What Makes a True Microfilm Conversion Scanner?

Using the right tools for the job is not only common sense. It is a necessity. This is particularly true in the world of microfilm scanners. There are two distinct kinds of microfilm scanners, each with its own variations. The key differentiator is how images are captured, a crucial factor in achieving the best results.

Before we talk about technology, let’s talk about how scanners are used. On-demand scanners are good for when you want one or a few images from a roll or fiche immediately and the remaining images on the media are not of concern for now. Conversion scanners, on the other hand, are well suited when you want the entire roll or fiche in a digital format for use now as well as later. While it is possible to use either type of scanner in either use case, it is crucial to use the right tool for the job. Let’s explore why.

On-demand scanners use an area image sensor similar to what you have in your digital camera or cell phone. This image sensor captures a square or rectangle as one point in time. It is why it is ideal for creating images one by one.

Conversion scanners employ a unique method to capture the medium. To ensure a true digital representation of the film, the scanner must continuously scan edge-to-edge and end-to-end. Currently, the only way to do that is to use a “Line Scan” image array, a feature of nextScan’s technology. This precise type of camera scans one line of pixels at a time. The moving film is fed past the image sensor and is captured with a synchronized strobing light field, ensuring every detail is accurately preserved.

The line scanning technology provides two essential benefits over area image sensors for conversion: speed and accuracy. Both are critical for the true conversion of microfilm.

Line scanning technology offers a significant advantage in conversion speeds, capable of scanning up to 2000 images per minute. This unparalleled efficiency makes it a formidable tool for large-scale microfilm conversion projects, ensuring your project is completed on time with nextScan’s solution.

For an accurate conversion, you must scan every pixel of data available. Area scanning only captures what is in front of the sensor at one moment. Line scanning collects every piece of data contained in the film. nextScan’s customer support team has encountered several customers who have experienced the limitations of an on-demand scanner when attempting to convert entire collections. An on-demand microfilm scanner with an area sensor, marketed as a conversion scanner, was unable to perform the conversion task. Customers were falling behind in their conversion jobs with mounting frustration. After several unsuccessful attempts and unanswered support calls about the on-demand scanner, these customers turned to nextScan for a reliable conversion solution.

In one instance, a customer was running six (6) on-demand scanners for a small conversion job but was not seeing satisfactory results. Within a month of installing a nextScan® FlexViewTM conversion scanner, the customer was happy, and their project had been completed. This could only have been achieved using a nextScan line scanning solution.

This situation is unfortunately common. Customers are sold on a low-cost, on-demand scanner promising conversion capabilities. Sadly, they wind up spending time and money, sometimes adding multiple of these scanners, only to find they still need a conversion scanner.

Not all microfilm scanners are created equal. If you are in the market for an on-demand microfilm scanner or looking at a conversion scanner to digitize your entire archive, make sure to do your research on the scanner you choose. You don’t want to have the wrong tool for the job. The microfilm experts at nextScan and ST Imaging work together to ensure you have the right tools to address your needs.


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