SHOOTOUT…Flatbed Scanner vs. Sheetfed Scanner vs. Copy Stand Photography


Girl in a box D.D. Teoli Jr..jpg

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

Scanned 3D image on flatbed scanner (post processed)

Selection from Girl in a Box artist’s book by D.D. Teoli Jr.

This is a shootout between a flatbed scanner, a sheetfed scanner and a camera on a copy stand.

Each method has its own benefits and drawbacks. The photos in the shootout have no post processing and are raw scans / photos. The copy stand photos have been cropped. All photos have been reduced.

USA made level for copy stand D.D. Teoli Jr.

Copy Stand Tip:  Use the 2 second self-timer to steady the camera if you don’t have a remote release. Also use a small spirit level to make sure things are square.

Copy stand photo D.D. Teoli Jr (4)Copy stand photo D.D. Teoli Jr (3)

Above are the copy stand photos made with a Fuji 16mp camera and 35mm lens.

Copy stand photography with standard left / right 45 degree LED lighting shows up defects in the photo more so than scanning. You can see this with the silvering on the bottom photo and scratches on the top photo shown above.

Flat bed scan D.D. Teoli Jr. (2).jpg

Flat bed scan D.D. Teoli Jr. (1).jpg

Above are the flatbed scans made with an ancient Epson V500 scanner.

Shet fed scan D.D. Teoli Jr.. (1).jpg

Shet fed scan D.D. Teoli Jr.. (2).jpg

Shet fed scan D.D. Teoli Jr.. (3).jpg

Shet fed scan D.D. Teoli Jr.. (4).jpg

Above are the sheetfed scans made with an Epson 300 dpi scanner. The sheetfed scanner gives you the option of scanning both sides at once. The resolution is not as good as the flatbed scanner, but it is still decent. They have higher dpi sheetfed scanners than mine. But generally speaking a sheetfed scanner does not scan as good as a flatbed scanner for all you pixel peepers out there.

The sheetfed scanner offers an auto-crop option, but it may crop a little more than you like. The auto-crop option periodically leaves a lot of background in the scan and makes the scan unacceptable unless cropped in post. The flatbed scanner can also do auto-crop. Results vary with the flatbed. I generally don’t use auto-crop for flatbed scans.


crop failure on sheetfed scanner lr.jpg

Above is an auto-crop scan that did not crop the left side of the image.

Poor crops are mainly an issue when the sheetfed scanner is scanning at high speed. But, if you are not too particular with the crop, the sheetfed scanner can shoot scans out like a machine gun when set to do high speed scans. And this cropping problem at high speed may be an issue with my scanner only. All my gear is old, so this shootout does not cover state of the art equipment.

I am a volunteer for the Internet Archive. In 2018 I produced +/- 27,000 scans with a sheet fed scanner. I could not have got the work done without a high speed, dual scan, auto crop, sheetfed scanner. The drawback of the sheetfed scanner is a speck of dust on the glass gets drawn down the entire scan as a white or black line, whereas a speck of dust on a flatbed scanner is…just a speck of dust.

Constant checking for lines in the scans every 20 or 30 scans is a hassle, but it must be done. You can run off a few hundred scans only to find out they are all useless due to lines running over the entire image.  Sometimes cleaning has to be done 2 or 3 times to get rid of the lines.

ink transfer from dirty rollers on scanner.jpg

If you scan matte black ink, like they use in comic books, the rollers will get loaded with ink and they transfer the black ink to fresh originals you are scanning as is shown in the photo above.  You must remove the rollers to clean them or buy new rollers.

Out of the 27,000 scans I made, +/- 23,000 – 24,000 were useable, the rest were trashed due to lines.  And that was with cleaning the glass thoroughly before each scan session and multiple times during the scan sessions. As an archivist, much of the material I work with is old and dirty. If you have clean material, the line issue should be reduced greatly. But new material or not, sheetfed scanners are susceptible to this line problem.

sheetfed scan with line in it.jpg

Above is a scan of clean, new material with a line from the sheetfed scanner. The scanner output was not checked during the run and 194 scans had to be redone due to line problems.

The beauty of the sheetfed scanner is you can load a pile of originals in the scanner, press play and go away to do something else. You come back and the scans are done, auto cropped and ready to go. But if you do that, your scans may be all full of lines unless you periodically check the scans as they come out of the scanner. One scan may be perfect and the next scan may be useless. Just no telling with a sheetfed scanner.

There is a trick to scanning matte black ink with minimal ink transfer to the rollers. It is not perfect, but it allows for scanning the material without ruining the rollers as fast. You disengage the top roller and handfeed the paper one at a time.

Roller marks from sheetfed scanner.jpg

The trouble with this technique is the cheap newsprint type paper that they sometimes use for matte black ink does not scan well in a sheetfed scanner. The rollers crinkle the paper as it feeds it and gives a wrinkle in the center to the scan as is shown above.

Another problem area for the sheetfed scanner is scanning photos with holes in them. Yes, a very odd area, but still a possibility for some projects.

If your photos have holes in them, try scanning portrait photos in the landscape feed so the holes are not in the center of the scanner. The scanner sensor is in the center and can get caught in the hole.

Here is another scanning option that I have not discussed…the overhead scanner.



They have large ones that scan oversize projects. They have page detection where it automatically makes a scan when each page is turned.

(Internet photo – Fair Use)

16mm reel copy stand photo D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

Copy Stand photo (post processed)

Selection from Small Gauge Film Reel and Can Archive artist’s book by D.D. Teoli Jr.




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