Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II
Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II

Best scanner

Experts and owners agree that the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II is one of the best all-around scanners for the money. This 9,600-dpi flatbed scanner produces sharp, accurate photo scans with excellent color quality, and it can also handle slides and negatives. Scan speeds are fast, and most owners find the scanner easy to set up and use. However, some say the bundled software is rather limited for making adjustments to photos and awkward for organizing and storing them.

$168.98
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Canon CanoScan LiDE 220
Canon CanoScan LiDE 220

Cheap flatbed scanner

The Canon CanoScan LiDE 220 offers a lot more functionality than you'd expect from an $80 scanner. It can scan documents and photos at up to 4,800 dpi, and it provides basic options for touching up images, such as color correction and dust removal. It's also lightweight and compact, and its OCR software does a good job of producing searchable documents. Photo-editing options are limited, however, and the scanner can't handle film or negatives.

$77.99
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Epson Perfection V800 Photo
Epson Perfection V800 Photo

Best photo scanner

For professional photographers and others who need high-quality photo scanning, experts say the Epson Perfection V800 Photo is the scanner to get. It has two lenses, so it can switch between 4,800 dpi resolution for photographic prints and 6,400 dpi resolution for slides and film. It also works fairly quickly, has a good selection of image-correction features, and supports most film sizes. The biggest downside is the lack of photo-editing software.

$640.95
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Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500
Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500

Best document scanner

With excellent performance, solid build quality and a deep feature set, the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 is a beast of a document scanner. This speedy sheet-fed workhorse has a 50-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF), can scan in simplex or duplex mode, and can scan to mobile devices and computers via Wi-Fi. It also offers highly accurate OCR. One downside is the lack of a TWAIN driver, which means you can't initiate scans from within an application.

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i
Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i

Best portable scanner

For scanning documents on the go, reviewers say the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i offers the best combination of speed, accuracy, and portability. This 3-pound scanner fits easily in a carry-on bag, can accommodate up to 20 sheets in its feeder, and is capable of running on USB power alone. Reviewers say its software is very intuitive and offers great OCR capabilities. Users also like its ability to automatically correct crookedness when scanning receipts and business cards.

$248.99
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Scanner or multifunction printer?

There's a lot to be said for storing important documents, from tax returns to family photos, in digital form. Files stored on a computer rather than in file cabinets and boxes are much easier to search, and they take up a lot less room in the office. Scanners can create digital versions of all kinds of hard-copy material, particularly loose paper documents and photos. Some scanners can also handle slides, negatives, film, and even specialized types of material such as business cards, magazines, and three-dimensional objects.

In recent years, standalone scanners have taken a back seat to multifunction printers (MFPs), also known as all-in-ones. These devices combine the functions of a scanner, printer, copier, and sometimes even a fax machine, in one unit.

According to PCMag.com, the choice between a scanner and an MFP comes down to your personal scanning needs. If all you ever need to scan is letter-sized, single-page documents – with perhaps the occasional longer document or book page thrown in – then an MFP is probably the better choice, and we cover some great alternatives in our report on multifunction printers. However, for those who frequently scan multi-page documents, or need a high-resolution scanner for photos, artwork and, especially, transparencies such as negatives or slides, will find a stand-alone scanner to be a better option.

Types of scanners

Scanners come in many shapes and sizes, and many are designed to serve a specific need. The most common type is a flatbed scanner, in which you place the objects on a flat "scanbed" and close the lid before scanning. This design works for a wide variety of media types: loose documents and photos, bound material such as books and magazines, and even three-dimensional objects, if they're not too bulky. Since you don't have to put anything through a document feeder, flatbed scanners are the best for protecting easily damaged materials, such as stamps or irreplaceable family photos.

However, if you need to archive lots of unbound pages and documents, it gets very time-consuming to constantly lift a flatbed lid and scan one page at a time. For jobs like these, a sheet-fed document scanner is a better option. Sheet-fed scanners come in two types. A manual sheet feeder lets you insert pages one by one, without the extra step of lifting and lowering the lid. This is fine for short documents, but if you need to churn through an entire stack of paper, an automatic document feeder (ADF) gets the job done much quicker. Many sheet-fed scanners also have duplexing capabilities, which means that they can scan both sides of a page that's been fed through once.

Most portable scanners are also sheet-fed. These scanners typically weigh no more than a couple of pounds and are small enough to fit inside a backpack, making them easy to tote around. Unlike document scanners, they can be slow and tedious to use, but they are ideal for scanning in a few paper documents or business cards while on the road.

If image quality is the absolute chief concern, you'll need to shell out significantly more cash for a professional-grade photo scanner. Photo scanners offer higher optical resolution – measured in either pixels per inch (ppi) or dots per inch (dpi) – than typical multipurpose or document scanners. (The two terms are often used interchangeably, but dpi technically refers to the fidelity of an image printed on paper, while ppi is for images displayed on a screen.) Many also include premium features to help improve scan quality, such as automatically editing out dust and scratches. However, unless you're a photographer or graphics professional, a dedicated photo scanner may be overkill.

Finding the best scanners

Scanners range in price from as little as $60 to $1,000 or more. To help you find the best scanner for your needs without breaking the bank, ConsumerSearch digs through expert and user reviews to find the best picks for different uses and users. Scanners are evaluated on the quality of the scans they produce, of course, but also on their speed, ease of use, and overall reliability.

Elsewhere in this report:

Best Flatbed Scanners | Cheap Flatbed Scanners | Best Photo Scanners | Best Document Scanners | Best Portable Scanners | Buying Guide | Our Sources

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