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View Full Version : Could a digital camera and OCR software replace a document scanner



bananaboatcoat
January 14th, 2013, 05:42 AM
Dear community,

I wish to digitize all the papers in my filing cabinet.

I'm considering getting a Canon P-215 document scanner, based on the recommendation of http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-portable-scanner-is-the-canon-p-215/.

I'd like to have digital versions/files placed into my Google Drive account, easily searchable by keyword.

I currently have a digital camera. is it possible to use my digital camera to do the "scanning"?

If I do not mind the time it takes to take digital photographs of my papers, could I still have the same end result? If so, how?
Is there good OCR software for what I'd like to do?

I use Windows 7 as well (just in case there's no good software for Ubuntu/Liunx).

Thank you very much.

doorknob60
January 14th, 2013, 06:17 AM
Theoretically, you certainly could. OCR programs simply take inputs from image files. Whether that's from a camera or a scanner makes no difference to the program. However, you would need to make sure you have optimal lighting, a good angle, and readable text. I'd imagine it would be an annoying process to find a reliable setup, but it's theoretically possible. I would say just save the hassle and get the right tool for the job, especially if "all the papers in your filing cabinet" is a large stack.

EDIT: I don't have any other suggestions, but I think $290 is overkill, find something cheaper :P I have an HP all in one printer with a scanner with doc feeder, and I'm pretty sure it was under $100 (don't quote me on that though). And it does a lot more than scanning. I bet you could find a good tool for the job, for much less than the product you posted.

bananaboatcoat
January 14th, 2013, 07:30 AM
doorknob60,
Thank you very much for your reply.

Hmmm... you're probably right about the "annoying" part. Yes, all the papers are a very very large stack.

$290 is a lot of money, but the author tells us why he recommends that over cheaper options. Would love to see your response to his writing.

Bandit
January 14th, 2013, 08:05 AM
Is it possible, yes with the right software. But I dont know what software name or if its out just yet.
Most document all in one printers scan very fast these days. I would just stick to those, preferably one with a document feeder though..

On a similar note, check out Word Lens on youtube, its very cool. I have the apt, but waiting on Chinese add on for it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2OfQdYrHRs

mips
January 14th, 2013, 11:46 AM
I currently have a digital camera. is it possible to use my digital camera to do the "scanning"?

If I do not mind the time it takes to take digital photographs of my papers, could I still have the same end result? If so, how?
Is there good OCR software for what I'd like to do?

I use Windows 7 as well (just in case there's no good software for Ubuntu/Liunx).


Yes it's possible to use a camera but it's far from ideal. You would have to set it up on some kind of stand at the correct height, add ambient light from the side as the flash would probably have glare in some spots where it bounces of the paper etc.
A scanner would be much easier, faster & better quality. My HP Officejet 6313 for example has a automated document feeder besides the flatbed scanner.

For OCR software I have heard a LOT of people recommend ABBYY FineReader (http://www.abbyy.com/)
OCR software will work with just about any image whether it comes of the net, camera or scanner as it looks at the image and uses algorithms to identify the characters and convert them to normal text. The better the source image the better the hit/recognition rate of the OCR software.

Use the right tool for the job.

forrestcupp
January 14th, 2013, 01:54 PM
Not only is it possible, but that method is being used to scan books. Check out this Do-it-yourself high speed book scanner (http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-High-Speed-Book-Scanner-from-Trash-and-Cheap-C/) that was built using cameras and OCR software. You wouldn't necessarily have to go to that extent. They just optimized it to make it faster to scan an entire book.

Also, a lot of banks are creating phone apps that allow you to take a picture of both sides of a check and deposit the check remotely through their app.

Babbage
January 14th, 2013, 05:34 PM
Not only is it possible, but that method is being used to scan books. Check out this Do-it-yourself high speed book scanner (http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-High-Speed-Book-Scanner-from-Trash-and-Cheap-C/) that was built using cameras and OCR software. You wouldn't necessarily have to go to that extent. They just optimized it to make it faster to scan an entire book.....

Great web site thanks for the link.

Is there GNU/Linux OCR software? I've used Abbyy Finereader OCR software, which I got free with a Lexmark printer. It's good software, but I wouldn't actually pay for it. :)

I think a camera is going to be very laborious, focusing on each page, probably having to stand with a camera over each document. Whereas with a scanner you just place the document on the screen and press scan.

bananaboatcoat
January 14th, 2013, 05:56 PM
While I still have a filing cabinet filled with papers, a scanner would be superconvenient. This thought makes me want to get a scanner.

But after I finish scanning all the paperwork, my $250-plus scanner would be used only once in a blue moon. This thought makes me avoid getting a scanner.

mips
January 14th, 2013, 06:06 PM
But after I finish scanning all the paperwork, my $250-plus scanner would be used only once in a blue moon. This thought makes me avoid getting a scanner.

To me it's still worthwhile.

HermanAB
January 14th, 2013, 06:48 PM
Howdy,

The problem with using a camera as a scanner is how to keep the paper flat and avoid glare spots. A sheet of wood and matt portrait glass, a table and tripod in front of a window does work, and a half decent digital camera is much, much, faster than using a cheap flatbed scanner, but it is a hassle doing the setup. I prefer using my El Cheapo Canon scanner just because of the hassle factor.

bananaboatcoat
January 14th, 2013, 06:52 PM
Thanks for your reply, HermanAB. Everything I'd like to scan is loose leaf (not bound in a book), so papers will lie flat.

You all are persuading me to not let my frugality get in the way of efficiency. I think I'll get this Canon P-215 (WireCutter's "Best Scanner").

forrestcupp
January 14th, 2013, 07:15 PM
Is there GNU/Linux OCR software? I've used Abbyy Finereader OCR software, which I got free with a Lexmark printer. It's good software, but I wouldn't actually pay for it. :)Look into the Tesseract OCR engine. It's in the repos. I know it works well with Scan2pdf and other scanning software in the repos.


To me it's still worthwhile.I agree. But then again, I also scan all of my important files instead of keeping paper documents of everything.

Kevin McCready
January 23rd, 2013, 07:25 AM
On Android phone Pleco for chinese OCR works well for me