Using the same dye-sublimation technology that's in the Olympus P-300 (see Reviews, August 1998), the company's new P-330 Digital Home Photo Printer can produce great-looking 4-by-5-inch photos (3.8-by-4.5-inch image size) from a computer, an Olympus digital camera, a SmartMedia card, or a video device such as a camcorder or VCR.
When connected to your Macintosh, the P-330 prints photos at 153 dpi (at a resolution of up to 688 by 512 pixels) or 306 dpi (up to 1,376 by 1,024 pixels). Slider controls let you adjust the color balance while previewing the image, but otherwise the driver options are limited.
A parallel port connects the P-330 to a PC or an Olympus D-500L, D-600L, or D-620L digital camera. When connecting to any of the latter, you can use the camera's menu system to produce a single image, a 16-up print, or an index print showing every shot in the camera. Although this is a convenient way to print your images, the parallel connection is slow. Fortunately, the P-330 includes a built-in reader for SmartMedia cards, the storage media for digital cameras from Olympus, Fuji, and other vendors. Just pop the card into the P-330 and pick the image you want to print; the photo rolls out in about two minutes.
Actually, it's not quite that simple. To use SmartMedia, you connect the printer to a video monitor or a TV with a composite-video input and then insert the card. When the images appear on screen, you select and print them using hardware controls. You can print a full-size photo or single or multiple images in a 4-, 9-, or 16-up layout. (When connecting to a VCR or camcorder, you can capture a single video frame or multiple frames at 2.5-second intervals.) A Trim option lets you select a portion of the image to print, though you're limited to two selection sizes (resulting in 1.5 x and 2 x enlargement). You're also limited to 16 fixed positions for the cropping window, restricting your ability to frame the image precisely.
The P-330 can produce images that approach the quality of traditional photos, but when you're printing without a computer, you're at the mercy of your camera. If you begin with a poorly shot image, there's little you can do to improve it.
Olympus sells paper and ribbon for the printer in $40 packs, good for 60 prints. Installing the ribbon cartridge is a snap: you just open a door and slide it in.
Macworld's Buying Advice The Olympus P-330 is a great complement to digital cameras that use SmartMedia. The $449 price tag may seem high for a consumer printer, but it's a bargain compared with other dye-sublimation printers. If you want digital photos that are nearly indistinguishable from traditional photo prints, it's hard to go wrong with the P-330.
RATING: PROS: Versatile; excellent image quality. CONS: Limited options when not printing from a computer. COMPANY: Olympus America (800/347-4027, http://www.olympus.com ). LIST PRICE: $449.
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