If you need to turn handwritten or printed documents into text documents, images or certain objects, you are going to need a scanner. With this device, you can easily turn your printed or handwritten documents into a digital file format, which will allow you to send, print, or modify these documents on your computer.

While a scanner is certainly a useful tool, finding the best one for your specific needs can be a tricky task. There are many different types, brands and features, which can make finding the right one for your needs a bit challenging. To help you on your quest for finding the best scanner, we have assembled this handy buyer’s guide. In this guide, you will find a wealth of information related to scanners that you can use to find the best one for your needs, including the different types of scanners that are available, the factors that you should take into consideration when choosing one, the different features that are available, and the best brands. With the information presented in this buyer’s guide, you will be well prepared to find the best scanner to suit your particular needs.

Types of Scanners

There are seven main types of scanners, which include:

Each type of scanner offers different advantages. For that reason, it is very important to understand the difference between each of these seven types so that you can choose the best one for your specific needs. To better understand the different types of scanners, please keep on reading.

The Flatbed Scanner

A flatbed scanner is comprised of a glass pane and a moving optical CIS or CCD array. The bright light is located underneath the glass pane, which illuminates the image on the printed or handwritten document that is scanned. The document is placed on the glass pane, and a sensor and light source move across it to scan the document, creating a digital copy. If you are going to be scanning thicker documents, such as the pages from a book, the flatbed scanner is ideal, as it can handle thicker items, as well as thin items.

The Sheet Fed Scanner

As you might imagine from the name, a sheet fed scanner operates by inserting, or feeding, a document into either a horizontal or vertical slot. The sheet fed scanner is comprised of a sheet feeder, a scanning module and a calibration sheet. Unlike a flatbed scanner, which features a light source that moves across the glass pane, a sheet fed scanner is stationary. The document moves through the scanner instead of the light source moving. The sheet fed scanner is ideal for scanning single page documents, as it cannot scan thick objects, such as a book, so keep that in mind if you plan on scanning anything that is thick.

The Handheld Scanner

A handheld scanner is, as the name suggests, a small scanner that can be held in your hand. It is a small, manual scanning device, which is moved over the object that is being scanned. Instead of placing the item to be scanned inside the scanner, as is done with a flatbed and a sheet fed scanner, with a handheld scanner, the device is scanned over the document. Because they are small and lightweight, the handheld scanner is very portable and can easily be used anywhere; however, the major drawback is that you need to have a very steady hand when operating it, as even the slightest movement could distort the images that it produces.

The Drum Scanner

A drum scanner utilizes a photomultiplier tube to scan images instead of a charged couple device, which is usually used in a flatbed or sheet fed scanner. Photomultiplier tubes are vacuum tubes that are extremely sensitive to light. With a drum scanner, the image is mounted on the glass tube, and when a beam of light moves across the image, the photomultiplier tube picks up the reflection of the image and processes it. Drum scanners provide a very high resolution, which is their major advantage. The downside of the drum scanner is, however, its large size and its higher price tag.

The Photo Scanner

As the name suggests, the photo scanner is primarily used to scan photos. Thanks to its high resolution and color depth, it is ideal for scanning clear images of photographs. The photo scanner is ideal for digitizing slides and film negatives. Flatbed scanners can also scan photographs; however, the images that they produce are not as clear or as high quality as the images that are provided by a dedicated photo scanner. Some photo scanners also boast built in software, which can help to restore and clean old photographs.

The Film Scanner

The film scanner is used to scan photographic films directly into a computer, which gives the photographer direct control over certain aspects of the image that is being scanned and the image that it will create, such as cropping and the ratio of the original image on the film. Some film scanners boast specialized software, which helps to minimize scratches and improve the quality of color on the film. Basic film scanners usually accept 35 mm film strips, while higher end film scanners often boast interchangeable film loaders, which allow them to accept 35 mm or 120 mm strips, as well as individual slides.

The Portable Scanner

This type of scanner is the smallest scanner of all. In fact, portable scanners are as small as PDAs, which makes them very easy to transport, as they can be tucked into a pocket. The portable scanner is an excellent tool for scanning text documents; however, their major drawback is that they are limited in terms of their resolution. A portable scanner cannot be used for scanning photographs or for other applications that require high resolution scanning.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Scanner

There are a number of factors that you should take into consideration when purchasing a scanner. These factors include the items that you want to scan, the type of resolution you need, the color depth and the price, among other things. By taking these factors into consideration, you will be able to choose the best scanner for your specific needs.

Here is a look at some of the factors that we think are the most important to consider when choosing a scanner.

What will you be scanning?

The type of scanner you need largely depends on what you will be scanning. The most practical of all scanners is the flatbed scanner, as they can easily scan a number of documents. They are also more versatile than scanners that are geared toward a specific function, and they tend to be the least expensive, too. If you plan on using your scanner to create digital copies of loose page documents, a sheet fed scanner may be a better option for you, as they are specifically designed for this task. Knowing what you want to scan is the most important factor to take into consideration when choosing the best scanner for your needs.

What type of resolution will you need?

If you are going to be scanning plain text documents or documents that feature basic graphics, then the resolution the scanner offers isn’t really a big concern. For these purposes, a scanner that offers a 200 dpi is suitable; most new scanners offer resolutions of at least 600 dpi, so this should be fine for your needs. However, if you require a more detailed resolution for scanning larger objects, or for objects that boast detailed images, than you are going to want a scanner that offers a higher resolution. For these purposes, a scanner that offers a dpi of at least 4,800 is what you should be on the lookout for.

What type of color depth do you need?

Color depth refers to the measurement of how many variations of colors the scanner can pick up. Generally, color resolution isn’t a huge concern if you are going to be scanning documents; however, if you are going to be scanning photos or drawings, the color resolution the scanner offers is an important factor to consider.

How much will you be scanning?

If you are going to be scanning a lot of documents on a consistent basis, an automatic sheet fed scanner may be the best choice for you, as they allow you to quickly and easily scan single sheet documents with ease. Look for a scanner that offers a capacity that is greater than the number of pages you will typically be scanning so that you can be sure that it will accommodate the amount of pages you wish to scan.

Will you require duplex scanning?

Duplex, or two sided scanning, is another factor that you should consider. You can scan one side and turn the document over to scan the other side; however, if you are going to be doing a lot of two sided scanning, then this can become cumbersome. Instead, you may want to look for a scanner that can scan two sides of a document simultaneously.

The Price

Price is another important factor to consider. The larger the scanner and the more features it offers, the more expensive it will likely be. Keep this in mind as you are shopping, as you don’t want to spend more on your scanner than you are comfortable with.

Features that Scanners Offer

Scanners can boast a number of features, and these features are intended to improve the efficiency of the device, and make the job of scanning easier. As mentioned above, you should know that the more features a scanner offers, the more expensive it will likely be. You want to make sure that you understand what the different features are and what they do so that you can determine whether or not they are something that you need, or if they are something you can live without.

Here’s a look at some of the most common features offered on scanners.

Jam Free Operation

The best scanners for document scanning feature a high capacity feed tray, which allows you to place a stack of pages on the device, set the scanner and let it do its work. In order to avoid paper getting jammed in the device, look for a scanner that features a jam free operation so you can avoid issues, like crooked transfer of images.

High Capacity Scanning and Processing Speed

This is a valuable feature on document scanners. It allows the pages to go through the scanner as quickly as possible while still providing good results. Do keep in mind, though, that the higher the resolution the scanner creates, the slower the processing speed will be.

Software Packages

Software can significantly improve the value of a scanner. While you can purchase software packages separately from your scanner, they are an additional cost. To save money, look for a scanner that comes complete with a software package.

A decent warranty

The best quality scanners will come with a warranty that is a minimum of 1 year. This warranty will protect your investment. Should anything happen to the scanner during the span of the warranty, you could have it repaired or replaced, or you could have your money reimbursed.

Best Scanner Brands

There are several manufacturers that produce scanners, so it can be tricky to determine which company offers the best product. We found that the following brands offer the best quality scanners.


Fujitsu offers a variety of high quality scanners that boast a number of handy features. They produce outstanding results.


A camera company, Cannon produces several different types of scanners, which are easy to operate, offer a number of features, and produce outstanding results.


Brother is another producer of high quality scanners. They also offer a number of different types of scanners, which boast a number of features. They are easy to use and produce outstanding results.