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Full Body 3D Scanner Comparison Guide

By: Twindom
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The purpose of this guide is to give you an overview of the 4 most popular
types of 3D body scanning technologies for 3D printed figurines, 3D portraits
or 3D selfies:
● DSLR Photogrammetry 3D Scanners
● Handheld 3D Scanners
● Hybrid Full Body 3D Scanners
● Turntable-based Full Body 3D Scanners

At Twindom we have built 3D scanners using all 4 of the above technologies.

Through lots of trial and error we ultimately found that the scanners we built
that used a hybrid 3D body scanning technology were the best option for the
3D printed figurine market. Here are a few old pictures of our past iterations of

Turntable-based 3D Scanner
Hybrid Full Body 3D Scanner
(current version: Twinstant Mobile)

DSLR Photogrammetry 3D Scanner Handheld 3D Scanner

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Handheld 3D Scanners

Handheld 3D scanners used in 3D photography typically rely on structured

light to calculate the geometry of the subject being 3D scanned. They were
designed for and have numerous applications in engineering.

Average Cost:
$18,000 to $30,000

How it works:
3D scanning someone with a handheld 3D scanner works by having the
person stand still as you slowly move the 3D scanner around them to capture
the different parts of their body. The process normally takes 2-3 minutes.
Once the data has been captured, some manual intervention is necessary to
match resulting point clouds, then it takes another 2-3 minutes to generate a
full 3D model.

The biggest limitation for handheld 3D scanners is the need for people to
stand still throughout the scanning process in order to make the 3D selfie
(another name for 3D portrait). Even small amounts of movement can destroy
the data and require the entire scan be restarted. Structured light handheld 3D

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scanners, also struggle with scanning transparent materials (ex: lenses on
glasses) or reflective surfaces (ex: shiny car parts).

Post production:
A scan of a single person is usually comprised of many smaller scans which
first need to be matched either programmatically or by hand or by a
combination of both depending on the quality of the data and the
sophistication of the software. Once the points clouds have been matched and
meshed into a 3D model, the amount of geometry retouching is minimal if the
subject stayed perfectly still.
If the person moves during the process of making a 3D selfie, then fixing the
geometry can take significantly longer to the point where it may make sense
to just scan the person again. Depending on the lighting conditions and how
much the subject moves while scanning, the amount of time to touch-up
texture problems can vary significantly and become quite dramatic. Since
handheld scanners are by definition handheld, they do not have lighting
setups to cast consistent 360 degree lighting, which usually results in uneven
lighting and shadows which need to be fixed in post processing. Professional
3D artist are more than capable of performing the post-production touch-ups.
You should expect to pay $15-$25 per 3D scan to prepare it for 3D printing.

● Portability - a handheld 3D scanner can be put in a small briefcase
and transported very easily. Setup time is usually less than 5
● Scan processing time - since a handheld 3D scanner uses
structured light to calculate depth, the required computation is much
less than a DSLR photogrammetry systems. The time to a full 3D
model is 2-3 minutes.
● Fine geometry detail - structured light handheld scanners were
designed to scan very small parts with intricate detail so they do an
excellent job of capturing geometry detail.


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● Subjects need to be still for 2-3 minutes - In order for handheld 3D
scanners to work well, you need people to be as still as possible or
risk either ruining the scan or creating serious headaches in
post-production. Some handheld scanner users even suggest
holding your breath during the scanning process. Most kids/pets
(and even many adults) are unsuited for being scanned with a
handheld scanner.
● No controlled lighting - Just like in regular photography, lighting
makes all the difference in creating high quality 3D scans. Since
handheld scanners do not control for lighting, the resulting scan will
have all the lighting inconsistencies present in the environment. This
can result in an excessive amount of time needed to fix the colors
on the 3D scan in the post production process.
● Lower quality texture - In order to capture color detail, handheld 3D
scanners take pictures at regular intervals during the scanning
process then blend all of those photos into a single texture. Many of
the cameras built into handheld scanners are not of great quality so
the resulting photographs are of poorer quality. In addition, because
the pictures are blended together, any movement by the subject
causes blurring in the resulting texture.

Handheld scanners are great for scanning stationary objects with fine details,
but struggle when used for making 3D selfies. Handheld scanners were a
great option in the past due to their portability and low cost, however, there
are now specialized 3D full body scanners that excel at scanning people and
pets at a similar price point that can also be carried around, albeit not nearly
as easily.

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Hybrid 3D Full Body 3D Scanners

Hybrid 3D scanning systems work by combining photogrammetry and

structured light methods. This is the technology that Twindom uses on it's full
body 3D scanners used to make 3D portraits.

Average Cost:

How it works:
Like in a DSLR photogrammetry 3D scanning system, in a hybrid 3D body
scanning system there are cameras and lights mounted in an array around the
subject being 3D scanned. In addition to cameras and lights, there are also
projectors that project a pattern on the person being scanned. The cameras in
the full body 3D scanning system take two sets of photographs. The first set of
photographs is taken with the projectors turned on while the second photoset
is taken with the projectors turned off. These photos are taken in as close
succession as possible, usually 150 to 250 milliseconds apart. The photos
with the projectors turned on are used to calculate the geometry of the person
while the photos with no projection are used for the texture. The big innovation
over basic photogrammetry is the photoset with the pattern projected. The
pattern blankets the individual with easily identifiable points which helps the
photogrammetry software reconstruct high quality geometries everywhere
including flat colored materials. Since the pattern makes the geometry
reconstruction a lot easier for the software, you do not need to use as

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expensive a camera sensor as a DSLR sensor, so hybrid systems are only a
fraction of the cost of a DSLR photogrammetry scanning system.

Due to the 150-250 millisecond delay between the 2 photos, hybrid full body
3D scanning systems are not suited for 3D scanning someone if they are
continuously moving (ex: action shots or pets that can’t sit still for ¼ of a
second). Also, while the reliability of the geometry detail is greatly improved,
structured light handheld scanners still produce higher quality geometry.

Post production:
The post production process for hybrid full body 3D scanners is the easiest
out of all the different 3D scanning technologies. Since the process is
instantaneous there is a very low chance of blurring in the 3D scan. You also
don’t have to worry as much about deformed geometry as compared to a pure
photogrammetry system. The majority of the time spent in the post production
phase is spent fixing parts of the texture that didn’t match properly or fixing a
part of the geometry that was obstructed in the photographs.

● Quality - Like DSLR photogrammetry 3D scanning systems, hybird
3D scanning systems can also produce very high quality textures
with much more reliable geometry data.
● Scanning time - Similar to pure photogrammetry, hybrid full body 3D
scanning systems are very well suited for scanning things that have
trouble standing still (people, pets etc.).
● Reliability - Hybrid systems are capable of scanning the greatest
variety of people, pets and poses and are most likely to produce
usable 3D portraits.
● Cost - The two most viable technologies for 3D scanning people
today are pure photogrammetry and hybrid systems and in terms of
cost hybrid systems are far cheaper than DSLR photogrammetry

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● Imperfect quality - Hybrid systems fall short of photogrammetry
systems in terms of pure texture quality and fall behind structured
light handheld scanners in terms of pure geometry quality. The
geometry and texture quality is good but not the best. For making
3D figurines this is less of an issue since full color 3D printers are
still not able to print out the level of detail produced by DSLR
photogrammetry systems.
● Processing time - The hybrid method still suffers from the same
photogrammetry processing time limitation though it is not as
extreme as a DSLR photogrammetry setup because not as much
data is fed into the software.

Hybrid 3D full body scanning systems are the newest approach to 3D
photography and do a good job of making up for the weaknesses of the other
three technologies including cost, reliability and user experience. While they
don’t produce the best possible 3D models, the quality is sufficient to produce
very high quality 3D figurines making this technology a great solution for the
3D portrait market.

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DSLR Photogrammetry Full Body 3D Scanners

A DSLR full body 3D scanner relies on photogrammetry to create a 3D scan.

Photogrammetry works by finding shared features between multiple
photographs to calculate depth. It is predominantly used in the visual effects

Average Cost:
$50,000 to $250,000

How it works:
A DSLR photogrammetry full body 3D scanner consists of 70 to 150 DSLR
cameras and lighting equipment mounted at specific angles around the
subject being 3D scanned. The cameras have a special peripheral attachment
that can synchronize the captures so all cameras fire within a fraction of a
second of each other. These setups rely on exceptionally high quality data
and specialized camera angles so the cameras typically need to be manually
moved and focused on the subject being scanned to accommodate for their
body shape and pose. Following a capture, the photos are transferred to a
computer where an operator will run the photos through photogrammetry

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software. The photogrammetry software will create a point cloud by locating
features shared across many pictures and calculating their depth. The time to
process a 3D model using photogrammetry software ranges from 25 minutes
to multiple days depending on the speed of your computer and the desired

Like all other full body 3D scanning technologies, photogrammetry struggles
with scanning transparent and reflective materials. In addition,
photogrammetry struggles with flat colored materials (ex: plain colored
clothing) since the software relies on being able to identify matching pixels
across numerous images, so if an individual is wearing a plain black t-shirt, it
has a very difficult time trying to figure out which black pixel corresponds to
which across images. Photogrammetry does not do as good a job at capturing
fine details as other technologies, so fine details like buttons on clothing or
glass frames typically do not come out. If you need to reliably calculate the
geometry of person being 3D scanned (ex: medical applications), then you are
likely better off going with a different technology.

Post production:
The largest advantage of a DSLR photogrammetry system is the 3D scanning
process is instantaneous so your subject has very little opportunity to move
and mess up the data. That having been said, you still want to make sure the
person you are 3D scanning is completely still for the capture. In addition to
the reliability increase an instantaneous capture affords, it also means you
can achieve excellent texture quality as when the photos are being stitched
together, they all match perfectly. With poor calibration or due to the material
limitations listed above, it is sometimes difficult getting good geometry data.
Post production work on a 3D scan from a DSLR photogrammetry system is
typically spent fixing jagged geometry, adding geometry to parts that were not
covered by enough camera views and accentuating fine geometry details like
buttons on clothing. The post production time for 3D scans off of a DSLR
photogrammetry system is usually a couple hours per file, and can vary
depending on how much detail you want to add to the 3D scan. One thing to

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note, is typically when a company advertises the quality of a 3D scan off of a
DSLR photogrammetry system, they advertise the file after it has been
touched-up by a 3D artist. To compare systems apples to apples, be sure to
ask for raw, unedited files from anyone you speak with.

● Quality - When calibrated correctly, DSLR full body 3D scannners
can produce very high quality 3D scans, which is one of the reasons
why they are used in the VFX industry. NOTE: Hybrid full body
scanners are now starting to catch up.
● Scan time - Since photogrammetry is an instantaneous process it is
very well suited for scanning things that have trouble standing still
(people, pets etc.).
● Portability - Due to the high number of cameras, lights and
networking equipment DSLR photogrammetry systems can be really
heavy, tricky to assemble and awkward to move around.
● Processing time - Depending on the speed of the computer and the
desired quality level, the time it takes to process a 3D scan is 0.5 -
24+ hours, so it is infeasible to preview a 3D model for your
customer and assess the 3D model quality while the customer is still
onsite. The other downside to long processing times is a processing
queue can build up very quickly, significantly affecting throughput. If
for example a customer wants multiple 3D scans processed before
deciding which to purchase, it may be multiple days before that
customer gets models to choose from. For DSLR photogrammetry
systems it is a good idea to have multiple computers running to
process the 3D scans to increase throughput.
● Cost - The cost to buy all of the DSLR cameras (~$415 /camera),
lights, networking equipment and stands to mount the cameras on
can easily be greater than $50,000 and typically costs well over
$100,000. In general, this is the most expensive 3D full body 3D
scanning system.

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● Space Requirement - Photogrammetry systems require an entire
room, 20’ x 20’ in dimensions.

While a well calibrated DSLR photogrammetry system can produce very high
quality 3D scans, because of their the high upfront cost, their space
requirement and their long scan processing time, they are not well suited for
the mass market. Another thing to note is the resolution of the 3D scans
produced from DSLR photogrammetry systems is much higher than what
current full color 3D printers on the market can produce, so much of the
increased quality is immediately lost due to 3D printing limitations. DSLR
photogrammetry full body 3D scanners will always exist for cases where
photorealistic models are required such as in the visual effects industry. We
predict they will persist and fill the niche for ultra high end 3D photography
where 3D models are printed at over one foot (size at which the increased 3D
model quality is apparent on a 3D print) for many hundreds if not thousands of
dollars per 3D figurine.

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Turntable-based 3D Scanners

Turntable-based 3D body scanners rely on the same technology as handheld

3D scanners (structured light), however they typically use less expensive
hardware such as a Microsoft Kinect, Primesense, Asus Xtion, or Intel
Realsense sensor to calculate depth.

Average Cost:
$5,000 to $10,000

How it works:
Turntable based 3D body scanners were created to eliminate the need for a
human being to walk around and scan people with a handheld 3D scanner.
The subject steps onto a platform and holds still while the platform rotates and
a mounted 3D sensor moves up and down until the entire person completes
their 3D body scan. The 3D scanning process normally takes 1-2 minutes and
the processing time is similar to a handheld 3D scanner of 2-3 minutes.

The limitations are the same as they are for handheld 3D scanners. They
struggle with scanning transparent (ex/ lenses on glasses) or reflective

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surfaces (ex/ shiny car parts) and require that the subject being scanned
stands perfectly still.

Post production:
The post production process is very similar to touching up a scan from a
handheld 3D scanner, however, 3D models from a turntable-based 3D body
scanner are of lower quality than those from a handheld 3D scanner because
of the cheaper, off the shelf, 3D sensor (this will be discussed further in the
pros and cons section). One interesting advantage of using lower quality 3D
sensors is because the resulting geometries are coarser, they are also
typically more complete and thus require less touch-up time to make the
model 3D printable. Unfortunately these coarser geometries do not have the
same geometry detail so to add that geometry detail back, if desired, can take
a 3D artist many hours. If the person moved during their scan the same
problems result as with handheld scanners and it often makes sense to
rescan the individual instead of trying to fix problems in post production. For
lighting, many people mount LED strips to the system if they are not already
integrated. This makes for far better lighting than otherwise but can still cause
texture problems which need to be fixed in the touch-up. If you were to have a
professional 3D artist do the post production work for you, you should expect
to pay $15-$25 per 3D scan to get it ready for full color 3D printing.

● Portability - While not as portable as a handheld 3D scanner, setup
is fairly straightforward. A normal setup time is 20-30 minutes.
● Scan processing time - Like a handheld 3D scanner, a
turntable-based 3D scanner uses structured light to calculate depth.
The time to a full 3D model is 2-3 minutes.
● Low cost - At only a few thousand dollars, it is a very affordable

● 3D scan quality - The sensors used in turntable-based 3D full body
scanners (Microsoft Kinect, Primesense, Asus Xtion, or Intel

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Realsense) are not capable of capturing the same texture resolution
or geometry detail as most handheld 3D scanners. For the texture,
the lower quality is because the integrated camera can only capture
pictures at a 640 x 480 resolution which limits the sharpness and
level of detail significantly.
● Subjects need to be still for 2-3 minutes .. while they spin in a circle
- Just like in handheld 3D scanners, turntable-based 3D scanners
require people to be as still as possible to ensure you get good
enough geometry data. Many turntable-based 3D scanner owners
will often scan people 2-3 times to get a usable 3D scan as
movement by the subject is very common. As you can imagine, this
makes for a very poor customer experience.

Turntable based 3D scanners were the first body scanners introduced
specifically for the 3D photography market. They solved the hassle of
manually scanning a subject inherent with handheld scanners and they also
solved the high cost barrier inherent with handheld scanning and DSLR based
systems by using cheaper, off the shelf, 3D sensors, however, they are not
well suited for scanning children, pets and adults incapable of standing still
(the Twinstant 3D body scanner does a really good job with kids, pets etc).
Turntable systems may continue to persist as the lowest cost option to serve
the low end of the market or they may disappear altogether.

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