The Best Portable Scanner

The article I published yesterday on Converting My Personal Library to Digital has already generated a number of comments at the end of the article and also private email messages to me. The most common questions are:

“What are your thoughts on the best receipt scanner that I can go between iPhone, iPad and PC?”


“What is the best portable scanner for use in libraries or archives where it isn’t convenient to carry a full-sized scanner?

scanner-appMy answer is the same for both questions: “Your present cell phone’s camera.”

Your cell phone probably is also your cheapest solution as most people already own a cell phone with a built-in camera of rather good resolution. That wasn’t true a few years ago when the cell phone cameras were lower resolution and produced somewhat grainy images. However, most of today’s cell phones produce high-quality 8-megapixel or even higher resolution images. My new cell phone has a 12-megapixel, phase detection autofocus and laser detection autofocus camera with f/2.0 aperture. It produces gorgeous images even when used close-up to the document being scanned… uh, captured. Most other cell phones these days have similar specifications or something approaching those specs.

I have written before about using a cell phone camera as portable scanner. You can find my past articles at:

The Scanner in Your Pocket or Purse 

The Best Scanning Apps for Android and iPhone

Turn Your Cell Phone into a Portable Scanner 

Scanner Pro 6 Will Turn Your iPhone or iPad into a Portable Scanner 

Microsoft Releases a Document Scanner App for iPhones and Android 

Admittedly, a cell phone camera will not do a very good job of digitizing those long strips of paper receipts you get at the grocery store and other retail outlets. However, I doubt if many genealogists have a big need to store grocery store receipts.

Cell phone cameras usually work well on individual pages from a book or old documents.

If your present cell phone camera isn’t high enough resolution for use in digitizing documents and pages from a book, I do have a suggestion: Shouldn’t you be asking Santa for a new cell phone?

Besides, that is probably cheaper than buying a new scanner anyway!


I don’t recall if you have ever touched Qroma. It combines the good camera of the iPhone with a fixed position, LED lighting and sound recognition. One can “scan” then label by voice. It was originally a Kickstarter project. See it at


Thomas A. Montgomery December 16, 2016 at 1:09 pm

What about these big journal/ledger books? About 12 X 18. Too large for the Standscan Pro box’s focal length. Need something to hold the cell phone steady and high. Lighting often a problem (I could email photos).
What about just using the TurboScan, ScanPro or CamScanner+?


When you want to capture a long, skinny grocery receipt, just cut it in two or three and place side by side. Unless your goal is to run OCR, you’ll get the job done fast!


What about the Flip Pal…I used it to scan pages from my greatgrandmother’s Bible. I did each page in sections and the software stitched them together nicely so I could print it on my large format HP printer.
Pat Heaton


    Hi Pat,
    I accidentally upon this site, so my reply is unrelated.
    I was wondering if your HEATON family comes from Kentucky. My mother’s people have deep Kentucky roots, and her maiden name was ATON, with her great-great grandfather, Nelson Hamilton Aton, marrying Margaret? Heaton, his second wife. He had most of his children with her, so I would have many half-relations in the Heatons.
    Can we correspond to find our possible connections?
    Jane Reed, or


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