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Best Photo Scanner

By: Amy Livingston on December 18, 2017

Epson offers the best high-end flatbed photo scanners

While some mainstream flatbed scanners do a great job handling photos, slides or negatives, photographers – or those who require professional image quality – need even greater fidelity. For these users, the best choice is a flatbed scanner designed specifically for scanning photos. Typically found on the high end of the price scale, these scanners offer higher resolutions than most flatbed scanners. Most of them also come with premium features and software, such as image retouching and scratch removal capabilities, to improve scan quality.

Reviewers say the Epson Perfection V800 Photo (Est. $725) is the best choice for professional photographers and advanced amateurs looking for the ultimate in photo, slide and film scanning. This scanner is the successor to the discontinued Epson Perfection V700 Photo, which also earned highly favorable reviews. Like the V700, the V800 has a dual-lens system in which one lens scans at 4,800 dots per inch (dpi) and the other scans up to 6,400 dpi for larger files. Both scanners also have a 4.0 Dmax rating, meaning that they can reproduce gradual changes in shading from white to black and fine shadow detail (details of images in dark areas) better than most scanners.

However, according to M. David Stone of PCMag, the V800 is even better than its predecessor. Its image quality is better by a small but noticeable margin, and it also works faster. In Stone's tests, the V800 took 38 seconds to scan a single slide at 2,400 pixels per inch (ppi), 2 minutes and 28 seconds to scan 4 slides at the same resolution, and 1 minute 25 seconds to scan a slide at 6,400 ppi. Film scans take about the same amount of time. Using the digital image correction and enhancement (ICE) feature increases the scan time for a single frame to 2 minutes 51 seconds. One reason the V800 works faster than the V700 is that it now has an LED light source that makes warm-up all but instantaneous.

The Epson Perfection V800 Photo can reproduce both prints and transparencies up to 8 by 10 inches in size. It also offers a variety of scan modes, from fully automatic to fully user-controlled. Stone finds that mastering the scanner's SilverFast utility software has a bit of a learning curve, but says it offers good control once you overcome that. The chief downside of the V800 Photo, he finds, is the fact that its relatively high price tag doesn't get you a bundled photo-editing program. Owners who review the scanner at Amazon and B&H Photo appreciate the scanner's fast operation and high-quality images. However, they also complain that the software – especially the SilverFast utility – is buggy and hard to use, and they find the film holders are flimsy and awkward. Mac users also complain that scanning slides on the V800 is a pain because, even though its tray can hold 12 slides at once, its app will only let you scan one at a time.

If you need to make high-quality photo scans but are put off by the V800's high cost, the Epson Perfection V600 Photo (Est. $205) offers a good alternative. It doesn't have the dual-lens system found on the V800, but it can scan at resolutions up to 6,400 by 9,600 dpi. It also offers a good selection of scanning modes, from fully automatic to fully manual, and options for touching up images. There's digital ICE for editing out dust and scratches, color restoration, and a bundled ArcSoft PhotoStudio program for editing images.

Despite these benefits, however, the V600 doesn't fare quite as well in reviews as the V800. Stone, in his review for PCMag, says it produces high-quality scans for both prints and film, and it's only slightly slower than the V800. However, its image quality isn't quite a match for the V700, which in turn isn't quite up to the standards of the V800. Also, editors at Imaging Resource found that while the V600 did a great job scanning prints, its results with color negatives were "unreliable."

The V600 has thousands of reviews from owners at Amazon, B&H Photo, Office Depot, and Staples. Most of them agree that the scanner produces clear images, with good color and resolution. They also note that its OCR works very well for searchable documents. On the downside, Epson's quality control and customer service come in for some knocks from users. We also saw warnings that the digital ICE software can sometimes yield strange results. Some reviews say that the scanner software does not work well with Windows 10 – to the point that some users were unable to get it up and running at all -- though as is often the case in these types of things, other report smooth sailing.

If your main goal is to convert all your old snapshots to digital form as quickly as possible, the Epson FastFoto FF-640 (Est. $580) could be your best bet. At just 600 ppi, it can't come close to the image quality of the other Epsons, but it's much faster. You can load up to 30 photos at a time in the scanner's feed slot – of varying sizes, if you like – and just press start to scan the lot. In tests at Wirecutter, it whipped through a stack of 30 photos in just 38 seconds at 300 ppi, or 1 minute 42 seconds at 600 ppi. Reviewer Amadou Diallo says it produces clear images with excellent color detail – not as good as a flatbed scanner, but better than most document scanners – and it's "competent" for scanning documents as well.

Owners at Amazon, Office Depot, Staples, and B&H Photo give the Epson FastFoto high marks for its speed, file organization, and image-enhancing abilities. One feature they particularly love is the scanner's ability to automatically detect writing on the back of a photo and save it as a linked file, keeping the notes together with the photo scan. Although they find the FastFoto easy to set up, some say that its software can be confusing. Another big drawback is that it can't handle Polaroids, which limits its capabilities for converting old family photos.

The biggest problem with the FastFoto is its high price tag. At $580, it costs nearly three times as much as the Epson Perfection V600 Photo, and its image quality isn't nearly as high. However, if you don't have the time to scan in all your photos one by one, the FastFoto makes a good alternative to a photo-scanning service. According to Diallo, these services typically charge around 40 cents per print, plus shipping – so if you have more than around 1,500 photos (two full shoeboxes) to scan, buying this scanner is a cost-effective option. It doesn't do quite as good a job of restoring faded or overexposed prints as the services do, but Diallo says it "held its own in well-exposed images that had vibrant color to begin with."

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