The best scanner for documents and photos is well worth investing in. Nowadays, more and more services can only be accessed digitally. Which means there are more and more situations in which we need to scan things like bank letters, passports, signed documents or proof of address in order to get anything done online. And especially if you run a business, you'll find a fast and reliable scanner will pay for itself over time.
To help you find one, we've listed the best scanners on the market today for this article. But how do you choose the right one for you?
First ask yourself how much scanning you're likely to need. If it's just the occasional photo or receipt, then you'll be best off with a traditional flatbed scanner, where you lay down and scan one sheet at a time. If you need to do more, though, a sheet-feed scanner will be better, as this type lets you scan several pages at once via an automatic document feeder (ADF). Alternatively, you could opt for a hybrid scanner, aka combo scanner, which combines both a flatbed and a sheet-feed scanner in one.
Secondly, think about whether you'll need to carry your scanner to different places, or if it'll just stay on one desk. In the latter case, you'll want a desktop scanner. However, if you travel a lot, a portable scanner may be better.
See also: Best VHS to DVD converters
Also think about how you want a scanner to connect to your computer (via USB, Wi-Fi, or both); how fast you'll need your scanner to work? Finally, do you want to speed things up further with double-sided scanning (aka duplex), and what level of resolution do you need in your scans?
Meanwhile, if you want a scanner and a printer in one, rather than a dedicated device, read our guide to best all-in-one printers. If you want a scanner just for negatives or slides, check out our roundup of the best film scanners. And if you need to scan books, see our list of best book scanners.
Best scanner for documents & photos in 2023
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Best desktop scanners
If you don't need a Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection to your printer, and are happy with using USB, then the Canon imageFORMULA R40 has a lot to recommend it. Print speeds of 40ppm/80ipm are impressive, and you can stick a whole 60 sheets into the automatic document feeder at one time. You also get single-pass scanning for duplex pages, and multiple output options.
The 600dpi resolution isn't the most impressive on this list, and there's no touchscreen. But if you have a lot of documents to scan, as quickly as possible, this is a great choice. For more details, see our Canon imageFORMULA R40 review. The newer Canon imageFORMULA RS40 is very similar, but adds the option to scan stacks of photographic prints.
Need to digitize long reports, or lots of individual documents? Then you want a scanner with an automatic document feeder (ADF), which allows you to add a bunch of pages at once, and leave the scanner to get on with it. If so, we'd recommend the Epson WorkForce ES-500WII.
If you don't need Wi-Fi connectivity, though, you may prefer the otherwise identical (and cheaper) Epson WorkForce ES-400 or the Canon imageFORMULA R40 (below).
It comes with Wi-Fi connectivity, scans text accurately, and reproduces all kinds of media well, from business cards to photos, thanks to its high resolution of 1200dpi (dots per inch). It has a capacity of 50 sheets, so you can leave a big report to scan without constantly reloading pages. And it can also scan both side of each page if you wish.
It works quickly, too, zipping through a steady 35 pages per minute. Other scanners on the market can beat some or all of these specs, but they're more expensive, and overkill for most people's needs.
Read the full Epson ES-500W II review.
The Epson FastFoto FF-680W is a great option if you need to scan lots of photos. With a capacity of 36 photo sheets, it’s great for processing large stacks of old prints, and the resulting images are high quality.
How high quality is up to you: you can choose between modes for easy sharing (300dpi), archiving (600dpi) and enlarging (1200dpi). The lower the dots-per-inch, the faster the device scans, with 300dpi images taking just one second; great for getting a family archive into the digital age. The scanner is also cleverly designed to avoid tearing, creasing or otherwise damaging your valued prints in the process.
The Epson FastFoto FF-680W isn't just for photos, though. It also does a good job of scanning all kinds of documents, a you can load up 100 standard sheets into the feeder at once. We also love the plastic guides for various widths of paper, with marks for 4x6in and 5x7in photos.
See our full Epson FastFoto FF-680W review
If the Epson Perfection V850 Pro, listed above, is too rich for your tastes, then Epson Perfection V600 is a great alternative. For a quite affordable price, this flatbed scanner allows you to scan a variety of film types. And while you won’t get quite the same quality as the top-range scanners, its maximum resolution of 6400dpi is still pretty impressive.
It handles just about any size and format, including 35mm filmstrips, mounted slides and full panoramic medium-format film, and comes with two film holders to make positioning everything very straightforward. It also boasts digital image correction and enhancement (ICE) tech, enabling you to remove dust and scratches from your scanned images, and a resizable preview window so you can check everything in minute detail.
If you're looking for a small scanner that can easily fit on a busy desk, here's one of our top recommendations. Not only is it nicely compact, it offers fast speeds of 40ppm (the equivalent of 3.5 seconds per sheet) and some sophisticated features.
These include smart facial recognition, which allows it to recognizes faces on ID cards and passports. It can also get data directly from the machine readable zone (MRZ) on passports so names, numbers, and nationality can be extracted automatically.
More broadly, this scanner includes an automated document feeder (ADF) and offers active skew correction, to minimize paper jams and incomplete scans.
If you need to scan a lot photos but are short on cash, we recommend the Plustek ePhoto Z300. This sheet-fed scanner is geared mainly towards converting printed photos to digital form, and does a very fine job of it.
While the maximum resolution of 600dpi might not be enough for pros, it’s certainly good enough for family snapshots. And the feed mechanism is gentle on your prints, so you won’t need to worry about them being damaged.
Unlike the pricier models on our list, you don’t get double-sided printing, there’s no Wi-Fi, and you have to feed each print in one at a time. But it is easy to use. It’s very affordable. And it comes with some decent image enhancement functions, allowing you to quickly enhance and restore old faded images with a click of your mouse. You can scan documents, too, although its capabilities here are limited, so you wouldn’t want to buy this scanner for that purpose alone.
If you want to scan photos at a high resolution, and are happy using a traditional flatbed scanner with USB connectivity (but no Wi-Fi), here's a great choice. The CanoScan 9000F Mark II boasts a super-high 9600x9600 dpi resolution for photographic film and slides, and a still-impressive 4800×4800dpi for photo and documents. You can also scan negatives and filmstrips using a built-in adaptor.
Note that this is a flatbed, so you have to laboriously scan photos one after the other. On the plus side, things are sped up a little thanks to the zero warm-up time and one-touch operation. And each A4 color photo takes around seven seconds to scan at 300 dpi, which isn't half bad. Plus you can use auto image correction to removes dust and scratches and correct fading in your pictures.
See our full CanoScan 9000F Mark II review.
If you need to scan slides and negatives, as well as prints and documents, the Epsom V850 Pro is our top pick. (If you're not bothered about prints and documents, though, turn to our guide to the best film scanners instead.)
This dual-lens scanner selects the best lens for the job each time, and scans at up to 4800dpi for photo scanning and 6400dpi for scanning film and slides. It requires virtually no warm-up time and comes with two sets of professional-quality film holders to help you scan quicker.
The V850 Pro features a high dynamic range for accurate reproduction of tonal range and gradation. It can remove dust and scratches automatically from photos and film scans. And it includes its own software to help optimise results.
You can't put everything into an automatic document feeder. For example, it's no use if you need to scan the spread-out pages of a magazine page. Or anything that’s laminated. Or, indeed, any valuable and delicate material that you just can’t trust to a feeder mechanism.
Thankfully, the Canon DR-F120 offers combines both options in one neat device. That means the document feeder is on hand when you have a stack of pages you want scanned in one go, while the flatbed is there for items that don’t fit through a feeder, or when you simply prefer that way of doing things.
Okay, this isn't the only combination sheet-feeder and flatbed scanner on the market. But with a 50-sheet capacity, 20 pages per minute, 600dpi resolution, and duplex printing, it’s the best in town. You will need a computer running Windows, though, so if you're on a Mac, skip to the next scanner on our list.
If you’re a Mac user looking for a flatbed/sheet-feeder combo scanner, we recommend the Xerox XD-COMBO, which is compatible with both Mac and Windows. This reasonably priced device offers a 20-sheet capacity, two-side printing, an impressive scanning speed of 20 page per minute (at 200dpi) and a maximum resolution of 600pi.
The Xerox XD-COMBO uses Visioneer Acuity tech to improve the visual clarity of scanned images. Its easy-to-use control panel also speeds things up, by offering one-touch scanning to any of nine presets. And the bundled software makes it easy to scan and deliver your documents directly to cloud services such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive.
If space is limited in your office, or you just like to keep things uncluttered, then the small and beautifully formed Canon DR-C225W II is our recommended buy.
Thanks to its slim profile, it can easily fit on cramped office desks or customer retail points. With its Wi-Fi connectivity, there’s minimal clutter from wires. And yet there’s no compromise on features, with a capacity of 30 sheets, scanning speeds of up to 25 pages per minute, and duplex printing all included.
If you regularly scan huge numbers of documents, including at large-format sizes, you'll love this scanner from Epson. A duplex ADF scanner with tray that holds up to 120 sheets at a time, the DS-30000 Large-Format Document Scanner can capture scans as small as 2 x 2 inches (5.08 x 5.08cm) and as large as 12 x 17 inches (30.48 x 43.18 cm). And that's not all: in long scan mode, it scan documents up to a whopping 12 x 220 inches (30.48 x 558.8 cm).
When it comes to normal letter-sized documents, it scans in both black-and-white and colour at a speedy 70 ppm in simplex mode and 140 ipm. Double-feed detection prevents missing pages from being scanned, and there's a slow mode for delicate sheets too. You can scan folded pages, plastic cards, sealed envelopes, passports, and more, and resolution goes up to 600 dpi.
The 2.7-inch touchscreen provides easy access to scan jobs, settings, and maintenance features, and you can use on-board software to turn scans into searchable PDFs. In short, this is very much the Rolls Royce option of document scanners, with a price to match. So while it would be overkill for a home office, it's a great choice for any workplace where a lot of scanning is the norm.
Best portable scanners
Need to scan documents, photos, receits and more while on the go? Then the Canon P-208II is the perfect choice. Only slightly bigger than a ruler, this light device slips easily into any bag, and yet still offers a capacity of 10 sheets and duplex printing. There’s also an optional Wi-Fi unit if you wish to wirelessly scan documents directly to your smartphone, tablet or PC, or share the scanner amongst a group of users.
This scanner is lovely and portable, folding down to a compact carrying size of just 285 x 95 x 40mm and weighing just under a kilo. And yet it can hold up to 20 sheets, which is impressive in a scanner this portable.
It comes with an auto document feeder and single-pass duplex scanning. Page lengths of between 70mm and 356mm are supported. The companion app is brilliantly simple. And there's even a separate motorized slot for business cards. For more details, read our Canon imageFORMULA R10 portable scanner review.
If you need a document scanner that’s super-light, you won’t find anything better than the Epson WorkForce ES-50. Weighing just half a pound, you can take it practically anywhere you want. It’s not suitable for photos, and you can only feed in one sheet at a time. But it is fast and accurate for what it does, and the 600dpi resolution should be more than sufficient for most needs. Note that it’s USB-powered, so no external power supply is needed.
Want a portable document scanner, and don't want to pay much for it? Then you'll be pleased by the price of the Brother DS-640. Admittedly, it's pretty basic, feature wise: it’s not suitable for photos, there’s no Wi-Fi or automatic document feeder, and the maximum resolution is fairly low at 300dpi. But on the positive side, it’s lovely and portable, at less than a foot long and weighing just over a pound. And the app makes it easy to scan directly to PC, network, cloud services and email.
What is a scanner?
A scanner, also known as an image scanner, is a device that captures images of documents, photos, and other objects and converts them into digital form. There are several types, including flatbed scanners, sheet-fed scanners, hand-held scanners and drum scanners, but they all work using similar principles. They typically connect to your computer or phone, either wirelessly or via USB.
How does a scanner work?
Scanners typically use a combination of an internal light source and a moving image sensor, such as a charge-coupled device (CCD) or a contact image sensor (CIS), to capture an image.
An internal light illuminates the object being scanned as the sensor moves across the object, taking multiple readings at different point. The sensor converts these readings into data, which is then processed to create a digital image. This can then be transferred to a computer or phone, or in the case of a multifunctional device, printed out directly.
How do I connect a scanner to my computer?
Most document scanners can be connected to a computer via USB, Wi-Fi, or Ethernet. Many will connnect wirelessly to your phone or tablet too. In the article above, we've detailed which connections are available for which models. Each company does things a little differently, though, so you'll need to follow the manufacturer's instructions to set up the connection.
What is the difference between a flatbed scanner and a sheet-fed scanner?
A flatbed scanner has a flat glass surface where you place the document, while a sheet-fed scanner can process multiple pages at once through an automatic document feeder (ADF). That makes the latter a good choice for anyone who only does the occasional scan, while someone who needs to regularly scan a lot of documents will find a sheet-feed scanner more useful.
Why are my scans coming out blurry?
Blurriness or distortion can be caused by dirty scanner glass, incorrect settings, or incorrectly placed documents. Also, if the scanner is not on a flat surface, that may lead the scanned image to be distorted. Cleaning the glass, adjusting settings, ensuring the document is flat and wrinkle-free, and moving the scanner to a flat surface can often resolve these issues. If not, you may have to return the scanner to the retailer or, if it's an old model, replace it.
What does dpi mean in relation to scanners?
Scanner resolution is measured in dots per inch (dpi), ie the number of pixels the scanner can capture. The higher the dpi, the clearer and more detailed scan of the digital image you'll get.
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