New Products Make Quality Prints from Digital Images

It’s easier and more affordable than ever to create your own top-notch prints from digital camera shots.

September 1, 2004

Digital camera vendors have done a great job selling real estate professionals on the advantages of digital imaging. The ability to make sure you’ve got the right picture before you leave the scene, then e-mail it, upload it to the Web, or drop it into brochures, has helped make the digital camera a standard tool for documenting listings.

For all these advantages, though, digital imaging hasn’t eliminated the need for the standard print photograph you can hold in your hand. After all, there are some people who still don’t use the Web, and when you want to reinforce the appeal of a certain home with interested buyers, there’s no better reminder than a hard-copy photograph.

Luckily, there are plenty of new products on the market that let you reap the benefits of digital photography and create great prints. Over the past month, several vendors have put a new emphasis on digital-photo printing with new printers that deliver solid photo quality. These rollouts include improved versions of dedicated digital-photo printers and more versatile multifunction machines with photo printing as a core function.

So approach digital imaging as a system—with a camera, imaging software, and some form of color printer.

Examine Your Needs Before Shopping

In your search for a digital-photo system, think first of your need for color prints. If you hand out a lot of photos and don’t want to tie up your desktop printer, a digital-photo printer makes sense. A few of these specialized printers are small enough to serve as mobile photo printers, too. Prices on digital-photo printers start around $100 for a model that will deliver standard 4-by-6-inch prints. Most now print directly from a film card, without a camera or PC hookup. Some let you transmit images from your camera, camera phone, or computer using Bluetooth wireless technology for printing.

When you only require the occasional photo print, your money might be better spent on a multifunction machine with photo-print capabilities. You can do more with these machines—which can also serve as scanners, copiers, and fax transmitters—and they render photographic quality in their photo print modes. Prices on the latest entry-level machines have fallen below $150, making them attractive to anyone looking for ways to stretch a budget.

When evaluating a photo printer, see actual samples of what the unit can do before buying it. Print resolution, measured in dots per inch (dpi) is the standard measure of printing quality. The higher the number, the better the image. However, what constitutes good, accurate color can be subjective, so make sure you think the prints look good. The best test is a sample print of an image captured with your digital camera.

As with any print solution, pay attention to the cost of consumables when comparing hardware. True photographic quality requires the use of special photographic paper and ink cartridges, which can push the cost per print to the $1 range. Here’s a look at what photo printers and multifunction machines are available from different vendors:

Photo Printers:

  • Hewlett Packard inkjet photo printers start with the PhotoSmart 7450, a six-color printer for $99. For printing in the office or in the field, the compact PhotoSmart 325, available for $149, and PhotoSmart 375, for $199, both can be equipped with an optional battery or Bluetooth adapter. For workgroups, the company has added the PhotoSmart 8450, $299.99, a network-ready eight-color model. All can print photos at 4,800 dpi.
  • Eastman Kodak is selling the EasyShare Printer Dock Plus, which comes with built-in support for Bluetooth for wireless photo printing. The $199.95-unit prints directly from any camera supporting the PictBridge standard, and it has a built-in memory card slot; an optional 8-in-1 card reader accessory is available to print from other popular memory card formats.
  • Sony is offering a $150 dye-sublimination photo printer, an alternative to inkjet, starting in October.The PictureStation DPP-FP30 supports PictBridge and produces prints at either 3.5-by-5-inches or 4-by-6-inches, depending on the paper cartridge.

Multifunction Machines:

 

 

 

  • Epson just expanded its lineup of inkjet multifunction machines with the Epson Stylus CX6600, $199.99. In addition to being a color printer, scanner, and copier, the unit features a built-in multiformat media card reader for photo printing at 2,400 dpi without a digital camera or PC.
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  • Brother has three new machines that deliver photo prints at a maximum resolution of 6,000 dpi. All feature built-in multiformat media card readers and serve as color printers, scanners, copiers, and faxes. The basic MFC-210c sells for $129.99. The step-up MFC-420cn, $149.99, and the $199-MFC-620cn both feature an automatic document feeder and built-in Ethernet. The 620cn also adds a phone handset and digital answering machine.
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  • Hewlett Packard has expanded its lineup with three models. The PSC 2355, for $199.99, is a printer, scanner, and copier with memory-card readers and color LCD screen. The PhotoSmart 2610 All-in-One, for $299, and the Photosmart 2710 All-in-One, for $399, are a combined color printer, copier, flatbed scanner, and fax machine. For printing photos, both have built-in card readers, LCDs of 2.5 inches and 3.5 inches respectively, and deliver photo print resolution of 4,800 dpi. The PhotoSmart 2710 also supports 802.11g wireless networking.
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