Lets be upfront for a second. I am not online to sell you anything. My goal is to enlighten, and hopefully give you some insight and advice on how to become better at genealogy than you are. Therefore, the following review is NOT a paid placement. I do not make a penny off of anything sold by any manufacturer. I do not sell this product. I have no interest in any merchant that does sell it. Are we good? Good, read on, because this is really cool.
But we are going to look at a product in today’s post, and it may or may not be an answer for what you need to accomplish.
If it isn’t, just read it anyway – maybe you know someone who has cartons of pictures that they have said “Oh, I just need to get those scanned when I have a few moments.” Who are they kidding, right. Those pictures are going stay in those boxes until the cows come home, so open up the barn door for “Maudine” and lets wait to see if she moo’s at sunset, right?
But if you are the person who has lots of “snapshots” from the 1960s through the 1990s that do need to be digitized, the Epson FF-640 may be your best bet. Not only does it scan snap shots in batches, it scans the backs and the fronts of at the same time, creating two different files for each.
Now, I had been looking at these types of scanners for some time. In fact, I already owned a NEAT scanner, but I found that it’s interface was clunky, and it only works on it’s own interface, so didn’t do what I needed it to do. NOW I understand that NEAT no longer supports the desktop interface and it wants everything to go to the “Cloud”.
THAT was an expensive purchase because it never got used. And good luck trying to sell that donkey on Nextdoor.
Here’s why I personally like the Epson ff-640: Because it works.
If you already have an Epson scanner – and I have used nothing but Epson scanners since the early 2000’s, you know that their interface is simple, dovetails nicely with other imaging programs.
The interface, EpsonScan allows you set the “dpi” (Dots per Inch), select the file format, allows you to control where the scans are stored and how they are named. The software will also give you access to a subprogram that will correct color imbalances that are usual and common.
Epson bills this scanner as the “World’s Fastest” scanner, with a speed up to an image a second for 300dpi *.jpg images. It takes less than half a minute to scan a snapshot at 600dpi and save it as a *.tif file. And this scanner scans at a 1:1 ration. So a 3×5″ goes in, and 3×5″ scan is created. You still need to use a desktop scanner for enlarging, etc. But even at the 1:1 that this scanner does, a 600 dpi tif scan can be enlarged a bit without loss of sharpness.
Now to give you an idea how fast that is, I have an Epson Perfection 4990 is that is, by computer standards, ancient. However it still does beautiful work. You lift the lid, place the image, launch the interface and can make all sorts of corrections, you can scan nine sides at once, 8″x10″ copy negatives, etc. But on a recent project for a civic group, I averaged twenty documents an hour. Partly because the documents were very fragile, bit was time consuming. And I still use this scanner for all of the heavy stock photos, cardboard backed photos, portraits, tin types and CDV and cabinet cards. I also use it for Polaroids because despite their speediness, Polaroids are fragile images. I ALSO use the desktop scanner for old “brownie” era snap shots, because their paper is fragile and often times, curled.
So with the 4990, I average 20 scans an hour, making corrections before the scan.
With the Epson FF-640, I am scanning a whopping 144 snapshot images at 600dpi in under 15 minutes.
Now there are three drawbacks to the FF-640. The first is that, as the nature of the beast, you need to sort your images by a) size and b) orientation:
a) The scanner only works well if every batch is uniform in size. You can feed picture through one at a time, its slower, but you can. But for “batches” of up to ten at a time, the sizes have to be uniform. This means you have to prepare to get the best efficiency.
b) You have to maintain the scanner. That means you have to open it up periodically – and the software will tell you when its time – and carefully clean the feed-path, the rollers and above all the glass scanning lenses. You may also have to have the rollers changed out. The online manual has all that detailed, and it isn’t hard to do.
c) The cost. Take a deep breath because this scanner will, at list price, set you back as of today, Wednesday March 8, 2017, $649 and change. BUT when I bought mine, I shopped around and got it through Micro Center on sale online for $599 in February. That may seem like a lot, but the scanner also functions as a batch document scanner and can turn paper documents into Adobe PDF files.
Some critics have said that scanner renders images that are not as crisp as the could be. That’s a legitimate thing to look into, but if its true, it is infinitesimal. I have been scanning in *.tif mode and I have seen anything wonky.
My take on this? This scanner is light years ahead of where we were just a couple years ago. I also think that this is far superior to the NEAT scanner, and Epson engineering and manufacturing standards are very high.
Having hand scanned over 20,000 on the old 4990 – and that includes images for five Arcadia books, numerous genealogy’s and for organizations that I volunteer with, and after working with it myself, this Epson ff-640 is amazing.
Now, have you started breathing, again?
Good. Now imagine you get the pictures all scanned. They are organized, and they are in a box. And you can share them. The more people who have your pictures, the better you are prepared to get moving on something else.
Again, I get nothing in the world or universe from Epson. They are not paying for me to share this, but from my experience, this is an amazing piece of technology that going forward will give you years of service as long as you read the manual, use it as directed, clean it as directed and don’t abuse it.
I am posting this video review of the scanner just to give you idea of the speed. The person making the video likes the scanner as well (but she should have read the manual to find which box she needed to check to scan the back of the images).
As with anything you see recommended online, remember to comparison shop for the best price and availability. Read reviews from well regarded sources, and if you can, buy locally, because returns are easier. If you do buy online, buy from a well known site, look for sales, and buy with your head, not with your heart. Being an informed consumer is the number one weapon in your arsenal to making good choices, and not being taken to the cleaners.