A hand held dataform reader for reading 1D and 2D bar codes and matrix dataforms is disclosed. The dataform reader includes a dataform reader module having a laser bar code dataform reading assembly, for reading 1D bar codes, and an imaging dataform reading assembly, for reading 2D bar codes and matrix codes. The dataform reader module further includes selection and control circuitry for energizing a selected one of the reading assemblies. In operation, the laser reading assembly is energized first. If the target dataform is a 1D bar code, a decodable signal will be generated and decoding circuitry will decode the target dataform. If a decodable signal is not generated by the laser reading assembly, the selection and control circuitry turns off the laser reading assembly and energizes the imaging dataform reading assembly. If the target dataform is a 2D bar code or matrix dataform, the imaging dataform reading assembly will generate a decodable composite video signal representing the image of the dataform. If the video signal is decodable, the decoding circuitry will decode the target dataform.