What is the best electronic device for this task?
October 15, 2012 4:57 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a device (or two devices) that will take pictures, and then easily convert these pictures to PDFs. Alternatively, persuade me to buy an iPad!

I go on archival trips for my research. I take lots of pictures of documents (hundreds of pictures a day, and thus thousands on each trip), and then need to convert them into grouped PDFs. With a digital camera, this is fairly labor-intensive and complicated, because I end up with thousands of pictures on my digital camera, and then need to download them all to my laptop, sort them into groups (i.e. find out where one document or folder that I've photographed ended and another began, which is harder after the fact because I forget), and then convert each of these groups into PDFs. When I was on a recent trip, another researcher showed me his new iPad, which appeared to take fairly clear pictures, and then you could create a PDF then and there, and drag the relevant pictures into it as you took them, which would hugely minimize confusion and also time spent later.

My question is: what device(s) is/are the best for this? Is an iPad indeed the device that I'm looking for? Will this simplify things massively from my current digital camera/laptop set-up? Is the picture-to-PDF process really as easy as it seemed on his iPad? What model and size of iPad should I get for this task? How many PDFs can I store on the iPad before it's full? Can I take them each night off the iPad and onto a USB stick to store them, so I can make more PDFs on the iPad? Is there some other device (maybe a cheaper one!) that will do what I want as well or even better? Are there any other cool features that I might like on the iPad, especially for a PhD student/academic? Also, if I buy an iPad, that will probably replace my laptop, and I won't be able to afford another laptop in addition. What disadvantages does iPad plus keyboard have over a laptop? I have never had an iPad, and don't know much about it, or any other alternatives (non-Apple or otherwise), so any advice would be great!
posted by UniversityNomad to Technology (5 answers total)
What do you run on your current computer?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:03 PM on October 15, 2012

Do you mean the operating system? I'm using an older Macbook Pro (a bit over three years old), and it's OS X 10.5.

If you're asking about what I'm currently using to convert pictures into PDFs, I actually haven't done it yet, and haven't figured out exactly which program would be best. If anyone has recommendations for that, that would be helpful too!
posted by UniversityNomad at 5:07 PM on October 15, 2012

ImageMagick is my usual recommendation. To convert, just use the convert command, e.g., open up Terminal.app and go to where your images are located:

convert *.jpg --density 150 foo.pdf

It's free and works well.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:15 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

on your computer: Preview should be able to do that. load up the images - as many as you want to convert - and then hit Select All. you should then be able to Export the documents (under File) as PDFs. it will create individual PDFs of each. caveat: I'm on 10.8 and you're on 10.5 so this may have been a feature added in with a later version of OS X. you may need to upgrade OS X to get the batch exporter. regardless, you can at least export them one at a time (either via Export or via Print -> PDF).

if you get an iPad: there's the camera connector accessory that Apple makes that'll allow you to hook your camera up and import from it. a real camera is still better than the iPad one, unless your existing digital camera is extremely basic/entry-level. (however, the iPad is about due for an upgrade, and the new ones may have better cameras on them. the iPhone 4/4S cameras are very good, and the 5 is better still, and they do tend to share parts between the phones and the pads, so..) it's also worth noting that things like iPhoto (on both iPad and your Mac) will auto-split camera imports into "events", based on the time when the picture was taken (so make sure your camera's got the right date and time in it). you can easily combine them into one event if you wish.
posted by mrg at 5:57 PM on October 15, 2012

You might want to look at the ScanBox (original Kickstarter link), an iPhone or Android phone with a good camera (GS3 or Nexus) and the cam scanner + app will do everything you want.
posted by caliban at 10:56 PM on October 15, 2012

« Older salary question   |   Help for the spouse of someone with mental health... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.