2017 could well be considered the official kickoff of volumetric 3D for a larger audience. This partially the result of VR-headset sales but more so because of the introduction AR-capable smartphones.

Augmented Reality demands 3D models to work. It’s certainly cool to use the Sketchfab iOS-app or Android-app on your new ARkit or ARcore-enabled smartphone to project digital 3D models into your physical reality. But wouldn’t it be much more awesome if those models where your own 3D scans?

This holiday season is the perfect moment to enter the world of 3D — either on the capture side or on the viewing side! Here are some ideas for your wish list.

I tried to keep everything below affordable but if you’re celebrating the end of the year with an investment-mindset, I’d be glad to give you tailored recommendations.

Affordable Handheld 3D Scanning

Holidays are great for giving yourself or someone else cool gadgets but I guess very few people will find a $20k Artec Space Spider under the tree (although I hope I will). So here’s a gift idea that’s a little more sensible, especially if you already have one of the parts.

Structure Sensor

Buy for $397.00

From all 3D scanners I’ve tested, the Structure Sensor (Review) is still the easiest to use for the lowest price. Highly recommended for people that want to take their first step into the world of 3D scanning. Just make sure you get it with a bracket that fits your iPad of choice.


iPad Pro 9.7″

Buy  for $476.00

I’m totally aware that Apple released a new 10.5″ iPad Pro this year but the 9.7″ model is more than enough for 3D scanning – and a lot more affordable. It has an 8 megapixel camera for great textures and enough power to run demanding 3D scanning apps like itSeez3D & Canvas.

Studio Lights

Buy for $69,95

Good lighting is important to get good quality 3D scans from depth sensors like the Structure. For scanning small objects on a manual turntable (Buy for $9.30) you can do with 2 lights. For scanning large objects or people by walking around them, you should get at least 3.

Affordable Desktop 3D Scanning

If you’re a bit more serious about 3D scanning and need scans with more geometric details than a depth sensor and iPad can offer it might be interesting to take a look at desktop structured light scanner. They’re not even getting more affordable each year but also significantly easier to use.


Buy for $1199.00

Okay it’s not the cheapest of gifts but the EinScan-SE (Review) is one of the most affordable ways of scanning objects in incredibly high detail. Much higher than a Structure Sensor. It even includes an automatic turntable so you can drink hot choco while making scans. It connects to your computer using a single USB cable so it’s truly plug-and-play and compatible with laptops that often have just a few ports.

Surface Book (2016)

Buy for $1890.00

For crunching this much 3D data you really want a fast i7 processor and a dedicated Nvidia graphics card. The Microsoft Surface Book can be equipped with both. Like my iPad Pro tip above, you can of course choose the latest Surface Book 2 which has an awesome GTX1050 GPU but it’s nearly $3k. But last years model is still on sale while stock lasts, and still offers a GTX965 which is more than enough for this purpose.

3D Scan Spray

Buy for $39.99

Structured light scanners can capture most objects without any problems but if you run into very shiny or translucent challengers it’s good to have a can of temporary white spray in your drawer!


You don’t need a scanner to capture objects in 3D. Using a normal photo camera and smart Photogrammetry Software you can achieve impressive results.

Get Holiday Discount on 3DF Zephyr Lite

I recently reviewed the excellent 3DF Zephyr photogrammetry software.

If you use the button below you can order the Lite version with $10/€10 discount!

Buy 3DF Zephyr for just €139/$139

Canon EOS 1300D / T6 DSLR

Buy from $340.00

Even for basic photogrammetry it’s good to have a DSLR with a lot of megapixels and a decent lens. You can’t go wrong with Canon’s latest entry-level camera. Either get it with the already-good kit kens or a sharper prime lens if your budget allows.

Foldio 360 Smart Turntable

Buy for $139.00

I really liked this device when I reviewed it. It’s operated by an easy-to-use smartphone app over Bluetooth and has an infrared transmitter to remotely control almost every brand and model DSLR. You can also get is a $204.95 Studio Kit that includes a simple but effective light tent.

Manfrotto Action Tripod

Buy for $58.88

I use this tripod all the time because it’s so portable and easy to use. And the quick release system is simply genius. You can can also buy extra quick release plates if you have multiple cameras or 3D scanners.


The holiday season is also a great time to get a new smartphone just because you can use your short break to configure it and experiment with its new features. Here are three that are particularly interesting for people that love 3D.

Sony Xperia XZ-1

Buy for $599.99

This is the first smartphone that is actively marketed for it’s 3D capture capabilities, without using any special depth sensors. Sony’s 3D Creator app can be used to make quick 3D scans of heads, objects and food. Which you can quickly share to Sketchfab so others can check them online, in VR or AR.

Google Pixel 2

Buy for $746.49

Together with the Pixel 2 XL and Samsung Galaxy S8 these are the first Android smartphones to support Google’s ARCore technology that can be used for easy and reliable Augmented Reality. Sketchfab recently added ARCore support to its Android app which is a great way to view your own 3D models or the millions of others.

Apple iPhone X

Buy for $1349.89

Sure, this smartphone costs more than the EinScan-SE structured light scanner above but then you do get the most advanced iPhone ever made. It not only supports Apples ARkit for viewing 3D content through augmented reality but it also features a front facing depth sensor which hopefully can be used for 3D scanning soon. If you don’t need the latter, it’s probably more sensible to get the iPhone 8 instead.

I’m hoping this post will give you some inspiration for 3D scanning-related gifts for this year’s holiday season. Needless to say that if you want others to gift you one of these product, you could encourage them with sharing this post on social networks.

Wishing you Happy Holidays from the Netherlands.

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