If you’re planning to scan some slides or negatives, then you’re going to need to know what scanner file format is smallest. Computers have gotten sufficiently powerful and efficient that it’s tempting to think of them as having no limits when it comes to how much stuff we can keep on them, or send with, but that isn’t actually so.
There’s a lot of information contained in pictures of any kind. Now, if you’ve just got a few photos, this isn’t going to be an issue. If, on the other hand, you’ve got an archive of, say, three thousand slides that you’re in the process of digitizing, then how much space those photo files are going to take up is something that you’re going to need to consider.
Image, Information and Space
There’s a relationship between how much information is in the photo and the amount of space that it’s going to take up as a file. Basically, the better you want the digital image to be, the more file space it’s going to take up. So, in addition to considering how many photos that you’re going to be storing, you need to consider how you’re going to use them before you decide what scanner file format is smallest.
If you’ve got a series of wildlife or landscape photos that you think you might want to blow up to poster size, then you’re going to need to store those photos at the highest resolution you reasonably can. On the other hand, if you’re digitizing old family photos that you’ll never want to view at a huge size, you can use a lot less resolution.
So, what scanner file format is smallest? Well, let’s take a look at the usual suspects:
TIF – This is lossless format, which means that all the information in the picture is transferred. If you’re a professional or want the absolute highest possible quality, this is the format that you should be saving in. The downside is that this format also takes up the most space, since the nature of the file means that nothing is compressed. If you’re scanning a lot of files in this format, you’re going to need a lot of memory.
PNG – Not a lot of difference between this and the TIF file format, except that PNG files compress the image somewhat, although this is a lossless format. If you’re storing large amounts of photos, this slight difference can make enough of a difference to be worthwhile.
JPG – If you asked most people what scanner file format is smallest, this is probably going to be their answer, and they’re not quite wrong. JPG is the most commonly used format, and it does compress the file size considerably. The downside is that it’s lossy, which means that it compresses by way of removing any redundant information. This is good for compression but can result in artifacts and bad pictures.
GIF – Now, if you ask somebody savvy what scanner file format is smallest, this is what they’ll answer, and they’d be right, but it’s more or less useless for saving pictures. If you’re interested in having halfway decent pictures, pick one of the other formats.
image by anyjazz65, Creative Commons license