The Ultimate Guide To Choosing A Scanner - scannerzone

The Ultimate Guide To Choosing A Scanner That Best Fits Your Needs Leave a comment

Capturing an image was nothing new during the advent of scanners but capturing it in the digital form is the specialty of a scanner. Scanners store the analog information in the form of 0’s, and 1’s using the light and sensors.

This digitally converted information is helpful in many ways in this technology-oriented period. From preserving your memories to searching the business cards, hundreds of uses for a scanner generated result.

If you are interested to know the complete details about scanners, here is the comprehensive guide that provides you with exclusive information.

What Are Scanners?

Scanners are input devices that convert analog images into a digital image using optics and light. They digitize an image into a manipulatable result using the optical device.

The light sensors in the device detect the various aspects of the image presented using the reflection on the photosensitive element where they are converted into electronic signals. These electric signals are further processed to output a digital copy.

How do Scanners work?

Scanners have a glass surface where the paper is fed and an opaque closure above the paper. Old scanners contained fluorescent light, but the new scanners now have a Xenon lamp or a cold cathode fluorescent lamp – CCFL. The black and white scanners are equipped with a single light source, whereas color scanners have three light sources.

Scanners of various functions have a different mechanism. Mentioned below are the working of the two most essential and prominent scanner mechanisms.


Scan head contains the vital parts such as mirror, filter, lens, and the CCD. The scan head in the chamber below the glass surface moves from one side to another, scanning the image placed on the glass and produces a digital image. Since the scanning process needs precision, the movement of the scan head is stabilized with the help of a stabilizer bar.

A belt attached to a stepper motor is used to move the scan head. Mirrors are angled to reflect the image to the lens. There may be two or three mirrors that are curved slightly for obtaining the focus on the lens. This image is further focused through the filter to the CCD.

Few scanners use a three-pass method of scanning for each color and combine the result into a single complete image. However, modern-day scanners are capable of producing the digital image in a single pass itself as they capture all three colors simultaneously.


CIS scanners contain LEDs of all three colors of RGB. Hundreds of sensors are placed across the width, closer to the glass plate. White light is produced by the combined effect of three colored LEDs when you scan. This light illuminates the image which is captured by the sensors.

The Types of Scanners

Scanners are essential for both home and office use. However, their requirements differ, and so does the scanners. Especially if you are planning to go paperless, then scanners are an essential part of the endeavor.

Flatbed Scanners

Flatbed scanners are the most popular home use scanners. They are also useful for small offices with low scanning requirements. They have the most straightforward setup and are easy-to-use when compared to other scanners. It is an optical scanner that can effectively scan fragile vintage papers and photographs.

Since you can scan most paper sizes, this has versatile usage.  You can also scan books, journals, and other similar materials easily without damaging them. Hence it is apt for converting the old books into digital form. They come as a standalone device or in-built in ADF devices.

Sheetfed Scanners

Sheetfed scanners are similar to printers, and they take in paper from one side, scan it and let it out from the other side. They process the scan quicker and take lesser space on your desk than the flatbed scanner due to the automatic document feeder (ADF).

Though they cannot output the quality of a flatbed scanner as they are not as exact as them. Moreover, it can scan only sheets of paper but not books or similar material. On the other hand, it has its advantages, such as high-speed scanning of the large volume of papers to a searchable and editable text.

Duplex Scanners

The two-sided scanning feature enables you to scan the paper on both sides. There are various types of duplex scanners. One type is, ADF feeds the papers automatically, and the scanner flips them mechanically after scanning on one side. This function is known as Reversing automatic document feeder (RADF).

Another type is the high-end scanners that scan the papers on both sides and produce the result for the same in a single go. These single-pass scanners are expensive than the RADF  based scanners mentioned above. Nonetheless, they improve your efficiency by cutting the time you spend near the scanning machines.

Drum Scanners

Drum scanners are for producing astounding quality images of a conceivable range of dynamic channels. They feature photomultiplier tubes (PMT) that convert light into digital output with high-determination filters. The instructive organizations, printing businesses, and illustration experts use them exclusively.

Owing to their quality, you must have understood by now that these are expensive. Also, the drum scanners are best but owned only by a few professionals who can afford them. Primarily publishers use these types of scanners.

3D Scanners

The real-world objects images are converted into high precision models of 3 dimensions using a 3D scanner. It works by obtaining several shots from various angles and fuse them into an except copy depicting a 3 D model of the object. This model is viewable from all angles by rotating the image on your system.

They capture the object’s geometry of the surface, and these photos contain tiny triangles in the place of pixels. It forms a polygonal mesh replicating the object in its minutest aspect. The models thus captured are used for industrial CAD purposes, medical, archaeological, architecture, art, and many other useful actions.

Reverse engineering, quality control, and maintenance can be done virtually without any risk and then applied to the actual object. Generally, this is possible using the scanned 3 D objects that are manipulated accordingly.

Handheld Scanners

Compact type of scanners that can travel with you in as they fit in your bag easily, or you can carry them to clients daily. Mostly these scanners are designed specifically for scanning business cards. They are of great convenience to business people who travel frequently but need to scan their documents regularly.

You can just connect them to your laptop and scan the documents then and there. In a snap, your digitized document is ready, and you can simply search for the required text easily. However, one caution is they are not as easy as your conventional scanners and require a steady hand for the seamlessly scanned document.

Other Scanners

Planetary Scanners: There are special scanners such as planetary scanners that support some unique scenarios. They allow the scanning of fragile old books or documents by touching only a few parts of it and can scan it even when the book is partially open.

Smartphone Scanners: Smartphones with high-resolution cameras and appropriate applications act as scanners. Various applications are available for different purposes. Document scanning apps and photo scanning apps are available separately.

The Features Of Scanners

The performance of a scanner depends on its components and the features they offer. Along with various scanners, you also need to have an in-depth idea about each of their qualities to choose a perfect scanner suitable for your use.

Scanning Resolution

You can find two types of scanner-related resolutions, namely optical and interpolated. Optical resolution decides the quality of the scan, and interpolated resolution allows further enhancements while editing. Dots per inch (dpi) is the unit of resolution.

The higher the resolution better is the capture. Also, note that a scanner with high resolution can produce better images at a similar resolution when compared with a lower resolution scanner. Meaning a 600 dpi of a 1200 dpi scanner is better looking than a 600 dpi from a 600-dpi scanner.

Check out a simple outline of various optical resolutions useful for each requirement.

300 dpi – regular document scanning

600 dpi – high-quality documents and normal photos

1200 dpi – graphic works of high demand and high-level photography

3200 dpi for films and slides

Scanning Sizes

Scanners come in large and small sizes. Here we are not speaking of the actual size of the scanner but the capability of the paper size it can scan.

Large Size Scanners: Larger scanners are capable of scanning larger documents such as A3to A0 depending on their width. Documents larger than A0 are scanned by folding and piecing them together. Professionals such as architects, industrial people require to scan large-sized plans and use them the most. Even art preservation, CAD conversion is possible using these scanners.

Small-Size Scanners: When all you need is A4 or letter-sized document scanning, these are the best types of scanners. Most home and office used scanners are small size scanners. However, be noted that the legal-sized paper needs some tweaks while using these scanners, and be prepared to learn how to edit and join the documents. Anything below A4 size is also easily scannable with the help of a carrier.

Scanning Speed

Scanners work at varied speed ranges depending on their type. High-resolution scanning takes more time, and lower resolutions are made at a quicker speed. The speed of a scanner is measured in pages per minute – ppm and images per minute – ipm.

Advanced duplex scanners offer the highest speed as they can scan two sides in a go, meaning half the usual scanner with an automatic document feeder. Though each scanner has varied speeds, this is a general overview.

Color Depth

Excellent color depth is offered by scanners having good TLDR value that provides vivid colors, vibrant hues, and well-displaying gradients. If you need to scan photos, then you need a higher color depth of up to 48-bit.

On the contrary, you only need to scan black and white documents, then a color depth of 24-bit to 8 bit is enough. If you also need to scan color documents and standard photos, then anywhere from 24-bit to 36-bit is sufficient.

Operating System Compatibility

As the operating systems are updated from time to time, you need to ensure that the scanner you are purchasing is compatible with the latest operating system. Otherwise, you risk purchasing a non-compatible piece of equipment that won’t work with your system.

Hence cross-check thoroughly and do not end up with a brand-new scanner that you cannot use. Scanners are not updated as frequently as operating systems, and older models may not always be well-suited with the current Windows 10 OS or the latest Mac versions.


Modern scanners have USB connectivity or wireless connectivity to produce a digital output. USB connectivity is suitable for connecting with your PC. You can also connect your scanner to your other devices using USB dongles ranging from A to C, depending on your device ports.

However, it is best to opt for wireless connectivity as it offers you complete flexibility. Yes, it comes with an added cost, but it is worth it owing to the convenience they provide. Scanners such as Doxie Go SE and Brother ADS-1700W can connect wirelessly over Wi-Fi.

Two-Sided (Duplex) Scanning

Dual side-scanning enables you to scan the paper on both sides. This feature helps you reduce the scanning time and increases your convenience. Scan your paper on both sides without the need for your intervention. The double sensors on both sides of the paper make it possible.

Software Compatibility

Some scanners come with pre-installed software, which eliminates your need to purchase them separately. Make sure the software comes with the most commonly required applications such as optical character recognition (OCR), photo editing, text indexing, searchable PDF creation, and similar features depending on your need.

Even if you opt for a separate scan software, you need to check all the above mentioned and its compatibility with your scanner. Also, check if your scanner has the required hardware to support the features you need since you cannot utilize them without proper equipment even though the software provides them.

The software ensures ease of use for scanning and handling the scanned document. Also, a few API’s such as TWAIN, provide excellent support that is compatible with most scanners.

Maximum Paper Capacity

Automatic paper feeding capacity decides how many times you need to attend the scanner for scanning a set of, say, 1000 papers. If your paper capacity is 100, you need to feed it 10 times, but if it is 500, you only need to feed it twice.

Imagine the same for 10000 papers every day, which gives you 100 times and 20 times. Hence having apt paper capacity makes a lot of difference. Having this feature apt to your needs is essential.

Memory Card Slot

Few scanners feature a memory card option that allows you to scan the documents directly without connecting to a device. This feature gives you complete freedom, always having access to a device to scan.

Using this facility, you can scan anywhere with just the scanner without any device, making it a truly portable device. You can simply transfer the files to your computer when you have access to it.

The Feeder Type

You can feed the paper manually or automatically, depending on the scanner type. Manual feeding requires you to feed one after the other paper, which is tedious and time taking for a large number of papers.

Automatic document feeders take in the papers from the set of papers placed in the designated tray without any assistance. As this happens automatically, the process is quicker and requires less attention.

What Kind of Media Will You Scan?

You can scan photos, negatives, receipts, documents, 3 D models, business cards, and many such items using a suitable scanner. You need to know which type of scanner is ideal for scanning what kind of object.

Photo Scanner

Portable photo scanners available offer flexibility but do not have enough quality output when compared to flatbed scanners. These versatile scanners offer useful photo scanning. Flatbed scanners to sheetfed scanners, there are many types of scanners helpful for this purpose. The choice of scanner for photos depends on the kind of media you aim to scan.

Flatbed scanners are suitable for both new prints and old prints, but you need to do them one by one. However, you get good quality output. On the other hand, sheetfed scanners offer speed but do not offer quality as good as flatbed scanners. Also, older photos may get stuck or damaged when used in the scanner.

Another consideration is flatbed scanner can scan almost all regular-sized photos where size option is limited in sheetfed scanners. You can see more about photo scanners on Amazon here

Document Scanner

Document scanners are adept at handling papers, photos, receipts, and similar documents efficiently. Depending on your need, you may require a regular document scanner or a high-volume scanner. If you intend to keep a record of your house bills and your kid’s academic records, then a simple and cheap model scanner will suffice.

However, if you plan to digitize thousands of office records from decades, then a high-volume scanner is apt. Furthermore, if your documents need OCR recognition, you need to check for these advanced features with your scanner. Having this feature helps you to keep your documents formattable, editable, organized, and searchable.

Check the OS compatibility as many scanners are compatible with Windows, but only a few are compatible with Mac. However, third-party drivers are available though you may need to compromise a bit on functionality.

Film, Slide, And Transparency Scanners

Though you have dedicated film and slide scanners, they are not capable of scanning any other types of documents due to their small size and are also costly. Films and slides need transparency adapters for scanning, and usually, flatbed scanners have this facility.

TPA and TPU type of transparency adapters are used for this purpose. They are nothing but a backlight situated in the scanner cover. Unless you need high-resolution film or slide scanners for specific purposes and regularly, they are not worth investing specifically.

Business Card Scanners

Business cards are an essential part of business networking. By digitizing them, you will never lose contact or any information related to the present on the business card, such as their address, phone number, email, and website. The picture of a business card is not equal to a scanned copy as it is not searchable.

Though it may contain all the required information, you still need to go through every picture manually, which is time taking. Hence you can scan business cards using a portable business card scanner that converts the text into a searchable text.

Which Scanner Best Suits Me?

You might be considering a scanner for a particular purpose. Below listed uses will give you an idea of the types of scanners that serve specific purposes.

General Home/Office Users

Usually, home and office users require a scanner for scanning necessary receipts, documents, family photos, books, magazines, film slides, and similar tasks. All these tasks are easy to achieve using a flatbed scanner.

As it is capable of scanning most general requirements mentioned above successfully and the home users and small offices mostly prefer budget-friendly these scanners.

If you need these scanned pictures for using them on your blog or any other similar purpose for displaying on the web, you need a 300-dpi resolution. However, if your needs are diverse such as scanning a real object, then a higher-level scanner with CCD sensors are required.

Business/Office Users (Or For High-Volume Scanning)

Businesses with high volume scanning require ADF, i.e., automatic document feeder for swift completion of tasks. ADF enables productivity and helps you scan hundreds of papers without supervision.

Scanner having a 600-dpi resolution is enough for typical business needs. The higher the speed more efficient the scanner is. Duplex scanners and ADF function increase the speed of scanning and play an essential role in high volume scanning.

Photographic Professionals (Or For High-Quality Film/Slide/Negative Scanning)

Scanners with 3.3 dynamic range are found in the dedicated film scanners. They are optimized for negatives, slides, film, and transparency scanning. If you require professional-grade results, you need to opt for these dedicated scanners, but they are costly and have limited use.

You cannot use them for routine paper scanning or photos. These dedicated scanners provide excellent results and are apt for professionals.

How to Choose a Document Scanner?

Document scanning is the most useful function of a scanner. A scanned document is editable and searchable. Digital editing saves paper, and searchability saves time. Hence it is necessary to digitize your documents, and for that, you need to know how to choose the document scanner.

Types Of Documents

Documents are of various sizes, and specific scanners are capable of scanning only a few sizes. If you require to scan a lot of A4 documents, a small-sized scanner will suffice. However, if you require to scan a larger size, then you may need to use the folio-mode that will be fine for few documents, but if all your documents are large, then you need to opt for a large-sized scanner with the appropriate page size.

Dynamic Range

The optical density, also known as dynamic range, lets you know how much of an image quality a scanner can offer. It is represented on a logarithmic scale of 0 to 4, with 0.0 being perfect white and 4.0 as ideal black. This measure indicates the range of colors a scanner can display.

When you consider the difference between the two numbers in the range, the higher the resulting number, the greater the quality. As the higher number represents the darkest, the scanner can scan, and the lower is the lightest.

Recommended higher dynamic range

2.8 to 3.2 – Home and office use

3.3 – slides, films, and transparent uses

3.4 – negatives


If you do not require scanning of many sheets, then you can go for flatbed scanners. However, if you frequently scan large sheets of papers, then having an appropriately capable scanner is essential. Also, a scanner with high sheet capacity can scan high volumes without supervision using ADF.

How to Choose a Photo Scanner?

Though photo scanners seem irrelevant in the digital photography age, they are still required for one good reason. You still have old memories that are in printed format which need digitization to last for generation to come.

Speed: If you have a large number of photos for digitization and require average quality, then you can opt for automatic feeders. They scan your photos, even if you have heaps of them.

Quality: If you require a high-quality outcome for professional photography, the flatbed scanners with higher dpi are apt. They can also scan films along with prints and offer top-notch results.

Resolution: High resolution gives you better scanning results as more colors are captured. Even the depth of the image is improved with increasing resolution.

How To Choose A Film Or Slide Scanner?

Check the scanning resolution, color depth, and the Dmax of the scanner. Apart from these general specifications, film scanners have specific needs as below:

Automation: This feature helps in handling the film automatically for auto-exposure correction, recognizing the frame, and color correction.

Ease-Of-Use: You must operate them efficiently without any requirement of support of other extra equipment.

Speed: they should be able to scan along with providing fair resolution. Slow scanning will reduce your productivity, especially if you are doing it professionally.

Memory Bank: Saving the scanned files to the internal memory bank allows you to retrieve them later without connecting to a system.

How to Choose a Business Card Scanners?

Though many people use digital cards these days, some businesses still use physical cards, especially at networking events and these scanners come in handy to save your business contacts. Once captured, these digital business cards last forever, unlike the printed cards that get lost easily.

Compact: They must be compact enough to scan your business card as and when you receive them. They should be portable and easy to carry along comfortably for converting the business cards into digital format.

Searchable Text: The digitalized card should be converted into searchable text. Having images is again tedious work to search through when you require a specific person or business contact. Hence the scanned business card must convert into the searchable text to find the necessary record in seconds.

Scanner FAQs:

Though all scanners do in common is capturing an image of how they do, it is different. The quality of the output depends on several factors. Check out the below answered questions for knowing how each factor influences the working of a scanner and which one suits you better.

What is the importance of scanners?

This device captured a digital form of information that is further manipulatable using several methods. You can create several hard and soft copies from this digital image. Thus, copies are used for various purposes, such as photo editing, text recognition, image recognition, and similar uses. Storing essential documents by digitizing them using a scanner keeps them safe.

Which brand of scanner should you choose?

There are a handful of brands that offer you the best scanners. Each brand is good at specific types of scanners. Panasonic’s document scanner, Canon’s flatbed scanner, HP’s printer scanner, Epson’s and Brother’s sheet feed scanners are the current best brands of scanners. They offer top-notch quality in the best budget for the functions they offer.

What is the optimal resolution size?

Usually, scanners with 600 dpi to 1200 dpi are sufficient for everyday scanning purposes. Unless you need to scan photos or artwork, you can safely opt for these resolutions. However, you will need 2000 dpi and above if you need to restore older photos regularly. Depending on your optimal resolution changes, these are the two most essential standards where you can start with to compare your needs.

What is the purpose of a scanner?

Scanners are mostly used for digitizing photos, documents, and printed graphics. These digitized copies are useful for archiving them for the long-term or viewing them on a computer. Sometimes you can also produce editable or searchable documents of printed or handwritten copies, otherwise impossible. They save space, store your sensitive information securely, and keeps your receipts safe.

Conventional Scanners Vs. Smart Scanners?

Conventional scanners allow you to connect the scanner to the system using a cable and provide output in the form of a pdf. However, smart scanners can perform a lot more than that, from sending the document as fax to storing the output to a network folder. You can email, store in USB, scan to your devices, or store the result in your cloud services.

Can I scan slides on my flatbed scanner?

Yes, you can scan slides using your flatbed scanner using the transparency adapters. These adapters provide a backlight that illuminates the slide well enough to capture the image. Also, there are specific DIY tips on the internet, which are worth trying if you have the time and patience. One of the tips suggests making a white paper pyramid and placing the slide at one end of the pyramid.

You are creating a light diffuser to allow maximum light to pass through the slide for capturing the darker parts and lighter parts of it. When you place the pyramid under the scanner lid, you cannot close it completely; hence you need to perform this action in a completely dark room for it to work.

Compare CCD vs. CIS Scanning Technologies?

The contact image sensor (CIS) is small in size with a more straightforward mechanism and lower price than a charge-coupled device (CCD). However, CCD sensors provide you with better depth-of-field that drastically improves the color quality than CIS. Meaning crumpled paper or open book in-between space is captured well using CCD technology-based scanners than CIS as you get a blurred image with the latter.

If you are ready to spend a little more and have space to spare, then CCD sensor-based scanners are the best. In short, CCD is suitable to use with art and photographs, whereas CIS is apt for technical drawings.

What is the best way to scan old photos?

Though many people nowadays capture old photos with their mobile phones, would you do it the same way even if you know there is a better way to do it? If your motto was to share a picture instantly, then it might suffice but if you want to preserve the memory in its high quality, then scanning the image is the right way to save it.

Using a flatbed scanner and scanning them one by one is the most reliable scanning method. Even though this method is time taking it gives excellent results. Make sure you wipe the glass of the scanner clean before you scan. Also, wipe the photos gently for removing any dust present on them, taking care not to damage the photos. Now scan them with high resolution and in color.


If you are stuck between choosing a scanner of different features, always opt for a scanner with better qualities even though it is pricey. It will pay you off in terms of performance, and its advanced features will serve you for a more extended period than the already dwindling models.

You might dream of a paperless office or have several sensitive information that needs to be preserved safely. Whatever is your need having a scanner handy will always prove to be useful. Many admit that once they have a scanner, they found more uses for it and used it more than they thought they would. All scanners on Amazon work pretty well. Just make sure it fits your needs.


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