Saturday, 22 January 2011

Scanning Saturday - My new Flip-Pal

Yesterday I received my new Flip-Pal scanner, thanks to the kindness of a friend in the United States. For those who haven't yet come across this gadget, it is a small, portable, battery operated scanner that can be used to scan a wide variety of objects.


Small photos and documents can be placed inside the scanner in the usual way. With the lid removed and the scanner "flipped", it can also scan photographs whilst still in their albums, pictures in their frames, fabrics, wallpaper and three dimensional objects such as medals, coins and jewellery. There is even this You Tube video of someone scanning a bottle of water by rolling it under the Flip-Pal:

For any object larger than the Flip-Pal's 10.25″ x 6.5″ dimensions, the scanner comes with software which will stitch together a large image from a series of smaller, overlapping scans. This is ideal for scanning old maps or deeds which are larger than the traditional flat bed scanner.

I have been experimenting with the scanner for the past 24 hours and thought I would share some of the results with you.

This is a tiny photograph, measuring 2¼ by 3¼ inches, given to me by my mother. On the back she noted that they were on holiday in her father's taxi, in the late 1920s:


The scan quality was so good that I was able to enlarge  a section of the picture to see the number plate of the taxi and the people inside - my grandfather behind the wheel, wearing a driving helmet, with my mother in a straw hat beside him and my grandmother in the back:

Taxi enlarged

I used a picture of my grandmother which is larger than the scanner to test the photo stitching software. I scanned it in six overlapping sections, which I cropped to eliminate all traces of the background on which the photo was lying:

stitch 1 stitch 2
stitch 6 stitch 5
stitch 4 stitch 3

I then used the stitching software which comes with the scanner to put the photograph back together. I think you'll agree that the result is amazing:

Stitchstitch 1-stitch 6

Finally, I used a free photo editing program, PhotoScape, to trim the jagged edges and auto level the colours. The resulting photograph looks as good as the day it was taken:

Dora 2

For my last experiment, I tested the Flip-Pal colour restoration software on the most faded picture in my album. This is an even smaller photograph - only 1¾ by 2¾ - and has lost so much colour that it is almost impossible to make out the subject with the naked eye. I was delighted that the initial scan enabled me to see quite a lot of the detail:

Original scan

Then I used the automatic colour restoration program which comes with the scanner. The result was so much clearer that I immediately recognised the location - St James' Park, London - from the government buildings behind the line of trees in the background:

Colour enhanced cropped

The last step was to apply auto level and noise reduction in PhotoScape:


I think the picture is of my grandmother with my mother on her knee and must have been taken in the spring of 1921. I shall ask my mother when she comes to lunch tomorrow!


  1. Thanks sfor the comprehensive overview of the Flip-Pal. I have put it on the shooping list for my forthcoming trip to the US.

  2. So jealous! It's definitely on my wish list. :) I'm glad to see that the stitching software works so well! Very impressive.

  3. Thanks for your comments. I'm really lucky to have been able to get hold of a Flip-Pal, as they are currently not being shipped outside of the US and Canada. I should think they will probably be on sale at Rootstech, Geniaus.

  4. Thanks for a comprehensive post of Flip-Pal. I was pondering on how to scan a pile of large A3 documents, I investigated the purchase of an A3 scanner and they are like gold dust, I also thought about heading to Staples for them to scan and make as files on a CD, but this may well be the answer. What a shame shipping is not outside of the US at the moment, I will see if I can find a away around this.

  5. By providing some excellent visual examples of your results it really makes a great case for this scanner and I would like to thank you for your very thorough and well written article! You can add me to the list of people who want one!!

  6. Thanks for the review and especially for including the examples. I'll be ordering a Flip-Pal as soon as I find someone who can ship it to me in Australia.

  7. Thanks for your comment, Judy. It has been 10 months since I wrote this post and I find it quite surprising that Flip-Pal is still not available outside the United States. They do say on their website that, once they expand abroad, it will most likely be to the UK and Australia first, but they give no timescale. I do hope you can find someone in the US to ship one to you.

  8. Caroline, this is a wonderful visual of the power of the Flip-Pal. Thank you. I'm not to savvy about resolution numbers, so I have a question. When I scan regular sized photos from the 60s and 70s at 300 dpi and then crop out the background from the scanning bed, the file size numbers drop significantly; i.e., 1.2MB to about 700KB. I guess I want to know if you've had problems in losing resolution after cropping out all the scanning bed background? I want to upload these photos to a Shutterfly book and am afraid they will not have enough resolution. Maybe it's apples and oranges; i.e. size vs resolution? - Sue, Davis,CA

  9. Sue, I have my Flip-Pal set to scan at 600 dpi for precisely this reason - there is always some loss of resolution when you process a digital image.

  10. Thank you! - Sue