A Scanner Brightly

I had writ­ten some time ago about get­ting a new scan­ner to replace my aging rel­ic. How­ev­er, the old one was work­ing well enough, I just nev­er had the heart to replace the thing. I mean, why spend mon­ey on a new scan­ner when the one I have does just fine?

Well, last month, when hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with my father-in-law about old­er pho­tos and dis­trib­ut­ing dig­i­tal copies to fam­i­ly mem­bers, I decid­ed that get­ting a new­er, faster scan­ner was the thing to do. The old mod­el would be just too slow to make that sort of thing prac­ti­cal. He seemed to agree that the next time Angela and I vis­it­ed, we should dig­i­tal­ly archive all the old pho­tos we could get our hands on. So, I start­ed look­ing for new scan­ner that would fit the bill.

Well, I did some research online and had made my mind up. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, by the time we had went to Com­pUSA, they did­n’t have the mod­el I had decid­ed on. How­ev­er, Angela and I end­ed up stum­bling upon the Canon CanoScan LiDE 500F. Some­times, luck is all you need.

This thing real­ly does it all and does it quite well. It isn’t the cheap­est scan­ner we could have bought, but we paid extra for porta­bil­i­ty since tak­ing it on trips was (odd­ly enough) going to be one of the things we’d knew we’d be doing with it. As a mat­ter of fact, it even fits inside a Extra Large TimBuk2 Lap­top sleeve. With only a USB cable for data and pow­er, it’s very portable. It’s also much faster than our old scan­ner. How­ev­er, it’s not just in the scan­ning speed. It’s also the improved scan­ning soft­ware. Lay on a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent 3“x5” pho­tos and the soft­ware will pick them out indi­vid­ual and scan them into two dif­fer­ent files. The four auto-scan but­tons (scan, copy, .pdf, and e‑mail) are pret­ty cus­tomiz­able and make the scan­ner even more useful.

The scan­ner also has a cool lid that will is dou­ble hinged for thick­er items and can dis­lo­cate (like an action movie char­ac­ter’s shoul­der) to lay com­plete­ly flat. This makes scan­ning in books much eas­i­er. The includ­ed OCR soft­ware, Omni­Page, does a much bet­ter job than what I remem­ber old­er ver­sion doing. Of course, it’s still only good for flat, clear­ly typed pages. You’re prob­a­bly not going to be doing your own Google Print projects with this thing. Still, just one more fea­ture that makes it a sol­id package.

I’ve used the film scan­ning attach­ment and was impressed with the results (some exam­ples of pho­tos tak­en with a dis­pos­able cam­era). How­ev­er, it’s a pret­ty slow process and scan­ning from prints is much faster and seems to pro­duce sim­i­lar qual­i­ty results, pro­vid­ed the prints are clean (let’s face it, neg­a­tives tend to be in bet­ter shape than prints).

I’m real­ly pleased with this new scan­ner and I think that it will make my and my father-in-law’s project fea­si­ble, with the addi­tion of Ange­la’s iBook (Canon has Mac soft­ware as well) and our exter­nal hard-drive.

By Jason Coleman

Structural engineer and technical content manager Bentley Systems by day. Geeky father and husband all the rest of time.


  1. After I read this post, I looked at reviews of this scan­ner. It seems that most peo­ple say it’s a great scan­ner if you need porta­bil­i­ty and a small foot­print. They also say that it’s slow­er and low­er-res than larg­er, less-portable scanners.

    Based on your research, do you have any rec­om­men­da­tions for some­one who is look­ing for a good, fast, not-quite-as-portable scanner?

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