During the early part of my career, I made Polaroid test photos of practically every shot I made commercially on film. I saved 6,000 of them, more or less. Some were flat, some curled while some of them had black tape on them leftover from identifying film sent to the lab. There were bags and storage boxes full of 4×5 and medium format Polaroid prints.
Over the course of several months, each one got scanned using the FastFoto FF-680W compact print scanner, loaned to me by Epson America.
Setting up the FF-680W was easy. I began by removing the abundance of tape from parts that Epson doesn’t want to move during shipping. I installed the Epson FastFoto software from the Epson website. Once the FastFoto scanner was power up and the software running, it couldn’t have been easier. The software automatically connected to the scanner over Wi-Fi.
The next step is to set a folder to receive the scans. There is an option to add info to the names of the prints before they are scanned. I chose to go by a number since I did not want to spend the enormous amount of time it would take to sort the Polaroids by job and look up the data in my database. I had over 6,000 Polaroids to scan, after all. Once the software has the info it needs, it displays the Start Scanning screen with a visual reminder to load prints face up in the scanner.
All that’s left is to load up some prints — they have to be the same size — then click Start Scanning.
Fast and quiet
This scanner lives up to its name. It’s fast. It goes through a stack of photos in seconds making a flat uncorrected scan along with one that the software auto-corrects.
When the stack is scanned, the software politely asks if the job is finished or if more are to be scanned. The scanner holds the scans in memory then, when finished, transfers them wirelessly to the designated folder. This is not fast because two 32MB files are created of each one when scanning, and have to be saved over Wi-Fi.
I chose to scan at 600 pixels per inch to get as much detail as possible. If you are scanning so you have a catalog of your photographic prints, this is overkill. If the print is the only one you have because the negatives have gone missing, the higher resolution is a good choice. This size file can make an 8.5×11″ inch print from a 4×5″ Polaroid.
The scanner is relatively quiet. The only noise is the transport of each print through the machine. It is not loud at all. Take a look at this 30-second video to see and hear for yourself.
The input tray holds about 25 Polaroids. Additional prints can be added while the FastFoto is scanning. If the tray runs out, the scanner stops and a screen pops up with a count of print scanned so far during the batch. There’s an option to add more prints or tell it that you are done scanning. Clicking that button starts the transfer process of moving the scans from memory into the destination folder. Again, the transfer takes time.
When it finishes, load more prints and continue the process. I found that scanning a hundred or so prints was just about the right amount. While the scans were transferring, there was enough time to prepare another stack of Polaroids or photographs for the input tray.
Keep it clean
Photographs, prints or Polaroids, are paper products and they carry dust. Occasionally the software sends a notification reminding that it’s time to clean the FastFoto scanner. Epson has made this simple too. Remove all the prints from the input and output trays, then open the scanner. I used canned air to blow out any dust that had collected. I was careful to make sure the glass in front of the sensor array was spotless.
6,000 Polaroids later …
I’m not going to fib about this. It took time. The Polaroids had been stored in plastic bins and bags for a couple of decades. Some had tape on them from being attached to film boxes identifying the shot inside. Some were torn. Some were sticky. I had my doubts that the FastFoto scanner could handle them all. For the most part, it did a remarkable job with minimal jams. Considering the state some of those Polaroids were in, jams were rare and easily cleared by opening the scanner the same as opening it for cleaning.
I now have 12,000 files of my 6,000 Polaroids. Remember the scanner saves two versions, one simply as scanned and one autocorrected.
Not a one-trick wonder
If all this scanner did was photos it would be invaluable for anyone who has a large collection of prints of all sizes up to 11×14″ (actually a bit larger according to the A4 spec). Since the scanner can scan letter/legal paper it also is a great all-around scanner for documents of all sizes. So once the photo scanning project is complete the Epson FastFoto FF-680W lives on as a Wi-Fi document scanner.
Every rose has a thorn or two
Overall I really like this scanner. It is reasonably priced for all it does at $599.99. High for a document scanner to be sure, but add in the ability to scan continuous-tone photographs in both black and white and full color and this is a real value. Its footprint is much smaller than that of a flatbed scanner and in today’s cramped offices that is a big deal. OK, that’s the rose part. Now for the thorns.
The FastFoto application does not offer 16-bit scans, which means the depth of the scan is not optimal. Epson supplies software that can scan in 16-bit and is used for scanning documents. But why not add that to the FastFoto app? The other thorn is that the rollers left track marks on a lot of the original Polaroids. The tracks don’t show on the scans nor do they show in even light. Hold the Polaroid where light comes in from the side, they are very apparent. I rescanned some of the prints with the track marks and again, they do not show up. Cleaning the rollers did not help reduce the tracks.
All of that said, the Epson FastFoto FF-680W did a great job in making order from the chaos of over 25 years of Polaroid tests. I recommend the scanner to anyone who wants a super-high quality, auto feeding small footprint scanner for photos of all sizes and documents as well.