Bringing the scanner back
If your parents are like my parents, then they’re obsessed with scanning anything analogue into a digital format. This includes but is not limited to recipe cards, vinyl records, old family movies and, of course, photos. Google probably has nostalgic parents too, because they feel our pain, and invented a new gadget for digitally preserving photos via everyone’s handheld scanner – the smart phone.
Scanners are dead. Smart phones are flourishing. Googles new Photo Scan app may be the future. For some.
Like a scanner but not
The app’s pitch is that we should all be preserving our ridiculous film photos, and PhotoScan will “scan” the photo using a series of images to reduce glare. You take one large picture, and then follow the apps instructions to take four additional images at different angles around the photo. The app takes a composite of the photos and reduces glare if there is any.
From there you can adjust the corners of the photos and rotate the image. That’s it for editing tools. Googles blog about the new app touts that if you have google photos you can organize, edit, and filter the photos you transfer from PhotoScan, but it’s not an all in one app.
How does it work?
I quickly downloaded PhotoScan and used it on a few of the images I have on my desk. A Photo Booth print from a wedding, and a professional portrait. The quality does not compare at all to what you’d expect from a scanner. (For comparison purposes, I was using the app on a brand new iPhone 7 iOS 10.1 with a 12 MP camera.)
What you actually get on your phone is a grainy replica without a lot of life in it.
To be fair, the app produced a very similar image to what I took when I used my camera app, but PhotoScan’s promo video very specifically states “it’s not just a photo of a photo.” So what exactly is it, you may ask? It’s a photo of a photo, but it’s easier to take because it uses algorithms that remove glare. Although, if the flash turns on, you’ll probably get some glare, and if you have a slightly crinkled photo your results will be shaky at best.
The fact is, PhotoScan could never replace a traditional scanner, not for purists anyway. But if you want to input your photos and organize them, and you don’t care if you’ll ever be able to reprint from that file, then fine, take pictures of all your old photos using this method.
May be worth a shot
I was really excited about the technology of PhotoScan, but using it was not what I anticipated. Maybe if your parents want to digitize their photos quickly without a lot of phone calls to you about scanners and cables and why they’re all coming out white (“It’s because they’re upside down, Dad!”), then perhaps introduce them to the free PhotoScan app. Just make sure they don’t toss all the originals. Those are just too good to be converted into bad replicas of themselves.