Finding a 'Mate

Working in the Macworld Lab, I get paid to use the latest and greatest printers, cameras, scanners, and any other Mac-compatible hardware you can imagine. When I’m not testing peripherals, I’m torturing new Macs by running a variety of Photoshop filters and tasks using large image files just to see how much their processors can take. So it’s not like I’m a newbie when it comes to printing photos on the Mac.

That’s why, when all of the major printer makers started coming out with computer-free photo printers, I was very skeptical. I enjoy tinkering with photographs and I assume that most Macworld readers do too. After sitting through a PR rep’s product demonstration, you’d think that printing great-looking photos from your Mac is, at best, a chore, and, at worst, a frustrating technological nightmare.

But it’s not—it’s fun! I open up Photoshop and remove dark circles from my eyes, add them to my friends, eliminate food between teeth, adjust skin tones and brightness and then, lucky me, I print to one of several high-end photo printers that I have hanging around. (Note to self: I should probably get around to cleaning up the lab.)

Recently, I was asked to review the PictureMate Deluxe Viewer Edition from Epson. “Cute,” I thought, “this is the perfect printer for my folks and in-laws.” I printed some of our standard inkjet photo test files to the printer and was impressed with 4-by-6-inch prints that started coming out. Sure, I can get better prints from two or three other printers I have on the bench, but the quality was still very good. And it was easy. I pulled the memory card from my digital camera and started printing up some personal pictures that have been piling up since the birth of my second child three months ago. It was becoming addictive.

I quickly realized at least 90 percent of the pictures I take stay in digital form, either in iPhoto, emails to friends and family, or on a .mac homepage. Printing photos in my usual way can be fun and artistically gratifying, but it is also time-consuming and often lingers at the bottom of my ever growing to-do list. Why print? Epson claims that the photos I print from the PictureMate will last up to 200 years—much longer than Mac I’m typing on, the family website or the CDs I might back the files up on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be using my Mac to touch up photos and to print brilliant looking 8-by-10-inch borderless photos for years to come—but when life gets a little too busy to set aside time to tinker and print—I’ll be using that PictureMate printer I thought I’d be buying for my parents.

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