The past couple of days I have been reviewing my experience with the Shoebox from Ancestry smartphone app. Tuesday I related my experiences using the app. Wednesday I compared images of a document, one taken with a cheap, consumer camera and one taken on my iPhone with the Shoebox app.
Before this little experiment I was not a fan of using a camera for document or photo scanning. After comparing the results of my camera and my iPhone, my opinion is unchanged. If you can, use a flatbed scanner. Doing so avoids lens imperfections, perspective distortion, barrel distortion and others. It avoids uneven lighting. For me, it avoids blurriness introduced by tremors. The latest scanners may inflict the increased color saturation problem observed in the iPhone, but that can be avoiding when the proper settings are employed. Using a scanner makes it a lot easier to use the appropriate scanning resolution. Cameras may lack the necessary resolution for large documents or photograph enlargements.
Scanning in the field is a different animal. A camera can be an adequate scanner substitute. Cameras are also necessary for grave markers and other three-dimensional objects.
I seldom make it to courthouses, churches, and other archives holding the records I need. I try to maximize the number of images shot in the short time I have in each archive. Using Shoebox made me slow down between each shutter click to enter a description, date, place, and people mentioned. Typing on the iPhone keyboard is a bit slow for my old fingers. Then Shoebox made me wait while photographs were uploaded. Many archives won’t have guest Wi-Fi, so uploading will cost data plan minutes.
While I didn’t like pausing, entering information, and uploading, after returning home I was glad to have it already done.
I could have expeditiously taken a day’s worth of photographs using the normal camera app and then after I had returned home used Shoebox to tag and upload them. But in that workflow, I would just as soon use the larger keyboard and screen of my computer rather than using the small iPhone screen and fake keyboard.
The Shoebox app has some real things going for it. If I could hold it steady and type as fast as young kids, and if I had unlimited data minutes, I would welcome the convenience and utility of Shoebox from Ancestry for use in record archives.