Thursday, December 13, 2007

Computer-Free Photo Printing

PC Magazine, April, 2005 by Laarni Almendrala Ragaza

So you've just snapped that perfect shot of Junior taking his first steps. You're dying to get a printout, only you don't want to wait to download the image to your computer or haul your camera off to the nearest drugstore photo kiosk. No worries. A photo printer may just be exactly what you need.

Many people, particularly digital photo novices, assume that in order to print your photos, you need to have a computer. Not so with the photo printers we've rounded up here. All five feature PictBridge, a mass-industry technology that lets you print photos directly from your camera to your printer, regardless of brand, provided that both devices are PictBridge-compatible. Moreover, all these printers can also produce outputs directly from memory cards.

All these printers have LCD screens, but what they show on them differs. The Canon Pixma iP6000D, for in-stance, lets you preview photos before printing, while the HP Photosmart 8150 features kiosk-style options on its screen that allow you to crop, sharpen, adjust the brightness, and so on. And the Lexmark P915 can even show you ink-loading instructions on its LCD. The Dell Photo Printer 540 is small enough to carry around (it's just 3.2 by 7.5 by 5.4 inches, HWD) and print photos anywhere you can find outlet. And the Epson Stylus Photo R320 can print directly on printable optical disks (of course, in order to use this feature you'll have to connect it to your computer).

Only two of the printers—the Pixma iP6000D and R320—have a cartridge for each of its six ink colors while the Lexmark and HP printers have tri-color cartridges and the Dell has one cartridge (it also only prints three colors). This is an important consideration, as replacing an ink color for your printer may end up costing you more for models that have tri-color cartridges, especially if you haven't used up the other colors in that particular cartridge. And if you're also planning to use your printer for general-purpose printing, it's important to note that the Dell only accepts a maximum paper size of 4-by-6 inches, while the other four can take up to legal size paper. Whichever you choose, one of these five photo printers is sure to simplify and speed your image delivery.

For more on what factors to consider when purchasing a photo printer, read our Photo Printer Buying Guide.

In this roundup:

Canon Pixma iP6000D It's a reasonable choice if you want a second printer specifically for photos.

Dell Photo Printer 540 It prints from computers, cameras, and memory cards. It's a little faster than most other thermal-dye photo printers, and it offers a lower price per print.

Epson Stylus Photo R320 This printer offers better output quality across the board than most ink jets.

HP Photosmart 8150 Photo Printer What really distinguishes it is kiosk-style features for direct printing, with options to crop, sharpen, adjust brightness, apply digital flash, and more.

Lexmark P915 Home Photo Printer It offers reasonable, but not outstanding, speed for the price, along with some nice ease-of-use features.

Check out the features that differentiate these photo printers in our comparison table.

Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in PC Magazine.

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