Document Scanner Buying Guide

The size of the scanner depends mainly on the space you have available to store it. If you do not have a large desk or shelf to hold your scanner, you probably will not want a large one.

A Document Scanner is a device that converts paper documents into digital images. Scanners come in different shapes and sizes, from handheld devices to large desktop devices. Document scanners can be used to scan everything from photos and receipts to legal documents and financial records.

Most artists, graphic designers, image editors, art appraisers, archivists, and anyone who wants to digitize valuable paper photos use scanners. Scanners come in different shapes and sizes with a variety of features that help convert data into soft copies.

They can easily capture a photographic image, printed artwork or text document and convert it to a digital format. This digital representation can be seen on a monitor and can be copied and saved. Document scanners are an essential tool for bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds.

However, it can be difficult to find the right document scanner for your needs. Some are designed to be affordable all-rounders, while others are specifically designed for heavy workloads. The first step is to figure out which overall category meets your digitization needs, and then consider the key features that will serve you best.

Why businesses need document scanners

If you still rely on filing paper documents, you may not understand why you need a document scanner. Here are some benefits of converting your paper documents into digital files:

It saves Time

A digital filing system can save your business time and create a more productive workplace, as employees can access documents almost instantly instead of searching for them in drawers or folders.

It keeps your documents secure

By storing documents electronically, you can prevent sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. Paper documents can be easily changed or removed, while digital documents have an encrypted digital signature.

You can share documents easily

If you regularly send contracts or share documents with others, a scanner simplifies the process. With digital documents, you can send and receive important documents quickly.

Your team can collaborate on documents

When you store your documents online, it’s easier to connect with others. An entire team can work on a document remotely without having to send emails back and forth.

It prevents physical damage to documents

Paper documents can be easily lost in a fire or natural disaster. Digital documents can be backed up using a cloud backup service and be easily accessible in an emergency.

Types of Scanners

Scanners are essential for both home and office use. However, the requirements are different and so are the scanners. Especially if you plan to go paperless, scanners are an essential part of that endeavor.

Flatbed Scanners

Flatbed scanners are the most popular scanners for home use. They are also suitable for small offices with low scanning needs. Compared to other scanners, they are the easiest to set up and easy to use. It is an optical scanner that can scan delicate old papers and photos effectively.

Since you can scan most paper sizes, the device is versatile. You can also easily scan books, magazines and other similar materials without damaging them. Therefore, it is suitable for converting old books into digital form. They come as standalone devices or as integrated ADF devices.

Sheetfed Scanners

A cut sheet scanner is similar to a fax machine in many ways. This document scanner is ideal for users who want to scan many documents at once. There are several types of cut sheet scanners that vary in speed, quality and performance. Unlike flatbed scanners, cut sheet scanners work more like fax machines/printers than photocopiers.

This document scanner works by moving documents/sheets instead of a scan head. With a built-in ADF (automatic document feeder), the cut sheet scanner can scan unattended. Their compact design also makes them perfect for confined work areas.

Since it is difficult to move a sheet of paper without distorting it, cut sheet scanners tend to be less accurate than flatbed scanners. As a result, cut sheet scanners are great for high volume scanning (to create editable/searchable text), but not for scanning high quality photos. Another major disadvantage of single-feed scanners is that they can only scan loose and single sheets, but cannot directly handle bound documents/photos or books.

Duplex Scanners

The double-sided scanning feature allows you to scan the paper on both sides. There are several types of duplex scanners. One type is the Automatic Document Feeder (ADF), where documents are automatically fed into the scanner, and the scanner mechanically reverses them after scanning one side. This feature is called automatic document feeder with reversal (RADF).

Another type are the high-end scanners that scan the papers on both sides and create the result in a single pass. These single-pass scanners are more expensive than the RADF scanners mentioned above. Nevertheless, they improve your efficiency by reducing the time you spend near the scanning equipment.

Drum Scanners

Drum scanners produce images of amazing quality and with an unimaginable range of dynamic channels. They are equipped with photomultiplier tubes (PMT) that convert light into digital output with high-resolution filters.

They are used exclusively by educational institutions, printers, and illustration experts. Because of their quality, you probably already know they are expensive. Drum scanners are also the best, but are only used by a few professionals who can afford them. Publishers, in particular, use this type of scanner.

Handheld scanners

Handheld scanners can be easily attached to a portable stand. They are mostly used as barcode readers.  They are a good addition to your laptop and are convenient to share with others. Some portable scanners are specifically designed for scanning business cards and can be a great help for business people. Handheld and portable scanners are extremely compact and portable and fit perfectly in a briefcase or travel bag.

3D Scanners

Images of real objects are converted into high-precision three-dimensional models using a 3D scanner. Multiple images are taken from different angles and fused into a single copy that represents a three-dimensional model of the object.

This model can be viewed from all angles by rotating the image on your system. They capture the geometry of the object’s surface, and these photos contain tiny triangles instead of pixels. They form a polygonal mesh that replicates the object down to the smallest detail.

Models captured in this way are used for industrial CAD purposes, medical, archaeological, architectural, artistic and many other useful purposes. Reverse engineering, quality control and maintenance can be done virtually without any risk and then applied to the actual object. Generally, this is possible with the scanned 3D objects that are manipulated accordingly.

Other Scanners

  • Planetary Scanners

There are special scanners such as planetary scanners that support some unique scenarios. They allow scanning fragile old books or documents by touching only some parts of the book, and can even scan it when the book is partially open.

  • Smartphone Scanners

Smartphones with high-resolution cameras and corresponding applications serve as scanners. There are different apps for different purposes. Apps for scanning documents and scanning photos are available separately.

Scanner Specs to Consider

If you have decided to purchase a desktop scanner, it is important to know the specifications that distinguish each model from the others. Even though each product is visually distinct, each is defined by the performance of its components, which are common to all scanners:

Image Sensor

Modern scanners typically use either a CCD (Charge Coupled Device) image sensor or a CIS (Contact Image Sensor) image sensor. CIS is a more recent innovation developed for low-cost, entry-level scanners. CIS scanners are smaller, less expensive, and consume less power than CCD scanners, but have the disadvantage of providing slightly poorer image quality.

Color/Bit Depth

Bit depth refers to the amount of information a scanner can record per pixel. The higher the bit depth, the more color/grayscale levels the scanner can record, resulting in higher image quality. A higher bit depth also means a larger file size because more information can be stored per pixel.

Many of the latest scanners offer a bit depth of up to 36 or even 48 bits, which theoretically means that billions of colors can be captured. In general, scanners with higher bit/color depth provide better image quality. For most home/office users, 24 bits is sufficient under most circumstances, and 36 bits is usually more than enough.

Resolution

Specifying the scanner resolution helps distinguish one scanner from another. Resolution refers to the number of pixels a scanner can scan/capture and is often measured in dots per inch (dpi). Higher resolution scanners are able to capture more information from a given image than lower resolution scanners and therefore provide more detail and better image quality.

High-resolution scanners can produce excellent images even at resolutions below their maximum. For example, a 600 dpi scan from a 1200 dpi scanner can be better than a scan at the same resolution from a 600 dpi scanner (assuming all other settings are the same). There are two types of scanner resolution: optical and interpolated. The optical resolution is decisive, since the interpolation can be performed in most image processing programs (and can therefore be ignored). Some manufacturers specify two resolution values, with the smaller value usually representing the optical resolution. For example: 600 x 1200 dpi – 600 dpi is the optical resolution. As for optical resolution, 300 dpi is adequate for the average document scan, while 600 dpi should be sufficient for high-quality scans and ordinary photo scans. 1200 dpi or more is only required for demanding graphics work/photo scans and 3200 dpi or more for movies/slides.

Connection Interface

There are three main types of connection for scanners: USB, SCSI and parallel interface (already abolished). USB and SCSI are currently the most common interfaces, and some scanners have both USB and SCSI interfaces. The Universal Serial Bus (USB) is popular on both Macintosh and Windows PCs because it outperforms the SCSI interface with its plug-and-play and hot-swap capabilities (you can plug and unplug it while it’s running).

The USB2.0 port offers fast data transfer speeds of up to 480 Mbps (60 MB/s), while the older USB1.1 port supports speeds of up to 12 Mbps (1.5 MB/s). Some high-end scanners also support the FireWire (IEEE 1394) port, which follows a similar concept to USB and offers transfer speeds of 400 Mbps (50 MB/s) (IEEE 1394a). The Small Computer System Interface (SCSI, pronounced “scuzzy”) is used on some high-end scanners. This type of connection is fast, but can require more work to configure and install.

Most PCs do not support the SCSI connection, and to use a SCSI scanner, a SCSI controller card must be purchased and installed in the computer. Many SCSI scanners come with the controller card and cables. If you want to use your own SCSI card instead, please check the compatibility with the scanner and its cables first.

Speed

How important the speed of a scanner is depends on how often you plan to use it. If a scanner is only used once or twice a day, which is the case for most home users, speed may not matter. Of course, it’s a completely different story if you need to capture images or documents all the time.

In general, scan resolution, as well as other scan settings such as color depth, have a critical impact on scan speed. Scanning at a higher resolution/color depth tends to take more time. There are several ways to measure a scanner’s speed: the time it takes to scan a single page (e.g., 30 seconds); the number of pages per minute (ppm) scanned; and ipm (images per minute)-equivalent to ppm for traditional scanners, but doubles for duplex scanners, which can scan both sides of a page simultaneously.

Software

The included software, which is a very important part of the scanner, is often overlooked by many users. The package usually includes a driver program, color calibration software, image processing software and optical recognition software (OCR). But not all manufacturers offer a complete package with the above software for all models. For Windows, the driver program is usually TWAIN compatible. A TWAIN driver allows imaging devices such as scanners to be compatible with TWAIN-supported software. Since TWAIN is the industry standard, most software that comes with the scanner can work with TWAIN.

Color calibration software is used to maintain the original colors of the image during processing, which means that what is seen on the monitor and printed should be reasonably close to the original colors. Image processing software usually provides you with “lite” versions of image processing programs. These can essentially adjust brightness, contrast, color balance, and other image attributes.

More expensive scanners sometimes include full versions of image processing programs. Most manufacturers also offer full/short versions of optical character recognition (OCR) software, which specializes in converting printed text to computer text. Excellent OCR software is capable of processing a variety of languages and text formats.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range, also known as optical density (OD) or density range, is a measure of the scanner’s ability to capture different hues in an image. Dynamic range is measured on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 4 (0.0 represents perfect white, while 4.0 represents perfect black). Dynamic range is the difference between the darkest and lightest optical densities that the scanner can capture. The greater the difference, the greater the dynamic range can be and the better the image quality of the scanner.

Most scanners are designed specifically for normal users and do not include dynamic range specifications. If you need a scanner that will provide very high scan quality, the dynamic range must be considered. Most mid-range flatbed scanners have a dynamic range of 2.8 to 3.2, which is more than adequate for most home and office users. However, if you want to achieve excellent results with films, slides or other transparencies, a higher dynamic range of at least 3.3 (3.4 for negatives) is recommended.

Document scanner prices

The Price of a Document Scanner varies widely and depends on a number of factors. When estimating the actual price of a document scanner, you should consider the following features:

  • Laptop against desktop computer
  • Print speed
  • Scanner size
  • Lots of use
  • Company engaged in the sale of scanners

Portable document scanners are often smaller and cheaper than desktop scanners. This is ideal for small business travelers like real estate agents. You can spend $60 for a useful and efficient handheld portable scanner. Larger portable scanners, on the other hand, cost nearly $200. Desktop document scanners are larger and more expensive, and should be worth it for employees who scan more documents in the office. Large organizations must be willing to spend $1,000 to $5,000 for desktop document scanners.

The decision ultimately depends on what your company’s document scanning needs are. Businesses that scan a lot of documents and images are more likely to consider desktop document scanners. Small businesses that rely on images and scanning such as small photography companies may also decide that investing in a desktop document scanner is worthwhile.

Conclusion

With the right device, you can turn stacks of paper into clean, emailable PDF files. We hope our buying guide will help you choose a document scanner for your document digitization needs.

Lucas Simonds
Lucas Simonds
Lucas Simonds is a skilled content editor at Bollyinside, specializing in "How to" and "Tips & Tricks" articles focused on Gaming, Software, and Apps. With a genuine passion for video games, he not only writes about them but also actively engages in gaming. His commitment to providing insightful and approachable content has earned him a trusted reputation within the online community.

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