The best scanner for documents and photos is becoming increasingly sought-after, as more and more of us work from home. Whether you have a stack of reports to scan in, a bunch of receipts to digitize, or a box of photos to convert, a device that can do so quickly and easily is worth its weight in gold.
Of course, most printers incorporate a scanner nowadays, and if that's what you're looking for, check out our guide to the best all-in-one printers. Similarly, if you want a scanner for negatives or slides, then check out our guide to the best film scanners. But if it's just a scanner you're after for documents or photographic prints, then how do you choose the best one?
Well, firstly you need to decide if you need a traditional flatbed scanner or a sheet-feed scanner, which lets you load up several items to scan at once, via an automatic document feeder (ADF). Alternatively, you could choose a hybrid model that features both a flatbed and a sheet-feed scanner, such as numbers 5 and 6 on our list.
Also consider where you'll be using your scanner. If it's primarily in one place, such as your home office, then the desktop scanners on our list will be of most interest. However, if you need a scanner primarily for traveling, you'll want to check out the more compact, portable scanners further down our list.
Other factors to take into account include how the scanner will connect to your computer (most do so via USB but some also offer a Wi-Fi connection), whether you want double-sided scanning (aka duplex), what kind of items you need to scan, how fast you want your scanner to work, how many items you want to load at one time, and what level of resolution you need.
We've listed all these statistics and more for each model, to make it easy to pick the best scanner for documents and photos for your specific needs.
• See also: Best VHS to DVD converters
Best scanner for documents & photos in 2021
Best desktop scanners
If you often have to digitize long reports or other weighty documents, you don’t want to be scanning them one page at a time. 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. In which case, we recommend the Epson WorkForce ES-500.
With a capacity of 50 sheets, it’s going to save you a lot of time, especially as it can scan both side of each page if you wish. It also 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 works quickly, too, zipping through a steady 35 pages per minute.
Admittedly, there are other scanners on the market that can beat some or all of these specs, but they tend to be much more expensive, and are overkill for most people. If you don't need the wi-fi, you can also find otherwise identical, and less expensive, Epson WorkForce ES-400 that does without the wireless capability.
Got a ton of printed photos you need to digitize, and don’t want to spend days and weeks doing so? Then our pick for you is the Epson FastFoto FF-680W. With a capacity of 36 photo sheets, it’s great for processing large stacks of old photo prints, and the resulting digital 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 it scans, with 300dpi images taking just one second - great for getting a family archive into the internet age. The scanner is also cleverly designed to avoid tearing, creasing or otherwise damaging your valued prints in the process.
Don’t think of the Epson FastFoto FF-680W as just for photos, though. It also does a good job of scanning all kinds of documents, too. For these purposes, 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.
Keen on scanning photos but want something a little more budget-friendly than the Epson FastFoto FF-680W? Then the Plustek ePhoto Z300 is the model for you.
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 pro photographers, it’s certainly good enough for the average person’s 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.
Scanning film negatives and slides requires specialized equipment that’s normally very expensive. And if you've got a lot of money to spend, check out our roundup of the best film scanners of 2021. But if you haven't, the Epson Perfection V600 is a great value choice. 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.
A sheet-feeder device is great for when you have a stack of papers you need scanned. But not everything can be scanned in this way. Let’s say, for example, you need to scan the spread-out pages of a book or magazine page, or a plastic-coated card, anything that’s laminated, or valuable and delicate material you can’t trust to a feeder mechanism.
The good news is, 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.
Admittedly it’s not 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. Well, as long as you’re using Windows, as it’s currently not available for Mac OS.
If you’re an Apple user looking for a flatbed/sheet-feeder combo scanner, then we’d 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.
Short of space, and looking for a fast-working scanner that won’t take up too much room? Then the Canon DR-C225W II is your ideal buy. Thanks to its slim profile, it can fit even on cramped office desks or customer retail points. With its Wi-Fi connectivity, there’s minimal clutter from wires too. 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.
Best portable scanners
Another small and portable scanner, the Canon P-208II is the perfect choice for the business traveller looking to scan documents, photos and more while on the go. Only slightly bigger than a standard ruler, this light device slips easily into any bag or briefcase, 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.
Looking for a document scanner that’s super-small and light? Then you won’t find anything more diminutive than the Epson WorkForce ES-50. Weighing just half a pound, you can take it practically anywhere.
This does require some compromise: 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, the 600dpi resolution should be more than sufficient for most needs, and if scanning on the go is what interests you, it’s certainly the most portable device you’ll find. Note that it’s USB-powered, so no external power supply is needed.
Finally, if you're just looking for a simple, compact document scanner, then Brother DS-640 comes in at a very affordable price. 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. On the positive side, it’s lovely and portable, at less than a foot long and weighing just over a pound. And the accompanying app allows you to scan directly to PC, network, cloud services and email easily.
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