Very good idea. Here's a few contributions I'd make:Why should I build one of these when I can just saw off the spine and sheet-feed scan it with a Fujitsu ScanSnap?
One reason is if you're scanning old, rare or unique books/documents. Some of our members, like Misty and Ann, work with archival materials that are in very fragile shape, which obviously can't be chopped open or even flattened onto a flatbed scanner.Appropriate camera settings
If your camera supports manual ISO, always
use the lowest setting. For example, on a Canon PowerShot G10, always use ISO 80. Low ISO ensures the minimum possible level of noise in an image.
White balance: You can get the best results by using lights with a known, standard temperature, which can let you tune your white balance to the exact properties of the light. See my post
about lights and white balance. If that's unavailable, you can manually record a white balance on many cameras by using the "custom white balance" mode; aim the camera at a white piece of paper that fills the frame, and record a white balance setting based on the lighting environment. This is not as accurate as using the temperature of the light, but it might be good enough depending on your needs.
I'd give other camera advice, but I think my G10 is atypical compared to the cameras most people are going to be using, and wouldn't be terribly useful.Can I use lights other than halogens?
It might help to link to my thread
about using daylight CFLs. The ISO standard in professional digitization is D50 lights (lights with a colour warmth of 5000K), but these aren't usually available to amateurs or small institutions at a reasonable price. I settled on 6500K lights that are similar to the D65 standard (but not actually marketed using the D65 term) because they're easily available at the local hardware store for cheap, and allow for very accurate, reliable colour results.
I would strongly
recommend against telling people to use halogens. Halogens are very harsh, high-UV lights, which will "age" paper unnecessarily and irreversibly. They should never
be used that close to paper, especially for scanning old, rare or brittle books. You can
make halogens safe by using expensive UV filters, but at that point you might as well be using something else to start with.Can I trigger my cameras without custom firmware?
Depends on the camera. Some cameras support a "remote live view" mode which allows you to remote control the camera via USB from a computer. However, this feature is mostly only available on DSLRs and some high-end PowerShots, and is limited to JPEG only on the PowerShots that support it.
Some cameras support remote shutter releases out of the box, though a lot of cheap cameras are missing this feature. For example, the Canon PowerShot G series and EOS series use a remote called the RS60-E3 (or clones thereof). Remotes aren't usually compatible with each other, so check what model your camera wants. You can usually get compatible 3rd party remotes for fairly cheap.
The opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily represent those of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.