, then I would suggest 35 mm slides and a good slide scanner. You will have better overall control and substantially higher resolution digital copies and originals to work with. Keep in mind you will have to get your film developed and then scan the originals. This will probably take at least 1 or 2 days turn around.

If your main use is for WEB publishing, then I highly recommend a Digital Camera. Turn around is fantastic, and the quality is first rate for the images you use on the WEB. I also use my digital camera to do copy work that I once did on my scanner. A 2 or 3 mega pixel camera can copy an 8 x 10 image or even 8.5"x11" paper at reasonably good resolution.

See the chart below for the effective resolution that can be achieved on full size copies using either a 2 megapixel or a 3 megapixel digital camera.

Camera resolution

8"x10" Photo
8.5"x11" Document

2 mega pixel (1600x1200)

160 DPI
145 DPI

3 mega pixel (2048x1536)

204 DPI
186 DPI

I usually scan photographic images at about 150 DPI when preparing them for WEB use. My digital camera can copy the same image and fundamentally apply 145 - 160 dpi resolution and it is far faster. Since a porton of a copied image can use the full 1200x1600 pixels in my camera, I can apply this resolution to a smaller area and get even higher effective scan resolutions.

For example, if I photograph a 4"x5" print and fill the frame, I can apply 1600 pixels to the 5" direction for an effective resolution of 320 dpi (1600 / 5). This is far higher resolution than I would use for WEB publishing, although this is about the resolution I would use for preparing an image for print. There are some trade offs, my digital image is a bit softer than my scanned equivalent, but after a round in Photoshop the two look pretty much the same.

If I worked mainly with film generated photographs or slides, I would use a scanner most of the time, but I don't work mainly with film anymore. I usually have only a few real photographs to convert, and do most of my original image capture with a digital camera. I find digital photocopying adequate for the amount of "scanning-type" work I do. I recommend playing with this concept a little before deciding one way or the other about your equipment selection.


Now I have carefully avoided talking about one type of scanner, the Drum Scanner. Prices continue to fall on these scanners, and there are probably some available now for less than $10,000. Drum Scanners work differently than either flatbed or slide scanners. They use carefully polished and machined glass drums to place the original against, and the scanning is normally done from the center of the drum using analog rather than digital capture arrays.

These arrays are more color accurate, and far more sensitive to light than their ccd equivalents. They also tend to be smaller at their capture apex, and are moved with more precision thus enabling higher overall resolution. I have seen specifications that claim 19,000 dpi. This is well beyond the limit of even the film. Since most home users will probably not purchase one of these there are only two ways you can get access to them. First, you could hire someone that has one to make scans for you. There are many agencies that will do high resolution color scans using a drum scanner under contract. The price is usually quite high (about $30-$50 per scan or more).

The second way to gain access to this technology is to submit your negatives or slides to Kodak and have them return a PhotoCD disk. (Don't confuse this with getting a floppy full of images from some other company.) Kodak uses high quality drum scanners and will scan each image on a roll of film. They will return the developed film, prints, or mounted slide and a CD with several copies of each image at different resolutions.

The table below shows the standard resolutions and the additional "pro" resolution that is available form Kodak. The PRO (Base*64) resolution is roughly equivalent to the films resolution.

Kodak PhotoCD
Image Resolution
Camera Equivalent

2048 x 3072
6.3 megapixel
1024 x 1536
1.6 megapixel
512 x 768
0.39 megapixel
256 x 384
128 x 192

Base*64 (PRO)
4096 x 6144
25.1 megapixel

As you can see from the table, the best consumer resolution is about equal to a top digital camera that would be in the $1500 to $5000 price range. The best resolution, the PRO resolution, cannot be achieved by digital cameras today.

Full roll scanning ordered at the time of development runs about $20 for 24 exposures and $27 for 36 exposures. This is the standard set of 5 sizes listed above. To get individual scans created of single negatives, the cost runs between $0.70 and $1.50 each depending on quantity. The PhotoCD Pro images are priced each, and run about $15 to $20. These should be reserved for those "special" negatives or slides that need to be enlarged to a maximum size.

For those who do not wish to invest in digital equipment, but want to get digital images into their computers, this is one of the very best ways. Kodak is famous for good color, and with better than average resolutions, this method ensures high quality images.

It is also good for people who need an occasional higher resolution image for print, and do not want to buy another camera.

To aid in the confusion Kodak has recently created another new product named PictureCD , and this is NOT PhotoCD. PictureCD is a less exensive way of getting your prints scanned and placed on a CD, but at only one resolution. It includes software similar to Apple's iPhoto for ordering prints and creating slide shows. Also for reordering prints from Kodak.

Further aiding in the confusion several independent stores now have a mailer envelope that has a check box for PhotoCD, but they actually deliver PictueCD as they don't themselves understand the difference, and the price is less.