Automated digital photogrammetric systems are considered to be passive three-dimensional vision systems since they obtain object coordinates from only the information contained in intensity images. Active 3-D vision systems, such as laser scanners and structured light systems obtain the object coordinates from external information such as scanning angle, time of flight, or shape of projected patterns. Passive systems provide high accuracy on well defined features, such as targets and edges however, unmarked surfaces are hard to measure. These systems may also be difficult to automate in unstructured environments since they are highly affected by the ambient light. Active systems provide their own illumination and the features to be measured so they can easily measure surfaces in most environments. However, they have difficulties with varying surface finish or sharp discontinuities such as edges. Therefore each type of sensor is more suited for a specific type of objects and features, and they are often complementary. This paper compares the measurement accuracy, on various type of features, of some technologically-different 3-D vision systems: photogrammetry-based (passive) systems, a laser scanning system (active), and a range sensor using a mask with two apertures and structured light (active).© (1995) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.