The Best Scanners For High-Quality Digital Copies
A scanner is a device that captures an image from a physical object or document to create a digital copy of it. They come in a wide range of designs and styles, but overall their purpose is to create a digital backup of a physical image or document. Some of the most common models on the market are flatbed designs that have a glass bed that you lay a document onto and then a light is used to scan the item and create a digital copy of it. These have become increasingly powerful, with high-resolution models often used for photographs and illustrations.
There are also specialized scanners used to capture images from older photographic film and slides, as well as smaller versions that can quickly scan a business card. Pen scanners provide small options for scanning individual lines of text, while portable models can be used to scan any document at any location. Consider what types of items you have to scan, where you'll be doing most of your scanning, and take a look at our list of of the best scanners in 2021 and the buyer’s guide below to find the best model for your needs.
Raven Pro Document Scanner
Epson Perfection V600 Flat Scanner
OpticFilm 8200i SE Film Scanner
Fujitsu ScanSnap Sheet-Fed Color Scanner
Veho Smartfix Portable Film Scanner
Ion Slides 2 PC Film Scanner
Epson WorkForce Portable Wireless Scanner
Brother Wireless Compact Mobile Scanner
PenPower WorldPenScan X Scanner
Ambir Technology Duplex ID Card Scanner DS687-AS
DYMO CardScan v9 Executive Business Card Scanner
DYMO CardScan Personal Card Scanner - 1760685
Best Scanners of 2021 Reviewed in Detail
This document scanner by Raven lets you scan your essentials directly into integrated cloud services, including Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive QuickBooks, Evernote, SharePoint, and Raven Cloud. The best part? You don't even need to bother hooking up your computer to the device. This newest document scanner from Raven has a large 8" LED screen which provides a user-friendly navigation menu and a document editor. Plus, you can upload the scanned documents wirelessly, thanks to the Wi-Fi connectivity. With this must-have gadget, not only can you scan documents seamlessly but you can also do so in stacks. The adjustable anti-jam 100 sheet automatic document feeder can even handle complex documents, such as ID cards, business cards, receipts, documents, and more – all in an expandable output tray. Moreover, you can always utilize the Raven Cloud’s free unlimited cloud storage, although it’s up to each individual’s preference. Lastly, the scan quality modes support 200dpi-600dpi and the scan speed stands around up to 60 pages per minute! If you’re planning to integrate this with your computer, please keep in mind that it doesn’t come with a cord so you’ll have to order that separately.
This model has terrific image quality with optical resolution of 6400dpi and 48-bit color depth. In that way it matches the best scans you can get from the Epson Perfection V800 but there are some differences which should be noted. There's no "quick scan" mode with this pick and the V800 can scan at 4800 dpi for faster scanning. The optical density with this model is lower than the V800, so details and color gradations likely will not be as precise and fine with this scanner. However, it does have a built-in transparency adapter in the lid which works well for 35mm slides and film strips but not quite as easy to use or effective as the separate adapters included with the V800. This model is often less than half the price of the V800 so this is a great option for casual use but not ideal for professional photo scanning.
The price on this model makes it a bit more practical for professional users only, though it's not excessive considering the high level of performance it offers. This scanner delivers the highest resolution of just about any you'll find, offering optimal quality of 7200 dpi although you can also scan at 3600 dpi if you need faster results. It works with 35mm slides, and is easy to use for quick scans or full resolution deep scans, with 48-bit color depth and 16-bit grayscale. This model is compatible with both PCs running Windows and Macs with an Intel CPU. The built-in infrared scanner even helps with finding dust and scratches on your slides, automatically adjusting to remove them without any editing on your part. It also comes with simple scanning software and SilverFast SE Plus 8 which is a more powerful and in-depth program for scanning and image editing.
When it comes portable scanners, this is an excellent option as it measures less than 12 inches long and weighs only three pounds, so you can carry it around in a computer bag or briefcase. This pick scans up to 24 images per minute at the lowest resolution and you can scan documents in simplex or duplex mode so it’s perfect for double-sided pages. It has a maximum optical resolution of 600 dpi, but digital resolution can go up to 1200 dpi if necessary. The scanner also has a document feeder which folds out, for loading up to 10 sheets of paper at a time for faster bulk scanning. Keep in mind, this pick lacks standalone capability as it can only be powered via a USB cable or a wall outlet.
This scanner works with both Windows-based PCs and Macs, but also can function as a standalone device. It has a small LCD full color screen that can flip up from the top of the scanner to show previews of slides as you scan them, and stores scanned images on an SD or SDHC card with up to 8GB of storage. This is a great option for portable scanning, plus it includes trays for 35mm slides as well as 35mm and 110mm negatives. Although there's a lot to like about this model, there are a few limitations such as the picture quality which isn't quite as good as some other models and it only has a five megapixel lens which is decent but certainly not amazing. However, the lower resolution means this model scans faster than most of our other picks so if you're looking to make very fast scans of 35mm slides without the need for incredible picture quality, then this is a great choice.
This slide scanner is easy to use and the perfect size for transportation without taking up a lot of space making it a great option if you know you'll need to frequently take your slide scanner with you on assignments or travel. The five megapixel scanner in this model is pretty good though it certainly won't match the quality of a more precise lens or scanner. You can use this model with both PCs and Macs without requiring additional drivers but it lacks any standalone functionality. The standout feature of this pick is it includes a 35mm slide rapid feed tray which lets you quickly load one slide after another and scans them in just a few seconds. If you don't need professional image quality and have a lot of slides to scan quickly, then this is a great choice which offers very good performance.
Most portable scanners are pretty lightweight and easy to take anywhere, but still require a physical connection. However this one from Epson can connect through a USB 2.0 port as well as with Wireless-N functionality so you can use it with a wide range of devices and wireless networks without a physical connection. It even supports iOS and Android, so you’re not limited to using this scanner with a narrow range of devices.
The scanners optical resolution goes up to 1200 dpi but only outputs at up to 600 dpi. It can scan a page at low resolution in about eight seconds up to about 30 seconds when scanning a page at higher resolutions. This model weighs just over one pound and is less than 12 inches in length, plus it runs on batteries so requires no physical wires at all when used with a wireless network.
There is a lot to like about this portable scanner, beginning with its Wireless-N functionality that lets you use this pick with a wireless network and any associated devices. It has a maximum optical resolution of 600 dpi with digital resolution up to 1200 dpi which assures you get great picture quality. Since there’s no paper feed/tray you’ll have to load each sheet individually but it does support duplex scanning for handling double-sided pages. Scan speeds with this model are pretty fast at about eight pages per minute in simplex scanning or up to five pages per minute when scanning in duplex. This scanner also includes a media slot and comes with a 4GB SD card, making it a great option for scanning just about anywhere. One thing to consider with this model is it’s not exactly compact, weighing almost three pounds and measuring around 14 inches long.
This model scans at up to 10 cm/s and works on characters between 6-22 points in size. It can recognize words in nearly 200 languages in total including languages with English characters and even those using Latin and Greek letters. In addition to having access to an online dictionary, this scanner has a spell-checking tool which makes it great for double-checking work while you’re scanning a document. This pen scanner also has Bluetooth support for wireless connectivity and it's compatible with Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. Lastly, the lightweight design and wireless functionality make this pen scanner great option for long-term use.
This scanner offers you 600 dpi image resolutions and the design lets you scan cards very quickly at only three seconds per side at low resolution. The software that comes bundled with this pick is pretty good, but it's not specifically designed for organizing and searching business cards. This scanner is about eight inches long, so that can make it difficult to carry around with you in a laptop bag. The other major weakness with this scanner is it’s only compatible with Windows operating systems so MAC users will have to look elsewhere.
This scanner works with both Macs and PCs and can synchronize with software such as Lotus Notes, Outlook, and Mac Address Book, making it easy to scan cards and associate the images with other information. You can use this model to scan in both color and black and white; a color scan averages three seconds while monotone is less than two. This scanner is capable of scanning cards in seven different languages and quickly connects to your computer via a USB cable. While not the most portable option on the market, this is still a great business card scanner that can easily be taken with you on a trip or to a meeting. It weighs less than a pound and is only 6.5 inches long, which makes it easy to pack up in a bag or brief case.
If you like the DYMO CardScan Executive business card scanner but don’t need all of its features, this scanner is a great alternative. It’s capable of scanning a card in just five seconds but keep in mind it only works in monotone, so if you need color scanning then this is not a good choice. While the Executive model has more features, this pick is smaller at five inches long and weighs less than half a pound thereby making a better choice for travel. Compatible with both PCs and Macs, this pick functions best with Windows software while the DYMO Executive version of this scanner has better support with the Mac operating system.
If you just need a simple, every day document scanner, then picking the right one is pretty easy. But if you want to have more options and need to scan photographs or illustrations, then making the right choice can be more complicated. Consider both document and flatbed scanners, along with other specialty types, to ensure you have a model which works for all of your needs. When it comes to image quality, you want to look at color depth, the element or image sensor, and optical resolution to ensure you get as good a scan as possible. You also want to keep in mind the sizes of your documents and any extra features you want before making a final choice.
Document vs Flatbed
While there are quite a few different types of scanners out there, the two most common ones are document and flatbed scanners.
Document scanners have a feed or tray where you place a sheet of paper which is then pulled into the machine to scan each page. Some of these models have to be loaded manually with one piece of paper at a time, while others can handle multiple pages at a time. Document scanners are usually the best choice if you just plan on scanning in sheets with text and similar pages;
A flatbed scanner has a flat piece of glass onto which you place a sheet of paper or object to scan it. Flatbed scanners often provide better quality and are preferable for working with mediums such as photographs and illustrations.
Special Types of Scanners
There are also a number of specialty scanners to consider if you have some different or unusual objects to scan. Some devices are marketed as dedicated photo scanners, usually with a small bed for traditional photographs. If you're looking for a scanner that has print, copier and fax capabilities as well, then check out the best all-in-one printers for some great options.
One specialized type of scanner that is very useful is a slide scanner, which scans images from photographic slides. Most flatbed scanners cannot capture these kinds of images very well, so a special model is a wise investment if you have many slides you want to scan.
Pen scanners are great for portability and individual lines of text. This is especially helpful if you need to scan from a large, bound book which can’t work with a document scanner and would be unwieldy with a flatbed model.
Color depth, also called bit depth, refers to the amount of data, in bits, used for each pixel in a scanned image. More bits means more data used, which means you get better image quality so choose a model with as much color depth as possible.
If you’re just looking to scan text documents and similar items, then a color depth of 24bit should be sufficient. For photographs, you want to choose a scanner with at least 48bit color depth for great image quality. There are some scanners available with 96bit color depth, but that is pretty unnecessary and 48bit should be sufficient.
Element Type/Image Sensor
The term “element” is typically used when looking at document scanners, while flatbed scanners often use the term “image sensor,” but in both cases it refers to the technology used to pick up light and create the scanned image.
Charged Coupled Device (CCD)
A CCD image sensor offers the best picture quality and detail, so choose a flatbed scanner with CCD if you want the best scanned image possible.
Contact Image Sensor (CIS)
CIS is not quite as good as CCD, but still provides good quality and is lightweight. Choose CIS for a document scanner or if you don’y need the level of performance offered by CCD.
Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS)
CMOS is the lowest in terms of quality, but also more affordable. This type is a decent choice purely for document scanning where you don’t need high resolution or image quality.
Maximum Optical Resolution
The resolution of an image describes the width and height of it in terms of pixels. More pixels mean better image quality, so choose the highest resolution available for what you need. Optical resolution refers to the scanning resolution, so the higher the value the better the captured resolution.
For document scanners, look for about 600x600 or 600dpi. This isn’t exceptional but is more than sufficient for text and low-quality images. If you want a flatbed scanner for photographs or illustrations, then you want much higher resolution. Choose a flatbed model with resolution of at least 2400x2400 or 2400dpi, though 4800x4800 or 4800dpi is a much better choice. If you really need incredibly high resolution for professional photography or illustration, you can even go up to 6400x6400 or 6400dpi.
Maximum Document Size
The maximum document size compatible with a scanner depends a lot on how the device is designed. Document scanners have a slot that can only fit paper of certain sizes, while flatbed scanners have a piece of glass that limits the size of the object or page that it can scan. The maximum size you need depends a lot on what you will be scanning, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
Most document scanners can handle pages 8.5 inches wide, with varying lengths, and legal pages up to 8.5x14 inches are usually compatible, but if you need to scan 11x17 inch ledger pages, then look for a model with a wider paper feed. Flatbed scanners are likely to be large enough to handle up to 8.5x14 inches pages, but you will probably need to pay more if you need a large model that can handle ledger pages due to it requiring more glass and a wider bed.
Additional USB Ports
Just about every scanner on the market connects to your computer through a USB port, though there are some wireless models available. If your available USB ports are getting a bit limited, then consider a scanner that has USB input ports as well. This lets you connect other devices to your scanner, which then connect through it to your computer. You can pretty easily find document scanners with at least one available USB port, but they are less common in flatbed models.
Manufacturer and Warranty
Since scanners are electronic devices with a lot of moving parts and sensitive components, it is important to choose a model made by a reliable manufacturer that covers the device with a good warranty. Companies like Epson, Canon, HP, and Fujitsu all make excellent scanners that work well and provide you with very good scanned images. You can also look at Brother, Kodak, and Xerox for good machines that are reliable. A one-year warranty is pretty standard for scanners, but you may be able to find some models, especially professional ones, with longer protection.