Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Reviewing the Flip Pal Mobile Scanner

My birthday was a few months back and, yep, I asked for a Flip-Pal Scanner. When it was first introduced there was a lot of buzz about it in both the digital scrap booking community as well as the genealogy community - and since I'm active in both, what could be a better gift!

Since it's truly portable (it requires no computer, no electrical cords) I was mostly envisioning taking it along when visiting relatives to get copies of their old (and not so old) photos, etc on the spot. And, yes, I've done that. But I also have this monstrous scanning job of my own photos. What I am very slowly trying to do is scan all of my pre-digital photos. And believe me, there are probably at least a couple of thousand. (I'm not kidding or exaggerating!) This includes photos of my kids when they were babies, vacations, holidays, family parties, weddings, etc. It's just too hard for me to choose what to scan and what not to, so unless it's really blurry or unflattering, I'm scanning it all!

I started doing all the scanning with my old, trusty flat bed scanner. Over the course of several days last fall, I got through about 300-400 photos. Then the whole project went to the back-burner. One of the problems with scanning on the flat bed, was that I was pretty much tied to the room where the computer and scanner were set up. So I've restarted the project with the Flip-Pal and it's been a little easier to work it in around accomplishing other activities and chores since I can take it anywhere in the house. (I could go out to the patio, but too much wind and too much pollen!!)

Since I've been using it so much, I thought I probably have enough experience with it at this point to write a review. I'll start with the pros.

  1. Obviously, the fact that it's light-weight and mobile is a big pro. 
  2. It scans at 600 dpi. (Without going into a long discussion, 600 dpi is the resolution that I decided on for scanning my snapshots prior to even knowing about the existence of the Flip-Pal). 
  3. Scans are saved to a removable memory card. Extra cards can be purchased just about anywhere. 
  4. The Flip-Pal includes stitching software to create one large file from multiple scans. (I haven't had the need to use this feature, but the fact that it's available is a plus.)
  5. You can remove the top cover and flip it. So you are essentially using it upside down. The bottom is clear, so you can easily see what you are going to be scanning. This is a fantastic feature not only for large items, but also for scanning photos that have been pasted in a scrapbook.
And the cons:
  1. The placement of the scan button is such that I constantly (and I do mean constantly) accidentally hit it - particularly when I've taken the cover off and flipped it. 
  2. Battery life is so-so.
  3. As far as I can tell only scans to jpeg format. - I included this as a con because some people are likely to view it as such. For me, it's not that big of a deal.
There's one last point that I wanted to make. Again, some may view it as a con, but I think it is more a by-product of the portability/convenience of the unit itself. Scans are always 4x6. If you have a larger item, you need to make multiple scans and stitch them together. If you have smaller items (like 3x5 or other odd sized photos or ephemera - love that word!) you will have white space around them. In other words, in the case of a 3x5 photo, you'll have an inch of white on the bottom and one of the sides. If the white space bothers you, you will need to crop the scanned image in some sort of photo editor to get rid of it - you could probably even set up a batch process to do the crop. This idea of a fixed 4x6 scanning area is a little different than a flat bed scanner (at least my flat-bed scanner). In that case I can drag a bounding box around whatever it is that I want to scan. And assuming that what I want to scan is rectangular in shape the resulting image has no extraneous white space or white borders. 

The bottom line - this is a great scanner for both genealogists and scrapbookers. It's the perfect gadget to take to the next family reunion -- just don't forget to bring along some extra batteries!!!

P.S. If you need more information here's the official website: http://flip-pal.com/