You would think that by now most of the world’s photography would be digitized and saved on PCs, phones, tablets, USB drives and cloud sites. But the continued popularity of photo scanners like our 2018 Best of the Year winner, the Epson FastFoto FF-680W, suggests otherwise. Canon has a new contender for the FastFoto with the ImageFormula RS40 Photo and Document Scanner ($479), an update to the ImageFormula R40 we reviewed in early 2020. The RS40 and FF-680W all serve two sheet-fed document scanners, meaning they can serve a home business when it’s not dealing with family snapshots. The Epson is more expensive but faster and more robust, so the ImageFormula doesn’t take its place as our Editors’ Choice award winner, but it may appeal to you nonetheless.
Sheet-fed photo scanners: a rare breed
The RS40 is essentially the R40 plus a few tweaks and software enhancements that bolster its scanning and photo-enhancing prowess. Other than a bit of black trim on the old scanner’s buttons, output tray, and automatic document feeder (ADF), the two are nearly identical in appearance, as shown below.
The RS40 (left) looks like an all-white version of the two-tone R40 (right). (Credit: Canon)
At 9.6 by 11.4 by 9.9 inches (HWD) with its decks closed, the ImageFormula RS40 is the same size as its predecessor, albeit a few ounces heavier at 6.6 pounds. The Epson FF-680W is still two pounds heavier, though a few inches more compact in height and length.
The Canon faces few sheet-to-sheet rivals apart from the Epson; most other scanners designed to scan photos, with the exception of the ClearClick QuickConvert 2.0 reviewed here last year, are flatbed scanners. They don’t automatically scan multiple photos or documents one after the other, nor can they scan two-sided images or documents without you manually flipping the content.
The ImageFormula RS40 (left) has an automatic document feeder, while flatbed scanners like the CanoScan LIDE 400 (right) require you to place photos or pages on the glass yourself. (Credit: Canon)
If you’re looking for a document scanner rather than a photo scanner, of course, there are dozens of sheet-fed competitors. Popular mid-range document managers include the Raven Select and the Epson DS-790WN, both of which feature easy-to-navigate color touchscreen control panels. The almost tablet-sized Raven lets you view and edit scans directly from the device itself.
In contrast, the RS40 (and FF-680W) control panels are much simpler. As you can see below, instead of a large, useful touchscreen, you get a small set of buttons – Job Selection, Start (scanning), Stop (cancel) and DFR (Dual Feed Retry) – and a two-character LED for status codes.
The control panel consists of a few buttons and a tiny text LED. (Credit: Canon)
The job selection button and text display allow you to scroll and choose from a list of numbers corresponding to workflow profiles managed through the supplied Canon CaptureOnTouch scanner interface software. (More on that in a moment.)
On the hardware side, the maximum resolution of the RS40 is 600 dpi (1200 dpi interpolated). The minimum document size is 2 by 2.1 inches and the maximum size is 8.5 inches by 14 feet. Supported output formats include image and searchable PDF files, Microsoft Word and Excel, TXT, JPG and TIFF.
You send photos and pages to the scanner through the ADF, which holds 60 document pages or 40 photos (up to 8 x 10 inches). The Canon’s daily duty cycle is 4,000 scans, which matches the older ImageFormula R40. Epson’s DS-790WN has a 100-page ADF and a daily scan limit of 7,000; the Raven Select, on the other hand, only holds 50 pages and is rated for just 2,000 daily scans.
Flatbed photo scanners, such as the publisher-award winning Canon CanoScan LiDE 400 and LiDE 300, as well as several Epson Perfection models, such as the V19, V39 and V550, generally lack speed and volume ratings. (duty cycle), thanks to their manual operation.
The RS40’s only connection option is a USB 2.0 cable – no Wi-Fi or Ethernet – and its CaptureOnTouch software only works on Windows or macOS computers, not phones or tablets. Handheld devices are only supported via cloud and social media sites, and as with most sheetfed scanners, operation of the PC and control panel is largely dependent on the bundled software.
Canon’s CaptureOnTouch lets you scan, edit, convert photos and documents to usable file formats, and more. (Credit: PCMag)
Not only is CaptureOnTouch a decent scanning interface for photos and text documents, but it automatically applies image enhancement such as red-eye and discoloration correction to improve old photos during the scanning process.
The same software handles scanning paper documents and converting scans to editable text. Canon also offers TWAIN drivers to connect the scanner to hundreds of third-party applications such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat and Photoshop that support scanner input.
ImageFormula RS40 review: Lives up to its marks (barely)
Canon rates the ImageFormula RS40 at 30 photos or 40 single-sided document pages per minute (ppm) and 80 double-sided document or image pages (where each side of the page is an image) per minute (ipm). I tested the scanner and the others mentioned here via a USB connection to our Intel Core i5 test bed running Windows 10 Pro and Canon CaptureOnTouch.
First, I timed the RS40 as it scanned a stack of 30 4-inch by 6-inch color snapshots, first single-sided then double-sided to capture writing on the back of some photos. The Canon moved through the stack at an average rate of 33 photos per minute (ppm) and 53 duplex images per minute (ipm) at 300dpi resolution; scans at 600 dpi were 35% to 40% slower.
The double-sided figure is somewhat misleading because when scanning the back side of photos, the software ignores blank scans. Overall, these speeds are about half as fast as the Epson FF-680W. In addition, the duplex function did not work perfectly during my tests. CaptureOnTouch did not always recognize the paper manufacturer’s name, logo, or other data on the back of some images.
Next, I tested the RS40 and CaptureOnTouch as they scanned, converted, and saved our 25-page single-sided (simplex) and 25-page (50-sided) text documents into image PDF files. The Canon processed single-sided and double-sided pages at averages of 40.3 ppm and 80.2 ipm respectively. Both scores barely matched Canon’s rated speeds, slightly faster than the R40 and slightly slower than the Raven Select. The Epson DS-790WN beat all comers by at least 5 ppm and 10 ipm.
The final test involved scanning our 25-page double-sided document and converting it to the more versatile and editable searchable PDF format used for document archiving. The ImageFormula RS40 did the job in 38 seconds, 3 seconds ahead of the R40 and Raven Select, but 5 seconds slower than the DS-790WN.
Fair Quality, Impeccable Accuracy
When it comes to image quality, there are inherent differences between sheetfed and flatbed scanner functionality. As smooth and precise as today’s sheet feed mechanisms are, there’s no substitute for holding the source stationary while a flatbed sensor passes underneath.
I let the CaptureOnTouch software fix any faded images, scratches, and other aging flaws, and in most cases saw a marked improvement in overall image quality over the originals. As mentioned, however, I wasn’t impressed with how the software handled two-sided photo scans, missing several company imprints on the back and forcing me to delete blank pages.
On a happier note, the ImageFormula RS40 matches many modern document scanners in achieving error-free Optical Character Recognition (OCR) down to type 6 dots, which is well below what is needed in the most small businesses and home offices. The Canon R40 performed a little better, matching the newer model’s 6 points with Times New Roman text and reading Arial text up to 4 points, but most of the sheetfed document scanners mentioned here achieved the same accuracy of 6 points with both fonts. The Epson FastFoto managed an error-free 8 points with both serif and sans serif fonts, which isn’t bad either; chances are you won’t come across many documents with such a small type. (Also, Epson has likely improved the FF-680W’s OCR software since we tested it in 2018.)
The bottom line is that the RS40’s OCR accuracy is average, which might not sound that exciting, but these days means it’s excellent. We haven’t tested a scanner with poor OCR performance in a long time.
Verdict: Efficiently scanning stacks of photos
While this review was ongoing, the price of the ImageFormula RS40 on Canon’s website was reduced from $479 to $379 and back again, while Epson reduced the FastFoto FF-680W by $599.99 at $499.99.
Amazon, B&H Photo Video and a few other retailers continue to offer the RS40 at a lower price than the Canon online store, so if you can live with its quirks, the RS40 can offer some pretty good savings. Otherwise, the Epson scanner is a little faster and better developed than the Canon, but both are attractive depending on how many shoeboxes full of photos you have.
Canon ImageFormula RS40 photo and document scanner
Canon’s powerful ImageFormula RS40 is an affordable sheet-fed snapshot scanner suitable for families and home offices. (It doubles as a document scanner.)
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