We’d forgive you for thinking document scanners and photo scanners are equal, but there are some key differences. Scanning photos takes a special touch, especially when scanning high volumes. For speed and quality, the best photo scanner is the Epson FastFoto FF-680W. Compared to a regular document scanner, it packs more resolution and accurate color reproduction — even allowing you to perform some photo editing tasks.
Like choosing a camera, prioritizing features simplifies the process of selecting the best photo scanner. Scanners with auto-feed are better for digitizing large stashes of photos, while high-end flatbed scanners offer the most quality for serious photographers who want to scan both prints and film. From budget options to professional models, here are the best photo scanners you can buy.
At a glance:
- Best photo scanner: Epson FastFoto FF-680W
- Best photo scanner for professional film photographers: Epson Perfection V850 Pro
- Best photo scanner for film enthusiasts: Epson Perfection V600
- Best cheap photo scanner: Canon CanonScan Lide 400 Slim
- Best cheap 35mm film scanner: Kodak Mobile Film Scanner
Why you should buy this: Fast scans with auto-backups to the cloud
Who’s it for: Anyone with a box of old photos to digitize
Why we picked the Epson FastFoto FF-680W:
Few tasks are more boring than scanning boxes of old photos, one image at a time. The Epson FastFoto FF-680W is one of the fastest personal photo scanners on the market, not just because of the quick one-second scans but because of features like an auto feeder and auto cloud backups that automates much of the process.
Capable of scanning stacks of 36 images up to 8.5 inches wide and 36 inches long, the scanner will jet through those photos at a rate of about one photo a second. Despite the speed, the scans maintain a 300 dpi resolution, respectable considering the speed and the personal — not professional — photo scanner category. An auto-upload option can save those images to a cloud service like Dropbox or Google Drive, while the images can also be saved to USB.
Double-sided scans are an option, helpful for images with notes on the back as well as pulling double duty to scan receipts and documents. The speed and convenient tools got us excited about the original FastFoto FF-640, while the latest generation integrates several updates based on previous users.
The quality of the scan isn’t the highest on the list, but the FastFoto still gets pretty great results without leaving you hunched over a flatbed for hours at a time — and for that, it’s the photo scanner that will work best for many users.
Why you should buy this: Excellent resolution and color depth for high-end scans
Who’s it for: Professionals and other detail-oriented film photographers
Why we picked the Epson Perfection V850 Pro:
The Epson Perfection V850 Pro is to lesser scanners what a DSLR is to a camera phone. With resolution up to 6,400 x 9,600, there’s plenty of detail for the most demanding photographers. That resolution is mixed with a 48-bit color depth and a 4.0 Dmax dynamic range to keep the colors and detail consistent from the print to the digital file.
The scan surface is an 8.5 by 11.7 inch for tackling prints as large as 8 x 10 inches. But the scanner can handle more than prints. Multiple film holders allows for scanning 35mm negatives and positives, including mounted slides, as well as medium format and 4×5 film. Several frames of film can be scanned at once to speed up the process, and the software will automatically detect and separate the individual frames.
For the most discerning photographers, the V850 offers a wet-mount scanning solution that holds film perfectly flat, sandwiched between two glass plates. This ensures the focus remains tack sharp across the entire piece of film, which otherwise can vary slightly from the center to the edge as the film naturally bends.
Color print scans can be finished in around 12 seconds, while a 35mm negative scans in just under a minute. The included software boosts efficiency even further, using Digital ICE technology to automatically remove dust, scratches, hair and fingerprints. The downside? The high resolution and advanced features make it a pricey option, but if you shoot a lot of film, it won’t take long for the scanner to pay for itself compared to having your photos scanned by a lab.
Why you should buy this: High-resolution print and film scans — without breaking the bank
Who’s it for: Photographers and casual users with both prints and film to scan
Why we picked the Epson Perfection V600:
Still suffering from sticker shock over the V850? The Epson Perfection V600 wraps up some of the best features from the high-end model at a quarter of the price. Boasting the same 6,400 x 9,600 maximum resolution and 48-bit color depth as the V850, the V600 offers high-quality scans without the steep pro-level price point.
The V600 tackles both photos and film, accommodating 35mm as well as some medium format sizes. The transparency unit is built-in for easily accommodating the film. Digital ICE software, which removes imperfections such as dust and scratches automatically, is also included. However, the V600 is not compatible with the wet-mount plate of the V850.
The V600 also doesn’t include advanced features like duplex scanning or an auto-feed, so the scanner may be a bit tedious for working with large volumes of images. Its film holders also hold fewer frames than those of the V850. For the price, though, it’s hard to beat the resolution and dual-purpose film and photo scanning.
Why you should buy this: Quick, simple and affordable photo scanning
Who’s it for: Budget-minded consumers
Why we picked the Canon CanoScan LiDE 400:
Digitizing photos doesn’t always mean investing hundreds of dollars. The Canon CanoScan LiDE 400 sits at under the three-figure price point while still offering the must-have features and a few extras. With an optical resolution of 4,800 dpi, scans from the cheap photo scanner are still good quality. Scans are fairly quick, as well, with a 300 dpi scan taking just eight seconds.
The scanner accommodates photos and documents up to 8.5 by 11.7 inches, but uses a slim, lightweight design. An included stand can keep the scanner upright to take up less real estate on your desk. The control scheme is equally simple, and this scanner is very easy to use. Using just a single USB cable for both power and data, it also helps maintain an organized desk.
While a budget model, the CanoScan LiDE 400 also includes the option to send scans to cloud storage, though unlike Wi-Fi-enabled scanners, it must be connected to a computer to do so.
Why you should buy this: Film scans that come incredibly cheap
Who’s it for: Anyone looking for a film scan that’s good enough to share on social media
Why we picked the Kodak Mobile Film Scanner:
The Google Cardboard of film scanners, the Kodak Mobile Film Scanner turns the camera in your phone into a “scanner,” while providing the backlight, stand, and film holder to complete the setup. The scanner is little more than a cardboard platform with a light underneath the film holder, so the image quality depends mostly on your phone’s camera. In our hands-on testing, we found it didn’t perform perfectly with a single-lens phone due to the wide-angle nature of the lens, but phones with a second, telephoto lens may offer better results with less cropping required after the fact.
Because this is just a snapshot of a piece of film, the quality isn’t ideal for much beyond sharing to social media. The design also means that scans are just one exposure at a time, not an entire strip at a time. While not ideal for serious photographers looking for high-quality scans or quickly working through large quantities, the price is hard to beat. For users that just want to scan a bit of old film and then probably won’t look at the scanner again, the inexpensive price point makes the Kodak Mobile Film Scanner worth a look.
- The best video cameras for 2020
- The best travel cameras for 2020
- The best digital cameras for 2020
- The best printers for 2020
- The best vlogging cameras for 2020