Home Hardware Printers Buyer's Guide 2006: Printers
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Buyer's Guide 2006: Printers

Expect photos with better color and longer life from today's printers


Epson StylusInk sets with as many as eight inks are increasingly common, and these extra colors help photo-quality printers reproduce subtleties of color and tone. This also has led to improvements in black-and-white printing.

Judging Speed
The speed by which a printer delivers an enlargement is especially important when you're creating a large number of photographs. The specifications released by some manufacturers reflect a printer's speed in draft mode, however, rather than at the higher photo-quality setting. So it's important to identify which quality setting is being used in addition to the print size when you're measuring and comparing print speeds.

Easy Printing
Although enhancing an image can be gratifying, sometimes we just want to make a print quickly and easily. To accommodate that, several printers feature built-in memory slots that accept a variety of memory cards, including CompactFlash (CF), Secure Digital (SD), Memory Stick and others. By simply inserting the card into the slot and navigating the printer's LCD screen, you can print individual photographs or a contact sheet of a card's entire contents.

Increasingly, inkjet printers have incorporated PictBridge technology into their designs, an industry standard that allows compatible cameras and printers to communicate with each other, regardless of whether the products are from the same manufacturer. A Nikon digital camera connected to an Epson printer can communicate seamlessly via PictBridge. Using the camera's built-in controls, select, crop and apply basic enhancements to an image and then create a print without downloading the files to a computer.

Dye-Sub Printers

Inkjet printers aren't the only choice when it comes to photo output. Dye-sublimation printers have become increasingly affordable and compact, allowing you to create lab-quality prints from units small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

Unlike inkjet printers that put down individual droplets of ink on paper, dye-sublimation printing uses a roll of transparent film embedded with cyan, magenta, yellow and black dyes. When the print head heats up and makes contact with the film, the dyes are vaporized and solidify again on the surface of the paper, creating the print.

Printers such as the Canon Selphy CP600, Olympus P-10, Hi-Touch 730PS and Sony DPP-FP50 produce photographs between 4x6 and 6x9 inches and take up much less desktop space than a standard inkjet printer. In addition to being smaller, these units also produce a borderless print in as fast as 45 seconds.

Whether the memory card is inserted into a built-in memory slot or the camera is connected using a USB cable, quality prints are made without a computer. The affordability and compact design of these printers make them an attractive option if the majority of your prints are relatively small or if you want the convenience of printing when you're away from home.

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