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Epson FastFoto FF-640 review: FastFoto offers quick pic scans, no experience necessary

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The Good The FastFoto is a fast scanner with that streamlines the process of digitizing your printed photos. It handles mixed sizes in a stack quite well.

The Bad The scanner can't handle 1970s-era Polaroids, and the software makes the mistake of equating fewer features with simplicity, making the system a lot less useful than it could be.

The Bottom Line The Epson FastFoto does what it sets out to do -- lets you quickly scan your masses of old print photos -- but some folks will find it an expensive and incomplete solution.

7.5 Overall

Anyone born before digital photography became popular -- oh, let's round it to the year 2000 -- or who has parents or grandparents who became adults during the 20th century knows the pain of trying to do something, anything, with the surfeit of physical photos accumulated over time. If they're anything like my family, they've been added to and removed from albums, secreted in tons of locations around the house, and scattered across multiple family members. The more organized actually wrote notes on the back of each one. Scanning them with a flatbed scanner is insanely tedious, and most feeders can't handle stacks of photos in varying sizes.

So Epson's taken its decades of scanner know-how and created a scanner designed specifically for the -- shall we say, "technologically uninterested" -- to digitize the reams of photos they have. The $650 FastFoto (about £495, AU$870, directly converted) can scan a stack of up to 30 photos, in different sizes ranging from tiny 2x2-inch (51x51mm) up through 8.5x120-inch (22x 305cm) panoramas. (That expansive dimension applies only to Windows users. Mac folks will have to make do with 8.5x14.5 inches.) It also has a second scanner inside to scan the backs of the photos to capture notes, identification and processing-date stamps, which can be very useful.

And it's pretty fast: I timed it at 1.6 seconds per photo for a 4x6 at 300 dpi, and at 4.2 seconds per photo at 600 dpi. That doesn't include the pause during processing, though.

As intended, the scanner's easy to set up and use. You peel off a lot of tape and attach the output tray, go through the step-by-step software installation, and connect to your computer via USB. There are a handful of configuration steps to go through, such as defining what applications launch when you press the buttons on the front, choosing resolution, how to handle scans of the back, and what kind of enhancements to perform automatically.

After you load up a stack of photos, you press a button on the front and it launches the scan utility. Optionally, a dialog will pop up giving you the ability to incorporate a date and keywords into the file name. This is really useful: in addition to giving a specific year, you can get fuzzy and specify "1970s" and "winter", for example.

It scans the entire stack and processes them afterwards, followed by launching into the application of your choice. Sort of. Your options are Epson's own FastFoto application on Windows or Finder, Photos or Preview on the Mac . There's no option to not launch an application, which is annoying when you're just trying to power through stacks of photos. Epson's FastFoto application (as opposed to the driver/utility of the same name) lets you browse the photos, share, upload or edit them. The editing options are rotate, crop, auto-enhance, remove red-eye and restore colors. There's also an option to add a date to the photo that appears in the metadata as a creation date, which is nice.

However, there's no way to batch rename or update the files in the software -- say, if you accidentally named them with 1971 instead of 1972, as I did. And that's not an easy thing to do without downloading a third-party utility.

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