Scanning or photographing oversize documents
I collect old maps, many of which are too large of any scanner (any scanner I can afford, anyway)..

My question first: What is the best way and what is the best equipment for photographing the maps?.

Background: I have a Canon S5 and a Bencher Copymate light table with two halogen lights on arms. The S5 is nice because of the moveable LCD screen, and the reproduction is good (about 3.5 meg for each image, and auto white balance)..

I don't think the edge to edge resolution is fantastic as there seems to be some softness at the edges - maybe because on a large chart I need to have the camera at the top of the arm and the lens set at wide angle..

The softness is an issue as I like to zoom the images on the screen to study the maps..

While we are at it, does anyone know of an auto rename utility when one tries to put images with the same filename into one folder (usually when downloading an image from the web)?.

Lastly, thank you for any answers. To keep the thread manageable (assuming there are any comments!!), I won't thank for each submission...

Comments (10)

I think you have analyzed your problem well. I would suggest you consider taking several pix and "stitching" them together with a program like PTgui..

Set your FL to something moderate (to avoid the edge softness). Put the map/chart on a wall. Get back a bit from the map/ on centered on the map/chart. Rotate the camera about it's entrance pupil (to avoid issues when stitching)...this is easy to do. Overlap each shot about 30% with it's neighbors. Use your lighting to evenly illuminate map/chart (PTgui will "fix" a small amount of uneven lighting)..

Charlie DavisNikon 5700 & Sony R1HomePage: http://www.1derful.infoBridge Blog:

Comment #1

If you are willing to upgrade the camera - significantly - then a Canon EOS 40D with the EF-S 60 mm macro would be perfect. The lens has a very flat field and excellent corner sharpness, and the camera can be used tethered (connected to the PC via USB) in Live View mode to get pixel-perfect focus..

You'll need to check that the field of view is wide enough (20 degrees wide by 14 deg high approx) but even if it's not, the best solution is to increase your working distance rather than using a wider lens...

Comment #2

Excellent ideas, thank you. I will look into one of the "flat" lenses.....

I welcome further suggestions...!.


Comment #3


Question... do you think the Rebel Xti with the 60MM macro would give almost as good results? As near as I can tell there is something like $1,000 difference in price..

I have to see if the xti can be tethered and if it has live mode, though, and both these qualities sound intriguing....

Thank you once again..


Comment #4

Leigh2982 wrote:.


Question... do you think the Rebel Xti with the 60MM macro wouldgive almost as good results?.

Yes, probably indistinguishable in fact. What difference there is between the two won't be apparent at ISO 100/200, which you will obviously use for the cleanest possible images..

As near as I can tell there issomething like $1,000 difference in price..

Shouldn't be as much difference as that, but I'm in the UK so I'm no expert on your prices. Here the difference is around 350, but since that includes VAT (tax) the net difference equates to nearer $600..

I have to see if the xti can be tethered and if it has live mode,though, and both these qualities sound intriguing....

Live View - no. But it is widely expected that a successor to the 400D/XTi will be announced in February, although this is based on Canon's usual 18-month product cycle rather than anything more substantial. Maybe it will have Live View..

Remote Capture (i.e. tethered shooting) - yes, I use it frequently with my 400D. The instant feedback is brilliant, but Live View would make it even more useful - especially for critical focusing...

Comment #5

Aaahhhh, from the UK.... I was there in July and couldn't even afford a cup of coffee...! (Just kidding, but for us colonials it was very expensive). I visited The Oval, if you are familiar with that (don't know in what part of the UK you live) and also an office in Herfordshire. I love England..

Anyway, thank you for all your answers. Very helpful..

I was considering buying an oversize scanner to do this task, but the nice ones from Denmark are very expensive (thousands of dollars) and serve only one function. A nice Canon will serve many needs, so your recommendations are important in my decision..

Best wishes,.


Comment #6


Check out the Zoombrowser software that came with your S5 - particularly the Photostitch option in the edit menu..

In the first stage, click on "Arrange" and you'll see a list open up with a 'Matrix' option that should be fine for combining, say, 4 pictures taken with your existing camera and other equipment..

In the second stage, Merge, you may need to tell the software that it's an image scanned in sections to get a good result..

Not sure if the Panorama mode in the S5 has a setting that will register a 4 shot 'loop' round one of your maps - if doesn't, set the exposure, ISO, WB etc to manual and just take overlapping shots of each quarter, keeping the FL fixed too!.

Let us know how you get on!.


PS I think you'll probably find that ZB can handle your renaming problems for you as well!.

Peter - on the green island of Ischia

Comment #7

Super advice, everyone! Thank you, and best wishes.....


P. S. Boy do I love!!!..

Comment #8

Do you know what a "flat" lens means?.

Anyway, when you put a camera on the top of a copy stand,pointed down at a base where there's a picture, map, document spread out, the distance from the lens to the center of the picture is less than the distance to the edges and corners..

A flat field lens takes this into account, and that's why flat field lenses result in sharper edges on pictures of flat objects..

Most prime (non-zoom) lenses from major lens makers and which have macro in the name are flat field lenses..

These include the 50mm Canon macro, the 60mm Canon macro, the 50 and 60mm Nikon macros, and the 50 and 70mm Sigmas..

The problem with all of these on a moderate priced digital single lens reflex camera is that they are short telephoto lenses, and it's hard when using a copy stand to get a big object into the frame because the copy stand shaft is usually too short..

And I don't know of any 35mm focal length flat field lenses that would get more of your map into the picture..

Incidentally, you probably don't need the "macro" capability of these lenses, except perhaps for really small maps..

Anyway, to get around the short post / telephoto lens problem, there are two approaches I suggest..

Figure out how to set up a horizontal shooting area. A sheet of steel mounted flat to a wall, and magnetic strips (the same stuff refrigerator magnets are made from, let's you mount maps on a wall and point a tripod mounted camera at them. Positioning is important make sure the camera is dead center..

Or, you can make a form of giant copy stand from several brands of tripod..

Benbo and Unilock make tripods where the center column can be adjust to any horizontal angle, too. The Benbo 2 is a huge beast and very solidand you can position the horizontal column and the legs, perhaps with some counterweights, to get it positioned over picture a few feet square..

Manfrotto have a couple of new designs look for X in the name, as in 055Xpro that have columns that can be removed from the vertical position and reinserted in the horizontal position. LEgs can be adjusted a bit, too, but not like the Benbo..

Remember, too, that you can take dseveral shots of different parts of a map, if you want to study certain areas. You don't get the whople picture, of course, but at least it's a reasonable work-around..


Comment #9

Reading my mind.... I have "cut off" on some of my maps already on the stand even when at the widest angle of the lens on my S5..

Thanks for the orientation on this as I found it very helpful. I have a tripod (at home, can't remember what brand), and I will see what I can do to make it work..


Comment #10

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