Understanding 3D Scanners: Field of View Explained and How It Impacts Scan Quality

Published on July 26, 2018. Written by: Darryl Motley

What is the field of view for a 3D scanner?

Field of view is the observable area that a 3D scanner can capture a 3D scan from a certain distance. It is similar to how our eyes are limited to seeing a portion of the scene at one time.

The field of view of scanner

The scanner’s camera (or cameras) determine(s) the field of view. A 3D scanner that uses two cameras produces more reliable and accurate 3D measurements compared to a 3D scanner that uses only one camera.

A 3D scanner can capture a scan of what it can see at one time. In this example, the HDI Advance uses two cameras to take a single scan of one side of the shoe.
Creating a complete digital 3D model involves taking scans from all sides of the object and merging them together to create a full 3D model.

A 3D scanner has a specified field of view size (also known as scanning volume). To get the best scanning results, you should use a 3D scanner with the scanning volume size that is best suited for the size of the object you are scanning.

Field of View

Field of view diagram
This diagram illustrates the field of view of a 3D scanner. The center depth of focus is where the scan object should be placed in order to get optimal results to get the best focus and accuracy. The Z-Near is the starting point of the scanning volume. The Z-Far is the furthest distance that the scanner can scan.
Artec field of view

Artec Space Spider

Smaller Field of View

(170 – 350 mm)

Artec small field of view

Artec Eva

Larger Field of View

(400 – 1000 mm)

Artec large field of view
Using the Artec 3D scanners as an example, the Artec Space Spider has a small to medium field of view compared to an Artec Eva. This means that the Artec Space Spider is a better scanner for scanning smaller objects, while the Artec Eva is better suited for scanning medium to large objects.

What happens when I use a 3D scanner with a small field of view to scan a large object?

When you scan a large object with a 3D scanner that is optimized for scanning small objects, you would have to take more scans to create a full digital 3D model than one with a larger field of view. This can become a very labor intensive and time-consuming process. More time would be required to clean up the individual scans as well as merging of all the individual scans into a full 3D model.

The example below illustrates the difference between using a smaller field of view scanner versus a larger one for the same scanning object.

Multiple fields of view

Picking the right field of view is about finding the right balance between having enough detail and accuracy for the objects you are looking to scan, while providing decent amount of coverage so you don’t have to take too many scans for the object you are scanning.

What happens when I use a 3D scanner with a large field of view to scan an extremely small object?

If you are scanning an extremely small object with intricate details and texture information, using a 3D scanner with a large field of view will lose much of the fine geometry details and scan accuracy will not be the best.

Ring scanned using a macro scanner that is optimized to scan small objects. View it in 3D.

If you are scanning small objects, we would strongly advise using a macro 3D scanner that is designed specifically for scanning small objects.

Macro scanner scan sample
The HDI Macro 3D scanner was used to scan a small insect that is approximately 0.5 inches in size to capture the fine details of the specimen.

What’s the difference between a 3D scanner that has a flexible field of view compared to ones with a fixed field of view?

Fixed 3D Scanner = One Field of View

Most 3D scanners have fixed field of view which means that the scanner has one specific field of view that cannot be changed. A 3D scanner with a fixed field of view is ideal for users who want to scan objects similar roughly in size.

Metron E 3D scanner with fixed field of view
Metron E 3D Scanner – Example of Fixed Field of View Scanner

The advantages of fixed field of view scanners are that they are typically calibrated by the manufacturer (pre-calibrated for accuracy) so you can get started 3D scanning faster once you receive the scanner. Just take it out of the box, install the 3D scanning software, and you are ready to start scanning.

HDI Advance 3D Scanner – Example of Flexible Field of View 3D Scanner

3D scanners with a flexible field of view are capable of adjusting the camera position of the scanner to create multiple fields of view (at different times).

One 3D Scanner = Different Fields of View
All HDI Advance 3D Scanners
Have a Flexible Field of View
Field of View (FOV)

Observable area that a 3D scanner can capture a 3D scan at a certain distance.

Smaller Field of View

Scan smaller objects using inner camera slots

Wider Field of View

Scan larger objects using outer camera slots

These types of 3D scanners will have the ability to move the cameras in different positions to create different fields of view. Using the HDI Advance as an example, the scanner can create three different fields of view by moving the cameras into different preset camera positions.

The HDI Advance R3x has three diagonal field of views to choose from:

  1. 200mm
  2. 400mm
  3. 600mm

This gives users the flexibility to scan objects of different sizes while retaining scan quality—all in one 3D scanner. You will have to get different lenses to capture the best quality scans for each field of view but it’s comparably less expensive than getting three scanners to scan three different field of views.

A 3D scanner with a flexible field of view is great for those who want flexibility in a scanner with the ability to scan objects of different sizes.

There are many advantages to a 3D scanner with a flexible field of view, why wouldn’t I just get that instead of getting a fixed field of view 3D scanner?

There is no one solution that is suitable for all applications. It really depends on what you need. One scanner might be better suited for you because of your requirements.

3D scanners with a fixed field of view:
  • Can be less expensive than a flexible field of view scanner if budget is a concern.
  • Are great for 3D scanning novices. Flexible field of view scanners are performance scanners that require more training to learn how to get the best scans compared to using a fixed field of view scanner.
  • Can be pre-calibrated so it doesn’t require calibration every time you change the field of view.
Side-by-Side Comparison of Each Type of System:
Field of View Fixed Flexible
Example Metron E 3D Scanner HDI Advance 3D Scanner
System Standard Performance
Calibration Pre-calibrated User calibrates the scanner every time the scanning volume changes
Ideal for people Who just started 3D scanning With middle to advanced 3D scanning skills
  • Easy to use
  • Plug and play
  • Professional entry-level systems that are affordable (i.e. Metron E)
  • One system has multiple fields of view to scan objects of different sizes
  • Pushes the limits of 3D scanning, in terms of performance

Got questions on field of view you would like to ask? Please tell us in the comments section.
Metron E
Affordable 3D Scanner: Meet Metron E →