Flatbed scanners are the most common type of desktop scanner. They're also the most versatile and are ideal for multipurpose use. The combination of a scanbed and a top-opening lid can accommodate bulky objects that won't go through a document feeder. Flatbed scanners can handle both documents and photo prints, but you'll have to pay a bit more for one that can scan photographic slides and negatives. As long as your scanning needs are modest, experts say there's no need to spend more than $200 on a general purpose flatbed model.
The best flatbed scanners combine great performance, ease of use, and a wide range of features, along with a useful software package. Overall, the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II (Est. $170) is the best value we've found in a multipurpose scanner. It's nearly identical to its well-reviewed predecessor, the CanoScan 9000F, in both looks and performance, but reports say that the new Mark II model is a bit faster.
Despite its relatively low price tag, the CanoScan 9000F Mark II can scan photos and artwork at resolutions of up to 4,800 dots per inch (dpi). For film, its maximum resolution is an even more impressive 9,600 dpi. Reviewer Lizz Schumer of TheWirecutter.com describes images produced by the CanoScan as clean and beautiful. She notes that the scanner automatically sharpens images and correct colors, and with a little more work, it's possible to edit out dust, scratches, and "gutter shadows" (the dark areas that appear between pages when scanning a book).
The CanoScan 9000F Mark II is also the fastest printer in TheWirecutter.com's tests. It takes about 5 seconds to scan a black-and-white page at 300 dpi, 11 seconds for a full-color page, and only 6 seconds for a small color photo. The scanner offers the choice of an auto Scan mode, which recognizes, crops, scans, and saves an image with a single click, or advanced mode, which lets users make additional adjustments to brightness and contrast before scanning.
User reviews at Amazon.com and B&H Photo back up Schumer's findings. Owners say the CanoScan 9000F Mark II is easy to set up, delivers clear images with accurate color, and warms up almost instantly. However, not all users are happy with the Canon software package. Some say the ScanGear program, used for adjusting pictures in manual mode, does a poor job of making fine adjustments such as color balance and exposure, and others found the My Image Garden program for organizing and storing photos very awkward to use. Users who were familiar with the original CanoScan 9000F were disappointed that the Mark II version no longer comes bundled with Adobe Photoshop Elements software, a $100 value.
Although the CanoScan 9000F Mark II produces very good images, its didn't have the best image quality in TheWirecutter.com's tests. That honor belongs to the Epson Perfection V550 Photo (Est. $170). This Epson scanner's features are fairly similar to the Canon's; it can scan film, slides, and negatives as well as prints, and it has digital image correction and enhancement (ICE) for editing out dust and scratches. Also, like the Canon, it has an LED bulb for instantaneous warm-up. However, its optical resolution of 6,400 dpi makes it capable of reproducing photo prints even more faithfully. Also, unlike the Canon, the Epson Perfection V550 can upload scans directly to Facebook and other cloud-based services.
Unlike the CanoScan, the V550 doesn't automatically touch up images to make them clearer. This means its images are incredibly accurate, but the downside is that any necessary adjustments have to be made by hand. Moreover, Schumer found the V550 harder to use. The first unit she tried never worked at all, despite hours of fiddling and a call to customer service. Once she got a working replacement, she began to have problems with the software, which she said was "very confusing" and "required a lot of trial and error," even when she followed the instructions in the manual.
Users at Amazon.com have similar complaints. Several say Epson's quality control is poor, noting that they received scanners with dust on the inside of the scanbed. They also note that the digital ICE software works only with transparencies, not with prints, and Epson's technical support is incredibly unhelpful. However, they admit that the scanner's image quality is great, particularly for negatives, and setup is easy. Both the Epson and the Canon are backed by a one-year limited warranty.