Classification of methods and devices to compress the dynamic range of lidar returns which includes the regulation elements of optical, photo-electronic, and electronic parts of a lidar receiving system is presented. By the techniques used to regulate the dynamic range the methods are subdivided into the groups that use the logarithmic transformation, compensation for the inverse square-range dependence, and the step-wise change of the gain. A set of criteria to estimate the efficiency of these methods is proposed that includes the compression coefficient, relative increase of sounding distance, conversion accuracy, noise stability, and others. Using these criteria we have carried out comparative analysis of different devices. It is shown that the compression of the dynamic range of return signals in the optical part of the lidar receiving system provides for an increase in the signal-to-noise ratio by several times.