Scanning photos is very different from scanning documents, and therefore not just any scanner will satisfy the demands of a serious photographer. If you’re looking to scan printed photos of any kind, whether old or new, then as photographers and artists, you will want to know which are the best photo scanners.
There are innumerable options these days when it comes to scanners in general, so making the right decision can be difficult. Indeed, photographers and all types of visual artists will have fewer options that can satisfy their needs, which is why we’ve created this list.
Maybe you have a pile of old prints that were captured by family or friends long ago. Or, maybe you are getting into film photography right now! Either way, being able to scan both prints and film with the same device is a critical tool in your workflow. You can use the best film with the sharpest lenses, but if the scanner resolution is inadequate and/or the optical density (dynamic range of the darkest shadows) is poor, it’s all for nothing.
With that being said, let’s dive in! We will cover which features and specifications you’ll need to look carefully at, and then we will make our recommendations for the best photo print (and film) scanners.
Things To Consider When Looking for The Best Photo Scanners
Resolution & Dimensions
First and foremost is definitely resolution. The higher the resolution of the scanner, the better the image quality will be. Photographers should be looking for scanners that can resolve at least 2400 dpi (dots per inch) for high-quality scans.
Photographers also need to consider the sheer physical size and format of the photos they want to scan. Some scanners may not be able to accommodate larger photos, and some some types of prints that were made on a stiffer surface should only be scanned on a flatbed scanner, not through a “feeder”.
Color Depth & Dynamic Range
Color depth simply means, how wide a range of colors can be captured, plus, how fine are the increments in between different colors. Having excellent color depth, such as 48-bit, will allow you to accurately reproduce the colors of the original photograph.
Since you are attempting to gain as much resolution and color depth as possible, some scanners may be take a while to scan your photos. Of course, scanning speed is also a key factor, especially if you have a lot of photos to scan. Faster scanning speeds will simply save you time, plain and simple!
Software & Connectivity
This is the thing that often goes unconsidered: How convenient and efficient is the scanning software that comes with your photo scanner? Good scanning software can make the scanning process easy, or it can be a frustrating endeavor. So, look for scanners that include software with a user-friendly interface, and also any useful features for automating tasks dust & scratch removal.
Print VS Film Media (What are you scanning?)
This one is very important for obvious reasons. Do you only need to scan physical prints, or do you need to scan film as well? (If you only need to scan film, we highly recommend this article about film scanners!)
By answering this question for yourself, you can potentially save hundreds of dollars right off the bat.
Price & Value
Every photographer will have a different budget, of course, but value is always important. Thankfully, the scanners we are recommending include a range of options, and whether your budget or needs are great or small, one of these will likely be the best photo scanner for you!
The Best Photo Scanners
Each of these scanners will suit a slightly different need. Of course, if one of them seems right for you, but you are curious about different options, please leave a comment below and we’d love to help out more!
This is by far the highest-end scanner we are recommending, and for good reason! Not only does the Epson Perfection V850 offer truly impressive image quality, but it also has an 8×10 area backlit scanning portion for negatives and transparency up to large format film.
Honestly, the Epson Perfection V850 may indeed be a little “overkill” for those photographers who do not actually need all of its advanced, professional features. (Which is exactly why we make our next recommendation, by the way!)
- 6400 DPI optical resolution
- 48-bit color depth
- 4.0 Dmax optical density
- 8.5×11.7″ scanning area
- Up to 8×10″ large format film scanning
- 35mm slide & negative scanning holders (12 & 18)
- Warm-up time under 1 second
- 12-sec scan speed @ 300 dpi
- 59-sec 35mm film scan @ 4800 dpi
The Epson Perfection V600 is a more optimal balance of value, in our opinion. For those who want the impressive resolution of our previous recommendation, but don’t have ~$1,300 to spend on features which might not even get used, (mainly the 8×10 film scanning ability) …this ~$350 option could be perfect. Like the V850, the V600 boasts an impressive optical resolution of 6400 dpi, but only a density of 3.4 Dmax. This will be more than enough for incredible scans of prints, and will be adequate for most film as well.
- 6400 DPI optical resolution
- 12800×12800 max DPI
- 48-bit color depth
- 3.4 Dmax optical density
- 8.5×11.7” scanning area
This is a simple and well spec’d option that sacrifices resolution in favor of speed. It uses a feeder style for scanning, which makes it perfect for scanning stacks of small prints or Polaroids. The optical resolution is only 600 dpi, but that is more than enough for such small prints that simply need to be digitally archived and not necessarily reprinted.
Since this is a feeder-style scanner, it also is one of the only options for easily scanning very long panoramic prints, since it can accept up to 8.5 inches wide and an impressive 250-inch long paper/prints!
- 300 DPI optical resolution
- 1200 max DPI
- 30-bit color depth
- 8.5×240” scanning dimensions
- 1 sec scan speed @ 300 DPI (4×6” print)
This is by far our most affordable recommendation, at just $80. Note that there is also the Canon CanoScan LiDE 300, which costs even less, but we don’t recommend it because the scanning resolution is much lower.
Simply put, this Canon scanner is a good entry-level recommendation; it’s portable and easy to use, yet still packs good image quality. It may not offer the same professional level of fine detail and other advanced features, but it’s more than enough for digitizing memories. It runs entirely off of a USB connection, for those who may be looking to do scanning for friends/family, or clients, on-location with ease. It also offers one-button scanning and easy connection to cloud services such as Dropbox etc.
- 4800 DPI optical resolution
- 19200×19200 max dpi
- 48-bit color depth
- 8.5×11.7″ scanning dimensions
- 8 sec speed at 300 dpi
Conclusion | Best Photo Scanners
Although virtually all of the photos we create today start off digitally, the art of creating physical prints is a beautiful and rewarding experience. Whether you are capturing new images on film today, or you have a pile of prints and/or negatives to scan from yesteryear, a good photo scanner is an essential part of the process. We hope you found what you’re looking for in these recommendations! Please feel free to leave a comment if you have additional questions or suggestions.