Output Options by Ron Eggers
Mini Printers Can Come in Handy (Even for Professionals)
Canon Selphy CP710
At one time, most commercial photographers and many
other types of professional photographers used Polaroids
to check their lighting and composition. Even some photographers
shooting with 35mm gear bought special backs so that
they could pull Polaroid prints. The prints were small and the quality
sometimes wasnít that great, but they came in extremely handy
to reassure nervous clients and get a quick file photo.
Digital imaging pretty much eliminated the need for Polaroid
prints, at least for professional photographers. The ability to instantly
see a captured image on a cameraís LCD, or better yet, on a
laptop or computer screen, spelled big trouble for the company that
built the instant photography market. But there are times when being
able to generate a quick print in the field or on location can still
be useful. Thatís where the little consumer printers come in handy.
HP Photosmart 475
These mini printers, which are available both as inkjet and dye-sublimation
models, have evolved to the point that their image quality
and print stability are excellent, they have a wide range of functionality,
and their price is right.
I looked at five different units, including the Canon Selphy CP710,
the Hewlett Packard Photosmart 475, the Kodak EasyShare Printer
Dock Plus Series 3, the Lexmark P450, and the Olympus P-11. They
were actually all quite good, each having its own pros and cons.
Because these units are being considered here primarily for field
work, and there really wasnít room for an extensive review of each
individual unit, I concentrated on the speed and quality involved in
direct printing rather than what they can do when connected to a
computer or laptop. The results, however, should be similar.
It is amazing just how much functionality manufacturers have
added to some of these models. I tried to look at a unique feature
or interesting capability for each unit, something that might set it
apart from the competition. Most of these printers include removable
media slots and a preview LCD, but some also have such features
as camera docks and wireless printing capabilities. Most can
eliminate red-eye, and some can optimize images, at least to a certain
degree. Theyíre small and lightweight. The one limitation for
most of the units is the need to plug in to a wall socket; only a select
few of the models available have battery options. (Of the five printers
covered here, only the Canon supports batteries.) But I found
that utilizing DC/AC converters makes it possible to use them in a
car, van or RV when on location.
Taking units in alphabetical order by manufacturer, Canonís
Selphy CP710 is a compact dye-sublimation printer that really
was designed for use on the road. While shaped differently, the
710 is not all that much larger than a Polaroid camera. With its
optional battery pack, itís possible to generate 4x6-inch prints just
It looks like thereís only one memory
card slot, but in actuality there are three incorporated
into one opening. It can take
CompactFlash, Secure Digital and Memory
Sticks directly, as well as the other types of removable
media with adapters. Thereís a mini-
USB cable on the front of the unit for printing
from digital cameras. There are also USB and
PictBridge ports, providing just about all the
connectivity that anyone might need.
A small LCD on the top of the unit can
be used for image preview and navigation.
(Navigation buttons are also included.) The
LCD is angled, but it canít be tilted up. As
such it can be a little difficult to see, but this
is not a major shortcoming. It takes about
one minute and 20 seconds per print, with a
maximum resolution of 300 dpi. Images can
be printed individually, in sets of multiple copies or multiple copies
of a shot on one print. The new Canon printer has a street price of
Another dye-sublimation printer is the Eastman Kodak EasyShare
Printer Dock Series 3, which has a built-in camera dock.
Compatible digital cameras can be docked
onto the port on top of the unit. When connected,
the printer controls the camera. It
lets you generate individual prints, multiple
prints of the same picture as well as multiple
copies of a picture on one print. Output is at
300 dpi, with a final trimmed print size of 4x6
inches. The companyís Perfect Touch technology
is automatically applied to output for
brighter pictures with less loss of detail in the
Canon Selphy CP710ó
printed directly from CF card
Beside docked operations and direct Pict-
Bridge printing, the Series 3 also has three
different wireless transfer options. Thereís
Bluetooth transfer for printing shots from
cell phones and other devices, infrared for
line-of-site image transfer from PDAs and
laptops with infrared ports, and something
that wasnít available with any of the other units testedóWiFi. When
coupled with Kodakís EasyShare One Zoom, the worldís first WiFi
consumer digital camera, the Series 3 is turned into a WiFi communication
Just like with laptops, with the EasyShare One camera, itís possible to connect to hotspots, send
e-mails and connect to the online
EasyShare Gallery directly from
the camera. With a WiFi card in the
camera and one in the printer, images
taken with the EasyShare can
be sent to the Series 3 with a few
taps of the stylus on the cameraís
touch-screen. While itís designed
to be paired with the EasyShare
One, the printer will work with any
camera that can physically be docked to it. For the direct
printing part of the test, I tried it with Kodakís EasyShare
lens ultra-wide camera. It coupled immediately and worked fine.
The V570, which lists for $399.95, can be connected to a computer
via a USB port, making it possible to transfer photos contained
in the docked camera to the computer and printing from
the computer, but it doesnít have card slots for direct printing or
image transfer. That may be a problem for photographers who like
the idea of WiFi capabilities, but also need to generate prints from
other digital cameras. The higher-end Kodak model with card slots
is the EasyShare
Photo Printer 500. It supports most memory cards
and comes equipped with an extra large, 3.5-inch LCD screen.
HP Photosmart 475ó
printed directly from CF card
Another interesting mini printer
is the HP Photosmart 475 thermal
inkjet, which costs $159.99.
Setup was very quick. The ink cartridge
loads in the front and the
paper in the rear. Even though itís
a consumer printer, itís a complex
piece of equipment. It not only has
an LCD, but also 1.2GB of internal
storage and a 64-MB memory buffer.
It lets you do such advanced
things such as play and save slide shows and assign predefined key
words to individual or groups of images. Besides its printing capabilities,
with its internal storage and video-out port, it can actually
be used as a presentation device. Stored slide shows can be shown
on any video-compatible device, without having any camera attached
or cards in the media slots.
Kodak EasyShareóprinted directly from a Secure Digital card
With the 475, images can be printed directly from the memory
card, from the internal hard drive, from a computer, and from a
camera or cell phone with Bluetooth. Once the images are in the
printer, itís possible to remove red-eye from the shots, as well as
optimize and crop them.
When first starting to print, there was a little bit of a problem with the paper feed. The first four or five prints were ejected with an
ďUnsupported Media SizeĒ error message. The paper was skewed
slightly. Itís important to set the paper in just right. Once that was
corrected, the unit worked fine. Outputting at the maximum color
resolution of up to 4800 dpi, itís a little on the slow side. On average,
it took slightly over 21/2 minutes per print. One thing that should be
added to the take-up tray is an extension slider. As the unit spits out
the print, it usually goes beyond the tray.
Lexmark P450óprinted directly from a CompactFlash card
Unlike some of the other models, which look very different than
larger printers from the same manufacturers, the Lexmark P450
inkjet looks like a miniature version of the companyís desktop units.
It has a small, but very readable pop-up LCD and very simple controls.
Printing at a maximum resolution of 4800 dpi, itís relatively
slow, between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 minutes per print. The maximum output
size is 4x6 inches and the output quality is very good.
One thing the P450 has that none of the other models have is
a CD tray. Itís possible to put a photo CD into the drive and print
directly from that disk. Itís even possible to burn the images stored
on the media cards onto the CD for image storage. Again, the process
was slow, very slow. Writing 185 five-megapixel images from a
256MB Secure Digital card onto a CD took some 50 minutes. That
makes it more of an option for getting a few photos onto a CD in the field, rather than as the primary
method of moving images off of the
memory cards onto CDs.
Printed from computer
Another output option for the Lexmark
is direct PictBridge printing. Itís
also possible to attach the printer to
a TV or video monitor to show slide
shows. But the memory card, CD or
flash drive with the images on it has to
be inserted to present a slide show.
It would be nice if the P450 could not only burn the CDs, but also
print their covers. Unfortunately, the unit canít do that. Lexmark
is working with another company to develop a printer that can do
that, but it might be quite some time before itís available. Another
thing the printer canít do is connect to a computer or laptop, which
limits its functionality when traveling with a laptop. One way to
get around that is to transfer images that have been optimized on a
computer onto a USB flash drive, and then plug the flash drive into
the P450 PictBridge port. The Lexmark P450 has a suggested retail
price of $199.
Olympusís most recent mini printer is the P-11, a somewhat
boxy-looking dye-sublimation model with a maximum print resolution
of 310dpi. Options for the P-11 are more limited than for
some competing printers. Most importantly,
it does not have any card
slots, which means that photos have
to be generated directly from digital
cameras or from connected computers.
It also doesnít have an LCD.
When connected directly to a
PictBridge-compatible camera, itís
possible to control the printer from
the tethered camera. The EasyPrint
command that comes up on the cameraís screen lets you print the
image thatís being displayed. Thereís also a custom option that lets
you select multiple images to print and their sizes. For maximum
effectiveness, the unit works best when connected to a computer.
The Olympus is fast. It only takes about 50 seconds to generate a
print. It has a street price of $149.99.
These little printers might not be essential pieces of equipment
for professional photographers, but they can serve a real purpose:
getting a nice-looking picture to someone in a hurry.
Writer and editor Ron Eggers is a regular contributor to Rangefinder and a senior
editor with Newswatch Feature Service.