Daniel Reetz, the founder of the DIY Book Scanner community, has recently started making videos of prototyping and shop tips. If you are tinkering with a book scanner (or any other project) in your home shop, these tips will come in handy. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn0gq8 ... g_8K1nfInQ

Canon Considering Withdrawing from Compact Camera market

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daniel_reetz
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Canon Considering Withdrawing from Compact Camera market

Post by daniel_reetz » 24 Feb 2014, 10:29

I saw this news this morning.

Anyone want to discuss our future options? Smartphones are the obvious answer - but there's also a world of digital SLRs, linear scanners, etc.

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Re: Canon Considering Withdrawing from Compact Camera market

Post by joseph73 » 24 Feb 2014, 17:34

You know, this is probably not what anyone else uses but I use a Sigma DP Merrill. Its lens is sharper than all other lenses, even Leicas. I tried LED bulbs but had the best luck with expensive (about $24/piece) full color balanced CFL bulbs, and a custom white balance. I feel all these things add up to a big difference in the quality of text. In some cases the output equals the Fujitsu page scanner at 600dpi. Certain glossy pages and light color brown text are still fuzzy. I can capture two pages of 8x11 size sheets of paper no problem, razor sharp edge to edge. It might be overkill for the scanners but with its leaf shutter design it will not wear out anytime soon. The one big disadvantage is it would need a mechanical trigger.
This leads me to think that it is the sharpness of lens that makes the difference, not the sensor size.

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Re: Canon Considering Withdrawing from Compact Camera market

Post by daniel_reetz » 25 Feb 2014, 01:33

Could you share a sample image sometime? I've never seen a DP Merrill in use for book scanning - it is an intriguing camera in general.

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Re: Canon Considering Withdrawing from Compact Camera market

Post by Ricardo » 25 Feb 2014, 04:11

A smart phone camera is all I use these days.... It is not a fantastic camera, but is OK quality for general happy snaps, certainly produces better pictures then my first digital camera from many years ago.... A $300 compact would easily outperform any smart phone camera, but it is not as convenient...

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Re: Canon Considering Withdrawing from Compact Camera market

Post by daniel_reetz » 25 Feb 2014, 11:27

When I started the project, all cameras were 8-10mpix. Camera phones now exceed that. It's just a lot harder to reap the two-camera benefits from a single smartphone. However, other benefits from the platform could make that irrelevant.

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Re: Canon Considering Withdrawing from Compact Camera market

Post by joseph73 » 25 Feb 2014, 17:51

Yeah, I'd be happy to. I'll find some good images. What I'm going to do, is take three pictures. One with the Dp, one with a sub$200 camera, and one with a camera phone.

In general, what I've noticed is it's the lens, not the megapixels that really help things. In fact, those smaller megapixels might not be a step up--more noise. These phones then in hardware must do some post processing (throwing out data). Also, for paper, and this was also unexpected, some lights worked better for some types of paper. Other lights worked better for yellowed paper. There was no optimal lighting for every scenario. I'd say that for this camera, using the highest CPI led bulbs work best, or even better the color corrected CFL bulbs used for art reproduction.
One last observation. I know from experience in graphics programs, each instance you perform a task, in most cases, some picture quality is lost. Adjusting colors, contrast, color curves, converting images, jpegs. All of it entails image quality loss, i.e. throwing away data. This is likely why google scans look the way they do. They don['t have enough data to begin with.
Unfortunately, doing text processing entails throwing away a lot of data to get the final compact image. We can conclude then that starting with the highest quality image will result in the most acceptable final output because it has enough info to throw away.

Last thought. According to my theory then, RAW images would be best because they contain much more info. The DP files are about 50mb RAW. These files are difficult to work with. Given that computer power advances, in 3-5 years things that are too slow today, would be workable. Modifying the software to accept native raw or large tiffs should be high on the list to improve quality.

How much quality to do you really need to take pictures of text? With all the post processing necessary, answer, a whole lot.I went into this thinking any old camera reasonable would work and give good quality. It was the exact opposite. When I interpolated up the DP images in photozoom and had it eliminate the jpeg artefacts, it made a vast improvement in final text quality, almost equal to adobe clearscan vector fonts. Is it necessary? Not really but it looks a lot more professional and pleasing to read. This I think is an important overlooked area. Reading mangled or marginal quality text goofs up OCR and makes the brain work harder than simply reading printed text. The electronic bitmap documents then are considered, and rightly so, an inferior item.

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Re: Canon Considering Withdrawing from Compact Camera market

Post by abmartin » 25 Feb 2014, 21:10

I'm rapidly becoming the last person without a smartphone...

It's disappointing that they are contemplating leaving that sector rather than just reducing the number of models. (Seriously, how many models do they actually need?) Perhaps it is inevitable, however, that the cheap camera market will be replaced by phones, just as the cheap film cameras disappeared 8-10 years ago when a better solution was available for the point-and-click crowd. The sub-$150 compacts really are for the "don't care" crowd. It just so happens that they also work great for what we do! (Thanks to the controlled environments) I hope that they'll keep higher end compacts. Some even have decent optics. They are pretty useful for those times when I don't want to carry around lenses at a social/family function.

I concur with Joseph73 about optics. I get better results with my DSLR than I do with my compact canons. I accept the lower quality because of cost of owning two and the convenience of CHDK. My compacts (actually pretty decent lenses for 150 each) together cost less than half of what a second DSLR would have cost. Using just one camera just doesn't cut it with our current setups.

I feel that current computers are quick enough to handle a lot of image tasks if things are done in the command-line. I photograph in raw, fix colors, and correct for geometry issues, keeping it lossless every step of the way. It's reasonably quick with 14 megapixels. (Scantailor isn't excited by lossless images that big, but I don't mind the wait) The worse the source image, the worse it is every step of the way. While geometry correction is amazing thanks to ppmunwarp, it's better to have a perfect image to begin with. Messing with colors also introduces noise if the lighting, aperture, and speed isn't right from the beginning. If the source is good, I don't find much of a quality change.

If the goal is merely a readable text block, I'm sure any 10 MP phone would do just fine at that. Commercial products are being made for that purpose. It's not going to look great though. (which I hypothesize would reduce reading speed and comprehension if we have to let the brains fill in the problems) If the goal is more archival or there are images, I can't imagine it going well. Even with the new phones with huge resolutions wouldn't really be enough if we were trying to do two pages at once. The DPI wouldn't be that great even with 20 megapixels.

300 DPI is a minimum.

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Re: Canon Considering Withdrawing from Compact Camera market

Post by joseph73 » 25 Feb 2014, 22:35

You know, in the not-so-far-future these 39 megapixel beasts will be old technology. Find a A grade lens, pick up a couple used and you'd have a dandy system.
I have eye issues. One eye gets tired quickly, so image quality is high on the list.
Small books and screens bring it on.

So we generally have an idea of how well each compact camera performs. I'd propose to have a list of models and a quality test score for each one. From there, you could roughly calculate the quality requirements, and also estimate the rough quality each step of the way. So you'd start at a number given by the camera specifics (it could even be taken from online reviews, most photo review sites estimate the image quality), then each post processing operation would take some away. If the number got too far down, you'd know: you either needed a better camera, or a less complex post processing scheme. This wouldn't be too complicated to add in the code.

Also, for poor quality paperback books whose type wasn't that great to begin with, these books require a better optics/sensor because they're already somewhat degraded. Ditto for books on shiny paper with very light brown text. I almost think they do this to stop copying.

I have a measly i3. It's the weak link. Need to upgrade but waiting til the summer.

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Re: Canon Considering Withdrawing from Compact Camera market

Post by joseph73 » 25 Feb 2014, 22:44

Also, note that: each time you color correct, you are losing information. If you keep color correcting, you'll get to the point where the color gamut is gone and there are "gaps" in the data. We've all seen posterization artefacts. Even though you are not saving the file, in general, when you perform an operation on a data set such as a picture, transform the data, some of that data are lost for the resulting image.

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Re: Canon Considering Withdrawing from Compact Camera market

Post by daniel_reetz » 26 Feb 2014, 12:35

Generally agree that optics are very important, but compact cameras offer a lot at a low price, and these days, they also correct for their own lens distortion and other abberations internally, saving us a lot of work.

The information loss argument is one we can have at length - but many imaging operations can be provably lossless, after the initial capture. While I agree that it's a big problem, it definitely depends on your intention. If you want perfect captures of the printed pages, then you will do minimal image processing and lossless processing wherever possible. If you want an "ebook", meaning digital text, it only matters that you capture the text at a resolution sufficient for accurate OCR. There are a million ways to scan a book, and as many intentions.

There are other ways to exploit ridiculously high resolution systems like 39MP cameras. In fact, I am shopping for a Nokia 1020 right now to do some image quality comparisons with one.

So there are basically three futures for photographic document scanning. 1. Using DSLRs/whatever compacts are available. 2. Using smartphones. 3. Building our own imaging system.

2 and 3 are starting to look really good to me on a 5-year plan. In the meantime, we'll go on using Canons as long as they are available - which should be at least another couple years, even if Canon withdraws. That might be long enough to scan all the interesting books.

Also, I totally agree. The number of Canon models is absolutely ridiculous. It's plain hard to understand.

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