Epson's new Fastfoto FF-640 is one amazing machine! For years, our family has stockpiled boxes of printed photographs, newspaper clippings, handbills, and various documents that were very memorable to us. Unfortunately, the boxes are where the majority of these items stayed - tucked away in the dark corner of a closet and unable to be enjoyed due to the trouble involved to unpack, sort, remove from envelopes, flip through, and eventually return the items to their permanent resting place. Over the years we tossed around the idea of using our flatbed scanner to digitize some of the pictures, however this has always been a very cumbersome and slow process that always ended with giving up on the idea and never revisiting it.
While looking around on various technology websites, I recently came across an article about a new device that would change the way I viewed printed photographs forever - the Epson Fastfoto FF-640 high-speed photo scanning system. Upon initially reading the specs and description of the device, I admit I was very skeptical. Could this unit live up to its claims? Many times I had felt the pain of using a scanner to digitize a photo, and it never was an enjoyable process. A scanner is a scanner, right? And yet the Epson FastFoto FF-640 claims to scan 60 pages per minute? Surely this can't be. When the opportunity finally presented itself to try the unit out, I couldn't wait to put these claims to the test.
Upon receiving the unit, I was amazed at the size of the box. I was initially expecting something similar to a full size flatbed scanner that I would have to find space for amongst all my other computer peripherals. Boy, was I wrong - the Epson Fastfoto FF-640 is SMALL! The entire unit is 11.8"x 8.7" x 8.1". Gone are the days of flashing lights, numerous buttons, cables, and complicated interfaces - the Fastfoto FF-640 is very basic. The simple black unit has three buttons (power, start, and stop) and a separation lever. Setup of the unit consists of snapping on the document feeder, plugging in the power cable, and connecting the USB cable to your computer - that's it! There are no complicated manuals or stacks of DVD's - just an illustrated quick start that shows how to connect the cables, and the URL to download the software file. I plugged in the cables as instructed, downloaded and launched the small software file, and turned on the scanner when prompted. My computer instantly recognized the unit, and I was prompted to set a few variables regarding my scanning preference such as the folder I would like to store the scans, choice of resolution (300/600dpi), if I would like to enable photo correction, and if I wanted to scan the back of the pictures. Back of the pictures?? I had no IDEA this unit would scan the back as well! I selected the storage folder, left the unit at the standard 300dpi, enabled photo correction, and set the one-pass front and rear scanning option.
After the default options were set, I was ready to put the unit to the test. According to the documentation, all I had to do was stack the pictures in the feeder and press the blue button. Could it honestly be this simple? For my first test, I grabbed a box of various size family photographs, ranging from 2x2" to 8x10". I sorted the photographs by size, stacked 30 pictures into the feeder, and pressed the blue button. The Fastfoto FF-640 gently grabbed each individual photo and passed them straight through the unit at lightning speed - the entire stack of photos were complete in 30 seconds! I immediately had to check the folder on the computer to see if anything had actually happened since the process was so quick. In the selected folder, there were two copies of each picture due to the fact I had selected the photo correction option. One picture was the original untouched scan, and the second picture had the correction options applied. I really enjoy how Epson provides this function as it makes it really easy to compare and choose which version you would like to keep. Every photo in which I scanned came out unbelievable! Each scan looked identical to the printed photograph and the size of the stored photo files were very small in size. After seeing the first batch of photos process, I immediately became addicted to the speed and quality of the Fastfoto FF-640.
I decided to push the limits of the Fastfoto FF-640 and give it a real challenge. When my great great grandmother passed away, I inherited an old box of family photographs and newspaper articles. The box had been tucked away for almost 15 years, and I was unsure of the condition of the contents. Most of the pictures in the box were from the 1800's and early 1900's. The pictures ranged in quality, with many of them yellowed and fading. Many of the pictures had handwritten notes in fading ink and pencil on the back from my relatives, and these notes were hardly legible. I decided to put dual sided one pass scanning option to the test. I loaded the document feeder was the delicate pictures and pressed the blue button. Each picture was gently pulled through the machine, and both the front and back sides of the photo were instantly saved in the folder on my computer. The quality of the handwriting was amazing! Not only did the Fastfoto FF-640 pick up the faint markings, but it also enhanced them so well that I could easily read notes that I couldn't even see on the original photograph. For example, one picture taken in the late 1800's appeared to have no notes on the rear side, but when I scanned it I discovered in the digital copy that my relative had actually written a small paragraph about the event! The photo enhancement options worked very well for the older photos, removing yellowing and rendering the images to be very crisp. I also tried several brittle newspaper articles that were tearing apart and yellowing with age. The Fastfoto FF-640 handled the articles very gently and each scan was completely legible. The photo corrected scanned image of the newspaper articles actually had the yellowing removed and the entire article appeared a brilliant white with no signs of aging. Although the unit comes with a carrier sheet for brittle or damaged photographs and articles, we never had to use the carrier due to the gentle nature of the Fastfoto FF-640. Although the unit is very fast, the roller feed assembly handles the articles in which you are scanning very gently and does not affect the quality of the original in any way.
I was immediately hooked on using the Fastfoto FF-640 and started grabbing box after box of photos just to see what it could do. The entire process was so simple, and can literally be done by a child. We actually set the unit on the coffee table while watching football one Saturday afternoon and the children just kept filling the feeder tray with stacks of photographs so that we could digitize them and share with our family and friends. On many occasions we took the unit with us when visiting other family members and we couldn't wait to show them this new piece of technology! We encouraged them to go grab their boxes of photos just so we could show them just how good this unit was. To date, we've digitized thousands of photographs from various family members, and never once had a jam or issue with the unit. Although the unit states that they do not recommend scanning the thicker Polaroid photographs, we had no issue as we simply set the separator lever to the top position before initiating the scanning process. All of our Polaroid’s scanned without issue, as well as baseball cards, postcards, and even business cards.
The downloaded software for the Epson Fastfoto FF-640 has a variety of added options that can be very beneficial. Some of these options include the ability to save and organize the pictures by category or folder, rename the files, embed metadata such as dates into the photo file, OCR recognition, and automatic saving of the scanned images to Google Drive or Dropbox. I have completely abandoned my flatbed scanner as I am using the Epson Fastfoto FF-640 for everything - you just cannot beat the simplicity, quality, speed, and functionality of the unit. I would consider the Epson Fastfoto FF-640 a bargain at $649.99 MSRP and highly recommend it to anyone.
This is a review for the Epson FastFoto 640 that I received free of charge to do a beta test and review.