Not surprisingly, the business of evaluating copiers is almost as crowded as the copier industry itself. Five separate organizations currently issue regular reports on user satisfaction, operating costs, image quality, and new technology. Often their findings overlap, but there are now so many models in use that no single evaluation service can hope to cover the whole copier marketplace with undisputed thoroughness.

Oppenheim Derrick Inc. publishes (without advertising) What to Buy for Business, a monthly report on business equipment and services. The July 1981 edition was devoted to office copiers, (models under $22,000) while the August 1981 edition followed up with a look at the more expensive copiers. The charts in these two issues are the most extensive survey available on copier features and performance characteristics; the commentary that accompanies the charts is unusually well informed and pulls no punches about the deficiencies of various models and their manufacturers. To the discomfort of copier salespeople, moreover, What to Buy also lists "target" prices for each model -- the price you should eventually expect to pay after some modest negotiation. Oppenheimer Derrick Inc., Box 1783, Ft. Collins, CO 80522; (303) 223-3477. Subscription only: annual (12 issues), $65; back issues, $7.50.

Richard E. Hanson is a copier consultant who publishes one of the most authoritative guides available for would-be buyers. Hanson's Guidelines come out three times a year and, says Hanson, are designed chiefly for "single-machine organizations." The Guidelines use a complex grid system that summarizes machine features, then relates them to specific user needs. Hanson also includes pointers on dealing with suppliers and service departments and cites specific models that he recommends for various levels of use. REH Publishing Co. Inc., Box 357, Setauket, NY 11733; (516) 941-9011. Annual subscription (3 issues), $85 ($80 prepaid); single copy, $45 ($40 prepaid).

Datapro Research Corp. publishes an annual report on User Ratings of Copiers as part of its series of evaluations of data-processing equipment, office products, and related services. The 1982 edition was based on a subscriber poll of users, who were asked to evaluate their equipment in 12 categories of performance. The result was a profile of 111 models from 15 manufacturers, but in many cases the sample was as few as five responses. One of the most interesting questions the Datapro survey asked was, "Would you recommend this copier to someone else in your situation?" Ricoh users (all six of them) were 100% enthusiastic; Kodak users (378 of them) were close behind, at 99%. Least likely to recommend the model they own were Saxon customers, 65% of whom would suggest another brand, and A. B. Dick users, of whom 62% thought there was a better way to go. This edition includes an "honor roll" of copiers in several categories. Datapro Research Corp., 1805 Underwood Blvd., Delran, NJ 08075; (609) 764-0100. Price: $19.

Buyers Laboratory is one of the old-timers in copier evaluation. It began testing machines back in 1968 and now issues a series of five publications, including an industry newsletter and a report called Copier Selection Guide with Durability Ratings. As this title suggests, Buyers Lab places special emphasis on reliability; cost per copy comes in second. The Selection Guide breaks down well-known models according to various levels of workload, ranging from 500 to 100,000 copies a month. User surveys are then employed to identify actual operating costs and reliability for machines at each of these levels. Buyers Laboratory Inc., 20 Railroad Ave., Hackensack, NJ 07601; (201) 488-0404. Copier Review, monthly newsletter, $175/year. Includes: BLI Test Reports on Copiers, ($85 separately ), BLI Report on Dry Toners, Copier Selection Guide with Durability Ratings (each $25 separately), and BLI Report on Duplicating Systems ($15 separately ).

MSRA Inc.'s monthly newsletter, The Office Products Analyst ($150/year), publishes an annual readers' poll on copiers each November. This survey, its authors concede, is "biased toward larger users." Six reader responses were required for rating a system, which further slants the survey toward older, more widely distributed models, and neglects copiers that have just entered the marketplace. Ratings are of reliability, price/performance, copy quality, and quality of service. MSRA Inc., 115 Broadway, New York, NY 10006; (212) 349-7450. Single copy, $40.