I assume you've tried to set the resolution="high" attribute already?
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Use a third party tool with CFEXECUTE if there's no other way. As you're on Linux you could easily run ghostscript on the command line to do it. gs lets you specify filetype as the device and also has options for resolution. For Windows there's gs as well (not sure though what it's command line capabilities are there) or tools like this: http://www.softinterface.com/Convert-PDF-To-Image/Convert-PDF-To-Tiff.htm
Re: Have I tried using resolution="high"
Yes, I've tried all permutations that seemed remotely encouraging. Currently it is something like this:
<cfpdf action="thumbnail" source="x.pdf" imagePrefix="x.pdf" pages="1" format="JPG" destination="images" overwrite="true" resolution="high" hires="yes" scale="100">
Re: Third Party tool / cfexecute
I'm already using ghostscript / imagemagick, I want to use ColdFusion, as an alternative because it has better compatibility with all kinds of PDFs.