The best 3D scanners create a 3D model on your computer from a real-life object using a variety of methods depending on your scanner. They can either be portable or a unit fixed to the wall. The former can scan much larger items due to its mobility.
At Creative Bloq, we have used our wealth of experience and in-depth reviews to bring you a buying guide that allows you to find the best 3D scanner to fit your needs. Whether that's 3D printing or virtual reality. For creators looking to digitise the real world quickly and efficiently, you'll find some fantastic options here.
In this guide, we list our choices of the best 3D scanners on the market, including one you may, to your surprise, already own. Take a look at some of the best 3D scanner software to get to grips with creating your own 3D models.
Best for artists
The Creality CR Scan 01 is a fantastic all-rounder with the ability to scan down to 0.1mm, supports 24-bit true colour texture mapping, and requires no markers for scanning.
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This is an ideal 3D scanner for quickly grabbing from real life. Affordable and highly mobile, it boast a scan accuracy up to 0.05mm and can scan full colour at 10 frames per second.
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The best 3D scanners available now
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The best 3D scanner for artists
The Creality CR Scan 01 is a fantastic all-rounder and comes from a manufacturer with a track record of being a true innovator in the maker space, with a wide range of 3D printers and scanners available.
The Creality CR Scan 01 is the brand's latest enthusiast model with the ability to scan down to 0.1mm, supports 24-bit true colour texture mapping, and requires no markers for scanning. It offers both handheld and tripod mounting with portable turntables, too.
This is a great 3D Scanner for artists already invested in the Creality product range but is also easy to grasp and offers good results, making it an ideal gadget for newcomers.
The best handheld 3D scanner
Born from a Kickstarter project, the Revopoint POP 2 is the second iteration of this affordable 3D scanner and highly mobile 3D scanner, with a range of hardware improvements that have modified the scan accuracy up to 0.05mm. This is an ideal 3D scanner for quickly grabbing from real life.
With the ability to scan full colour at 10 frames per second, with a much smaller physical size than most other scanners on my list, the Revopoint POP2 makes an ideal entry point for artists new to 3D scanning. Weighing just 195g and with a special carry bag the Revopoint POP 2 is also one of the best handheld 3D scanners on my list.
The best handheld 3D scanner for newbies
The laser triangulation Matter & Form 3D Scanner V2 offers a different form factor than my previous picks. This is a foldable desktop scanner suitable for smaller objects and those who only want to scan items occasionally, as it can be easily stored away.
The box-like, folding design of the Matter & Form 3D Scanner V2 gives a stable platform and comes with a solid software solution, making it easy for those new to 3D scanning. I would recommend the Matter and Form V2 as an excellent choice as a ‘first 3D scanner’ as its software makes scanning a simple, and it's compatible with both Mac and Windows.
The best 3D scanner for large projects
The Shining 3D Einstar is an excellent option for artists wishing to scan larger objects or for objects outside. With fast 3D scanning, 14 frames per second and decent software, the Einstar can make short work of scanning big objects, including ornaments. The detail is excellent, and even features a "Hair Mode" option to get improved hair data from human scans.
This is a handheld scanner and so requires more practice than a tabletop one, so I recommend the Einstar to those already familiar with 3D scanning. This is a powerful scanner that can be harder to setup than others on my list, such as the Revopoint POP 2, and you will need a good graphics card. But it does excel at macro human scans (note, not eyes) and has been designed for AR and VR use.
The best cheap 3D scanner
The Creality CR Scan Ferret is for the artist who wants to try 3D scanning but is budget constrained or wants to see if 3D scanning is for them; basically, from my experience, this is the best cheap 3D scanner around and a good tester for the undecided.
Connecting either to a PC or, for true portability, an Android phone, the Creality CR Scan Ferret offers class-leading scan ability, with the option to capture textures as well. With a claimed 60 frames per second of capture, the Ferret offers speed, value and portability. It also looks neat too, and has a decent build quality for the price.
The downside? As you may expect from a cheaper device there is a slight lack precision, or at least, a bit of trial and error to get the results you want. The Creality CR Scan Ferret lacks the approachable use of a more expensive 3D scanner, and it doesn't currently support iOS (it does run on MacOS) making it a good choice for Android users who need a cheap mobile scanner.
The best professional 3D scanner
With the ability to scan down to 0.05mm, the Shining 3D EinScan SP is a true bridge between hobbyists and professional 3D scanners. It can be made portable and can generate scans and colour scans in under four seconds with the attached turntable option for accuracy and stability. (It can create a 360-degree scan in around a minute using the auto scan feature.)
While not cheap, the Shining 3D EinScan SP offers speed, versatility and accuracy backed by excellent software. This is a 3D scanner that will appeal to any artist wanting to get into scanning but has a demanding end-use case that ensures its scans can easily be used in a professional VR, AR or 3D modelling project.
Why is the Shining 3D EinScan SP so far down on my list? Purely because it is costly and aimed squarely at dedicated 3D artists with a professional pipeline who need high-end results. You will need to understand a slightly more complex software and have a good graphics card and a good desktop PC.
The best pocket 3D scanner
Bit of a curveball, but the iPhone 14 Pro (and in act the iPhone 13 Pro) are excellent 3D scanners. Sometimes the best tool is the one you (may) already have, and since the release of the iPhone 13 Pro, the LiDAR Scanner that comes with both the 13 and 14 Pro has been used as part of the AR solution for creatives and as a 3D scanner.
A wide range of apps can turn your iPhone into a portable or tripod-mounted 3D scanner. While not as accurate or sophisticated as the other devices mentioned in my list, the iPhone is still a perfect stepping stone for those artists curious about 3D scanning.
If you need to be sold on just how handy and powerful an iPhone can be, take a look at the newly announced Metahuman Animator from Epic Games that enables you to scan an actor's performance and render the mocap data into a 3D, animated model.
Are 3D scanners worth the money?
While you can create 3D scans of small objects from a phone these days, you'll soon find the resolution lacking if you need to create professional models for games or AR and VR. So a high-resolution, dedicated 3D scanner with proper software to tidy-up and refine scans is important. So yes, for the best results a 3D scanner is needed.
How much should I pay for a good 3D scanner?
While there are cheap options, a good price for a 3D scanner from a reputable brand is around $500 / £400. This can go up to around $1,000 / £1,000 if you need a more professional 3D scanner with better resolution and accuracy.
What app do I need to 3D scan on an iPhone?
I'd recommend Polycam to create 3D scans using an iPhone or iPad (read our iPad generations feature to find which is best for you). This will capture 3D scans using the LiDAR sensor and you can edit the results in your mobile or tablet.
Are 3D scanners accurate?
The accuracy of 3D scanners is generally within 0.01mm and 0.1mm. The ability to scan details to less than 0.1mm in the range of detail available can lead to dense meshes, which the software with the scanner may be able to optimise. This creates an incredibly accurate 3D model of the item you wish to scan - the best 3D scanners are not just convenient, but are also very effective.
Is photogrammetry better than 3D scanning?
Overall, photogrammetry is better for realism and for scanning large rooms and spaces. But it's expensive and requires more work to generate models, if you need quick and accurate 3D models of small objects, 3D scanning is relatively cheap, very accurate and easy.
How to choose the right 3D scanner
To choose the right 3D scanner for you, you first need to consider a series of key factors. Firstly, what will you be scanning? Object size, detail level and desired accuracy will all point you towards the kind of scanner you need. Also think about budget. 3D scanners range from budget-friendly phone attachments to high-end industrial models costing tens of thousands. Determine how much you're willing to spend and prioritise features accordingly. Another factor is ease of use. Some scanners require extensive training, while others are more user-friendly. Finally, ensure the device's software is compatible with your hardware and operating system.
How we test 3D scanners
When we review 3D scanners, we test their accuracy, reliability, and performance. Our evaluation typically involves a series of comprehensive assessments to validate the scanner's ability to capture and reproduce three-dimensional objects with precision. Initial tests focus on the scanner's calibration, verifying that it accurately interprets spatial dimensions and distances. We also evaluate resolution, examining the device's ability to capture fine details, and speed of operation.