Portable 4x6 photo printers offer the convenience of instant photo printing – no need to go to a nearby photo studio and wait for half an hour or so for prints. Although regular inkjet printers and multifunction devices that cost much less can also print 4x6 photos, portable photo printers are all about convenience and quality. With these tiny lunch-box sized printers, you don’t need a PC to print photos, plus they can also use battery packs as an alternate power source, while you’re on the move. One such printer is the newly launched Epson PictureMate PM 245, which makes printing 4x6 photos a breeze.
Design and Features
Sporting a boxy design and a handle for carrying, the Epson PM 245 will remind you of a tiny picnic basket. Weighing in at 2.3 kg, it’s quite portable and not too heavy to carry around. The device is all-white and the entire shell has a matte finish, except for the lid, which has a glossy finish. Opening the lid reveals the vertical paper feed, control panel and a 2.5-inch tilting LCD displaying the user interface. There’s a tiny door in the front that doubles as an output tray when opened. Memory card slots supporting a host of card formats that include SD/MMC, xD, Memory Stick (MS), and Compact Flash are located behind the door. You can print photos directly even from other types of memory cards, such as microSD, MS Duo and MiniSD, but you’ll need to use adapters that are compatible with the slots on the printer.
The battery pack is optional and the PM 245 uses a 4-colour ink cartridge
The PM 245 also features a PictBridge port on the rear that supports printing photos directly from digital cameras. The rear panel also has compartments for the battery pack (optional accessory) and the 4-colour ink cartridge. The door of the cartridge has a magnetic lock and the cartridge slides in and gets locked in place by a plastic lever. The printer draws power from a 24 V adapter and connects to the PC via USB interface.
On inserting a memory card into the slot, the printer instantly reads the contents and displays thumbnails of all the images on the card. However, the printer can recognize only BMP and JPEG image formats. Professionals who shoot only in RAW will be disappointed, but this device is for the general audience and every digital camera supports JPEG format. The user interface of the printer is very intuitive and it doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes to learn all the functions. The Display button switches between the layouts of the images on the screen. You can choose from individual thumbnails, filmstrip view and multiple thumbnails. The Left and Right buttons are meant for navigating through Menus and photos, and the OK button selects the currently highlighted option or photo. The functions of the Stop and Print buttons are self-explanatory.
The Menu button brings up the main menu of the interface, which has functions for selecting photos, adjusting print settings, printer maintenance and help. With the Select Photos function you can either select all the photos on the memory card or select photos shot on specific dates. The Basic Print Settings section has the important options, such as paper size (4x6-inch or labels), layout (border, borderless, 2 per print and 8 per print), photo enhancements, date stamp and colour effect (B&W and Sepia). Once the print settings are set, they are applicable for all the images you print. But you can specify the number of copies you wish to print of each photo.
Tilting LCD and control panel make operation intuitive
The Utility section has a few interesting functions. You can print a proof sheet with thumbnails of all the photos on a single 4x6-inch sheet. There’s also a Custom ID Print function, which is useful for printing multiple ID photos on a single sheet. This is very useful for printing passport size photos and ID photos for visas. You can manually specify the height and width of the ID photo (in mm or inch) and then crop the photo you wish to print, but you cannot zoom in.
The menu navigation is very simple and a 2-line description for every option you select makes operation very easy. The Help section has a Quick Guide, which explains how to insert/eject memory cards and use memory card adapters, load paper and replace the cartridge. The Improve Print Quality section is like a troubleshooting guide that talks about what you should do when you get results that are faint and blurry or if the colours are incorrect.
From the time you press the Print button, it takes around 45 seconds to print a borderless 4x6-inch photo. The print quality is very good with excellent reproduction of details and good contrast. By default, the Enhance option is enabled because of which the contrast and colour saturation are slightly boosted for vibrant results. With no enhancements, photos look a bit pale.
Compact design makes it easy to carry
Although the photos look great, the colours that you see in the print are slightly deviated from what you see on the screen. This might worry those who are meticulous about accurate colour reproduction, but those haven’t seen the image on screen will find the results outstanding.
The Epson PictureMate PM 245 costs 10,999 and the Epson Picture Pack, which includes a cartridge and 150 sheets costs 1,514. So the cost per print translates to 10. On the other hand, the Canon Selphy CP800, which is much smaller and weighs under a kilo, costs 5,295. It uses dye sublimation printing technology and the cost per print is slightly more expensive at 11.5. The advantages you get are that it features a more compact and lightweight design, support for printing from USB flash drives and Bluetooth wireless printing support. The Canon Selphy CP800 is any day a better bang for your buck at half the price. It would have been nice, if the PM 245 was priced between 7,000 to 8,000.
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