What Is A Drum Scanner?

A drum scanner can capture reflective or transparent materials with high-resolution levels. Usually, the process involves taping photographs and transparencies, then placing them on the clear cylinder (drum). The drum rotates at high speeds that average up to 1000 RPM, thus making the scanning process unique. The scanning process also involves a light source that directs a pixel on the drum and shifts it down the drum in parallel.

For transparency, a drum scanner will send out the light from the central section of the cylinder. However, the process changes for opaque items because it involves the use of an opaque light source. The traditional scanner might also feature a mirror, which can aggregate RGB values for printing applications. The aggregated RGB values go to the photomultiplier unit, which offers efficiency benefits.

The average photomultiplier on modern scanners can print high-quality images of 10,000dpi. The name of the drum scanner comes from the unique process through which it can print images. That process involves the drum, a clear acrylic cylinder, where the user places a piece of art.

The size of images the scanner can scan depends on its make and brand. One of the unique aspects of drum scanners is that it offers excellent control. The process of using a drum scanner requires a dust-free room.

The drum also spins at high speeds during the prescan, and you have to ensure each component is secure. Each drum can hold film sizes that average at about 11 x 14 inches. High-end drum scanners have a mylar on the exterior section, the drum moves onto the scanner, and the prescan process ends.

Expect the entire process to take a few minutes due to the high level of detail required. Once the prescan is complete, the drum scan process will begin. The drum will spin at a slower rate at this point, and the RPM of this unit depends on the DPI levels.

Advantages for Drum Scanner

There are various benefits of using a drum scanner:


The main benefit of a drum scanner is that it provides a high-quality resolution. There is no other scanner that rivals the quality that the traditional drum scanner can provide. The traditional dram scanner can scan quality images of up to 11,000dpi. However, the typical scanners have a limit that can average at 6,000dpi.


The ability of a drum scanner to produce images with a high-end tone is unrivaled. Instead of scanning using electrical methods alone, the scanner works uniquely. It works by breaking down analog data into digital data, including RGB lights, resistors, and capacitors. The presence of these components makes the scanner powerful for image printing purposes.

Enhanced Shadow Scan Functions

Most traditional scanners often struggle in printing shadows because of the difficulty involved in scanning quality shades. However, the drum scanners are unique because they can produce better shadow image quality.

Reliable Sharpness

A drum scanner is also unique thanks to its ability to create sharp images, even on low-quality pieces of film. The scanner compensates for the low quality by making impressive gains in the image sharpness. It resolves the grain at exceptional levels, which helps in extracting all image details.

Disadvantages of Drum Scanner

There are various disadvantages of using a drum scanner:


The cost of the traditional scanner is high when compared to the conventional scanner. The same applies to low-end drum scanners because the prices never change. However, the tradeoff is in the quality the scanner can provide.

Physical Size

Since drum scanners have several components, expect them to be heavier than the traditional scanner. Plus, you might also need an excellent mounting station for placing the scanner, which can also contribute to the large size.

Time Issues

While drum scanners can produce high-quality images, they require lots of time to produce quality results. There are several steps involved in using a drum scanner, which leads to time consumptions concerns.

Can You Drum Scan a Negative?

While it’s a common misconception, the answer is, yes, you can drum scan a negative. Hower, drum scanning negatives can be time-tasking procedures, especially the colored types. The traditional software to support this process is also ineffective.

For instance, you have to scan each item as a positive and use software such as Photoshop to invert them. The process requires lots of time and can be difficult for the average individual to complete.


Flat Bed Scanners vs. Drum Scanners

Refers to a type of optical scanner, which features a flat surface for the reproduction of documents. Usually, the scanner captures all document elements and doesn’t require users to rotate the document. The unique features of these scanners make them ideal for purposes such as reproducing vintage photographs or documents.

Aside from giving high-quality scans, flatbed scanners can also scan dense objects, making them popular among users. It also has a reduced risk of document damage during document scanning since documents don’t move around.

Benefits of Flat Bed Scanner

There are various benefits of using a flatbed scanner:

  • Flatbed scanners are generally affordable to use and purchase than drum scanners.
  • The flat scanner can also print on different types of material, including ceramic and film.
  • Flatbed scanners are generally compact than drum alternatives.

Disadvantages of Flat Bed Scanner

The disadvantages of using a flatbed scanner can include:

  • It does not provide the same image sharpness and quality as a drum alternative.
  • It requires regular maintenance and repair procedures.

As you have seen, a drum scanner is a specialized scanner that produces high-quality images. While it may be an excellent suggestion for your needs, you also have to consider its drawbacks. You may also want to look at the flatbed scanner, which is as popular as the drum scanner.