Could you give me some advice on purchasing the best desktop scanner?
Forest Wathen, Manager, Prepress Department, EU Services, answered this question. Forest may be reached at or 301-795-6312.

I'm a looking to buy a new desktop scanner. I work on publications, primarily magazines. What is the difference between a 48, 42 or 36 bit scanner? What is a good place to learn more about which scanner might be appropriate for my company? We have to find something that's not too expensive.

Choosing from the wide range of scanners on the market today can be a daunting task. Scanners can range in price from under $50 to well over $50,000. With terms like bit depth, optical vs. interpolated resolution, optical density and dynamic range, it’s enough to confuse even the experts.

48, 42 and 36 all refer to a scanner’s "bit depth." Since scanners capture images in three colors (red, green and blue) dividing each bit depth number by 3 will yield the number of bits of information the scanner can capture for each color. Simply put, the higher the number the more information the device can capture.

The other major factor in determining whether or not a scanner will meet your needs is resolution. If you are preparing work for print production, resolution plays a crucial role in determining final output quality. Always judge a scanner’s resolution by the optical resolution numbers. Interpolated resolution refers to a process by which software is used to fill in information between true scanned pixels. Most scanners today have an optical resolution that will range between 600 x 600 ppi and 2400 x 4800 ppi. The higher the optical resolution, the better the results are when enlarging small originals such as negatives or slides.

There is a great deal of information available online that can assist you in selecting the right scanner for your needs. One choice is, a website that offers information and reviews of computers hardware and related peripherals. has an article posted entitled WHAT TO LOOK scanners. You may access it at the following link:

Another resource is your print service provider. Most prepress departments have scanning professionals who will gladly assist you in making your final selection.
© Copyright Print Buyers, Inc.