Using Mobile Devices For Scanning

You may have heard about scan apps that use the digital camera in your mobile device for scanning.  Here’s a technical comparison to an authentic high-quality flatbed like the Flip-Pal mobile scanner.

iPhoneMobile device

  • An 8MP camera such as the iPhone 6 or iPad on a US letter page is 220 dpi. Most authorities recommend a minimum of 300 dpi, with 600 dpi for making enlargements or scanning small areas. Lower resolutions may appear okay on a mobile device screen. However, you will see blurriness when printed or enlarged.
  • It is very difficult to get uniform lighting on the object and avoid shadows using the ambient lighting in the room. Using the flash produces a reflection.
  • The camera must be held perfectly 90 degrees above the object to avoid shape distortions. Even then, the corners will be distorted by the tiny circular lens.
  • Most scanning apps store the image as PDF files.  These are very difficult to import into software such as genealogy, crafting, image editing, or word processing and may or may not be supported in cloud storage sites.
  • iPhone6 Camera AssemblyThe sensor in a digital camera is an arial array (the sensing elements are arranged in an array). Arial arrays do not physically have a sensor for each pixel. Rather, they simulate pixels by combining adjacent sensors (interpolation). That results in loss of sharpness, such as thin lines that blend together and edges that are not sharp.
  • In order to save cost and fit in small space, the sensors in digital cameras are oftentimes integrated with other functions on a high density CMOS chip, resulting in noise caused by heat and the other digital functions fabricated on that same substrate.
  • The sensors are extremely small which restricts the amount of light (photons) that reach the element, again resulting in noise.
  • The mobile device’s lens and optical path is forced into a small space. The tiny aperture, fixed focus, and folded light path limit the sensitivity, which results in random noise that shows as graininess and splotching in the shadows.
  • Most digital cameras enhance the colors with more saturation. This looks appealing on a mobile device, but when printed will have color shifts such as facial tones that are orangish.

Flip-Pal mobile scanner

  • CIS with note

    Uses a linear array, with a sensing element for each pixel. The sensor is mounted in a carriage that is moved precisely below the glass. Flip-Pal’s Contact Image Sensor (CIS) has 600 physical elements per inch. It does not use interpolation to achieve its high resolution. Flip-Pal’s 600 dpi translates to 28Mpixel, 3.5 times the iPhone’s.

  • The CIS uses wide-spectrum LEDs that illuminate the surface as the carriage moves. This provides perfectly uniform illumination and a full color gamut – the range of colors that are captured.
  • cis scanning technologyEach sensing element has its own microscopic fiber optic lens with nearly 1/8″ of focal depth. That allows it to scan through the plastic covers of photo albums, and photo frames with thin glass, without reflections.
  • The CIS uses Charge Coupled Device (CCD) sensors on a separate custom chip. CCD produces better dynamic range and less noise than CMOS.
  • Stores the image as a low-compression (highest quality) jpg file. That is the most prevalent image file format, compatible with software on modern operating systems Windows, OS-X, and Linux, and cloud storage sites.
  • Produces images that adhere to the sRGB standard, resulting in capture of colors that are true to the original. When viewed on a monitor, or printed with a high-quality printer which also use the sRGB standard (most do), the colors will be accurate.
  • There is no shape distortion with the CIS. It is perfectly rectangular.


Camera Flip-Pal Side by Side-800wide2

Census with zoom


An advantage of your mobile device is the ease by which you can share with others. That can be done with the Flip-Pal wireless scanner, or with the Wireless Upgrade. The scans are wirelessly transferred to your mobile device’s camera roll and all those sharing capabilities are instantly available for your scans.


The Flip-Pal team invented our mobile scanner to provide image quality on par with the finest scanners. We did extensive research across the globe and selected the CIS used in Flip-Pal because of its state-of-the-art image quality and fabrication by an industry leader in Japan. It is not the least expensive but is money well spent. With over 70 years of combined experience in digital imaging, the Flip-Pal design team engineered our scanner to not compromise on image quality.

You’ll see the difference between a Flip-Pal and a digital camera when you look at the skin tones, the detail in the shadows, and the sharpness of edges and lines.  Your mobile device or computer screen will not show those deficiencies.  It may be good enough for some.  But, when preserving your memories really matters, you will want a digital version that is faithful to the original in every way, just as the Flip-Pal mobile scanner does.

10 Responses to Using Mobile Devices For Scanning

  1. Facebook January 6, 2020 at 12:58 am #

    The high-quality flatbed like the Flip-Pal mobile scanner is one of a kind product available in the market. The article above gives us a detailed comparison and is thoroughly informative.

  2. facebook November 6, 2019 at 6:34 am #

    I purchased a Flip-Pal to scan pages of old autograph albums/journals, tabloids, framed items and other things that can’t be handled safely with my regular scanner. It works great. I have a question. Did your Flip-Pal come with a software cd?

    • Gordon Nuttall November 8, 2019 at 12:43 pm #

      The Flip-Pal Toolbox software that includes the Easystitch and StoryScans features is pre-loaded on the SD card. A CD is not needed.

  3. barbara k December 16, 2017 at 8:11 pm #

    how does the Flip Pal scan larger items? And can it scan pictures that are in frames,,,without taking pic out of fram?

    • Gordon Nuttall December 18, 2017 at 2:19 pm #

      There are videos on with quick tips on how to scan larger items and scanning photos in a photo album. Scanning a picture in a frame is similar to the photo album. If the frame is raised above the photo, dismantle it from the frame. If the photo is stuck to the glass, you don’t need to unstick it – scan through the glass.

  4. Tammy Norem March 17, 2017 at 10:01 am #

    Any plans on producing a 600dpi version of the Flip Pal?

    • Flip-Pal March 17, 2017 at 10:58 am #

      You can set the resolution to 600dpi in the tools screen. Press the up button to highlight the tools (gears) icon in the LCD, then the down button. Press the right button to move the highlight from 300dpi to 600dpi, then the center button to move the check symbol to 600. Two stars will now be lit in the top menu bar, reminding you that 600dpi is selected (1 star is 300dpi).

    • Jude March 17, 2017 at 1:56 pm #

      I use 600dpi on mine most of tthe time.

  5. Anonymous March 10, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

    I have tried scanning from my mobile and used my flip pal for the same document and there is no comparison. The flip pal version is infinitely superior.

  6. Anonymous March 6, 2017 at 8:42 pm #

    Thanks for the informative comparison. I was recently using my FlipPal at my genealogical society library, when a fellow commented that he didn’t need to do that, his scanner was right in his phone. The implication was that he was using the latest tech and my device was now obsolete.I doubted it was anywhere near what my FlipPal could do, but didn’t get into any discussion with him. Next time I’ll ask if he can stitch a large document together seamlessly!

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