What are the different types of Scanners and their Uses?

Scanners are an essential part of so many people both from IT and Non-IT backgrounds. It is important that we all know a bit about scanners. Scanners have a wide range of categorizations. A lot of what scanners can achieve is not yet known to a wide population. Let us in this article go through the different types of scanners that are available in the world.

The Scanners that we have been using for a decade…

Epson V39 (The best budget scanner)Check out Scanner
Epson V600 (You can scan Negatives and Sides)Check out Scanner
Kodak Film and Slide Scanner (for fast film scanning)Check out Scanner
Epson V850 (The best production scanner that we have been using)Check out Scanner
Plustek fast photo scannerCheck out Scanner

Before knowing the types of scanners, let us first understand what computer scanners are and know more about their uses.

What are Computer Scanners?

The word scanner is often misleading for the fact that hospitals use more sophisticated scanners than IT. We are not covering the scanners that are used in the medical field, however, we will still cover QR codes and Bar Code scanners as they are still connected to IT, hence the heading “Computer Scanner“. So what is a computer scanner?

A computer Scanner is an electronic device that interprets or converts anything from the physical or analog world to its digital counterpart, in the form of pixels, which can be viewed in any of those electronic devices that supports the display of pixels.

Now that we have understood what a scanner does, let us now plunge into its various uses them. The reason I am writing their uses is to make you understand if it can help you, and if it can help you, how it can help you?

What are the uses of a Computer Scanner?

Scanners are a boon to the following people who can make use of them in the following way depending on their use case:

No.Who needsWhat to ScanSupporting Scanners
1ArtistArtwork (Painting, Drawing, Sketch…)Check out Scanner
2PhotographerPhotos, Negatives, SlidesCheck out Scanner
3PublisherBooks, Journals, Photos, ArtworkCheck out Scanner
4Chartered AccountantDocuments and Files (IT Filing, KYC, etc.)Check out Scanner
5LibraryBarcode, QR CodeCheck out Scanner
6CorporatesEmployee RecordsCheck out Scanner
7RealtorsDeeds, AgreementsCheck out Scanner
8BanksLoans, StatementsCheck out Scanner
9UniversitiesMarks SheetsCheck out Scanner
10HospitalsPatient RecordsCheck out Scanner

There are many other verticals, where scanning would be advised based on the requirements. Scanners have created a lot of job opportunities. So, with all these opportunities, let us move to the next section, which is the main reason for coming up with the article.

What are the types of Computer Scanners?

Scanners can broadly be classified into several types. They are:

Flatbed Scanners

how to scan photo to digital

These are the typical ones that have been there from the initial days when the scanners were invented. They have a glass bed on which the materials, in this case, a sheet or a photograph, that have to be scanned are kept. These parts are exposed to the optical light that falls on the material and captures them pixel by pixel storing them in the storage as a digital copy.

Flatbed scanners are mainly used to scan anything flat. The materials that are scanned using this scanner are:

  • Photos
  • Documents
  • Thin Books

For more details on how to scan photos, you can view the following link. For a more detailed write-up, please follow this link.

If you want to get an idea of the best photo scanners out there, please follow this link.

Automated Document Feeder

If you or the organization that you work in, demands a lot of scans, you would have already realized by now how hard it is to scan bulk sheets and photos using flatbed scanners. Each document you have to scan has to be kept on the flatbed and the lid has to be closed before you actually scan.

To fasten this process, Automated Document Feeders (ADFs) were invented keeping in mind the speed. So, how is the ADF scanner different from the Flatbed Scanners. As the name suggests, there will be a place where the materials are inserted, also called a feeder.

These materials are sucked by the scanner and scanned using a similar concept as that of the light in a flatbed scanner. The main advantage of this over the flatbed scanner is the speed at which the materials get scanned.

Even here the materials that can be scanned are the same as what we could scan using the flatbed scanner. However, the height can be more than the A4 size sheet while in a flatbed it is only confined to A4.

This comes with the speed with which the scanners can size measured by a unit called PPM (Pages Per Minute). On average, an ADF can scan up to 100 PPM, while the flatbed is confined to a maximum of 5 ppm.

There are a couple of scanners in this segment that scan photos real quick. Please have a look at this article where we have written in-depth, including the warnings, about this scanner.

If you want to scan business cards and store them as contacts, this is the ideal scanner.

Overhead Scanners

Until now, the scanners that we have read about are the ones that scan the materials that pass through them very closely. Even a little far from the scanners will make the materials blurred.

So, if I want to scan a material that is not flat, how do I do it? This is what gave birth to what is called an Overhead Scanner. The Overhead Scanners use one or two digital cameras, around 10 to 12 inches under the camera(s), which will be the material that has to be scanned.

This material will be scanned by the Overhead Digital Cameras. Each time something triggers the cameras, the materials beneath them are scanned and stored on the computer’s hard drive.

The materials that are scanned are not limited to flat-shaped ones, instead, they can be of any shape. This makes it easier for us to scan:

  • Books
  • Manuscripts
  • Stone Carvings
  • Documents

Please read this article to know how to scan books using an overhead scanner.

Handheld Scanners

The scanners we have talked about until now are all bulky ones, in the sense that they are not portable. Some organizations needed small devices that could do the job of a flatbed scanner for a small set of documents. This is when handheld scanners were introduced.

Even they run on the same concept as any other scanner, the difference lies in their nature. This is a small rod kind of a scanner that can be held by a hand, hence the name handheld scanner.

To operate, you just need to hover over the material that needs to be scanned, and there you go, it gets captured while the button is pressed and gets stored in the memory card that is inserted into a place dedicated to it.

Once scanned, the digital content stored in the memory card has to be copied completing the scanning process. This again can scan only flat surfaces like the flatbed scanner. It is mostly used to quickly scan a few documents piled up from the previous day.

Negatives/Slides Scanners

We have covered the flatbed scanners and said in our previous sections about how they are scanned. But these flatbed photo scanners cannot scan the negatives or slides (transparencies in the form of reels we used to insert in analog cameras). Here is why they cannot. To scan them we need to have a different setup.

The scanner in the first place should have placeholders where the negatives of different sizes can be inserted into. Negatives of different sizes have different accessories or placeholders where we can insert them while the slides have different placeholders where they fit into.

Once inserted, they have to be scanned with both sides emitting light. On one side there will be a light-emitting bar that will be scanning while on the other side, a light helps brighten up the transparency, enabling the LED bar scan.

As it is scanned, the negatives will be inverted making the transparencies look like digital images, ready to be printed.

To scan films we use Epson V800 and V850. Please read this article to learn how to san using these scanners. You can also read information about cleaning the films, both negatives and slides here.

Book Scanners

This scanner is an overhead scanner. Despite the fact that it is an overhead scanner, it is worth mentioning about this scanner is a separate scanner because of its unique way of working.

This is specifically made for books. A V-Cradle on which books are kept without cutting open the spine and two overhead cameras will be capturing each side of the page one after the other. Each page will be stored in the order of the page number mentioned in the book.

These stored images are post-processed using bulk cleaning tools after which a PDF is created out of this. This is a very helpful way to scan books without cutting open the spine of the book and hence this scanner is also called a non-destructive scanner. You can read more about how to scan without damaging a book, here.

QR Code or Barcode Scanners

Though this reads the analog world entities just like the conventional scanners, the reason behind mentioning the scanner here is because of its power of deciphering the codes embedded using the same concepts as that of a camera which in turn derives its concepts from a conventional scanner.

The processing that it does is known by the name digital image processing, which is a wider topic that I would like to cover soon and is out of the scope of this article.

Large Format Scanners

These are the scanners that are used to scan big sheets. Civil Contractors, Building Constructors, Architects, Map Listers, and the like make use of such services. They will be dealing with large maps or designs, also called Blue Prints that will come in sheets that are bigger than A4.

These big sheets are to be scanned using equally big scanners. They will be similar to ADF that I have written about in the previous sections. Large-format sheets have to be fed into the input area of the scanners. The scanners in turn suck the sheets, scan them in the preferred resolution.

This invention has enabled the digitization of a lot of blueprints that the builders and constructors have.

Drum Scanners

There could be some instances when the photos have to be captured or scanned at the highest resolution when the resolution of a conventional flatbed photo scanner is not enough. In such cases, the scanner that is used is called a drum scanner.

The drum scanner can capture the highest of the available resolutions, by clamping or fitting the photos into a clear cylinder and spinning the cylinder exceeding 1000 RPM (Rotations Per Minute) during the scanning operation.

The concept of scanning is done using similar ways that are used in the flatbed. However, here a light source is focused on the photo pixel by pixel and moves down the drum, line by line. This ensures that the photos are scanned in a higher and better resolution.

The Scanners that we have been using for a decade…

Epson V39 (The best budget scanner)Check out Scanner
Epson V600 (You can scan Negatives and Sides)Check out Scanner
Kodak Film and Slide Scanner (for fast film scanning)Check out Scanner
Epson V850 (The best production scanner that we have been using)Check out Scanner
Plustek fast photo scannerCheck out Scanner


These are the scanners that are available across the globe. If we have missed out on something, don’t forget to comment below. It is up to each individual to select the scanner based on their requirement. As we have mentioned in this table above, you can use them for different purposes.

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