Why would you want one of the best photo scanners in this day and age? For most of us they've become a bit of an anachronism, as we tend to take photos either on our phones or with digital cameras. However if you still prefer to shoot on film, or if you have a large collection of old prints that you'd like to preserve, a photo scanner is an essential piece of kit.
If you're serious about finding the best photo scanner then you'll need a flatbed model with a high DPI; 600 is the minimum for getting good, clear scans of your photos, but for the best reproduction you'll want to go higher. And you're likely to want something that can cope with film and slides, complete with holders to keep things in place.
For more general use as well as photo scanning, there are plenty of options that'll cope just as well with normal documents as they do with photos; if you're not a dedicated photographer then these are most likely to be the best choice for you. We've found a broad selection of the best photo scanners available now; once you're kitted out and decide you want a hard copy of your favourite scans, check out our guide to the best home printers. And if you're scanning documents and need to sign them, see our guide to the best e-signature software.
The best photo scanners
For the absolutely perfect mix of price and versatility, the Epson Perfection V600 is one of the best photo scanners around. It's a flatbed scanner that'll do a fantastic job of scanning photos, but where it beats similarly-priced scanners is in its ability to scan film as well as prints.
It comes with a pair of film holders that can handle pretty much every size and format including 35mm and mounted slides, and with a maximum 6400dpi it'll capture all the detail you need. It also features digital image correction and enhancement (ICE) tech, enabling it to automatically remove dust and scratches from your images.
If you need a photo scanner that'll produce quality results without costing you a fortune, the Plustek ePhoto Z300 is the ideal choice. With striking looks it definitely stands out from the crowd, and it's geared towards scanning printed photos rather than documents, with a 600dpi resolution that should be more than enough for your snapshots. It's a little basic – photos need to be fed through one at a time – but it's easy to use and also packs some handy image enhancement tools to help you get the best out of old and faded snaps.
When you have a huge backlog of photos that you want to get scanned, you don't want to be standing around loading prints onto a flatbed scanner, and you don't want to be kept waiting while it scans. With the Epson FastFoto FF-680W you can simply load it with up to 36 prints at a time and let it get on with it at an impressive pace; it's among the best photo scanners for anyone who values speed.
At 300dpi it'll power through one photo a second, which is fine for snapshots; for quality results you'll probably want to dial the resolution up to 600dpi and wait a little longer for your scans. The scanner's designed to treat your photos gently, and it's also good for scanning general documents.
Canon's P-20811 is a portable scanner that's mainly aimed at business travellers who need to be able to scan documents, receipts and business cards while they're out and about, however unlike many portable scanners of this type it's also suitable for photos.
It's small enough to fit in most bags but it's surprisingly capable, with a 10-sheet capacity and duplex scanning. Connection is via USB, but if you want the ability to scan to your phone or tablet while you're on the move, there's an optional Wi-Fi unit available that'll enable you to do it wirelessly.
For professional photographers and serious enthusiasts with deep pockets, the Epson Perfection V850 Pro is likely to be top of the list of best photo scanners. It's big, heavy and expensive, but it delivers with a dual lens system that'll automatically select the best lens for every job, up to 4800dpi for photo scanning and 6400dpi for scanning film and slides.
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 exactly match the tone and colour of every print you give it.
If you need to scan more than photos – and if you're on Windows – then the Canon DR-F120 is an ideal solution that'll do pretty much everything you want. It features a document feeder on the top with a 50-sheet capacity, making it ideal for office work, and underneath that is a flatbed scanner that's perfect for photos.
Its 600dpi resolution means it's not really suitable for creating high-quality scans, but if what you need is an all-rounder that'll do a creditable job at a decent lick – up to 20 pages per minute – then you can't go wrong with this, unless you're on a Mac because it's not compatible.
Short on desk space? The Canon DR-C225W II slimline document scanner might be just what you need. As a sheet-fed scanner that's designed to work with A4 documents you might not want to trust it with precious prints, but as a compact desktop scanner it's hard to beat.
Its feeder can hold up to 30 sheets and it'll scan in colour at up to 25 pages per minute (of course it'll take longer at higher resolutions), and its Wi-Fi connection means that you don't have to worry about unsightly cables cluttering up your desk. Like the DR-F120 above, however, it's Windows-only.
Mac users gazing disconsolately at the Canon DR-F120 in the knowledge that it won't work with their computer should take heart in the fact that they can instead opt for the Xerox XD-COMBO.
It's another combination scanner that has a sheet feeder on top and a flatbed underneath, making it suitable for most scanning jobs, and like the Canon it scans at up to 600dpi with the added bonus of Visioneer Acuity technology to boost the visual clarity of your scanned photos. For Mac users (or indeed Windows users) in need of a general-purpose scanner that's good for photos, it's a fantastic choice.