The Epson FastFoto FF-680W Scanner: Digitize That Shoebox Full of Photos

Rating: 7/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $599
The Epson FastFoto FF-680W on a desk printing images from a laptop sitting next to it.
Epson

Have tons of boxes full of photos? With the Epson FastFoto FF-680W, you can digitize those, along with every snapshot in your photo albums, and save them on your PC, Mac, or the cloud. Unfortunately, it’s not cheap.

Here's What We Like

  • Makes quick work of boxes full of photos
  • Also scans documents with included ScanSmart software
  • Connects via Wi-Fi or USB
  • Duplex scanning picks up notes on backs of photos

And What We Don't

  • Expensive just to scan photos
  • Photos end up a messy pile in output tray
  • Receipt scanning is an additional cost

Where Did I Put Those Photos?

Many people have tons of photos—their own, and those they’ve inherited from relatives. The problem with saving printed photos is they’re vulnerable. They can be damaged by water or fire, or you might accidentally throw them out, and then those memories are gone forever.

If you don’t mind sharing your pictures with the world, Instagram is one solution and storing them in the cloud is another. First, though, you have to convert them to digital, and that’s where the Epson FastFoto FF-680W comes in.

The FastFoto looks and operates like a standard document scanner. But it’s designed to scan photos of all kinds, as long as they fit in the input tray. Unlike most other sheet-fed scanners, the FastFoto accommodates thick photos, like Polaroids or postcards. Ham Radio operators and Shortwave Listeners who exchange QSL cards will love this scanner’s ability to organize and store them. And, if you have notes on the back of your cards and photos, the scanner picks those up, too—you don’t even have to turn it over and re-scan.

Setup’s a Breeze

It’s a quick process to get the FastFoto up and running. After I unpacked it and plugged in the included power adapter, I downloaded the software from Epson’s support site. This ensures you have the most recent drivers and utilities. The download includes both the FastFoto software and Epson’s ScanSmart utility. You can connect the scanner via USB or Wi-Fi, which is the way I tested it. The setup looks for and identifies the network, and then installs the scanner driver and utilities. After a few minutes, you’re ready to scan!

The "Connection" tab in the EpsonNet "Network Setup" menu, and the "Start Scanning" menu in the FastFoto software.
The software identifies the network and installs the scanner.

Scan Away

To conserve space, you can fold up the scanner when it’s not in use. The top unfolds to expose the input feed and paper support, while the bottom panel slides out and becomes the output tray. Just unfold it and turn on the power, and you’re ready to scan.

You can scan in two ways: launch the FastFoto or ScanSmart application from the Start menu or just press the Scan button on the scanner. The latter option also launches the FastFoto software on your PC or Mac. The Scan button works whether you connect via USB or Wi-Fi.

The controls on the scanner are not particularly intuitive, so I printed out the part of the documentation that labels them and taped it to the front panel of the unit. The controls do become familiar after a few scans, but it was helpful to refer to the labels at first. Most of the operations I performed were from the FastFoto and ScanSmart screens on my laptop. One nice feature that isn’t immediately apparent is the double-feed detection skip button. This enables or disables double-feed detection, which is necessary because the device can scan thicker documents, such as postcards and Polaroids.

 

The controls on the front panel of the Epson FastFoto FF-680W next to a diagram of the controls and what they do.
The front panel controls and their functions. Ted Needleman

Speedy Does It

Overall, the scan speed is pretty fast. I scanned a bundle of 35, 4- x 6-inch photos at 300 and 600 dpi, and another group of five photos at 1,200 dpi. The scanner allows you to scan at that resolution if you’re going to print an enlargement.

Here’s how long it took to scan the aforementioned photos:

  • 35, 4- x 6-inch photos at 300 dpi: 38 seconds
  • 35, 4- x 6-inch photos at 600 dpi: 1 minute, 34 seconds
  • Five, 4- x 6-inch photos at 1,200 dpi: 20 seconds
The "Scan Settings" menu in the Epson FastFoto software.
You can select the scan resolution in the “Scan Settings” menu.

In the software, you can enable the device to scan both sides of a photo in one pass. This is handy if you tend to write notes on the backs of photos. It only scans the back of an image if it senses the back isn’t blank.

Epson claims the feed can accommodate 36 photos of standard thickness. But most people will just grab a handful and, if it seems too tight, remove some until it will feed without any issues. It’s quicker to do an extra scan than stop due to photo jams, which happened to me several times. Clearing a jam isn’t particularly difficult. You just fold down the front panel to expose the feed mechanism and rollers, and then remove the jammed photo. Fortunately, none of my photos were wrinkled in the process.

The Epson FastFoto FF-680W scanner with its front panel open.
The front panel folds forward, so you can clear a jam. Ted Needleman

One thing I disliked was the photos exited the scanner in a mess on the output tray. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but Epson suggests you organize your photos into groups before you scan them. This makes their digital counterparts easier to find if you want a particular group. I found it annoying that the group I spent time organizing got all scrambled in the output tray.

The Epson FastFoto FF-680W scanner with photos scattered on the output tray.
What a mess! Ted Needleman

One feature I did appreciate is that you can set the software to perform automatic image enhancement. There are several options, including red-eye removal. You can either set the scanner to perform the enhancements on the original scan or have the software produce a second one with the enhancements immediately after it scans the original.

The automatic enhancement menu options in the Epson FastFoto software.
You can set the scanner to enhance photos automatically.

It’s no Photoshop, but it’s handy if a lot of your photos just need a simple tweak. After you scan your photos, you can share, print, edit, or delete them right from the software.

The menu that appears in the Epson FastFoto software after you scan your photos.
After you scan your photos, this window opens, and you can choose what to do with them.

Not Just for Photos

While the FastFoto FF-680W is optimized to scan photographs, it’s still, at its core, a document scanner. If you also intend to use the FF-680W as a document scanner, you have to install the ScanSmart application available in the full download from Epson’s website.

ScanSmart is very simple to use—you just load the documents facedown in the input tray, and then click single or duplex scanning.

The main menu in the Espon ScanSmart software.
The Epson ScanSmart launch screen.

ScanSmart also offers a 30-day free trial of the Accounting Edition, which allows you to scan receipts. It also automatically posts them to QuickBooks or Excel, but it costs $99.99 to keep after the trial.

ScanSmart also scans the front and back of a page in one pass. In document scan mode, the FF-680W can scan up to 45, standard 8.5- x 11-inch, single-sided pages per minute, or 90 per minute double-sided. You can also set the ScanSmart software to provide automatic OCR on your scans and send them to Word, email, or the Cloud.

I tested all three of these options, including the free trial of the Accounting Edition. OCR worked well and was very accurate. I had no trouble transferring receipts to Excel, but I didn’t test it on QuickBooks.

An Expensive Option

The FastFoto FF-680W made short work of a few boxes of photos. There were several hundred of them, and they varied in size and quality. The quality of the scans—even those of faded black and white Polaroids—was very good, especially after I used the enhancement feature. I also liked the quality when I scanned in 1,200 dpi mode to enable 8- x 10-inch enlargements from a 4- x 6-inch photo.

However, if you only need a scanner for photos, there are many cheaper alternatives—even from Epson. Unless you also need a document scanner, you probably don’t want to spend a premium just to scan Polaroids, postcards, and other images of nonstandard size and thickness. Any standard page scanner will do the job. And you can enhance and edit your scanned images in any number of photo editing applications, like GIMP (which is free).

However, if you do want the best photo scanner out there, the FastFoto FF-680W is for you. And you’ll get an excellent document scanner, to boot!

Rating: 7/10
Price: $599

Here’s What We Like

  • Makes quick work of boxes full of photos
  • Also scans documents with included ScanSmart software
  • Connects via Wi-Fi or USB
  • Duplex scanning picks up notes on backs of photos

And What We Don't

  • Expensive just to scan photos
  • Photos end up a messy pile in output tray
  • Receipt scanning is an additional cost

Ted Needleman Ted Needleman
Ted Needleman has written over 4,000 software and hardware reviews over his decades as a writer and editor. In addition to his work for Review Geek, you can find him at PCMag, Digital Trends, and AccountingToday. Read Full Bio »

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