The best photo scanners have enjoyed something of a revival in the past few years. With a resurging interest in film photography, plus no shortage of people looking to digitize their archives of old snaps, there's very much a demand out there for a good scanner.
However, it can be tricky to figure out which scanner you need. Different models offer different advantages – some are designed for speed and batch-scanning, while others are much slower, but will scan an image at much higher resolutions. On scanners, resolution is measured in dots-per-inch (DPI) – if you want a decent, clean scan of your photos then you should be looking for something with at least 600dpi, but many scanners go considerably higher than this. It depends on what you want to do with the scans – if you're planning on making new prints, then you need as much resolution as possible.
You may be scanning more than printed photos, such as film negatives or slides. If so, then you'll want to look for a scanner with dedicated holders to keep the film in place. Some scanners will be able to batch-scan, while others will require you to feed in the photos one at a time. If your archive is a large one, you'll probably want the former, as otherwise you'll be sitting around in front of the scanner for hours.
We've included photo scanners in this guide for a range of budgets. Take a look below to see our selection of the best photo scanners available now, and if you're also planning to print hard copies of your scans, see our guide to the best home printers. Also, if you're scanning documents to sign, see our guide to the best e-signature software.
The best photo scanners
As an all-rounder photo scanner that does everything you need without costing a fortune, the Epson Perfection V600 gets our recommendation. It's a flatbed scanner, capable of scanning film negatives as well as printed photographs, which majorly expands its usefulness for analog photographers.
The Perfection V600 comes with two film holders that can be adapted to different sizes and formats, from 35mm negatives to mounted slide transparencies. With a resolution of up to 6,400dpi, it can digitize your images in stunning detail, and also offers extensive digital correction and enhancement technology that can automatically get rid of the likes of spots, scratches and dust motes from your images.
The Plustek ePhoto Z300 is an ideal budget photo scanner, optimised for scanning printed photos in decent quality. Its scan resolution is 600dpi, which clearly isn't as good as the likes of the Epson Perfection V600, but, well, that's one of the reasons it's less than a third of the price.
The design is understated and the physical weight/footprint of the scanner is fairly minimal, meaning you can tuck it away in the corner of an office or living room. Of course, this does come with other trade-offs, namely that photos need to be fed through one at a time. If you've got a big archive that needs digitizing, you may want to consider a scanner that can batch-handle photos, as otherwise you'll feel the precious years of your life ebbing away. (If this concerns you, then you may want to scroll down to our next entry.)
Otherwise, if you don't mind this restriction, the straightforward interface of the Plustek ePhoto Z300 makes it easy to use. Plus, there are some useful built-in image-enhancement features, which can add some zhuzh to faded photos without the need for too much fiddling.
Photo scanning can be a royal pain in the proverbial, so it's always good to look out for ways to speed it up. One of the best is the Epson FastFoto FF-680W, a scanner designed for speed above all else, as implied by the name. It can be loaded up with 36 prints at a time, and if you set the resolution to 300dpi, it can manage a photo per second.
Now, 300dpi is a little stingy. It'll do for casual snaps or images to upload to Instagram (which will compress them anyway), but if you want a decent level of detail, you'll want to bolster the resolution up to its maximum of 600dpi; just be aware that this will make the scans take longer.
If you have boxes and boxes of old photos taking up space in your attic or basement, the Epson FastFoto FF-680W is the ideal way to get them digitised as efficiently as possible. It makes for a good interim solution – use the fast scanner to get everything digitized, sift through for the keepers, then take them to a lab to get digitally scanned at high resolutions.
One of the main issues with photo scanners is their size and weight. Big, bulky, and designed to sit in an office or home studio, they're no good for scanning on-the-go. Fortunately, the Canon P-20811 is designed with portability in mind. Marketed towards business travellers who need to scan in expenses receipts, business cards, or other industry documents while out visiting clients, it's suitable for photos as well.
It's small enough to fit in most bags and it's surprisingly capable, with a 10-sheet capacity and duplex scanning. It connects via USB, but if you want to scan to your phone or tablet, there's an optional Wi-Fi unit available that will allow you to do that wirelessly.
One of the absolute best scanners for photographs is the Epson Perfection V850. If you want high-end quality you'll have to be prepared to shell out for it, because it is much more expensive than other models in our round-up which makes it more suited towards professional photographers and serious amateurs who have the budget for it. It can scan up to a huge 4800dpi for general photo scanning or boost it to 6400dpi to scan film negatives and slides. It even has dual-lens technology built-in, which automatically selects the best lens to scan with based on the image you're using.
Like the cheaper Epson Perfection V600, it features Digital ICE tech for removing dust and scratches from old photos, and it boasts a high dynamic range so that it'll perfectly match the tone and colour of every print you feed to it.
If you're a Windows user and you need to scan more than photos alone, the Canon DR-F120 is a great solution. It has a document feeder on the top with a 50-sheet capacity, making it ideal for office work. Underneath that, there's a flatbed scanner that's perfect for photos.
A perfect jack of all trades, this scanner has a respectable 600dpi max scanning resolution, but those seeking highly detailed scans for professional work might need something with a little more sophistication. However, it's a solid all-rounder that'll do a good job and scan up to 20 pages per minute.
Running out of desk space? The Canon DR-C225W II slimline document scanner might be just what you need. Its sheet-fed design is probably not that suitable for older, more fragile prints, since it's mainly aimed at scanning A4 documents, but it is a small, slimline scanner with reliable results.
It can hold up to 30 sheets in the feeder, and it'll scan in colour at up to 25 pages per minute (of course it'll take longer than that at higher resolutions). Its Wi-Fi connection means that you don't have to worry about messy cables cluttering up your desk either. Like the DR-F120 above, this is another Windows-only scanner.
So what about Mac users? Well if you're disappointed that the two last options are Windows-only, don't despair because the Xerox XD-COMBO is a fine combination scanner. It also has a sheet feeder on top and a flatbed underneath, making it suitable for most scanning jobs.
A great option for Mac users, this scanner also works for Windows and, similar to the Canon DR-F120, it can scan at a resolution of up to 600dpi. It also includes an additional feature for improving visual clarity thanks to the on-board Visioneer Acuity technology.