Types of Scanners

Types of Scanners

Whether for your home or business office purposes, you may, at one point or the other, find it necessary to convert photos printed or handwritten docs into digital file formats. You will need a suitable scanner to fulfill the purpose when this is the case.

But now, considering that there are different sorts of scanners available in the market, how will you exactly tell which type is best suited for your scanning needs? You will need to understand the various types of scanning devices available in the market, their uses, and their benefits. It will be easier to pick what’s worth your money.

So without wasting time, let’s explore the different types of scanners available in the market and find out what they are best suited for.

The Different Types of Scanners

1. Sheetfed Scanner

A sheet-fed scanner can be said to resemble an inkjet printer or compact laser printer in that it draws scanning pages from the sheet feeder and passes them across its image sensors and then to the output paper tray.

The scanner is made of 3 major elements:

  • The scanning module,
  • Calibration Sheet, and
  • The sheet feeder

In the same way that optical mark readers work, sheet-fed scanners identify printed images and characters and convert them into digital formats through their software.

These scanners are ideal in areas where many single-sheet scanning is needed since the whole scanning process is automated. They are somewhat different from other scanning devices in that their image sensors are stationary (The sensor and source of light don’t move around a glass pane like in most other printers).


  • Sheet-fed scanners are pretty fast and will handle huge volumes of tasks within no time. This is since they can automate the sheet feeding process, ensuring no delays in feeding scanning pages.
  • In sheetfed scanners, it’s only the scanning pages that rotate; the image sensors are stationary, resulting in high-quality images and text scans.
  • The scanners have small footprints and will thereby consume little of your space.
  • Sheetfed scanners are excellent choices in that most of them will readily allow auto-duplexing.


  • Sheet-fed scanners are only ideal when only single sheet scanning is preferred. Therefore, if you are a teacher or student with loads of books to scan, you may want to consider other scanners.

2. Flatbed Scanner

The following types of scanners on our list are flatbed scanners. Unlike the sheet-fed scanners explained above, the flatbed scanners function by moving the (CCD) “charge-coupled device” across documents that need to be scanned.

You start by putting docs faced down on the glass surface and lowering the scanner lid to trigger the printing process. This illuminates the document signifying that the encoding process has just begun.

The flatbed “scanner head” then moves over the documents. The process continues until the image is captured on the scanner’s CCD array. It’s then decoded by the computer and computer and converted into its digital soft copy.


  • It is good for scanning various types of papers, including poor quality and non-standard weight papers.
  • Flatbed scanners are versatile – you can use them to scan various paper sizes, thin or thick bulky papers.
  • They can film negative from your transparent media adapter
  • Some flatbed scanners combine other functions in one unit. They serve as printers, copiers, and fax machines.


  • Most flatbed scanners tend to be bulky and will consume significant space. They also tend to be costly

3. Handheld Scanner

Mostly found in shopping stores, the handheld scanners are in all the ways different from the above scanners (2 &3). The first obvious difference is that these don’t require inserting papers inside them, unlike the others. Instead, you move the scanners manually over the documents you want to be scanned.

You will require holding them firmly and ensuring your hand doesn’t shake when using them. If they shake, the inaccurate twisting of images will make it difficult for scanners to function effectively.


  • Handheld scanners are designed with advanced technology, enabling them to deliver results within no time.
  • The memory of handheld scanners is fairly good. They will hold records of all the scanned documents until you transfer them to your computer.
  • Being handheld, these scanners are small and lightweight. This, combined with the fact that they come featuring an internal battery, makes them the most portable scanning device for use in any environment.
  • The devices are pretty easy to use. They come featuring a gun-like design, and all the user has to do is point them onto the targeted documents.


  • They can be tiring when you have to hold them in your hands for prolonged hours

4. Photo Scanner

As you tell from their name, photo scanners are meant to scan photographs, artwork, and any other high-resolution graphic materials. They are characterized by incomparable resolution and unmatched color depth. They will give scans with vivid color and crisp clarity; however, they don’t match the quality of dedicated photo scanners. This is due to the reason that they lack dedicated photo scanning software that helps in cleaning and restoration of old photographs.

  • Most photo scanners are dedicated photo scanners with scanning software that cleans and restores old photos
  • Since they are meant explicitly for scanning photographs, their quality is quite impressive
  • They are versatile in that they can manage other sorts of documents other than photos
  • Most photo scanners have a compact portable design and will be easy to use in all environments.


  • They are relatively pricey

5. Large-format Scanner

All the above scanners are worth having in your home or business, but they can’t help you when you need to scan extra-large sizes. You will need a large format whenever you want to scan anything larger than legal-sized docs. For example, when scanning architectural drawings, blueprints, posters, etc.

Large-format scanners resemble electronic music pianos with flat scanning mechanisms mounted on stands that bring them up to table height. They are easy to use as all you have to do slide the oversized material you wish to scan into the scanner and ensure the scanner’s rollers well grip it. Once this is done, the scanner works like a sheet-fed printer – the material slides through the printing mechanism and comes out on the other end.


  • Large format scanning is useful because it helps scan large materials, such as architectural drawings, that other scanners can’t handle.
  • Large-format scanners add value to your business. With them, you will never struggle or have to outsource scanning services for large documents.
  • They are fast and easy to use. The scanning process involves feeding the scanning material on one end and having it come out on the other side.
  • Most large format scanners are durable and will last for many years. The maintenance required is low, and overall operating costs are justifiable.


  • Large-format scanners can be bulky and consume a significant portion of your office space.

6. Slides/Negative Scanner

If you want to print images directly from negatives, you require a slide/negative scanner. They are different from others on this list because they have special holders for negatives and slides of varied sizes.

When using them, you require placing negative and slides into their respective holders and ensuring they fit perfectly. Once inserted, the scanning process begins with the emission of lights on both sides – one side emits the scanning light while the other emits light meant to brighten the transparency for effective scanning.


  • Compared to other scanners, slides/negative scanners are a great option in that they offer excellent results when used to scan photos, slides, and films.
  • These scanners are designed to allow you to feed several negatives/slides at once for quick scanning.
  • The scanners come with almost everything you would need to produce enhanced photos. With them, you will notice the editing software that produces stunning images.
  • The scanners allow you to save your scanning results directly to cloud storage.

7. Book Scanner

The book scanner is a special overhead scanner specifically meant for scanning books. It is characterized by a V-cradle on which the book is kept without cutting open its spine and 2 overhead cameras to capture the book’s pages. Each camera captures a single side of the pages in the order of page numbers in the book.

Book scanners are mostly used in learning institutions, and they offer an excellent way of scanning books without cutting open their spine. For that reason, they are also referred to as “non-destructive scanners.”


  • Book scanners are a great investment as they help you save space. With them, you will not require many bookshelves, saving you space. You can scan an entire library and store it in digital form.
  • The best book scanners will offer security for your books. With such scanners, you will never worry about books getting stolen or damaged by issues such as water or fire.
  • Book scanners promote the easy accessibility of books. This is true because you will scan the book into a computer from where you can access it by just doing a few searches. The process is easier than locating the same book on the library shelf.
  • Finally, book scanners save you the burden of moving around with heavy books. You can carry the entire library with them, and nobody will notice.


  • Most book scanners are only meant for scanning books and not other sorts of materials

8. Drum Scanner

Drum scanners come in handy when photos have to be scanned or captured at the highest resolutions beyond what flatbed scanners can offer.  The drum scanners capture docs at the highest resolutions possible by fitting or clamping the photos into photomultiplier tubes and spinning the tubes more than 1000 rotations per minute (RPM) during the scanning operations.

The scanning mechanism employed in drum scanners is similar to flatbed scanners. However, in flatbed scanners, the light sources are on the photo’s pixels by pixels and move down the drum, lines by lines. As a consequence, the photos scanned are of higher and better resolutions.

Drum scanners are best suited for printing press and publications


  • The biggest benefit of drum scanners is that they offer the best resolution of any scanner. That being so, you will always get a crisp, clear quality with great attention to detail.
  • Regular scanners tend to mess up shadows since they are the most difficult to scan. Contrary to them, a drum scanner handles shadows details minutely.
  • The toner improvement of these scanners is outstanding.
  • A drum scanner produces a sharp image even out of small film pieces


  • Drum scanners aren’t easy to use. Many steps have to be followed, and this can mean time wastage.

9. Optical Scanner

Another type of scanner in use today is an optical scanner. These are meant to serve special purposes and are usually integrated into other devices. A good example here is the scanner used in ATMs.

  • Scanners are pretty fast.
  • They record and archive documents automatically.
  • They let you access your scanned data anytime, anywhere
  • By saving time, optical printers boost your business productivity.


  • They are not suitable for handling all the scanning needs.

10. Pen Scanner

The above scanners are handheld devices used for scanning documents quickly on the go. Compared to all the other scanners on our list, these are the easiest to set and use. All you need to do is move their tips over lines of text on a page, and they will encode and transmit scanned content to the computer.


  • Besides being the easiest scanners to use, pen scanners are also the lightest and most portable scanners.
  • Pen scanners give you the freedom to go wired or wireless. The wireless one comes with long-lasting batteries and allows you to achieve flexibility when handling your tasks.
  • Some pen scanners are versatile in capturing text, graphics, signatures, and logos.
  • They are fast and will help you achieve a significant task without wasting too much time.


  • Despite their many benefits, it’s unfortunate that pen scanners don’t have internal storage space. As a result, they can’t save files or documents. This means they have to be connected to the computer when in use to facilitate data transfer.

Some Common Uses of Scanners

Now that you know what scanners are, the various types available, and how to find the best, let’s find where scanners are used most.

Scanning Documents

The main role of scanners is scanning documents so that they are available in their digital counterparts.

Copying Documents

Scanners copy data from documents to make multiple copies of any image or document. When using them for copying purposes, you will like to edit the copied data to make it more useful to your needs.

Digital Archiving

Digital archiving refers to copying data from hard copies and managing it digitally. The data copied can be managed in PDFs, docs, JPEGs, etc.

Some data that can be archived digitally from hard copies include office files, personal stuff, tax papers, etc.

Sending Files Directly to the Email

Besides serving the above purposes, scanners also come in handy when you want to share hard copies via emails but as soft copies. They will readily create editable PDFs of any documents and let you share them instantly with your email contacts.

Some Scanners Have Other Functionalities

Some scanners are sophisticated and hence well suited to various purposes. For example, some advanced models combine other functionality into a single unit. They will scan, copy, print, and fax your documents.

Who Needs a Scanner?

Although everyone can find a helpful printer, the following is the category of people who need it the most.

Who need scanner What to scan
Library Journals, books, artwork, photos
Photographers Slides, photos, negatives
Artist Artwork (sketch, paintings, and drawings)
Banks Loans, statements
Learning institutions Marks sheets
Corporate Employee records
Library QR code, bar code
Realtors Deeds, agreements
Chartered accountants Docs and files, e.g., KYC
Hospitals Patients records

The Benefits of Using Scanners

From home-based offices to business offices, scanners offer many benefits, such as

Saving on your office space

Storing all the documents in your office as hard copies can consume a significant portion of your space. Scanners help you scan documents and store them as soft copies that save your available office space.

Preserving information

Storing useful documents as hard copies always carries many risks of loss. For instance, hard copies can be damaged by fire or theft. Also, the aging process of documents can deteriorate their usefulness. But with scanned documents, there are no such incidences as you can scan documents and back them up for retrieval at any time.

Ease of sharing

Scanned documents are more easily shareable than hard copies. You can send them to your associates via email in minutes. They are unlike hard copies, which require you to reproduce copies and mail them manually.

Saves Time in your business

Retrieving scanned documents is easier than retrieving the same documents from a pile of millions of files. This is true because you can save scanned documents on your computer and find them by simply searching their names.

Boost productivity

Since employees won’t have to waste time searching for documents manually, they save time, resulting in more productivity.

Greener planet

Scanners promote a greener planet by reducing the need for paperwork, which goes a long way to saving trees.

Reduced operational costs

You might need to rent extra space to store your documents in some instances. This is particularly the case when you deal with a large business with a lot of paperwork. But with the right scanners, you will avoid all these costs as all you need to do to scan and store your documents on your computer.

Disadvantages of Using Scanners

Although scanners offer all the above benefits, they have some significant drawbacks. Some of these have been discussed below:

They Require Careful Maintenance

Scanners, especially those used by large businesses, are a handy tool as they help to mitigate paperwork issues. However, they are hard to maintain, and their accessories can be costly.

Scanners can be a Bit Slow and Tiresome.

Although scanners with automatic document feeders and auto-duplexing features are fast, they will still need you to devote some time to scanning documents. You will need to check all the scanned pages to ensure the right content was captured and nothing was missing.

There’s No One Fit Scanner

One of the major drawbacks of scanners is that no one fits all scanners. This means that you will not find a single scanner to scan all the materials. So, if you are dealing with different types of materials, you might need to buy different devices, which can see you incurring extra costs.

How to Choose the Best Scanners

Choosing the best one for your particular scanning purposes can be a huge challenge with the market flooded with different scanners. How will you tell me what’s to buy and why? Well, you will need to do a lot of consideration before purchasing.

It would be best to consider the following things when buying your best scanner.

The Size and Type of Documents That are to be Scanned

We have seen that scanners vary in sizes, makes, designs, and modes of use. The variations in all these aspects help to meet specific purposes. Therefore, before you know what type of scanner is best for you, consider what you want to scan.

For example, a scanner meant for scanning books will look different from one meant for scanning photos or large format documents. So, you will want to begin by identifying the possible scanning materials before moving on to the purchase decision.

Scanning Color Depth

The next important aspect you must pay attention to when purchasing the best scanners is the scanning color depth. It would be best to consider this as it is the only sure way to guarantee vivid and crisp clear scans.

Scanner color depth is measured in bits, and most modern printers have a color depth in the range of 24bits to 48bits. A 24-bit scanner will be good for scanning and pleasing quality.

Scanning Speed

The scanning speed of your scanner plays an important role as it determines how fast you can accomplish scanning tasks.

When determining the right scanning speed, it would be a rewarding move to determine the magnitude of your scanning tasks or the volume of scanning tasks. You will need a fast scanning device if the scanning needs are too demanding and an average scanning device if the workload is fairly low.

Multipurpose Capabilities

When shopping for a scanner, it is always wise to go for one that can serve multiple purposes. Such scanners are readily available, and they do more than just scanning. For example, they serve as printers, copiers, and fax machines. They spare you the need to purchase extra devices, which goes a long way to saving on your overall operating costs.

Scanner Connectivity

How will you connect your scanner to other devices? This is an extremely important question that must be answered before making a purchase decision.

When researching this, you will notice that some printers only allow wired connections while others allow wired and wireless connectivity.

Our recommendation would be to get wireless scanners, as they give you more freedom when working. For example, you can use them even when in another room. You need to send a scanning prompt across the network, and the machine will execute it promptly.

The Scanner Size and Weight

A critical consideration! The scanner’s size may not always determine the quality or quantity of the work it can deliver. However, it gives you a clue about the desk space needed.

As a rule of thumb, you want a scanning device that will fit perfectly in your available space. That way, you will avoid buying a bigger desk or even relocating or re-doing your office.

On the other hand, the scanner’s weight will determine whether it will be portable. If it’s light, you will enjoy it the most as you can move with it from one working position to the other.

Ask Your Friend or Read Online Reviews

Another simple and effective way of finding the best scanner involves asking your friends or reading online reviews posted by real users. You begin by identifying friends who have scanners at their homes or offices. Then you ask them for details regarding their scanning devices. For example, ask them;

  • Where they go the devices?
  • How satisfied are they?
  • Whether they can recommend the devices? and
  • How much do they incur for them?

In the worst case, where you don’t have friends who use scanners, visit various online review sites and see what previous buyers of certain scanner types have to say. If they liked the scanners they bought, they would give positive reviews to praise the device. That will provide you with confidence that it’s worth your money.

Auto Duplexing Scanners

If we are honest with one another, we will agree that no one likes too much manual work, true? Supposing you conquer, we encourage you to go for a scanning device with auto-duplexing capacity. This means one can scan on both sides of the sheet without you manually flipping the paper.

Auto duplexing scanners can save time and speed up the scanning process. Consequently, they ensure you accomplish significant tasks.

ADF Capability

Another thing that will make your scanning tasks less demanding is the automatic documents feeder. This one also aims to reduce manual work to focus on other aspects that matter most to you. All you need to do with the ADF is feed enough paper into the paper tray, and the scanner will pull them on it. Therefore, you can sit back and enjoy the convenience.

Scanner’s Input Paper Tray Capacity

For convenience, go for a scanner with a huge paper tray capacity. I encourage you to do this simply because it will save you the hassle of too much feeding. You will only need to feed the papers once, so forget about it.

The Cost of the Scanner

Important! You can’t wake up and go to the market to buy a scanner when you don’t know the amount you require. If you do so, you might end up getting frustrated.

We encourage you to consider all the above aspects before narrowing it down to the pricing. It will be easier for you to figure out what you need and then determine its cost.


Is There a One-fits-all Scanner?

The straightforward answer is a NO! Although some scanners can handle different scanning materials, there’s not a single scanner that can serve all the scanning needs.

Generally, you will realize that every scanner is best suited for a particular purpose and that purpose only.

Are Scanners Worth Buying?

YES! Scanners help you in many ways. For example, they will save you from the inconveniences of dealing with paperwork. Also, they will protect your documents and ensure you can access them anytime, anywhere in the desired format.

Do You Need a Computer for Your Scanner?

It depends on the type of scanner you are using. Some have inbuilt storage and will save the scanned content automatically. Others have flash drive ports where you can insert external storage devices. If you own any of these, you won’t need a computer.

On the contrary, some scanners don’t have internal storage space and have no ports for inserting external storage devices. An example, in this case, is the pen scanner. It will require a computer to store data.


As you can see from our discussions, scanners are handy devices in any office setting. They help to minimize paperwork and boost productivity in your organization. That being so, we encourage you to buy the best scanners on the market. There are many options to choose from, but you must define your needs first to enable you to make a reasonable choice.

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