Most of us over 30 have at least one box of old photo prints in a closet somewhere, and digitizing them is a worthwhile if tedious task. The Epson FastFoto FF-680W scanner seeks to make quick and easy work of that task while still producing high-quality results, and in this review, we take a look at what you can expect from it in practice.
I have had a box of about 2,500 photos from my childhood for many years now, and I have always meant to digitize them, especially since they will only continue to degrade over time. There is a mixture of all sorts of sizes, including standards like 4x6" and 5x7", as well as some more niche sizes such as the 4x11" panoramic from the old APS photo system.
The problem is that digitizing them used to be really tedious, and I never got good results with my standard flatbed. I could purchase a dedicated photo-scanning flatbed, but I'm not keen on moving photos through one at a time by hand. Thus, the prospect of a sheet-fed scanner that could handle a variety of sizes and still produce high image quality was particularly intriguing. Enter the Epson FastFoto FF-680W.
- Scanner type: One-pass duplex color
- Optical resolution: 600 dpi
- Color bit depth: 30-bit internal (24-bit external)
- Grayscale bit depth: 10-bit internal (8-bit external)
- Features: auto enhancement, color restoration, red-eye reduction, deskew, crop, rotate
- Output resolution: 50 to 1,200 dpi
- Effective pixels: 5,100 x 21,600 pixels
- Connectivity: USB 3.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
- Automatic document feeder capacity: 36 photos or 100 sheets
- Minimum document size: 2x2"
- Minimum photo size: wallet (2.5x3.5")
- Maximum document size: 8.5x240"
- Maximum photo size: 8.5x36"
- Scanning speed: One photo per second at 300 dpi
- Output formats: JPEG and TIFF
- Price: $499
Contents, Design, and Setup
In the box is the scanner, a starting guide, USB 3.0 cable, power cable, carrier sheet, and cleaning cloth. Setting it up is very straightforward: download the software, plug it in, connect the USB cable (you can also send images over Wi-Fi), and off you go.
The design of the scanner is logical and easy to use. All the controls are in a column down the right side of the top, including power, Wi-Fi connect and toggle, double feed detection skip, slow mode, stop, and scan. The double feed feature is particularly nice: if the scanner grabs two photos at the same time, it detects this and alerts you so you can fix it and not miss out on scanning an image.
From there, you're ready to load the feeder tray. You can initiate scans via the button or software (more below).
The FastFoto software is easy to understand and very to the point, without any unnecessary frills, which I appreciate. Nonetheless, it still offers the sort of customization options you would expect. You can choose the following:
- Save location
- Image enhancements, including:
- Auto enhance
- Remove red eye
- Restore faded colors
- Whether to apply the enhancements to the originals or create a second copy
- Uploading to Google Drive or Dropbox
- Scanning resolution
- Single-side or duplex scanning (you can also set it to reject blank backs)
- JPEG or TIFF
Normally, I wouldn't ask software to auto-enhance images, as I prefer to do my own editing. However, when scanning thousands of old family prints, many faded from the sun, some with red eye, some underexposed, etc., having the option to get them in the ballpark right off the bat is nice, and Epson's software did a good enough job for archival copies that I was happy to leave it turned on. For the most important photos, I always had the unedited scans that I could tweak manually.
The software also lets you assign logical filenames to photos, such as a label and date, making it easy to ensure proper organization.
Once I dialed in all my settings (all auto-edit options on, custom filenames, and 600 dpi resolution), it was a simple matter of putting 36 prints in the feeder tray and telling the software to start the scan. Despite the double-feed detection feature, in scanning about 2,500 photos of various sizes, many of which were previously folded or curled, the scanner never once had a jam or a double-feed.
At 600 dpi, each batch of 36 took about three minutes. I put on a couple of movies, and before I knew it, a family project that I had been putting off for years was done in an afternoon. The efficiency, reliability, and enhancement features were all highly impressive.
Keep in mind that these are mostly scans of grocery store photo counter prints of images taken on consumer point and shoot cameras 30 years ago. The scans are excellent. And when the Epson is presented with a better quality print, it keeps up perfectly well.
As you can see, the scanner's auto-enhancement does an excellent job, removing haze, adding a bit of contrast and saturation, and correcting any tints, all without going overboard. If you are scanning thousands of photos and do not want to adjust every single one by hand, I fully recommend trusting the software to take care of it for you.
In terms of detail capture, you will be limited by the resolution of your prints, not the scanner, as it is quite excellent. As you can see in the professional print above, which I chose to challenge it a bit more, the scanner had no problem capturing all the detail the print had to offer.
If you are scanning a bunch of older family prints and you don't have access to the negatives (as was my situation), running everything through something like Topaz Sharpen AI can help to give them that final touch of polish. I did that for some of the older prints, and it helped to bring them to a bit of a more modern standard.
What I Liked
- Can handle any conceivable print size
- Reliable, time-saving auto adjustment
- Smart duplex scanning
- Extremely easy process
- Fast scanning with no jams
- Excellent image quality
- Can also scan documents
- Wi-Fi and USB connectivity
- Optional TIFF output
What I Didn't Like
- Not much to say here
Conclusion and Purchase
Altogether, the Epson FastFoto FF-680W is a solid and well-designed device that offers the sort of versatility and image quality professionals would expect. You could add photo digitization to your services and have it pay for itself relatively easily. You can purchase yours here.