Scanners are machines that can copy an image and save it in a digital format on your computer. These are helpful for those who want to go paperless and for those who like to save images of important papers, receipts or even photographs. Choosing the right scanner for your needs can be complex because there are many different types with many different features.
Flatbed scanners are among the most popular desktop scanners. These scanners work a lot like a photocopier where the pages to be scanned are laid flat on a glass and a light moves across the image and an image is reflected by the image sensor. They are popular because of their ease of use. In addition, this type of scanner is versatile in that it can scan papers, photos, books, and even three dimensional objects in some cases. You will need a transparency adapter to scan x-rays or other transparent objects.
Sheet fed scanners operate more like a fax machine than a copier. They are compact in size making them ideal for a small office space. The paper feeds into it, and it can operate unsupervised. It is great for making a lot of scans at once because you do not have to load each document individually however, the quality is not as good as a flatbed scanner. It can only be used for loose papers and cannot scan items directly from a bound volume or book.
Transparent objects need a special scanner to be able to produce a proper image. Instead of light reflecting off of the original image, these types of medium require that the light be passed through. In addition, slides need a very high resolution scanner due to their small physical size. Because of these specialties, Transparent object scanners tend to be expensive. Unless you need high quality images, you may be better with a flatbed scanner and a special adapter for transparent objects.
There are a number of handheld scanners that are perfect for those who travel frequently. These are compact in size and fit nicely into a case with a laptop computer. They typically scan only one sheet at a time so are not great for high volume scanning. Some are specially designed to scan business cards, and they are perfect for the business person.
Duplex Scanners are specialized scanners that scan both sides of the original at the same time. They do this because they have two image sensors instead of just one. This can save time, but it also costs quite a bit more than a single image scanner.
All-in-One Scanners combine several machines into one convenient package. This type of scanner incorporates a scanner, copier, printer, and sometimes a fax machine in one piece of equipment. This can save on space if space is tight. While the scanners in these products produce good images, a dedicated scanner may be necessary for high quality or high volume scanning.
There are basically two types of image sensor for general home and office scanners. CCD image sensors produce the higher quality image, but scanners with this type of sensor often cost quite a bit more and use more energy. CIS based image sensors are a more recent innovation and produce good images, but not quite as good as CCD sensors.
The scanner's resolution is an important factor to consider. The higher the resolution, the better the image quality will be. There are basically two tops of resolution, optical and interpolated. Optical resolution is the most important one to consider, and the typical user will want at least 600dpi to 1200dpi or more if it is affordable.
The color and bit depth refer to the amount of information stored per pixel. The higher the bit depth, the brighter your colors and the more gradation you will see. Typically a 24 bit scanner will be adequate but one with 36 bit or 48 bit will produce better scans if you can afford of them.
The way that the scanner connects to your computer is another important point. There are basically three options: USB, SCSI, and serial port. Most scanners do not use serial ports anymore, but it is possible to find it on a used scanner. Some scanners have both USB and SCSI ports. Generally, the USB connection is the most useful as it is fast and convenient with its plug and play feature. The SCSI port is fast, but it is not as easy to install and may need extra software to make it interface properly with your computer.
The speed of each scanner can be quite different and is typically measured in pages per minute that are scanned. This may not be important for those that only make a few scans per day, but those who wish to make a higher quantity of scans will be glad to have a faster scanner.
Most scanners come with some sort of software. It is important to have a full package of software to make the scanner work properly with your computer and to allow you all of the functionality you need. Some of the functions of the software will be a driver program, color calibration, image editing software, and optical recognition software.
Brother has portable and duplex scanners, among others, that are value priced for consumers.
Cannon scanners are lower priced models with good features. There are also a few middle range priced models that are perfect for small offices.
Epson offers some budget models of scanners as well as some mid-priced and very high end ranges.
Fujitsu scanners are quality machines in the middle and upper price ranges.
Kodak offers several types of scanners in the middle to upper to upper price range.
Xerox and Visioneer are both well known copy and scanner companies that have merged, and together they produce quality scanners in the low to middle price ranges.