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Hard Copy: Photo Finish

Hard Copy: Photo Finish
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First Published: Wed, May 09 2007. 12 29 AM IST
Updated: Wed, May 09 2007. 12 29 AM IST
A picture, you can say today, is worth a thousand megabytes. And if you are one of those snap-happy digital camera users, you are bound to have a problem with disc space in your computer. Still, digital is the way to go. Unlike conventional film cameras, you don’t need to print all the shots you have taken. Just download your pictures on a personal computer, do a select and choose, and get prints made from a kiosk.
But the question is: How do you showcase your ‘masterpieces’ without incurring too much expense? Remember, your photographs, even when printed at a shop, are expensive. So, is there a way you can get good quality prints sitting at home?
What you need is a good photo printer. With digital photography becoming more popular than ever before (never mind seasoned photographers who swear by the romance of taking pictures with a conventional camera), the number of choices in the photo printer market is simply mind-boggling. Scouting for a printer, like so many things in this tech-driven age, is a daunting task. The investment, however, won’t burn too deep a hole in your pocket unless you take your hobby really seriously, have money to spare and want to go in for something more advanced. But, with improvements in printers and cartridges, the results will impress any amateur. Most of these print photos that are good enough for everyone but hard-core professionals.
How is this printer any different from your ordinary printer? Let’s find out.
What is a photo printer?
Simply put, they print photo-quality images, and normally fall into three distinct categories: inkjet photo printers, dedicated photo printers, and what we call the professional photo printers. The inkjet and dedicated photo printer varieties would be easier on the pocket for most amateurs, but even the low-end printers in the professional range are a good long-term investment.
One thing to look out for when buying a photo-quality printer is the resolution at which it prints. Remember, unlike digital camera resolution, printer resolution is measured in dots per inch (dpi). This is a measure of how many dots a printer can print per square inch of paper. The higher the number, the better the resolution. Since the dots are nestled close to each other, the print looks finer. Of course, for artistic purposes, one could make this look coarser.
An inkjet printer can also be used for ordinary text printing. The only drawback is its relatively slow speed compared to other printers. Dedicated photo printers are best for amateurs who want to strike a balance between price and quality of output. These printers also use glossy photo paper and can print up to 4x6 inch photos with ease. These can even print 8x10 inch photos, but there may be some loss of quality.
Professional photo printers are completely different from these: they are good to print even 11x17 inch photos. Given the range of printers in the market, and the high price, it can be a prohibitive investment for an amateur.
Know the choices
HP, Epson, Lexmark, Canon and even Sony offer good quality printers. However, when you have still not decided on which brand to choose, don’t just consider the cost of the printer. Remember that you will be spending a lot more money on cartridges and it is important to know how much these cost.
Sony DPP FP55
Fast as they may be, the Sony printer range is not cheap. It also doesn’t help that they are dedicated photo printers and cannot do anything else. So, unless you are a very serious amateur, avoid this Rs12,990 printer. Having said that, the Sony DPP FP55 uses what is known as dye-sublimation technology and the LCD screen on top gives you a preview of the photo before printing. The printer also supports PictBridge: It lets you print a photo directly from a memory card or camera without the need of a computer. Canon, too, offers similar products that cost between Rs6,000 and Rs13,000.
HP Photosmart C3188 All-in-One
If you are going to invest in a printer for your photos, it is advisable to opt for something that does much more. The C3188 is a printer, scanner and therefore a copier (it uses the scanner to make copies through the printer) and at Rs6,000, it’s a good deal. With built-in memory card slots and an ability to print as many as 20 pages per minute, the C3188 can be your answer to most basic printing needs.
Epson Stylus C79
One of the cheaper photo printers available, the C79 uses Epson’s DuraBrite Ink to create smudge-proof, water-resistant prints. At Rs4,299 (approx.), the printer does not offer some of the frills such as a memory card reader. But, it’s fast and economical: Epson cartridges cost a little less than the HP ones. For beginners who want to print at home, this can be a good option.
Canon Pixma
The Pixma range of printers from Canon is a good option for home photo printing. Priced between Rs3,500 (iP1200) and Rs30,000 (i9950 A3 printer), the iP3300 (approx Rs6,500) and the iP5300 (approx Rs20,000) are both good options. The 3300 is a good entry-level printer for borderless 4x6 inch prints. For slightly advanced users, who may want larger, better quality prints, the 5300 is a good investment.
Epson PictureMate PM250
This is one of the professional variety of printers we mentioned earlier. At Rs12,900 (approx), it does give you some high-quality photos. The PM250 uses Epson’s Claria photographic ink and if stored correctly, the photos can last up to 200 years, or so they claim. The highest picture quality available for this printer is about 5,760 optimized dpi. What that translates into is a really, really, sharp picture, as good as real. This can be a good long-term investment if you are more than an amateur and also looking at turning your hobby into a profession some day.
(Write to us at businessof life@livemint.com)
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First Published: Wed, May 09 2007. 12 29 AM IST
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