PhotoTree Reports

While exhibiting and presenting a session on Dating 19th Century Photographs at the August 2010 Family History Expo in Sandy, Utah, I had the opportunity to take a first-hand look at the Flip-Pal mobile scanner and give it good test.  I was very interested in the capabilities of the Flip-Pal mobile scanner, especially for archival-quality scans while traveling.

A little background first.  As the founder of, I have digitized over 3,000 19th century photographs, using a variety of techniques and products, and have developed some expectations of scanning and copying technologies. publishes an online database of 19th century photographs and has developed processes to date them, both online and using printed publications.  Additionally, we perform photo restoration on heirloom photographs, requiring high resolution digital copies of the original image.

We digitize photographs either with high-end flatbed scanners or by copying the image with a high resolution digital camera using a copy stand and custom lights.  A 12 mega pixel Nikon D300 camera with a 60mm macro lens is use.  All of this is more than a $2,500 setup – and very bulky.  And of course the flatbed scanner requires an attached PC, cable, power, etc.  Not real nimble.

When traveling, I usually don’t have the luxury of bringing my scanner or all the photography equipment along, but still need to frequently create high-quality scans of newly discovered photographs.  So I have been seeking a high resolution, portable scanning solution.

Back to Flip-Pal test.  The second day of the expo during a lull I introduced myself to Ben Kimbell in the Flip-Pal booth, and explained my activities and scanning needs.  Despite my skepticism, the size, easy of use, and price seemed very intriguing – if too good to be true.  And you know what they say about things being too good to be true.  So, I gave Ben a challenge and had him scan a really nice 120 year-old cabinet card that was very crisp and had great tonal range.

Ben scanned the picture at 600 DPI, and I took it back to my PC to open with PhotoShop.  Voila!  To most people, you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between the Flip-Pal scan and the master copy I made with my Nikon camera which was approximately 600 DPI also.  When we zoomed in as much as 300%, both images exhibited nearly identical sharpness, with differences being mostly matter of opinion at that point.  The scanned image did have some detectable noise and some JPG compression loss. But to be honest, you really had to look for them, and both of those were in acceptable ranges, especially when you compare the JPG file size of 1.8MB for the Flip-Scan versus 24MB for the original Photoshop file.  The Flip-Pal can scan at 300 DPI also, which we did.  The results were very good and ideal for most user applications.

This is my original image (Gary from Photo Tree)

Flip-Pal scan from Sandy – 600DPI

The Flip-pal is certainly up to all the scanning tasks that a genealogist has – and even more.  I will use it as an archival tool when I don’t have access to my studio or can’t bring all my equipment with me.  The small size is a great benefit to the traveler, it’s half the size of my iPad.  And the image quality is superb.

Gary Clark, Founder, Contact: gary[@]

About provides numerous services and tools to genealogists of all levels, collectors, and historians that guide them through the process of dating 19th century photographs, and helps them preserve their valuable photographs through restoration, reproduction, and archiving techniques.

Tools include an online gallery of more than 1,000 dated images in over 50 categories to compare with undated family photos.  Viewing documented examples similar to family photos can help establish the probable date of a photograph. This web site, including an extensive history and description of 19th century photographs is freely available to the public.

A series of easy-to-use, unique publications for the genealogist and other 19th century photograph enthusiasts are forthcoming from  Available in e-book and print, these highly illustrated, sample-based guides provide the most in-depth explanation of photograph dating techniques ever published.

In addition, offers expert photograph restoration and enhancement services; ensuring that damaged photos will not be lost forever, but can be restored and recreated as beautiful artwork.  For a comprehensive source of 19th century photographic information visit

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