Photos can now be printed at home

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picture this: The HP Photosmart A626 is easy enough for children to print their own photos.
picture this: The HP Photosmart A626 is easy enough for children to print their own photos.

Anand Parthasarathy

Newest such model to hit the Indian market is HP’s Photosmart A 626

BANGALORE: With so many mobile phones equipped for both talking and clicking — and amateur digital cameras becoming more affordable with each passing day — it may soon be more convenient to print photos at home, rather than depending on neighbourhood studios.

The latest crop of Direct, Compact Photo Printers launched globally, many of them available in India, lets amateurs — most of us — make prints at home that are as good as those made at the studios. The Hindu tried out a few of these models last week in a typical home environment and the verdict is: The sheer convenience and creative fun that children ( and parents too!) can enjoy, is worth the slight premium over what a similar photo would cost if printed at a studio.

The compact photo printers are all PC-less models, which means, you don’t need a personal computer. If you own a digital camera, the memory card on which it stores the photos, can be removed and slotted into the printer.

If your pictures were taken with a mobile camera, you can use the Bluetooth wireless connection kit (often provided free) to directly upload the pictures to the printer.

The newest such model to hit the Indian market, is Hewlett Packard’s Photosmart A 626, which has the largest liquid crystal screen for this class of printer — 4.8 inch diagonal — and in addition, it is touch sensitive.

Setting up the printer is easy enough for lay users and the software built into the machine allows one to enhance the picture, remove defects, crop and enlarge — and add over 200 fancy borders and graphics, or even some basic text.

More usefully, you can snap a person’s picture with mobile or camera — and print out multiple passport photos on a single sheet of paper, all within five minutes — a great help if you need to apply for a job or a visa on a Sunday, when all the shops are closed.

Commands and selections are made by touching the screen, which makes this an intuitive tool for kids.

The A 626 takes both 5-by-7 inch and 4-by-6 inch size photo paper.

The suggested Indian price is Rs. 7999, which is almost the same as the international price tag after conversion.

However, there is one minor irritant: The trial ink cartridge supplied with a new machine is good only for the 10 photo sheets supplied free (one print will go to automatically align the print head). This means enthusiastic users, trying out a new printer would typically exhaust the original ink supply and have to buy a new, full cartridge within hours of acquiring the machine. This is the surest way of annoying first-time buyers and sending them straight into the arms of the third party refilling industry. Epson’s offering in this category is the PictureMate PM210, which has a very similar look and feel. Its LCD screen is smaller at 2 inches and the print size is 4-by-6 inch. Epson uses its own ‘micro piezo’ technology to get the ink on to the paper and claims that being a cold process, it is a more efficient use of the ink.

Its starter cartridge is good for 20 prints — and it seemed to us that at the price for a regular cartridge with 150 sheets of paper, the per-print cost might end up at Rs. 8 or so, which is quite competitive for this class of printer. Software-wise, it has features comparable in ‘coolness’ to the other makes.

The PM210 costs Rs. 10,300.

Epson also offers PM250, another model that is slightly faster, and in addition to the mains cord, it comes with a rechargeable battery pack. This has made it a favourite with ‘mobile’ photographers.

Canon, which was the first to implement the PictBridge technology that allows printers like these to connect to cameras, offers Indian customers the Selphy ES1, with a 2.5 inch LCD screen which takes two paper sizes — 4-by-6 inch and 3.5-by-5 inch.

Unlike the other two, it has an additional black ink cartridge for those who want to print economically in monochrome.

This might appeal to professionals as a ‘proofing’ printer. It costs Rs. 10,995.



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