Snapshots in a Snap
New compact photo printers are so easy to use, even a...oh, wait--he's using it already
(MONEY Magazine) – Between Halloween and New Year's Day, your digital camera probably gets more of a workout than your exercise bike. Snapping shots of friends and family, you've mastered the art of capturing the hilarious candid moment, and if you do say so yourself, some of your pictures are frameworthy. But schlepping to the drugstore to get your photos printed defeats the convenience of digital photography. Now, if you had a compact photo printer, all you'd have to do is put the camera's memory card into a slot, pick the image (using the printer's built-in color display) you want to print, select how many copies of it you need and push a button. Minutes later you can return to the action, armed with 4x6 glossies for all.
Sure, dedicated photo printers may look like space-age lunch boxes, but they've got the most cutting-edge technology in the business, printing near-photographer's-quality 4x6 photos on thick glossy stock. Heck, every 4x6 from our field test was 100% waterproof, withstanding a dunk in a glass of water with no sign of smudging or bleeding. Many compact printers also have batteries, so you can take them to picnics, on hayrides or just out to the patio.
Manufacturers also sell paper-and-ink combo packs. The cost of larger packs usually amounts to 25¢ to 30¢ a print. Wal-Mart is cheaper (when isn't it?), but home printers let you make prints that look as good or better with almost no wait, right in your home. Best of all, snapshot printers never need to be connected to a computer.
Right now competition in this market is fierce, which is never a bad thing (prices quoted below are MSRP; expect street prices to be 10% to 15% less). While all of these printers might look equally tantalizing, a battery of tests revealed clear winners and losers. Which printer should you choose? Say cheese.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Our winner, Epson's PictureMate Snap, beat the competition in several ways.
• Its picture quality was always chosen by a panel of reviewers as the finest.
• Its print time was well under one minute per high-quality print.
• It has easy-to-use controls and tons of extra features, like an optional battery.
HOW I DID IT
I shuffled prints in a pile and showed them to a panel of friends. The printer with the most No. 1 votes (taking speed into consideration) was the winner.
Ink and paper are sold together, but ink often lasts longer. Keep extra 4x6 glossy paper on hand, and work that ink cartridge until it really runs dry.