There must be many. Why else would Epson’s market research indicate that a relatively expensive high-speed photo scanner would be a viable product almost 17 years into the 21st century?
Enter Epson’s $649.99-MSRP FastFoto FF-640 High-speed Photo Scanning System, a sheet-fed scanner with a robust automatic document feeder (ADF) front and center, augmented by image-editing and -cataloging software. It looks like any number of other sheet scanners, especially Epson’s own, meant for scanning text documents. And that’s a departure, because most photo scanners are flatbeds, not snapshot-feeders.
Some higher-end photo scanners come with a detachable automatic document feeder (ADF) for moving images past the platen, but even so, in that design images lay flat while the scanning mechanism moves under them. Sheet-fed scanners like the FastFoto FF-640, on the other hand, pass the originals over the scanning sensor (as well as under one, with single-pass scanners like this one), scanning as the image moves by. And that hasn’t always been considered the best way to scan photos, for a number of reasons, but primarily because an ADF can damage your original prints.
That said, as we’ll get into later, the scan quality here is better than acceptable, except when scanning documents for optical character recognition (OCR). While it can scan images and documents at multiple sizes, it’s best suited for scanning piles of snapshots of the 4×6- and 5×7-inch variety. However, as we’ll get into in detail, its first-version scanning and cataloging software is a bit light on features and not very forgiving.
That’s not to say that the FastFoto FF-640 isn’t good at what it’s designed to do. It’s highly useful and well suited to exactly what it’s designed for: scanning vast stacks of snapshots. But we, like a few other reviewers (including Tony Hoffman at our sister site PCMag.com) found ourselves wishing for several other features and greater flexibility, as well as a lower price.
And that’s the rub. At this scanner’s $649.99 list price, you’d need to have a lot of photos (in the several thousands, minimum) to scan to make this purchase worthwhile economically. (Depending on how many you have, there may be less expensive ways to get your photos scanned in bulk, which we’ll detail at the end of this review.) The ideal situation, we think, would be passing the FastFoto FF-640 around between friends and family members who have lots of photos to digitize, or perhaps keeping it on hand as a document scanner after you get all of your photos in the digital realm.
Epson needs to do some work on the non-photo document side of this scanner, though. Overall, the FastFoto FF-640 is a capable scanner good at what it’s designed for, but it does suffer from some first-version blues. And we’d like it a lot better if it cost a few hundred dollars less. (At this writing in mid-December 2016, we hadn’t seen it discounted off its MSRP yet.)