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Best Photo Scanner 2020: A Buyer's Guide

Find the best photo scanner in 2020. In this buyer’s guide, we'll walk you through the key features of different scanner models so you can find the right photo scanner for you.

Choosing the Best Photo Scanner for Your Needs

Scanning is an art form — getting the picture or document just right, having it scan clearly, meeting the standards you need for a project, etc. There are many different types of scanners on the market, and it can be incredibly frustrating if you don't have the right one when you need it most. From scanning in old photos to archiving important business documents, you need a scanner that meets your needs and will provide crisp, clear versions of your documents and photos every time.

Best Photo Scanners in 2020

There are dozens of photo scanners on the market today. Here are some of the best photo scanners in 2020 for you to consider:

  Canon CanoScan LiDE 300 Epson SureColor P400 Epson Perfection V39 Epson Perfection V600
Best for Document Photo Photo Film
Max Resolution 2400dpi 5760dpi 4800dpi 6400dpi
Max Scan Area A4 Letter 13" roll 8.5"x11.7" 8.5"x11.7"
Yes No Yes Yes

Document Feeder
No Yes No No
Types of Photo Scanners

All scanners perform the same process: they capture your paperwork or photos in their entirety through a combination of mirrors, glass, a light source, a CCD chip, rollers, motors and belts. But just because each device has a similar combination of parts doesn't mean that they are all created equal. The way in which a scanner works, the quality of the scans it produces and the amount of money, time and effort you must invest into loading and scanning each individual item varies greatly between scanner types and models.

There are four main types of scanners that you will find during your search and selection process. The basic categories are: flatbed scanners, sheet-fed scanners, portable scanners and combination scanners. To find the best scanner for your needs, let’s take a closer look at each of these model types.

Flatbed Scanners

The flatbed scanner is a common home and office peripheral that gets its name from its large and flat fixed glass bed, which is where you lay your documents before closing the lid and scanning them. These scanners look like a miniature top of a photocopier, and they are among the best photo scanners for photos thanks to their higher resolution.

  • Documents & Photos. Flatbed scanners are ideal if you have a variety of things to scan and aren't limited to just documents or just photos. You can scan both easily with a flatbed scanner.
  • Durable Construction. Flatbed scanners are large enough (but not overwhelmingly so) that no corners are cut in their manufacturing.
  • High Resolution. Flatbed scanners have the highest resolution available in the consumer scanner market, typically at 2,000 DPI (dots per inch) or more. As a reference, 600 DPI is enough to scan photos and provide crisp 1:1 reproduction. If you want to enlarge images, scans should be 3,200 DPI or higher.
  • Affordable. Flatbed scanners usually cost between $50­ - $70.
  • Ideal for Low-Volume. This model is best for a low-volume user scanning boxes of old photos or light office paperwork.
  • Features to Look For: Different models can offer features such as push-button scanner and software that integrates with archiving applications such as Evernote and Dropbox.

Shop Flatbed Scanners

Sheet-fed Scanners

Sheet-fed scanners are the dream of office workers everywhere. You simply feed the documents into the scanner like a sheet feeder on the top of a copy machine, the scanner scans it and then spits it back out.

  • Ideal for High-Volume Scanning. While flatbed scanners are cumbersome to use to scan a lot of paperwork, sheet-fed scanners are necessary if you want to have a paperless office and/or scan through a pile (or two or seven) of backlogged paperwork.
  • Higher Cost, But More Efficient. Sheet-fed scanners range from $200-$400,  with the costlier versions saving you time by providing a larger feeder.
  • Features to Look For. Brands such as Fujitsu offer a combination of speed, double-sided scanning and durable construction, but it comes with a price. There are other decent sheet-fed scanners on the market from other manufacturers such as Epson, though they don't offer the same number of features.
  • Best for Documents, Not Photos. Sheet-fed scanners are not ideal for use as a photo scanner because they do not offer high resolution, which is necessary for scanning photos. However, there are photo scanners with feeders on the market, which will simplify the process and save you a lot of time over using a flatbed scanner. But that does come with a price—quadruple what you would pay for a flatbed.

Shop Sheet-Fed Scanners

Portable Scanners

Portable scanners are the tool for you if you have scanning needs while on the go. They can scan photos and documents with a simple push-button operation.

  • Great Convenience, Less Function. While portable scanners can certainly get the job done, they don't have the power that you will find on a desktop flatbed or sheet-fed scanner. Even so, many users can’t live without the convenience that the portable design offers.
  • Average Resolution. The DPI usually hovers around 600, which is good enough to scan photos, but you won't be able to enlarge them without distortion.
  • Battery-Powered vs Wired Options. In searching for a portable scanner, the biggest decision to make will be whether you choose a wired version or a battery-powered version. Battery-powered portable scanners, such as those from Doxie and Fujitsu, cost more ($150-200). These models operate on battery power and can scan to nearby devices via Wi-Fi or to internal/removable storage. If you need a portable scanner to scan items directly to your laptop while out in the field, perhaps a wired version will work for you. Epson offers a portable scanner at half the price because it must be connected to your computer via USB.

Shop Portable Scanners

Combination (All-in-One) Scanners

Combination scanners are also commonly known as all-in-one (AIO) or multifunction printers where printing, copying, scanning and sometimes faxing capabilities are combined into one unit.

  • Great Convenience, Less Function. If you really need a scanner for photos, going the AIO route is probably not the best idea. These scanners are okay for scanning the occasional document, but they don't provide the resolution necessary for photo scanning or the speed necessary if you need to scan a lot of paperwork. They are also finicky, sometimes not scanning because the printer is out of ink or toner or following other strange rules.
Find the Perfect Scanner for You

We hope this guide to the best photo scanners in 2020 has helped you to find the right scanner for your needs. Whether you’ve decided on a flatbed scanner, portable scanner, combination scanner or another model, you can find the best scanners on the market at CDW.

Interested in finding the photoscanners that fit your business?