RootsTech 2014

Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Test of Ancestry.com's New Shoebox Photo App

I had some time to do two comparison digitized images; one through the new Shoebox app from Ancestry.com and the second from the same photographed scanned on my flatbed scanner. There is archive quality and then there is "good enough." Comparing the two, even though Ancestry.com claims that you can get flatbed quality, is not really fair. So first, the parameters of the comparison.

Here is the promotional wording from the shoebox.ancestry.com website:
Simply use the app to photograph an old paper photo using your phone’s camera. Our special technology automatically spots the edges of the photo and auto-corrects the perspective. The result looks just as good as a photo scanned by a traditional flat-bed scanner.
 In order to make this as close a comparison as possible, I took a digital image of the following photograph with my iPhone 4S with its 8 Megapixel camera:


You might have to click on the image to enlarge it and get any detail. The Shoebox app worked flawlessly. Within less than a minute, I had a copy of the photo attached to the person in my Ancestry.com Public Member Tree. For ease of use, this app gets my high rating. But how does the quality of the image compare to one scanned on my flatbed scanner?

Well, the first issue is that I scan photos at a high resolution, 400 dpi, and save them as TIFF files. But in order to upload the image to my blog, I have to covert the image to a JPEG file. Here is the image converted after scanning with my Canon Canoscan 8800F:

First of all, the scanned image is huge in size. Second, it is a lot more faithful to the original. If you click on the second image you will see the dramatic difference. From this standpoint alone, there is no way the iPhone image is in any way equivalent to the image scanned on my flatbed scanner.

What about the detail? Here is the photo from the iPhone, opened in Adobe Photoshop and enlarged 600%:


The photo is tiny and it took enlarging it 600% to see the detail, which, of course is pixelated. Now, what happens with the scanned image is we zoom in? Here is the scanned image:

This is enlarged 200%. No pixelation, amazing detail. I rest my case. If you want an ordinary, good-enough image to show online, then a reproduction from an iPhone or equivalent is OK, but don't claim that it will equal the quality of a flatbed scanner. I just won't happen that way.

A last note: I don't care about the quality of scanned documents. There the issue is readability. It is really nice to have a 300 dpi scan but not absolutely necessary. But don't throw away your photos if you are scanning them at less than 300 dpi on a flatbed scanner. But all this said, I really like the app and will probably end up using it to put documents (not photos) on my Ancestry.com family tree.

1 comment:

  1. Hi James! Brett Huneycutt, founder of 1000memories and product lead for Shoebox here. While I agree there's some difference in quality between a flat-bed scanner and a scan taken with your iPhone, I believe there may be an error with the images you uploaded that may be overstating the difference. Could you send me an email at bhuneycutt@ancestry.com to follow up?

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