Scanners Articles

Flatbed Vs. Slide Scanners: Pros And Cons Compared

A comparison between flatbed vs slide scanner is important if you have a load of negative films that need scanning.

Flatbed are common and popular, whereas slide scanners built specifically for films are exquisite and specialized.

The question is how, are they better?

This article is actually a debate over a comparison between a flatbed and film scanner.

Let’s have a look first how each works.

Before we dive in the flatbed vs slide scanner debate, let us clear out what they actually are.

Note that do not confuse slide scanner with wand scanners. Wand scanners are compact scanners that you SLIDE over a an image to scan. Learn about wand scanners here.

Flatbed Scanners

A flatbed scanner is good for all kind of scanning.

It has a glass panel over which a document, or anything you want to scan, is placed. It has a built-in light source that illuminates the document.

The scanner also contains a lens, a mirror filter, and CCD rays that are fixed on the top. This combined function moves over the document capturing each detail and saving the data as electronic signals.

Slide Scanner

Known as slide or film scanners, these devices are dedicated to scanning medium format slides, films, 35mm slides, and other negatives.

These are high-end scanners that are exclusively designed to get excellent results of photos, negatives, and films.

These scanners work by passing a highly focused beam through the film and reading the intensity and color of the light that emerges.

Flatbed vs. Slide Scanner Comparison

We will list the pros and cons of both scanners here. Of course we will keep the negative films in mind here.

Related: Flatbed Vs Sheetfed Scanners Compared

Benefits of Flatbed scanners

Let us start out this comparison between flatbed vs slide scanner with benefits of a flatbed scanner.

Good for All types of Scans

Flatbed scanners are one of the most popular ones and reasonably so due to their utility and performance. They are good for all types of documents especially scanning all oddly shaped documents.

Great for Scanning Pictures

Flatbed scanners are coming with a lot more useful features for making them good for other purposes.

Over the years they have developed reasonably well and have focused on scanning photographs and medium format films too.

We are not talking about just any average scanner here but scanners with more advanced features for scanning photographs and films like Epson and Canon. These scanners are not only good for documents but produce equally excellent results with pictures as well.

Useful Photo Editing Features

Advanced flatbed scanners come with all kind of photo editing software. You don’t need to install separate photo editing and enhancement applications.

Flatbed scanners have ICE technology for editing and enhancing scanned images.

Cons of Flatbed scanners

Some down sides of flatbed scanners are:

Does not Support 35 mm Films

Again, we are not talking about high-end scanners, but an average old flatbed cannot scan 35mm films. So, if you need to digitize some old films, then they are not of much use.


Epson Perfection V370

Flatbed Scanners like Epson Perfection V370 are more expensive than Slide Scanners, but have more functionalities.

One of the biggest deciding factor for flatbed vs slide scanner debate is the cost.

A good flatbed scanner with an equally amazing photo scanning will be costly.

You can’t expect the same quality and performance from an inexpensive device. So don’t pin unrealistic hopes on an inexpensive flatbed scanner.

Takes Time in Photo Scanning

Flatbed scanners are time taking. Even if they can scan with high-speed, still you need to place each photograph or negative on its glass panel. Thus while you can scan negatives with a flatbed scanner they may not be the best option.

Lots of Manual Work

Flatbed requires manual work for flipping sides or putting a picture on its surface one by one.

If you multiply the same task to a hundred times, then a lot of manual work is involved in the scanning process

Benefits of Film Scanners

Specifically Designed for Photos

These scanners are specially designed for films, slides, negatives, and medium to large format scanners. So they are more focused on giving excellent results.

Related: Best 8mm Film Scanners Reviewed

Good for Scanning 35mm Slides

Slide scanners are great for scanning 35mm slides.

Professional Results

They are trusted for professional results of scans. As they are focused on image scanning, they give more professional results.

Better Photo Quality

Slide scanners produce great scans. They are more focused on the quality, depth, sharpness, and resolution of pictures.

They are excellent for creating enlargements, archiving, or revitalizing old pictures.

Tools For Editing And Enhancement

These scanners come with many useful tools and software for image editing and enhancement for giving a professional look to your photographs.

Convenient and Time-saving

Since time = money, this is a good point in this flatbed vs slide scanner comparison.

Unlike flatbed scanners, you don’t have to process each photograph or slide one by one.

Slide scanners can handle a batch of films, negatives, or old photographs. It reduces the manual work involved and becomes more convenient for scanning old pictures in bulk.

Cons of Film Scanners


Slide scanners with good quality are expensive. The less expensive ones do not give the same quality.

Not good for other scanning needs

Most of these scanners are exclusively designed for photos, and if you require scans of documents, sheets, books, and other artwork, then you would need another scanner.


So our final verdict in this flatbed vs slide scanner is simple: set your objectives. Why you need the slide or flatbed scanner and how you can take maximum benefit out of each.

If you only need to scan some old pictures, then a good flatbed with photo scanning option can do the job easily. Plus it will be useful for your other scanning needs too.

The result of scans will also be great, and at one price you will get the maximum value. A good flatbed scanner like Epson 500/600/800 can give the same results with offering other useful features for scanning all kind of documents and 3D objects.

But if you are a professional with only photo editing and scanning needs, then a slide scanner can be your best bet. The rule of thumb for both these kind of scanners is to invest money for good results.

If you went cheap and chose any scanner, then you can’t expect high-end results.

So be it slide or flatbed, take your time searching all options and invest in a trusted brand with a good reputation. A good flatbed scanner could be the solution of your all needs if you chose the right one.