Kodak P461 Personal Photo Scanner

Hey boys and girls, it's GADGET TIME! I've got a real hum-dinger this time, too - a brand new Kodak P461 Personal Photo Scanner.

Hey boys and girls, it's GADGET TIME! I've got a real hum-dinger this time, too - a brand new Kodak P461 Personal Photo Scanner. This has the promise of being one of the most useful gadgets I've picked up in quite a while, and I came across it completely by accident, while killing time by browsing in a local computer/electronics shop. When I first saw it, I was so unsure that it was really what it seemed to be that I came home and checked all the specs in the Internet before going back to buy it the next day. Price: CHF 149, about 100 pounds or 117 euros.

What is it? It is a very compact scanner which will take photos from wallet size to 4x6 inches, 35mm negatives and mounted slides. That last bit is important to me, because I have a LOT of slides that I would like to get into digital format.

Kodak P461 Photo Scanner

What makes it so special and exciting? It has an SD card slot, so you can use it completely stand-alone, anything you scan gets stored in JPEG format. So you don't need a computer connection, you don't need any special software, you just move the SD card from the scanner to your computer and import the images the same way that you normally do from a digital camera. It just doesn't get any easier than that!

What else? It is very compact - about 2.5x10.5x2 inches, or 6x26.5x5 cm - and it will run on four AAA batteries (it also has an AC adapter, of course). It is, obviously, a sheet-feed scanner not a flatbed scanner. It scans photos at 300 or 600dpi (user selectable), and slides or negatives at 1200dpi (fixed).

How does it work? As with any photo scanner, the results depend on the quality of the material you are scanning. I've gotten good results with photos, and acceptable results with slides. The quality of the slide scan ranges from quite good for bright/clear slides, to rather grainy with darker slides. But to be honest, those same slides probably don't look very good when projected, either, so I need to make a comparison to judge how the slide scanner is really doing. I also need to try cleaning up some of those scans with GIMP or some such. But at the end of the day, what is important to me right now is to get the slides scanned and to get that done before they degrade any more.

It takes about 20-25 seconds to scan each slide, so I am able to do a tray of 50 slides in about half an hour. One thing that you can't see in the picture above, there is a slide tray that is used to stabilise and align the slides when they are fed through the scanner. Negatives are fed using a tractor-feed adapter, so you can scan a strip of three or four pictures at once, the scanner will separate and store each picture individually.

Full details and specifications can be found on the Kodak P461 web page. If you are looking for one of these in a store, be careful because there seem to be at least three different models in this series. The P460 scans photos and negatives, but NOT slides, while the P811 will scan larger pictures, up to 8x11 inches, and negatives but again NOT slides.

I think it is obvious that I am quite pleased with this new gadget. This is something I have struggled with, and tried a few different solutions over the years. Scanning pictures is not too difficult, you just have to make sure that the scanner has good enough resolution and is able to recognize the size of the print. Many scanners have either included or optional "Transparent Media Adapters", but even with those you have to check exactly what they will scan - many will do negatives but not mounted slides - and what resolution they will scan.

If you are interested in this sort of thing, the P461 is definitely worth a look. If you have a lot of pictures, negatives or especially slides, you might not have known you were interested in this sort of scanner, but you really should check it out.

jw 20/3/2011

P.S. Oh - if you want/need/like scanning and photo management software, the P461 will also connect via USB to a computer, and it includes Kodak Scanning and PhotoShare software.

P.P.S. UPDATE. I should have said this in the original review. Now I have gotten a couple of email comments about it. This is a $150 scanner. There is a general rule in the universe, or at least in the market, that you get what you pay for. This rule applies here. If you want professional quality, very high resolution, perfectly color-balanced scanned images, then you are going to have to spend a lot more money than this. If you want to get your boxes full of photos, negatives and slides scanned onto digital media with "acceptable" quality, you aren't going to be able to do it for much less money or much more conveniently than this.