Flatbed scanners will take up some desktop space but provide a lot of bang for the buck. They look like miniature printers with a flip-up cover protecting the glass platen. Depending on its size, a flatbed scanner can fit standard or legal-sized documents, and the flexible cover allows you to scan large items such as books. These scanners are great for scanning the occasional newspaper article, book chapter, or photograph; or for those who may need to scan or bulky items such as the cover of a DVD. Flatbed scanners are often built into multifunction printers (MFPs). You can find a decent flatbed scanner for $100 or less.
Photo ScannersScanning documents doesn’t require high resolution or color depth; but scanning photos does. Many all-purpose scanners can also scan photos, meaning that you don’t need a separate device to handle your photographs. But if you need a scanner primarily to digitize film negatives or slides, a photo scanner is a better deal (even if it is considerably more expensive than an all-purpose scanner). Photo scanners include specialized technology so that they can deal with slides and negatives; they also have built-in software to clean up old photos. Decent photo scanners will start at about $130 (and go way up from there). Here are my Top Picks.
Sheetfed ScannersSheetfed scanners are smaller than flatbed scanners; as the name implies, you feed a document or photo into the scanner rather than place it on top. You’ll win back some of that desktop space with a sheetfed scanner but you may sacrifice some resolution in the process. If you’re only scanning documents, however, it may be a worthwhile trade, especially if you’ve got a lot of them since you can feed them in bunches. With a flatbed scanner, you’ll have to scan one page at a time (unless it comes with an automatic document feeder). Sheetfed scanners start around $300.