by Jason Snell
Google’s PhotoScan uses your phone to digitize old photos
PhotoScan is a new free photo tool for iOS and Android from the Google Photos team:
PhotoScan gets you great looking digital copies in seconds – it detects edges, straightens the image, rotates it to the correct orientation, and removes glare. Scanned photos can be saved in one tap to Google Photos to be organized, searchable, shared, and safely backed up at high quality—for free.
I tried it this morning. It’s got a clever interface and under the right conditions it produces decent results. It’s also vastly easier to use and faster than a flatbed scanner. To use PhotoScan, just hold your phone over a picture, tap an on-screen button, and then move your phone so that it hits four targets overlaid on the four corners of the photo. The app stiches the images together and saves it to the iOS Camera Roll and Google Photos.
The results I got were… only okay. Some photos were distorted, and none of them looked particularly great. In other words, you get what you pay for—this is free and easy and better than never getting old photos in digital form, but it’s also not going to give you the quality of scanning items yourself or sending prints, slides, and film to a photo-scanning service.
Here’s a picture of a cat taken in 1999—the version on the right was created with PhotoScan; the version on the left was scanned in using a big, unwieldy flatbed scanner. Scanning in your old photos is a gigantic pain and every time I’ve tried I’ve given up—so PhotoScan is better than nothing. But it’s also not better than scanning.