Looking for a Linux-compatible scanner

I own two scanners: a Fujitsu ScanSnap S510 and an Epson Perfection 4180 Photo. The S510 is a sheetfed document scanner, and works great at that. It has perfect SANE support, duplex mode, excellent sheet feeder, and is a generally good document scanner. It’s passable for photos, but only that. The color isn’t great, and the precision of a sheetfed scanner just isn’t up to a flatbed.

The Epson has never been supported by SANE directly. There was an epkowa driver, but the 4180 epkowa driver hasn’t been updated in ages and isn’t compatible with any modern Linux distro.

So, I’m looking for a flatbed scanner for photos and documents (no need for negatives; that’s the THIRD scanner on my desk.) The most important requirement is that it work well with Linux. The next most important requirement is that it have as good scanning quality as possible for an under-$200 scanner.

If it’s an all-in-one (with a printer), I’m fine with that, as long as it meets the above requirements. Any suggestions?

27 thoughts on “Looking for a Linux-compatible scanner

  1. HP. HP, HP, HP.

    I’ve owned several HP printers, scanners, and all-in-ones. Every HP device works flawlessly with Linux, thanks to HP writing and releasing FOSS drivers and supporting software.

    You can use a device directly connected via USB, or better yet you can get an HP JetDirect and attach it to Ethernet or wireless. HP’s “hplip” software (packaged in Debian) lets you do everything over the network that you can do with the device attached locally, including print, scan, use the card reader, and check the ink levels.

    Highly recommended. HP’s excellent Linux support made me a customer for life. I don’t even have to bother to check the compatibility lists; if it says “HP”, I just know it will work.

  2. I hope you’ll write about your final choice / experience.

    I’m thinking about buying a scanner, but it would have to be quite good at scanning film (35mm and probably 6×6) in addition to photos.

    The Epson V700/V750 are supposed to be very good at this, but expensive and I’ve no idea how much of the device’s performance is possible with the sane backend (they’re listed as “Good” but not “Complete”.)

    Most other scanners are basically not suited for scanning film, so I’ve mostly given up on this for now (since I’m not sure if I want to invest more the ca. CHF 1000.)

  3. I’d say HP too, although for photos I still prefer the Perfection 2580; too bad negative scanning sucks on Linux (sooner or later I’ll find time to work on that!). By the way it’s also supported by the snapscan driver rather than just epkowa (that doesn’t work on 64-bit systems); it still requires the firmware though.

    I got an HP all-in-one with hplip, and it works great for documents, both b/w and colour; the other night I scanned something like 260 sheets (I’m archiving all my local bills and so on).

  4. HP, HP, HP. We have a HP all-in-one inkjet and it works out of box on lenny.

    Their hplip drivers for linux support all printers and multifunction devices they make, and HP sponsors debian actively.

    However, It seems their support for singlefunction scanners (scanjet) is more spotty.

  5. Thanks to everyone for the comments. I have gravitated towards HP too. All their current multifunction devices are supported by the HP-sponsored (!) hplip Open Source driver for both scanning and printing. The Photosmart C6380 and HP Photosmart Premium FAX (similar units; the latter adds ADF and FAX) both get excellent reviews and are fully supported by hplip. I’ll probably get the C6380 at about $145.

    Few companies seem to be even making standalone scanners in my price range anymore. Epson’s V500/V700 are supported by SANE, but cost $500 or more.

    I also considered a Canon PIXMA MX330 or MX860, but a Macworld review of the MX850 showed scanning to be its weak spot. The PIXMA MP480 got better reviews as a scanner, but still not as good as the HP C6380, though it is a cheaper unit.

    I found the Macworld scanner reviews to be a good place to learn about these.

  6. I recently bought a Brother® MFC-7840W which has worked flawlessly for me. I haven’t scanned any photos so I can’t speak to the quality there, but documents work well.

    It also supports scanning though a socket so others on your network can scan ( and print ) to it directly.

  7. I reccomend HP — we just got an OfficeJet fax/printer/scanner. With linux it just worked, we plugged it in, and within 5 minutes had done a test print and a test scan flawlessly. It would have been faster, but I did not know how to use sane yet! The scans look pretty darn good too.

    The other reason I always recommend HP is the HPLIP drivers — HP has gone ahead and GPLed their printer/scanner drivers, I feel that if all other things are equal, that puts HP far ahead of its competition!

  8. Hi John,

    Currently, I’d look into one of the Canon scanners supported by SANE. The backend is actively developed by a very dedicated maintainer.

    HP means dealing with hplip/hpaio. I, unfortunately, can’t recommend it.

    1. I couldn’t find *any* current standalone Canon scanners supported by the backend. The ones I found, the PIXMAs, got quite lukewarm reviews when it comes to scan quality, unfortunately. I probably would have gone for it otherwise.

    2. I’m surprised at this comment, I have a four year old scanner (lide500f) that still sin’t supported and the consumer end of the Canon list doesn’t have a single scanner supported in Sane.

  9. Regarding Canon and EPSON scanners , the newer ones that do good-quality photo scanning and negative scanning use the GL8?? series of chips with 2400, 3600 or 4800 dpi optical scanning.

    None of these is reliably supported in SANE yet, although some people on the SANE mailing list are working hard reverse-engineering their capabilities.

    I personally have a CanoScan N1240U (single-cable USB flat-bed scanner) which has a well-supported chipset capable of 1200dpi and is perfectly supported under SANE, but the CanoScan 8800F is unusable. EPSON devices suffer the same issues.

    If you would like more information on supported devices (like HP and Brother) I suspect you could get it on the SANE mailing list.

  10. A couple years ago I got an EPSON Perfection 3950 Photo which is a consumer-grade flatbed standalone. The drivers were not trivial to get working under linux and require a firmware blob, but it works fine once you get the firmware blob placed in the right place through SANE. I’ve been using the gscanpdf to scan my receipts and such through it and it works fine. I haven’t scanned any photos or very high resolution things though so I can’t speak to it’s resolution there. I’ve accidentally scanned some of my documents through at 600dpi and they looked very detailed.

      1. So what scanner did you finally decide on and why? I’m currently looking for a Linux compatible document scanner and am a bit bewildered by the lack of Linux specific reviews or assessments


        1. I wound up with an HP Photosmart C6380 all-in-one. I don’t use the printer features, but the scanner was rated top quality, and better than more expensive standalone scanners. HPLIP, an open source component of Debian, supports it directly, even when it’s being used as a networked scanner. HPLIP integrates well with SANE apps. I’m very happy with it.

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