In this article we’ll compare two industry-leading microfilm and microfiche scanning solutions: the ScanPro Microfilm Scanner and our Digital ReeL application.
There are a lot of options available to you and plenty of companies that provide scanning services, but for this blog post we’re going to focus on the similarities and differences between these two solutions.
As with any purchasing decision, don’t just take our word for it! Do your research and investigate alternatives. That said, our goal is to give you a bit more information as you decide on a microfilm scanning option. We’ll try to not be (too) biased towards any one solution. Enjoy!
What Is The ScanPro Microfilm Scanner?
The ScanPro Microfilm Scanner is a desktop reader printer and scanning unit designed to work with microfilm and microfiche.
If you’ve ever used a microfilm reader scanner in libraries or at public agencies, you should have an idea of what the ScanPro is built for. Canon and Minolta were previously the industry leaders with their microfilm reader-printers, but they exited this market; smaller companies took over the niche and one of the products to evolve was the ScanPro. In our opinion, it’s the best desktop scanner on the market today.
With a ScanPro you manually take physical microfilm and microfiche record one at a time and view, scan, save, or print the images, as well as manipulate them for better legibility. There are various models and configurations that can be purchased, depending on your needs, but at the heart of it it’s a physical scanner that you’d use to incrementally scan your film reels or fiche.
The ScanPro is a solid scanning unit that creates archival quality images and boasts impressive features (using the i9300 model as the example): 26 megapixel camera, optical zoom 7x-105x, FOCUS-Lock™ technology that holds focus even during zooming, single click functions (print, to cloud, to email), and more.
There are also options to purchase additional features such as the PowerScan Productivity Suite which includes WORD-Search™, INFO-Link™, Copy-to-Clipboard (OCR using ABBYY® Fine Reader Engine) and AUTO-Scan® Pro (automatic scanning for film and fiche), among others. The ScanPro uses a simple build-on approach: you can start with a basic model and add on features or upgrade as needed. No need to fret over buying the best version right away, because “best” for someone else doesn’t mean best for you!
What Is Digital ReeL?
Digital ReeL is a software application with the primary purpose of housing an entire collection of microfilm and microfiche records. Digital ReeL is best suited for mass archive conversions rather than small, incremental microfilm or microfiche projects. Instead of keeping microfilm as the source material, you’ll use Digital ReeL and eliminate the need to use the film again.
The Major Difference Between The ScanPro Microfilm Scanner And Digital ReeL
The ScanPro is hardware and Digital ReeL is software. One is a tool for scanning and the other is the finished product. They both have their places in microfilm collections.
The ScanPro is a physical hardware unit needed for the ongoing searching, reading and scanning of your microfilm collection. Low cost to operate, the ScanPro produces excellent images, but requires significant operator time for searching, printing or manipulating images, especially if the job requires cross roll research.
Digital ReeL is an application whose user interface will appear very web-friendly to users. Since it is a completely digital system, no specialized equipment is needed for any function. The text search and query functions make searching your entire image dataset much more efficient than would a one-roll-at-a-time reader printer, and users will remain in their seats as they search thousands or millioins of digital records.
Similarities And Differences Of The ScanPro And Digital ReeL
How Do I Digitize My Microfilm Using A ScanPro?
If you’re using a ScanPro to scan and convert your microfilm into digital images, you’ll be personally scanning the images (or your staff and colleagues will). With microfilm, you’ll take the reel and load it onto the spindle and then run the film under the glass and wrap it around the other spindle. Once that’s done, you can either scan images individually or set up the machine to scan the entire roll.
If you’re working with microfiche sheets you’ll scan these by placing one on the tray, lining it up under the camera, and then scanning each image individually and moving the tray left/right and up/down to capture each image. If you have the ScanPro model, you’ll have the ability to scan the entire fiche through auto-scanning.
When you’ve scanned your film and fiche images, you’ll save them as a digital file and name them according to whatever specifications you see fit.
Where Do My Images Go After A ScanPro Microfilm Conversion?
Once you’re done scanning and indexing your microfilm, you’ll need to decide where to put the images and documents. If you have an electronic document management system, then you’ll need to import the files to that. Or maybe you’re keeping your records on a USB or hard drive as a backup. An organization plan that includes storage, distribution and security is typically required.
Wherever you decide to store your images, the point is that you need to have somewhere for the documents to reside. Typically, the ScanPro is used to look at microfilm or microfiche and save or export images in small batches, with no larger plan for building a holistic digital collection of images. Regardless, the scanned images will have to be kept somewhere, and that’s not going to be within the ScanPro application itself, which isn’t built as a digital repository.
How Do I Digitize My Microfilm Using Digital ReeL?
If you decide to use our Digital ReeL hosted application for your digital archive, you have a few options to scan your microfilm and microfiche and get them into an easy-to-use electronic format.
The first option, and the most popular with our clients, is to have us do all the scanning and digital conversion for you. We’ll take your microfilm, microfiche, and aperture cards, scan and import them into your secure dataset within Digital ReeL, and provide user accounts for you and your team to access. We’re built for microfilm scanning projects, and we create a unique process flow for each one so that you get what you want with as little fuss and muss as possible.
The second option is for you to scan your microfilm and then provide us with the digital images and data for import into Digital ReeL.
A third option is to upload images directly into your Digital ReeL dataset. If you have the equipment to scan your microfilm and microfiche, you’ll be able to scan your records and then import them into your hosted Digital ReeL dataset within the application.
Which One Is Right For You?
We’re not here to tell you which method, ScanPro or Digital ReeL, is the best way for you to scan your microfilm archives; that’s completely up to you. We’ve provided some various thoughts about the similarities and differences of the two methods and hope that you found this article valuable in your research.
That in mind, here are some scenarios where we recommend what we believe might be you best solution:
Whew! That’s a lot of info to process, and we know it can be overwhelming. So that’s why all you need to do is follow the steps below and we can give you a little help as you decide if you want to take the ScanPro or the Digital ReeL route.
Determine the number of microfilm rolls and microfiche sheets in your collection. Not sure how to do this? Take a look at our post about estimating.
- Decide on your general project scope, such as how you want to access your film once it’s digitized, and how you’d like the images to be organized and named.
- Figure out your internal labor capacity, like how many employees could work on a scanning project and the hours available to do this as side work.
- Have an idea of when you’d want to start your project and when you’d want to be done.
Once you’ve gone through the steps above, give us a call at 800.359.3456 (800.FLY.FILM, yes we have “film” in our phone number!) or send an email to email@example.com and we’ll get you connected with one of our reps to review your project. We may not be the right fit, but we’re happy to chat with you to figure that out.
If you’ve enjoyed our article and want to learn more about microfilm and microfiche scanning and digital conversion, here are some other posts:
“How Much Does Microfilm Scanning Cost?” lists and describes the 9 factors that affect the price you’ll pay when you decide to have your microfilm scanned. This is a great place to start to get an initial budget idea and see if a scanning project is right for you.
“Other Uses For Digital ReeL” provides you with additional ways you can implement the software, even if you’re not going to use it as a primary retrieval source.
“Why Should I Hire A Scanning ‘Expert?’” reviews the logistics of a digital scanning project so that you have the knowledge to make a decision to either scan your material internally or work with a third party to handle the conversion.